Lesser Florican - August 2023

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Wednesday 9 November 2016

UAE - 9/11/16

Well I thought yesterday was good. Today was brilliant from start to midway through the afternoon where I decided to call it a day as all what was going to be seen, I had seen.
I started at Masafi Wadi in the east after getting up early and driving across the country. More was seen here then I expected with the highlight by far being 7 Sand Partridge that were very mobile, but one stood still for a couple of seconds allowing a photo to be obtained. I failed to find any Hooded Wheatears to my surprise, but the constant searching revealed more new birds. By mid morning I felt I couldn't do anymore to find the Wheatear so I headed to Fujairah and then covered the coast south to the mangroves at Kalba. A large gathering of Terns brought my drive south to a halt as where there are Terns, there are Gulls, and I enjoyed a good hour photographing these. A dark bird further out caught my attention and I couldn't believe it when I got the bins on it.........it was a Brown Noddy. I was also pleased to pick out several White-cheeked Terns in amongst the throng of Common Terns all in autumn plumage!  A planned lengthy seawatch turned into twenty minutes as two Persian Shearwaters sailed past, with one even coming in between the two groynes, one of which I was standing at the tip of, allowing the underwing pattern to be seen easily. This rounded of a great day of constant surprises and great birding. 

It wasn't just the birds today either. At Kalba mangroves a Sand Gazelle was on the exposed mud, and 4 Green Turtles were loafing around coming up for a breath every now and then. 

Got tomorrow morning free for birding before my flight back home. 

A total of 63 species seen today with the only notable species mentioned below, and those in capitals are lifers. 

Masafi Wadi
Southern Grey Shrike - 1
Purple Sunbird - 2
SCRUB WARBLER - 15 + others heard
Desert Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Eastern Black Redstart - 1
Hume's Wheatear - 6
Short-toed Eagle - 1

Fujairah - Kalba
Socotra Cormorant - 20
Greater Sand Plover - 1
Slender-billed Gull - ca 100
Caspian Gull - ?
'Steppe Gull' - ?
Heuglin's/Baltic Gull - ?
Gull-billed Tern - 1
Lesser Crested Tern - 30
Greater Crested Tern - 15
Arctic Skua - 4
Daurian Shrike - 1
Great Reed Warbler- 1
Bluethroat - 1
Red-throated Pipit - 1 1w
Water Pipit - 3

 Streaked Scrub-Warbler - surprised on how many I saw
 Desert Lark - completely different plumage from what the book states, but its 'Bee-Eater' type call was conclusive enough.

 Sand Partridge - horrid image but nice to get a shot of this very elusive species. Centre shot if you can't see it.
 Red-tailed Wheatear
 Brown Noddy amongst the feeding Terns and Gulls. Highlight of the trip!!
 Lesser Crested Tern
 3rd winter Steppe Gull - very advanced but shows dark centres to some secondaries, some dark primary coverts, shortish bill and some dark markings in the tail.
 Sand Gazelle at Kalba Wetlands - it decided to have a swim just after this shot was taken, and made up for not seeing the Collared Kingfisher
 Great Reed Warbler at Kalba - initially my perception was Clamorous, but the very long primary projection is enough to rule out this.
 Menetries's Warbler
 1w Red-throated Pipit - this small roundabout had this, 2 Hoopoes, 3 Water Pipits, Bluethroat and Crested Larks on it.

Heuglin's/Baltic Gulls -  I was surprised to see such  young looking Gulls on the beach, and this made me think that this would surely be something different from the Caspian complex present, and with its Lesser-black-backed impression I considered Heuglin's Gull. Heuglin's commences its moult to first-winter on its wintering grounds as shown above (Olsen & Larsson), however Baltic Gull can also show this with what is described as renewing scattered mantle and scapular feathers on the breeding grounds in Aug/Sept and completing further south. Looking closely at the top image below, there does appear to be two new mantle feathers, so it this bird actually a Baltic Gull?

Back to Heuglin's, juvs are simpler then the adults when comparing with Steppe, which in this region Heuglin's are normally of the race 'taimyrensis' (hybrid between Heuglin's and Vega Gull and show a near-identical mantle shade to Steppe Gull), and to my eyes are very difficult to tell apart from Steppe Gulls, as some show a Caspian approach, and even on a spread wing, I'm finding it too difficult to separate Steppe from Heuglin's. However saying all this, a bit of research and comparing several images from other past observers, the below bird looks to me like a Steppe Gull.

Steppe Gull
Steppe Gull with a White-cheeked Tern in front - this Gull showing the grey 'tongues' on P-7,8&9 and white mirror on P10
 Sooty Gull - nice and easy this one

 Slender-billed Gulls were in their hundreds

White-cheeked Terns - showing the uniform smokey grey upperparts (incl. the tail), slim, slender and slightly downcurved bill. Averaged smaller then Common Tern.
 this Gull dropped into view and shows many features for a first-winter Caspian Gull, though with the coverts still undergoing extensive moult its possible this is a Steppe Gull.

1st winter Steppe Gull - in Feb/March ruling this bird out from Heuglin's would prove a challenge, but Heuglin's would still be in a juvenile plumage. Caspian Gull would be further along in it's moult, leaving Steppe Gull as the only option.
Persian Shearwater - the dark underwing with limited white easily viewable in this image.