in the field -
a hong kong
a hong kong
In the morning just after dawn I explored the fields adjacent to Dana village. The fields, once used to grow various nut and fruit crops are now mainly used as pasture for goats but there is water and Mediterranean-type scrub as well as taller trees. There were typical Mediterranean birds such as Eurasian Blackbird, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat Shrike and Hoopoe, as well as the more localised Palestine Sunbird. I disturbed a party of eight Chukars in a rocky field. Several Eastern Olivaceous Warblers were in song, some from exposed perches, unlike the two or three Cetti’s Warblers that I heard but didn’t see. There were also the now-expected migrant Lesser Whitethroats and Eurasian Blackcaps in small numbers, as well as my only Common Nightingale of the trip.
From Dana, we drove ninety minutes to Petra and spent the rest of the day exploring the rich historical site. Although, of great archaeological and scenic interest, the site seemed relatively unproductive bird-wise. Two Brown-necked Ravens flew over before we got to the siq. High over the mausoleums I saw two Long-legged Buzzards in flight and had brief views of an Eastern Mourning Wheatear outside the grounds of the Petra Guest House on our return. Apart from those, there were a few common birds but no sign of the Sinai Rosefinch which is one of the special species of the site.
Petra is mainly made up of hundreds of mausoleums created by the Nabateans over 2,000 years ago. Many are simple tombs in caves, but others are ornate structures carved out of sandstone cliff faces. The entrance to Petra is along a kilometer-long narrow canyon known as the siq.
We walked the main trail at Petra again, but began earlier in the morning before the heat of the day set in. Five swifts flew low over the sandstone cliffs enabling positive identification as Pallid Swifts. At the end of the main trail, I took the steps up along a steep-sided wadi to the tomb known as the Monastery. Here the landscape opened out into a small area of sand and gravel desert where I found six Sinai Rosefinch feeding at the base of a cliff. There were also four Eastern Mourning Wheatears up there.
Our final destination was Wadi Rum, an area of sandy desert and red sandstone mesas; a dramatic landscape familiar from the movie Lawrence of Arabia and, more recently, The Martian. We stayed in a tented camp and took the more or less obligatory four-wheel-drive truck excursion to sites of interest. Again, bird diversity was frustratingly low. There were the odd Brown-necked Ravens, Pale Crag Martins, Desert Larks and Tristram’s Starlings. Things picked up briefly at the ruins of the house where T E Lawrence stayed in 1917: a White-crowned Wheatear was singing on the cliffs above the ruin. Elsewhere in the desert a Sinai Rosefinch flew overhead calling and we disturbed a Sand Partridge. I also notched up a couple of Eastern Mourning Wheatears, but on the whole felt disappointed with the tally.
We returned to the camp site in late afternoon. The grounds were small, but there was a large woodpile in one corner with a small muddy channel adjacent to it and tamarisk bushes close by. Also, a broken pipe near the boundary fence had left a small pool of water and a small, dense patch of grass and flowers had grown around this puddle. This combination of water and cover proved attractive to a few migrants. I found three Eurasian Blackcaps and a Lesser Whitethroat in the woodpile, a Masked Shrike among the tamarisks and a male Ortolan Bunting close to the puddle. There were at least ten Sinai Rosefinch in the grounds as a well as a Desert Lark and a Scrub Warbler.
I was up at dawn and walked the grounds again before heading out to photograph the desert landscape. In addition to the birds I had seen the afternoon before, I discovered an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and a Thrush Nightingale. Both of these gave good views – a result of the limited amount of cover available. The Sinai Rosefinch were also approachable and were feeding on uncleared plates outside one of the entertainment tents. Although House Sparrows were present in Wadi Rum village three or four kilometres away, they had not yet reached the campsite and it seemed that the rosefinch were filling the ecological niche that would normally be taken up by the sparrows. And as we were leaving the site, I came upon a White-crowned Wheatear feeding on the ground before it flew up to a high rock and began singing.
Tariq drove us back north to Amman where we overnighted before flying back to Hong Kong.