Birding in Xinjiang Day 7- 新疆观鸟:130团-白湖

We spent the whole morning at the hotel watching Desert Finches and Common Nightingales build nests and feed the chicks! Funny that the males just kept a close watch but did nothing! :-/

At the nearby nature reserve, we saw Common Terns and European Bee-eaters (黄喉蜂虎) and their nests..! Sand Martins (崖沙燕) mated on wires, House Sparrows, Barred Warblers (横斑林莺)  and European Rollers (蓝胸佛法僧) offered food to their partners. Well, what can I say…its the breeding season and love is in the air! 😛

Breeding time!

From left-European roller, Sand Martin, European bee-eater

Common Tern at 130 township in Xinjiang. Tawny pipit at another reed site!

Common Tern at 130 township in Xinjiang. Tawny pipit at another reed site!

While en-route back to the white lake at Urumqi (we missed a bird on day 1, so we went back to get it!!), we stopped at a reed area for pipits and warblers. It was a long drive again with no lunch and by the time we arrived at the white lake, it was already 5pm! Clouds cluttered and light drizzles had livened up the birds! The bird we missed was the Spanish Sparrow (黑胸麻雀)! Despite many Tree Sparrows around, it was quickly identified due to is distinctive colors on the head and breast! Very strange that Spanish would breed in China…lol! Again, lifer for me! 🙂

Spanish sparrow at white lake, Xinjiang

Spanish sparrow at white lake, Xinjiang

And our dinner? We had mutton dumplings before moving on to the spiciest Sichuan noodles ever! :v

10 Yuan only.

10 Yuan for spicy Sichuan Noodle.

 

Birding in Xinjiang Day 2 新疆石河子-乌尔禾-福海

This was a long drive from Shihezi (石河子) to Fuhai (福海)! After our breakfast, our driver took us to some deserted pond in search for litte bittern! The pond was just next to some gas station…but reeds were ripped off for some reason, and needless to say, we couldnt see the bird! Moving on, we made stops on the highway…in particular, we saw a few European Bee-eaters (黄喉蜂虎)! Its about time they’ve arrived in this part of Xinjiang, and we’re reassured we’ll see loads more!

On both sides of the highway were semi-desert, and we took a detour! We made a short stop at one area hoping to scan for some raptors, but only managed to see a lizard at the beginning! But as we moved along the sandy, bumpy trail, we saw Isabelline Wheatears, Crested Larks, Desert Wheaters, and highlight was a pair of Saxaul Sparrows (黑顶麻雀)! 😛

saxaul sparrows

saxaul sparrows

The toll station was just a short distance away, but since we’re off the highway, we twirled round the toll fee station and that saved us 10 yuan..! LOL!

After a quick lunch, we headed for a forest in Urho, Karamay (乌尔禾)! We were told this forest is called the “Magic Forest”. As we got off the car, immediately we saw a White-winged woodpecker pecking on a tree next to our car! What a delight to see this beautiful bird at such close distance… 🙂

white-winged woodpecker

white-winged woodpecker

Moving deeper into the forest trail, Azure tits (灰蓝山雀), Turkestan tits (西域山雀), Hume’s warbler (淡眉柳莺) were seen prancing around in mid-noon! We also heard intricate songs from Nightingales but spotting them was a challenge! As we followed the song, we encountered Lesser Whitethroat (白喉林莺), and Sykes’s Warbler (赛氏篱莺) who loved the shrubs but for us to move in closer was more than difficult as the trail was muddy..! Nightingale (新疆歌鸲) finally made a brief show for us, but soon popped back into the bushes!

Azure Tit and Olivaceous Warbler

Azure Tit and Syke’s Warbler

 

Lesser Whitethroat and Turkestan Tit

Yellow Wagtail  and Turkestan Tit

When we headed back to the car, our driver babbled about seeing a pair of raptors and had messaged us…but we only received the message after we caught up with him! Talk about China mobile network…. :-/

Before we head to Fuhai county for the night, our last birding spot was a ranch (国营二牧场)! Here, the Bluethroat (蓝喉歌鸲) was very tame and sang in the open! We tried to search for Short-eared owl here but didnt see any..! Other birds included Demoiselle cranes, 蓑羽鹤 (probably over 200) and flying Pallas Sandgrouse, Great Cormorants, Grey-headed Buntings and a Black-Throated Thrush (黑颈鸫)!

蓝喉歌鸲 bluethroat

蓝喉歌鸲 bluethroat

It was 6pm when we began our journey to our hotel in Fuhai. As we drove along the highway, an Upland Buzzard (大鵟) was spotted! How cool is that!

upland buzzard in Xinjiang

upland buzzard in Xinjiang

We finally checked in to a not so dodgy hotel at 9pm! 😛 The highlight for the day was not the birds to me but a very funny event that happened over dinner, which kept me grinning till this day…I am really tempted to share my story here…but I think birding Guru will *KICK* me if I do! 😛 😛

PS. This was our quickie lunch shared~~”

20140511_134204

 

Birding in Morocco / Marrakech – Merzouga, Sahara Desert 赏鸟在撒哈拉大沙漠

I could hardly spew any words when the magnificent clutch of sand dunes laid before my eyes as my car hurtled towards it! The view was more than breath-taking but on a second thought, it was very hard to imagine how birds survived in the desert! I was told that it wasn’t easy to find the desert sparrow and desert warbler in the desert, as scrubs were scarce and with the dominating population of house sparrows, these desert birds were pushed further deeper into the desert making them harder to find! :-/

To beat the blazing heat, birding started as early as 0700! Driving on sand dunes was just as challenging as walking on them with gear. For almost an hour or so, I didn’t see anything, not even a desert beetle! It was not until I sauntered towards a stone house about 20 miles away that both the Desert Sparrow and Desert Warbler were sighted!

desert sparrow in Sahara Desert

desert sparrow in Sahara Desert

desert warbler

desert warbler

At Merzouga, another must-see bird is the Egyptian Nightjar. A Berber family actually looked after these nightjars, making sure they were not disturbed. To see them, just offer a tip and they would guide you to the place they roost. 🙂 Other birds to look out for include the Little Owl, Lesser Kestrel and the Spotted Sandgrouse, where the former roosted on an old clay house with Lesser Kestrel taking a break from the blazing heat in the same building, and the Spotted Sandgrouse was found when a flock was sighted off road! 🙂

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Lesser Kestrel

Lesser Kestrel

Little Owl

Little Owl

Spotted Sandgrouse

Spotted Sandgrouse

At the clutter of accommodation in the desert, House Sparrow, Brown Necked Raven and Bee eater were commonly seen roosting near the water tanks!

Other birding places within Merzouga, include the Merzouga lake! Perhaps I have seen flamingos at a much closer distance in West India- Little Rann of Kutch , it was a bit of a dismay to see them so far…

Even at the lake, nomads came out of nowhere and tried to sell souvenirs such as stones. I bought one, not because I find it pretty…but nomads lead a poor, basic life…a souvenir didn’t cost much, but it would support the livelihood of a nomad and his family. 😛

European Bee-Eater, House Sparrow, Brown Necked Raven

European Bee-Eater, House Sparrow, Brown Necked Raven

merzouga desert

merzouga desert

merzouga desert

merzouga desert