Mangrove mania!

With this trip to Egypt it’s clear that the character of our project is slowly changing. We are doing less and less of what us birders call primary birding e.g going to good birding spots and just observe whats there. Now with over 550 species on our list, the days with twenty new species in a day are long gone. Our focus now is almost exclusively very specific targets, like the Yellow Bittern in Lahami mangroves. It was discovered in 2012 by Jens Hering and his german research team. Only 26 birders have registrerad the bird on their Netfugl list. We went there determined to find it.

The mangrove is fairly small and in 2013 at least 3 pairs where breeding there. It might sound like an easy mission but nevertheless the birds proved extremely tricky to locate. We arrived in evening just before sunset and went straight out into the mangroves wading in waist deep muddy water. But no sign of the Bittern. Went back the next morning now walking around and into the mangroves again, for hours, listning and play-backing hoping to get contact. No luck.

20170506-S57A5804
Me and Mårten in the mangroves

Durring low tide we moved on to another patch of mangroves where another target bird, Goliath Heron sometimes hang out. Walking the tidal mudflats in the 40 + heat is some what energy consuming. Saw some nice birds there but no Goliath…

sooty-falcon
Sooty Falcon was fairly common
So was Western Reef Herons
So was Western Reef Heron
And Sooty Gulls
And Sooty Gull

Next morning we where back at Lahami mangroves before sunrise, again trying for the bittern. All of a sudden a bittern-sized bird comes flying centimeters from Klackes nose and crashes into a mangrove tree just next to us. Hearts pounding we encircle the bush, almost sure that we would now get our precious bird. Mårten sticks his head into the tree and surprisingly calls out. “It’s a fucking Corncrake!”

corn-crake
Cool but no cigar

An hour south of Lahami lays El Shalateen, a small town just on the Sudan border which is famous for it’s big camel market and amongst us birders as THE place to see Lappet-Faced Vulture in the WP. We went there. To enter the town you must pass a good number of military check-points making the day trip a nervous one for us. Utterly afraid that they would find and confiscate our last remaining scope. Luckily they didn’t and the vulture was easy.

lappet-faced-vulture
A true monster with a wingspan of up to 290 cm

On our third day of searching for the bittern in the mangroves it felt like an impossible task. The birds where clearly not calling and seeing one felt even more unlikely. We had decided to give it one last try before continuing north and where back at the same spot wading out in the mangroves as the sun was rising from the turquoise sea. Then it happened! A Yellow Bittern was calling three times with it’s characteristic “whop whop whop” BINGO! We where relieved to leave the mangroves, never to go back!

YEEEES!
YEEEES!

Some other nice birds from the mangroves.

eastern-olivacious-warbler-mangrove
Eastern (Mangrove) Olivaceous Warbler everywhere
Lesser Grey Shrike
Lesser Grey Shrike
Don't touch my fish!
Don’t touch my fish!
crab-plover
Crab Plover
What a stunner! Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eater
What a stunner! Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eater

Or next target turned out too be much much easier. After a nine hours drive with Valerie June and Swedish Radio documentary about the spectacular Arlanda Airport robbery in 2002 we arrived at the site for Chestnut-Bellied Sandgrouse south west of the small town Al Bahnasa.

It was a hot day, too hot to move so we found a good vantage point and started scanning. After about 1 hour I spotted three birds in the distance going down in some fields one km away. We quickly drove there and as we entered the field the owner of the land approached. As always we took our Collins Bird guide, smiled and said “Tayir” bird in arabic, and pointed at the picture in the book and the area where the birds where. The owner smiled and said something in arabic and after some advanced body language we had access to his fields and where invited for a nice cup of tea. Very nice!

chestnut-bellied-sandgrouse
Chestnut-Bellied Sandgouse

The following day it was time for another WP speciality namely Saunder’s Tern on the Sinai peninsula. A few years ago our friend Mohamed Habib found a nesting colony close to Ras Sedr again showing how under birded this country is. The terns where very easy and present in good numbers. Another one down! Two more to go before we leave Egypt and get our binoculars back!

Saunder's Tern
Saunder’s Tern
Another one just for fun
Another one just for fun