A cracking week with a shaky start

Birding reports from from our rep in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Lesser Spot Finder
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A cracking week with a shaky start

Postby Lesser Spot Finder » Sun Apr 08, 2012 4:58 am

Monday started with much promise. I was about to depart on a Combat Logistic Patrol (CLP) to Patrol Base (PB) Clifton, a day long patrol which would take me across the desert and to the edge of the Green Zone. As I headed to the start line a Green Sandpiper flew over in the dark and that was were interesting birds stopped.

I sat as a passenger in the front of a truck, saw lots of Afghan life but picked up little more than Crested Larks in the cudds. On arrival at PB Clifton it was evident that there were lots of Common Mynas, Tree Sparrows, Swallows and the odd Starling. I gazed longingly into the Green Zone but saw nothing but the daily movement of the locals; it was still an interesting experience. Talking with the CQMS, or Pay Sgt, as he is colloquially known in the Grenadiers he told me that early one morning he was stalked by two wild cats, the size of a fox until he scared them away by shouting and waving his pistol. I initially thought they may have been Lynx but he told me that both had tails. Any ideas?

The following day I had the need to see something else so headed to Runway’s End Marsh where I was immediately overflown by a Montagu’s Harrier ♂ and quickly found my first Siberian Stonechat ♂ of the tour along with two Pied Bushchats, both holding territory, two Siberian Chiffchaffs and a similar number of Hume’s Whitethroats. As I stumbled over the rubble I picked up another lifer, a stunning Hume’s Wheatear ♂. It was at this point that I found, what is possibly Afghanistan’s first, Oriental Magpie-robin (see earlier post).

Spurred on by Tuesday’s events I headed back to the Marsh at 0600hrs on Wednesday with a camera and the hope of finding the Robin again. I flushed Green Sandpipers and Little-ringed Plovers as I left the car and found pretty much what I had seen on Tuesday but with additional Citrine Wagtails, a Shikra ♀, a lone Desert Whitethroat and an overflying Pallid Harrier ♂. Just as I was about to leave I heard a call which was unusual looked up and picked up my first Afghan Collared Pratincole as it flew low over and headed south over the perimeter fence. What a day!

There was little worthy of discussion on Good Friday apart from a lone Lesser Kestrel over as I stumbled bleary eyed to the ablutions. The jizz of this species is easy to see once you have your eye in; faster wingbeats and a slightly smaller size differentiate it from its common cousin. During my run the following day I flushed four Sandgrouse from the perimeter track and as they landed it was evident that I was looking at Black-bellied Sandgrouse including one ♂. This species was another welcome addition to my list.

I had decided to get up at five this morning and bird the marsh but ended up staying in bed and travelling down after a leisurely breakfast. Again, the usual suspects were present along with 200+ House Sparrows, much brighter than those seen in the UK with larger bibs – perhaps the migratory ‘Bactrian Sparrow’ I had read about in the past.. Slightly despondent and leaving earlier than I had expected I decided to have a quick look at the Leatherneck Grey Water Lagoons and was pleased to pick up four Black-winged Stilts, four Little-ringed Plovers and a number of White Wagtails. A good end to the week.

I depart on R&R within the week and in ten days will be walking around Wayland Wood and Cley Marshes NWT. Can’t wait.

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