Saturday, 29 September 2012

Birding Egypt - Sept 2012 - Part 1

Egypt is a country of extremes. The emptiness of the desert contrasted with the overcrowded chaos of the cities. The natural beauty of the coral reefs and the decay and deprivation of the urban sprawl. I travelled on an extremely well organised and well led tour with Birdfinders in the hope of seeing a few more Western Palearctic species. I was not disappointed. I estimated 10 new species would be realistic, I ended up with 16.
After a night in Cairo we flew down to Hurghada and then on to the Wadi Lahmi Eco lodge near Marsa Alam on the Red Sea. Our accommodation was yards from the Mangroves which fringed the shore and provided cover for a wide range of species including African Collared Dove, Greater Sandplover, terns, and many other more familiar waders.
The next day proved to be memorable. From the lodge we took a short bus trip to Hamata Harbour where we soon found White eyed and Sooty Gulls also,and more surprisingly a Common Rosefinch! We chartered a boat and with special permission explored the numerous off shore islands. I was delighted to get great views of several of the birds on my most wanted list, in particular Crab Plover and Bridled Tern but the supporting cast of Grey cheeked Tern, and Sooty Falcon was equally impressive. Despite my best efforts to fall out of the boat it was a privilage to experience such a beautiful place. The day was far from over, however. We returned to check out the Hamata Mangroves for a last chance of seeing the mythical Goliath Heron. I dont think anyone really expected to see it but suddenly Svetlana drew our attention to a large bird flying with very slow wing beats low over the beach half a mile away. Was that it? the bird quickly went out of view but was not seen to fly on. Had it landed behind bushes on the beach? A Sooty Falcon perched in a small tree and a number of Shrikes were almost ignored as the group walked on to get a better vantage point. Eventually a bird was relocated but only the head and huge bill was visible. Was this our Goliath Heron? We walked further along the beach, flushing a European Nightjar as we went, until we could see more of the bird. Eventually the heron walked into the open to dispel any doubts. O M W a Goliath Heron. A mega day.
Goliath Heron
Goliath Heron
White eyed Gull
Sooty Gull, juvenile
White cheeked Tern
Bridled Tern
Bridled Tern
Sooty Falcon

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