Sunday, January 13, 2013

First visit to Dinder National Park early dry season

On behalf of Sudanese Wildlife Society and in respond to the invitation from the Minister of  Tourism, Antiquities and Wildlife , we made  a quick trip to Dinder National Park to check the current  situation there and to prepare the place for tourism. The team mainly from Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Police, Sudanese Wildlife Society , tourist guide and prospective  investor . On 28th December 2012 we headed towards Elgadaref to spend the night there and  to join the minister in his trip to Dinder National Park . On the way to Senar State, we passed through huge open area grown with Dura and sesame with some species of birds moving there such as black kite, pied crow, namaqua dove, Sahel paradise whydah, and some vultures soaring. The whydah looks common in that area beside shrikes wheatears, eagles and most of soaring birds soared above the hills to benefit from the warm elevated air current which make their soaring easy.
Near water canal we saw 30 great white egrets, common kestrel and cattle egrets associated with cattle and sheep. Other species include Abyssinian roller , palm dove,  and village indigo bird. Group of 30 open Bill Stork were seen near Ub Rakham village.
We took our breakfast at WCGA office at Dinder town and then left to Dinder National park but the road still very bad as it early dry season after heavy rainy season . The water scattered in the main low lands and sometimes block our normal way to DNP and need to turn a round  to get suitable road . on our turn ,we saw about 20 white headed vulture, 30 hooded vulture , 40 marabou stork aggregated around three dead cows .
Hooded and White-backed vultures -far shot- DNP 29/12/2012
 The volume of the water reflected the successful previous autumn   as water scattered every where and all wetlands were covered with water and all their extensions .The road from Elsinait to Galagu need more maintenance and only few distance fixed. Only accessible wetlands in the eastern side of Dinder River such as Musa, Ein Elshams, Abdel Ghani and Ras Amir. Khor Galagu and Dinder River still have some water blocking the the way to the western side  and need more two weeks to be ready . We made small survey in Galagu camp and I took the chance to do some birding and I observed marabou storks walking around, black kites, hooded vultures, house sparrow, namaqua dove and some yellow –billed storks flying over
Khor Galagu -DNP 30 December 2012
House Sparrow(Male) DNP - 30 December 2012
Namaqua Dove- DNP 30 December 2012
Yellow billed Stork- DNP  30 December 2012
 Then, we headed towards Abdel Ghani maya(wetland) which lies 1km away from Galagu camp and comprises from acacia nilotica and sub-merged grasses which used by herbivores such as waterbuck , reedbuck and warthog . Some bird species seen there include woolly –necked stork, cattle egret and small birds. Most Areas around the mayas were burnt to give more space for good vision and to attract animals as most of them prefer burnt areas as new grown plants always rich with nutrients . More than 1000 tufted guinea fowl were counted between Abdel Ghani and Ras Amir but all other in few numbers such as ostrich, fork-tailed drongo, great white pelican, common kestrel, grey heron , long-tailed starling, long-tailed cormorant, squacco heron and purple heron 
Tufted Guinea Fowl - DNP  30 December 2012
We spent one day there, and on the way back we took the road goes around Ein Elshams to check the area and we saw great white pelican, open bill stork, yellow –billed stork, marabou stork, white –faced duck  and  guinea fowl. The number of waterbirds were too low comparing with last year at the same time because birds scattered with water outside the Park.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Reconnaissance visit to Sunt forest and Um Shugaira Island

Every year I do some ringing activities in the mid January at Um Shugaira Island which is the suitable time for migratory species using the island as stop over or wintering site but this year is different. In a quick reconnaissance visit to Um Shugaira island  and Sunt forest  on 5th January , we noticed that the White Nile water level still high and the island is still beneath water  except small area in the northern end near Elfitaihab Bridge which is covered by  acacia nilotica (Sunt trees)  with high resistance to water. Most of waterbirds used the area past years were ducks using shallow water in the western side and waders mainly in muddy area which still under water and probably till early February 2013.
At Sunt Forest also water covered  some low lands in the northern and southern edge of the forest  with many species. At the northern side ,we saw Eurasian widgeon, Northern Shovellor ,Black-tailed Godwit, Senegal thicknee, Common green shank, Marsh Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Spur-winged Plover, Common Teal, Little Stint, Little Ringed plover, white Wagtail, Garganey and whiskered Tern while the species of spur-winged plover and some small wader seen from far distance.
The sunt forest is  highly disturbed by people looking for recreation at the forest especially during the week end

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

First record of the critically endangered sociable lapwing in its former range south Kosti West of the White Nile

A field trip was organized on 3rd December 2012  as  a part of the project to survey waterbirds in Sudan collaboratively between ONSFS , Wildlife Conservation General Administration , Sudanese Wildlife Society and University of Senar . The mission was to cover the former wetlands which surveyed last two years at  Senar and White Nile and to discover new bird important sites as well.
In the way from Khartoum to Senar , we decided to have quick turn to check some wetlands at Butana area which we told about by some former visitors but we found only Hafeers (atificail water harvesting basins) which highly disturbed by pastoralists and their animals and few  bird’s species were seen there such as little grebe, spur-winged plover. Some raptors observed in the way back including lappet-faced vulture, steppe eagle and ruppelle’s vulture
Hafeer  - 2/12/2012  Butana Area
 We spent the night at University of Senar guest house and in the next morning we headed towards the Rahad Canal which was surveyed last year and about 20000 of demoiselle cranes were inhabiting the site . White-tailed lapwing was observed beside the road in small maya(wetland) .The important maya (wetland) covers the area between bridges 45 and 60 (15 km) which contains high numbers of demoiselle crane(4500) , ruff (7000) , northern pintail(50), northern shovellor(500), Eurasian widgeon and some other small waders .
White-tailed Lapwing- 4/12/2012 Senar
We started counting from the eastern side of the maya  but for hundreds meters only as the area was muddy , so we turned back to the western side and on the way we passed below Dark-chanting goshawk  which stands on top of small tree by the road.
The maya lies in the eastern side of Rahad Canal and only way to count the maya from the western  side by walking the 15 km on foot as the road was too bad to drive cars .The team was divided into tow groups and each one started from the opposite direction and met at the center which means each group walked 7.5 km (long way!!!!!!!!!)  . We spent more than five hours counting birds at this amazing maya which needs to be declared as Important Bird Area (IBA) .
Dark-Chanting Goshawk- 4/12/2012  Senar 
Sennar state contains quite good numbers of mayas(wetlands) with high species richness and abundance either permanent or  temporary and during the survey we covered some of them in the first two days such as Konaf, Elrigaiba, Abu Hujar , Wadd Eljak, Um Laban and Um Kitir.
The amazing thing was the high number of raptors seen soaring there like  short –toed snake eagle , marsh harrier and some kites. After checking some mayas near Damazin –Singa way one day morning  , we decided to stop for breakfast rest under the shaded Balanites aegyptiaca east Alkonaf bridge but when we  approached to the tree , hundreds of roosted carmine bee –eaters came out of the tree and we realized from the signs of their feces on the ground that the tree was used for long time by the bird . I checked the water canal beside the tree where birds flying over the canal to perch on the electric wires on the other site and I continued for some minutes looking for nesting sites may be hide some where on the canal sides as the bird usually nests by digging holes in the cliffs but nothing was there. Also we noticed high numbers of black kites on the other trees but we couldn’t find the reason of their presence beside the Carmine bee-eaters. 
Northern Carmine Bee-eater, 5/12/2012  Senar

Some mayas checked as part of  Blue Nile and inlands mayas namely Elrigaiba, Elshamia  and wadd Eljack which inhabited by some wader dominant by ruffs, black-winged stilt ,cattle egret and little grebe.
Cattle Egret- 6/12/2012- Senar

On 6th December , we headed towards Sinar Dam to take the way to other areas further south in the White Nile State and we counted waterbirds in the wetlands we passed through  in our way . Some points were selected to count waterbirds in the Blue Nile as samples for the River before arriving at the Dam where quite good number of species seen there mainly cormorants, herons, ducks ( gargany, pintail,wigeon) , egrets, thicknee and terns
Senegal Thicknee 6/12/2012  Senar
Hence, we took our way directly towards White Nile and spent an hour at Wildlife Administration to pick a guide who knows the area very well and to save time in searching for mayas. In the beginning , our plan was to check mayas in our way to Um Jar which is our main target and after some hours driving in sandy clay lands with small shrubs , trees and mainly dominant by grasses give fascinating landscape which I never thought it will be like this, we arrived at the first maya called Alshwaf  holding small water body rich and about 16 species were seen there mainly waders and few waterfowl. At this time ,it was already became dark with the sunset but far west we saw large flocks waving in the air against the red light of sunset  . We continued our way to Um Jar to spend the night there and next morning to count Um Jar according to our previous plan but the image of the large flock was still brightening in our head especially Pierre (ONCFS) when he insisted to go back next morning to the same place as they already have an idea about Um Jar and waterbirds there. The team stayed conscious to late evening waiting grilled goat meat prepared by our host and it was unusual for foreigners to have dinner at 12:00 am but it was a nice meal.
Next morning , while we were going back to the same place on 7th December , we stopped at  Algardood maya just beside the road with fascinating nature comprising from merged tall grasses and reeds which is ideal habitat for waterbirds prefer hiding and walking on floating plants . We recorded about 500 squacco heron, 50 long-tailed cormorant , 10 African jacana  , 10 pied kingfisher , 20 whiskered tern beside some other species.
Great White Egret, Long-tailed Cormorant - 7/12/2012- White Nile

Great White Egret, Long-tailed Cormorant, Squacco Heron- 7/12/2012- White Nile
Pied Kingfisher- 7/12/2012  White Nile
The big surprise was waiting us when we reached the place where we saw the large flock last day and astonished by  the huge numbers of ducks living in small clear maya  called Alsilaiaa which is not far from small village there. Unbelievable, about  40,000 ducks dominant by garganey (17,100)   , Northern Pintail (15,700) Eurasian Widgeon (4900) , Northern shovellor  (2100)  and small numbers of Fulvous whistling Duck, Comb Duck, Ferruginous Duck and common teal  beside some waders in the shore such as ruff, demoiselle crane, abdem’s stork and amazing Ruddy –Turnstone which is only known to be in the Red Sea coast.
Flock of Ducks- 7/12/2012  White Nile
We covered one maya more with considerable species richness called Um Suar  before we took rest for breakfast at midd-day .In the first maya we recorded more than 300 black-winged stilt,  124 black-tailed godwit , 700 ruff, 140 little egret , 40 little stint, 30 grey heron, 31 glossy ibis with only two waterfowl (garganey &fulvous duck) which deserved to called wader’s maya and it lies just 10 meters in front of the a village and we wonder how the birds live near the village but later we knew that people there don’t hunt birds and they believed that  bird meat makes kind of skin irritation and we found ourselves happy with this belief for bird welfare.
Good news comes together,  while the team waiting for the breakfast  , small group decided to have quick look at two mayas near by which called Um Sila and Um Suar 2 as it has the same name like the previous one .UM Sila is a deep maya lies in the main stream of Khor Ubu Habel which extends from western Sudan to far east supported all mayas in its way and this year the water level was high and the Khor flooded all over the area filling the depressions and reached area not filled for some years. More than 150 long-tailed cormorant were there. When we stopped at Um Suar maya , I pointed my telescope to far east end leaving the near species for those who have binoculars to count and I started to count birds with good start of Eurasian Curlew (not its range) and just left I couldn’t believe my eyes with the presence of two individuals of critically endangered sociable lapwing taking bath with their remarkable black spot on the tail , I shouted for colleagues to check more and all wondered. It is the first record of sociable lapwing in its former range south of Khartoum west of the Nile for long decades. The Sudanese Wildlife Society has a project for this species in collaboration with RSPB since 2008 following two groups tagged with transmitters wintering in Sudan but never recorded south Khartoum and it moves between east and north Sudan. This gives us an idea about its range and what areas we should cover next time. The bird was seen associated with the Eurasian curlew, gull billed tern , black-winged stilt, little stint and common ringed plover. Pierre took pictures of the bird but in low quality because of the far distance .

Two sociable lapwing in the middle &gull bill tern in both sides- 7/12/2012  White Nile

Each maya seems to have its own characteristics and waterbirds’ species as in the next maya (Alsunta) we recorded 400 glossy ibis, 590 black-winged stilt but the ruff look common every where. Before it gets dark, we headed towards Tendalty town to spend a night there and to survey some wetlands there but we don’t know where we can get place to sleep. Our destiny took us near his door as we stop to ask some guys if there is guest house and they guided us to the next door where there is a hospitable man always opened his house to guests . For tow nights he stood himself to serve us beside ordering our dinner from his own pocket ,so thanks Mohammed Hassan for your hospitality
Our Host in the middle with white T-shirt
  Next day on 8th December , we went to Tendalty Dam which built on Khar Ubu Habel to harvest water during flooding time and both sides of the Dam covered by acacia nilotica due to its water resistance. About 18 species of waterbirds observed there mainly white-faced duck (730), little egret, little stint but others in low numbers and it is not as we thought but may be due to disturbance from people moving every where . 
Tendalty Dam. 8/12/2012  White Nile
Our permission for movement was up to White Nile and not included North Kordofan State ,so we get back to continue surveying mayas near Khor Abu Habel such as Wadd Alayis, Um Oud , Alsunta, Alawama, Abu Gunbary  and Saggay Elfadil . large number of waterbirds were seen there and the team  felt exhausted from counting birds all the day with no rest.  Waterbird species at these mayas according to highest numbers were ; ruff , black-winged stilt,  little stint,  glossy ibis, little egret, great white egret and spur-winged plover respectively. At night we get back to Tendalty to spend our last night there and next day we tried to cover the rest of mayas (wetlands) but their numbers were more than our few days there as the water scattered in wide areas.  These wetlands need more than one week to be covered in proper way .
Glossy ibis - 9/12/2012  White Nile

Thanks to all the participants from ONCFS (Zetuni, Jean-Yeves, Pierre and Cle’mence) WCGA ( Mohammed Ali, Yahi Edin, Khidir, Mohammed Adam, Alam) ,  SWS ( Esmat and Elfirdous) and University of Senar ( Altyeb , Mohammed Elmekki & Mohammed Adam)
the team - 9/12/2012   White Nile

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Morning visit to Elhalfaya Bridge Area

I am happy to add a new post and apologies for absence since end of last September due to my travel to Tanzania to participate in the 13th Pan-African Ornithological Congress , the most excited ornithological congress I ever attended with participation of more than 200 ornithologist from world wide countries who did researches in Africa .The conference held every four years ( and next time hope to see many Sudanese Ornithologists there. After that I spent some days in my village Diem Elgarray for Eid vacation.
In early morning 15/11/2012 I headed towards the agricultural farms around Elhalfaya bridge which is not too far from my house in Eldroshab looking for some migratory species as the time for fall migration had been already began with winter onset. The area is mainly agricultural lands which all covered with water during flooding time adding new fertile soil to the land used by farmers to grow some different crops and vegetables.  
My first sight was two common kestrels soaring above the trees with black kite and some passerines perching on the electric wires such as desert wheatear, village indigo bird and African silverbill. My not professional camera makes it difficult for me to have good clear pictures of birds especially those moved very quickly and I realized that birding need equipped birder.
Male village indigobird - Halfaya bridge 15/11/2012

I continued walking down to water stream blocking my way to the Nile where there were few waterbirds such as Egyptian plover and spur-winged lapwing. I forced to change my way and headed towards the bridge to cross to the other side and in my way I saw group of common bulbul , white-headed babbler , red-billed firefinch  while house sparrows , mourning dove and laughing dove every where constitute the abundant species
Spur-winged lapwing - Halfaya Bridge 15/11/2012
Egyptian Plover- Halfaya Bridge  15/11/2012
When I reached the bridge , I noticed some waterbirds  such as the local nomad kittlitz’s plover and the palearcitic migrant little stint . Also group of egrets probing the mud for food mainly great white egret and little egret. The shaded area under the bridge provided suitable roosting site for Ethiopian swallows flying there and sometimes perched on the electric wires
Great White Egret- Halfaya Bridge 15/11/2012
Ethiopian Swallow-Halfaya Bridge 15/11/2012
 Then, I climbed the bridge to cross the small khor and left again the bridge to walk through the farm while the Nile still far west and only few species were seen included African silverbill, yellow wagtail, common bulbul and masked shrike . Old unoccupied weaver colony on acacia nilitica tree was observed and some house sparrows moved between the nests

The Nile shores were not as I expected regarding to the number of species and habitat composition too. The shore in the southern side of the bridge was sandy cliff with no space for waterbirds as the water was deep . the sandy cliff extended  two hundred meters north the bridge where I saw some Ethiopian swallows roosting there and on the way north I saw two little bee-eater on the small shrub and pied king fisher
The Sandy cliff- Halfaya Bridge 15/11/2012
Little Bee-eater - Halfaya Bridge  15/11/2012
Pied Kingfisher- Halfaya Bridge 15/11/2012
 The sandy shallow shores extends far north from the bridge with presence of desert wheatear , yellow wagtail, white wagtail and  crested lark with few waterbirds such as common green shank , Egyptian plover, kittlitz’s plover, little egret and great white egret
Desert Wheatear- Halfaya Bridge 15/11/2012
the sandy shore- Halfaya Bridge  15/11/2012
Yellow Wagtail -Halfaya Bridge 15/11/2012


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hundreds eggs of Egyptian Goose has been eaten by one fisherman at Nuba Lake

You can’t imagine how human behaviour can be destructive unless you faced with one of these destructive behaviour . During the period  from 23rd March  to 4th April 2011  we ( Esmat , Nasir , Mohanad  ,  Officer Suliman Hakim and his soldiers )  were surveying Nuba lake in Northern State in the border with Egypt  to assist our colleague  Ismail  in his Nile Crocodile study . The survey success depends mainly on our local guides Ali Balla (expert in crocodile behaviour and distribution) and lovely Ahmed Ibrahim( boatman).  
During our normal survey, we stopped at small island to monitor crocodiles from that Island. We found about 10 nests of Egyptian goose but only two of them had eggs (11 and 14 eggs in each) and we thought for the first time that the empty nests may hatched but no broken egg shell remained near the site
Egyptian Goose nest on the ground-  Nuba lake 26th March 2011

 While we were talking, a fisherman stopped by the island with his boat and we noticed that he had dozen of geese eggs in his scarf and immediately the mystery resolved. He knew very well the site and the rest of eggs in the two remains nests but he didn’t know that we are conservationists as he offered us to take some eggs
complete nest in the fisherman scarf- Nuba Lake 26th  March2011

The big surprise waiting us when we arrived his camp on an island just about 100 meter from our island. We shocked by the hundreds broken eggs around the camp and 25% had dead embryos. He simply explained that ‘ I felt boring from eating fish ,so I decided to change to bird’s eggs’. We clearly noticed that he didn’t collect  these eggs from one site due to the large numbers of broken eggs and when he stopped at the island ,he was already carried some eggs.
He claimed that he didn’t know it is prohibited . At this point we felt guilty too as we didn’t have awareness programmes for them inspite the importance of the lake for migratory birds and crocodiles as well
part of the broken eggs- Nuba Lake 26th March 2011
Egg with dead embryo- Nuba Lake 26th March 2011
 Thousands of migratory Egyptian goose inhabiting the lake during winter while large numbers were seen molted and bred as well as spur-winged lapwing in the islands scattered throughout the lake.
Pair of Egyptian Geese- Nuba Lake 28th March 2011
Egyptian Goose with chicks- Nuba Lake 28th March 2011
Ground nest of spur-winged Lapwing- Nuba Lake 28th  March 2011
 The Nuba lake is very wide with many islands scattered in the whole lake which used by birds and crocodiles for nesting. The eastern side of the lake is mountainous   while the wastern side mainly sandy with small hills. Species seen there were great white pelican, spur-winged plover  , little egret, African skimmer , Nile Valley sunbird , white-crowned wheatear, European turtle, whiskered tern, white-winged tern, squacco heron, mourning dove, laughing dove, lesser black-backed gull, grey heron  etc.........
Female white -crowned wheatear- Nuba Lake 29th March 2011
Whiskered Terns -Nuba Lake 29th March 2011
Black-winged Stilt- Nuba Lake 29th March 2011
Great White Pelican- Nuba Lake 29th March 2011
African Skimmer- Nuba Lake 29th March 2011
Squacco Heron- 29th March 2011
Senegal Thicknee- Nuba Lake 29th March 2011
 While our boat passing near the sandy bank, we observed colony of sand martin in the sandy wall . During our returned back , we stopped at water pumping building to say hallo and filled some questionnaires . I noticed nest of Eurasian Crag Martin on the room wall.
Sand Martin colony on the sandy wall- Nuba Lake 30 March 2011
Eurasian Crag Martin nests on room wall- Nuba Lake 30 March 2011
 I always (Esmat) carry my mist net with me in my traveling incase we find suitable place for capturing birds for identification and ringing. We erected two mist nets beside bush area and small hill where many small birds flying. Some species captured such as Nile valley sunbird and lesser whitethroat
male Nile Valley Sunbird- Nuba Lake 1st April 2011
Lesser Whitethroat- Nuba Lake 1st April  2011