Working for birds in Africa


Fri, 01/25/2013 - 22:43 -- abc_admin

Most visitors to Sudan will either stay in Khartoum or pass through the city and they should take the opportunity to see something of the surprising variety of bird life that occurs there. Although the Three Cities (Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri) lie in acacia and desert scrub habitat, the presence of the Nile makes the area a haven for birds. The introduction has further details of some of the birds of Khartoum and other areas in Sudan. This section has further information on bird watching hotspots in and around Khartoum as well as a few places further afield.

Tuti Island, situated in the confluence of the White and the Blue Nile, holds specialities such as Egyptian Plover Pluvianus aegyptius, White-headed Babbler Turdoides leucocephala, Black Scrub-Robin Cercotrichas podobe, Chestnut-backed Sparrow Lark Eremopterix leucotis, Graceful Prinia Prinia gracilis and Northern Masked Weaver Ploceus taeniopterus. Other regular species include Black-billed Wood Dove Turtur abyssinicus, Sudan Golden Sparrow Passer luteus, Red-billed Firefinch Lagonosticta senegala, Crimson-rumped Waxbill Estrilda rhodopyga, African Silverbill Euodice cantans, Beautiful Sunbird Cinnyris pulchellus, Northern Red Bishop Euplectes franciscanus, Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis, Village Indigobird Vidua chalybeata, Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri, White-browed Coucal Centropus superciliosus, Little Bee-eater Merops pusillus, and during migration different subspecies of Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava, Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus, Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis and Rufous Scrub-Robin Cercotrichas galactotes. The island is however slowly losing its charms due to urban development. It is a fairly big island so one needs to visit different areas of it per trip.

Probably the most interesting birding hotspot in the city is The Sunt Forest. This lies within walking distance of the main hotels, on the east bank of the White Nile just south of its confluence with the Blue Nile. It consists of an area of Acacia woodland Acacia arabica adjoining a cultivated strip of the river bank. The whole area is flooded from about August to October, when it is not easily accessible. Minor flooding of the bank occurs at other times and this does affect which species are present. Palearctic migrants which winter include Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus, Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii and Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa; among Passerines Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus and several species of wagtail and wheatear occur. Intra-African migrants include pelicans, African Spoonbill Platalea alba, Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber, Spur-winged Goose Plectropterus gambensis, Hottentot Teal Anas hottentota, Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio, Lesser Jacana Microparra capensis and Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis.

One correspondent has seen a number of interesting additional species over the last four years including Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis, Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia, Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis, Fulvous Whistling Duck Dendrocygna bicolor, Shikra Accipiter badius, Common Quail Coturnix coturnix, Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus, Great Snipe Gallinago media, Caspian Tern Sterna caspia, African Skimmer Rynchops flavirostris, Grey Woodpecker Dendropicos goertae, Red-billed Hornbill Tockus erythrorhynchus and Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus. This important area, the only forested area in Khartoum, is at risk due to commercial interests. For safety reasons it is not advisable to visit The Sunt alone, especially the woodlands.

Other interesting areas include the large irrigated agricultural project at Sileetat, just north of Bahri, and the smaller one at Umm Dom, to the east of Bahri. Resident birds include Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles exustus, Singing Bush Lark Mirafra cantillans and Sudan Golden Sparrow Passer luteus. Palearctic migrants which winter include Black Stork Ciconia nigra, Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus, Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus, Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus, Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus, Ruff Philomachus pugnax in vast numbers, Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris, European White Stork Ciconia ciconia, Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica, Desert Wheatear O. deserti, Isabelline Wheatear O. isabellina and Pied Wheatear O. pleschanka. Cranes pass through on passage and may stop over. Sileetat Sewage Pools have significant concentrations of Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida, White-winged Tern C. leucopterus and Wattled Starling Creatophora cinerea during the period April to June and also a range of other wetland birds. Further afield, Jebel Aulia Dam, about 50 km south of Khartoum has a range of birds similar to the Sunt, but the area is more extensive and less disturbed.

The Blue Nile shores east of town are also interesting with Senegal Thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis, Yellow-breasted Barbet Trachyphonus margaritatus and (probably seasonally) African Skimmer Rynchops flavirostris and African Swallow-tailed Kite Chelictinia riocourii. There is also sporadic migration of Little Tern Sterna albifrons, Little Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis and White-throated Bee-eater M. albicollis.

Desert areas near Khartoum, Haj Yusif and Omdurman Hills contain Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus, Little Swift Apus affinis, Pallid Swift Apus pallidus, Greater Hoopoe-Lark Alaemon alaudipes, Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti and Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis.

Around the pyramids and temples of Meroë, Naqa and Musawarat, 200 km north of Khartoum, it is possible to see Cricket Warbler Spiloptila clamans, House Bunting Emberiza striolata, Fulvous Babbler Turdoides fulva, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark Eremopterix nigriceps and Greater Hoopoe-Lark Alaemon alaudipes.

Jebel Marra in Darfur is an extinct volcano which towers 3,000 m over a ‘sea’ of dry savanna. Because of its isolation it has several endemic subspecies and species with western affinities or which otherwise occur much further south. Interesting birds here are Black-breasted Barbet Lybius rolleti, Long-tailed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis caudatus, Neumann’s Starling Onychognathus neumanni, Cliff Chat Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris, Palestine Sunbird Cinnyris osea, Fox Kestrel Falco alopex and Black-faced Firefinch Lagonosticta larvata. At present, the security situation in this area is unstable due to the ongoing conflicts in Darfur.

A correspondent has sent a list of birds seen in 2006 in the city of Nyala in South Darfur State, and in and around the town of Mukjar in West Darfur which includes the following species: Garganey Anas querquedula; Ruppell's Vulture Gyps rueppellii; Fox Kestrel Falco alopex; Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni; Meyer's Parrot Poicephalus meyeri; Pennant-winged Nightjar Macrodipteryx vexillarius; Abyssinian Roller Coracias abyssinicus; Abyssinian Ground Hornbill Bucorvus abyssinicus; Vieillot's Barbet Lybius vieilloti; Grey Woodpecker Dendropicos goertae; Mosque Swallow Cecropis senegalensis; Red-pate Cisticola Cisticola ruficeps; Beautiful Sunbird Cinnyris pulchellus; Sharp-tailed Starling Lamprotornis acuticaudus; Yellow-Billed Oxpecker Buphagus africanus and Sahel Paradise-Whydah Vidua orientalis.

There appear to be few opportunities to visit major wildlife sites but The Dinder National Park situated on the Ethiopian border might offer an opportunity. It is one of the largest parks in the world and reportedly has Lion, Giraffe, Leopard, Kudu, Bushbuck and Antelope, together with several species of birds such as guineafowl, vultures, pelicans, storks, kingfishers and crowned cranes. Special three-day trips from Khartoum are organised in the high season (December-April).

There are few detailed bird records for Dinder, however the extent and quality of the habitat of low lying flood-plain indicate that many species of the Sudan-Guinea Savanna biome should be seen. Those that have been recorded include Red-throated Bee-eater Merops bulocki, White-headed Babbler Turdoides leucocephala, Red-pate Cisticola Cisticola ruficeps, Senegal Eremomela Eremomela pusilla, Black-faced Firefinch Lagonosticta larvata, Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes, Bush Petronia Petronia dentata, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver Plocepasser superciliosus and Cinnamon Weaver Ploceus badius.

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