Sunday, 20 April 2014

Wildlife of Sharm el-Sheikh - Apr '14

***21/04/14 - I'd just like to make a correction: below I mention Brown-necked Ravens but it's kindly been pointed out to me that, they were in fact, (Indian) House Crows***

We've been back a couple of days, from a holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. It was a family holiday (with friends), so although the wildlife was not the reason for going, naturally I had my eyes open for anything and everything that crawls, flies, jumps or swims.

To add to that, I should say that everything I saw was purely from within the resort/beach.
This view right here pretty much sums up my birding for the 10 days:

One of the best wildlife memories I will ever have happened on our first day. We were in the sea and between us and the shore were a big school of fish. Out of nowhere appeared a Caspian Tern drifting up and down the beach, it later became apparent that this was its feeding routine.
Completely undeterred by us or anyone, it started dive bombing into the sea for these fish and flying off over our heads with its catch - all about 15ft away from us, I will never have a better view of a Caspian Tern again. Superb!

Here's a few shots of that beautiful Tern, that I grabbed over a few days:

The next two birds I saw, each had their own posts or poles that they rested on each and every day. When they did finally decide to get up and do something, I managed to enjoy great views and get a few photos.
Firstly, a White-eyed Gull:
As 'common' as they were, it was quite gratifying for me to watch these, knowing that they are pretty much, strictly Red Sea residents.

Made a nice change from looking at Black-headed Gulls though. A couple more shots here:

The next Gull, not as vibrant but elegant in its own way, was this Slender-billed Gull:

This next bird, also a Slender-billed Gull, was moulting or in between plummages:

The next bird to appear on the bouys and pontoon walkway, was this Striated Heron that we only saw on two different days so quiet lucky:

A Western Reef Egret was not bothered in the slightest by tourists, often making people actually walk around it instead of moving itself. We only ever saw the one, UNTIL our drive back to the airport, when we counted 25+ feeding along the roadside!

It was quiet funny because as the holiday went on, our friends (who are not birders!!) began to take an interest and start pointing out birds to me. Along with Mrs K, who always looks out for me, I now had another 2 pairs of eyes on the lookout.
We got on with a retired couple from Belgium, the guy was also into his birds and so he was also giving me the heads up of what he's seen on the resort - it was a FAMILY holiday remember :)

House Sparrows were EVERYWHERE, nesting in the gazebos above our heads, running around our feet and everything. Bit of a long shot, but I did check as many as possible incase a stray Spanish Sparrow was hiding amongst them, but that was not to be.

Just like our Jackdaws or Carrion Crows back home, the local noisy, bully boy corvids of Sharm were Brown-necked Ravens. They mobbed anything that had food, Terns, Gulls, Ospreys, anything! It was hard to show the brown necks of them with photos, but this was the best I could do:

A week into the holiday and a couple of Hooded Crows showed up. They liked to use one of the fountains as a dinner table, I often watched them pulling lizards apart for a light snack.

Plenty of Laughing Doves around too. Pretty little things really:

The Belgian man rushed down one morning to tell me about a bird he'd seen on one of the lawns. His English was good but not perfect and he only knew the Flemish name for what he'd seen, which was a "Hop". All I had to go was a bird with a sticky up bit on its head and this word "Hop"...a HOOPOE!
We went back to where he'd seen it but it had already gone. I was a bit gutted as I've not actually seen a Hoopoe before but out of the hedge popped a consolation prize, by way of a smart, little Bluethroat:

I sat quietly and enjoyed watching it pick worms out, eventually feeding about 10ft from me. Well chuffed! It was also a first for Arsene, our new Belgian friend, so a nice little touch.

Back to the beach and not long after our lovely little Bluethroat, did an Osprey drop in for a spot of fishing. It was bold and not phased one iota, usually sitting on a boat while the passengers where sitting beneath it. I was over the moon to get such close views of this beautiful Bird of Prey:

I'm particularly fond of this shot I got, as the sun was going down and it dropped down for one last feed. What a bird:

As fate (not that I particularly believe in all that) would have it, I had to go back to our room to grab something I'd forgotten earlier. As I looked up, I saw this outline against the bright sky:

You won't need 3 guesses at that; a Hoopoe - or Hop! I had good enough views where it was but it dropped down in front of me to feed and I couldn't have asked for any more really:

As well as the birds in the photos, I also saw:

  • African Rock Martins
  • Swallows
  • Feral Pigeons
  • Rock Doves
  • Kestrels (I also had 2 that looked a good shout for LESSER Kestrels, but can't be certain)
  • A single, big Swift sp. also flew over but didn't hang around long enough for a better look. As someone suggested, it could also, possibly have been a Sooty Falcon? I'll never know.
  • Another one that got away was a single, brief look at what looked like a female of a Shrike species. Red-backed/Woodchat kind of looking - again, I'll never know. 
We also had a Little Owl fly over our dinner table shortly after dusk one day. It caused a little confusion at first as it looked like fine in shape/size and its call fit the bill too, but it was just so pale, that it was making me doubt myself.
It was only when I saw this in the Collins guide that it made sense. A Middle East race of Little Owl, by the name of 'Lilith'

For the other wildlife, we saw plenty of Plain Tiger Butterflies:

I've not looked into this next one thoroughly but, I believe it's a Little Tiger Blue Butterfly:

Lastly for the butterflies, this looks like a Brimstone species but when you compare the wing shape to our UK Brimstones, it's not the same but I've not got around to pin-pointing it just yet:

and one of our UK Brimstones for comparison:

This ladybird landed on the beach bag one day. It has 7 spots but clearly not a 7-spot as we know them:
Many thanks to Helen Baker, Helen Roy and Dr Richard Comont for ID'ing it for me. It is Hippodamia variegata.

Other than a few hundred Ants, we had a few of these Lizards let themselves into our room. Quite cute though:

Sorry it's gone on a bit, hopefully not too boring! Thanks for reading...