The final countdown

Birding reports from from our rep in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Lesser Spot Finder
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Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 11:25 am
Location: Farnborough and anywhere between there and Norfolk
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The final countdown

Postby Lesser Spot Finder » Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:34 am

This is the final Bird Report following a six month ‘holiday’ in Helmand. The last couple of weeks have seen migration in full swing. The day time temperatures have increased significantly as have the winds and I am relieved that I am not on another summer tour. The Waste Water Site (WWS) is now within the airfield redevelopment area and thus I have been unable to visit as much as I would have liked especially during periods when unexploded ordnance has been disposed of.

Below is another extract from my birding diary up to the final day of the tour in Afghanistan. It should be noted that most of the birding was done during a break in my running route around the airfield.

22 Mar 10

Twenty nine Crowned Sandgrouse over the accommodation flying south at 1000hrs. All the birds were contact calling as they flew; an odd sound.

23 Mar 10

An afternoon run around the airfield with a stop at the WWS. On arrival at the WWS another 150 Spanish Sparrows flew from the reed bed. One Hoopoe was present along with several Little-ringed Plover and two Green Sandpipers. Citrine and Yellow Wagtails (race thunbergi) were to be found throughout the site and two White-tailed Lapwings were flushed as I left the site.

24 Mar 10

A new Bastion species today with a single female Ruff together with a Wood Sandpiper, several Green Sandpipers, tens of Little-ringed Plovers and the first Isabelline Shrike of the week. All three wagtail species also present along with a large flock of Spanish Sparrows.

25 Mar 10

A Wader fest. Several Little-ringed Plovers, one Kentish Plover, six Little Stints, two Wood Sandpipers and at least three Green Sandpipers. Again hundreds of Spanish Sparrows in the reed bed along with one Citrine Wagtail, several White Wagtails, and one Pied Bushchat. During the run a Red-breasted Flycatcher flew from a fence at the USMC Osprey flightline.

26 Mar 10

A very hot day with dust devils around Bastion 1 and the airfield. The WWS came up trumps with the first Hume’s Lesser Whitethroat of the year. A fall of Chiffchaffs present in large numbers (at least 100). Crested Larks singing together with several Citrine Wagtails. The Little-ringed Plovers appears settled and may attempt to breed in the suitable areas. Other waders included four Green Sandpipers and a female Ruff. Two Pied Bushchats are holding territory and three (Red-spotted) Bluethroats in the reed beds but very flighty. A very obliging Turkestan Shrike showed well and is much brighter than the closely related Isabelline Shrike which was seen a couple of days ago.

27 Mar 10

A 0600 hours start proved worthwhile. Plenty of Warblers in the reed beds – mainly Booted with tens present. Other Warblers included three Hume’s Lesser Whitethroat, one Great Reed Warbler, a surprisingly drab Ménétries’s Warbler and another Syke’s Warbler showing well. Two hundred plus Spanish Sparrows left the reed bed and the White Wagtails were swamped by a fall of Citrines. Again ten plus Green Sandpipers and at least five Little-ringed Plovers.

Passerines included five Pied Bushchats, a single Variable Wheatear and at least two Graceful Prinias holding territory. Two Turkestan Shrikes were pleasing to see and there were several Bluethroats, mostly females. The first Red-breasted Flycatcher for the WWS was showing well along with a single Short-toed Lark.

At 1030hrs several Crowned Sandgrouse flew over the accommodation.

30 Mar 10

Hope can you get so blasé about birds which would otherwise me mouth watering in other places? Citrine Wagtails are everywhere as are Bluethroats and I only give them a cursory glance! Today a lifer, a female White-throated Robin, at the WWS along with one Turkestan Shrike and several Pied Bushchats (holding territory). Again tens of Little-ringed Plover, five Little Stints and three Green Sandpipers. Another Hoopoe which was very flighty and difficult to get good views of.

31 Mar 10

A morning half hour walk with the usual suspects at the WWS. Again Hoopoe and Turkestan Shrike along with another fall of Booted Warblers. One single Hume’s Lesser Whitethroat and at least four Citrine Wagtails. Waders included three Wood Sandpipers, two Green Sandpipers, a Kentish Plover and a single Little Stint. Only half a dozen Little-ringed Plovers today.

1 Apr 10

One Collared Dove over the church in Bastion 2.

2 Apr 10

Two Laughing Doves and several Tree Sparrows at Camp Shorabak. Two Laughing Doves over the accommodation in Bastion 2 mid afternoon.

3 Apr 10

Two Swallows over the accommodation mid afternoon and an unidentified flock of Waders in the distance of Bastion 1 early evening.

4 Apr 10

Another foray with Tony Giles around the WWS. A flock of at least fifteen Green and Wood Sandpipers along with the obligatory dozen or so Little-ringed Plovers. Two Little Stints were joined by a single Broad-billed Sandpiper, a Bastion tick. Again many Citrine Wagtails, two Yellow Wagtails (race thunbergi) and the odd smattering of White Wagtails. A Steppe Buzzard was flushed before it flew eastwards and passerines were represented by several Pied Bushchats, Booted and Syke’s Warblers and at least three Hume’s Lesser Whitethroats. Smaller numbers of Spanish Sparrows with only around fifty present today. One female Bluethroat was seen and that or possibly another bird was calling from the reed beds as we left.

5 Apr 10

Another early morning visit to the WWS with Tony Giles. This was my last visit as I will be heading westwards towards Cyprus in a C17 tonight. Not only was it my last but I also managed to get to grips with a new species, Red-headed Bunting, which was extremely confiding and feeding close to us. Plenty of Warblers this morning with a fall of Hume’s Lesser Whitethroats, Booted Warblers, a Greenish Warbler and at least three Great Reed Warblers. Another Hoopoe showed well along with the usual Citrine and White Wagtails. Finally as we turned to leave one Northern and one Isabelline Wheatear were both feeding in the background. Again waders were represented by at least twenty Little-ringed Plovers and the odd Green and Wood Sandpipers. A cracking morning

This is the end! Thanks for taking an interest in the blog over the last 6 months. I have had many favourable comments from a wide spectrum of birders from around the world. All records of interest have been passed to OSME for possible inclusion in their reports and it would appear that I have been the only one to send in data from Afghanistan for several years. Next report will be from Bloodhound Camp and Tunnel Beach, Cyprus. Watch this space.

The following books were invaluable.

Collins Bird Guide (2nd Edition) Svensson, Mullarney and Zettersröm

Birds of the Middle East and North Africa (out of print) Hollom, Porter, Christensen and Willis

Birds of Pakistan Inksipp, Inskipp and Grimmit

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