Showing posts from 2012

The Eastern Shore of Rawal Lake & The Marsh

On Sunday 9 December 2012 we ventured onto the eastern shoreline of Rawal Lake to look for wintering duck, waders and gulls. As we made our way through the grasses and reeds towards the lake several ZITTING CISTICOLA were present. This diminutive but smart little Warbler has a distinctive call that gives it the name. Closer towards the lake were half a dozen LITTLE RINGED PLOVER and as many PIED KINGFISHER hovered over the shallows in the distance. There were numerous BLACK-HEADED GULL and several PALLAS’S (or GREAT BLACK-HEADED GULL); these are striking birds and a couple of the adults amongst them were sporting the black head and yellow bill of the summer plumage. 
A few GREY HERON were around the margin of the lake and at least one GREAT EGRET. Other than the Little Ringed Plovers waders consisted of a COMMON SANDPIPER, some TEMINCK’S STINT, a few NORTHERN LAPWING and several GREENSHANK. There were some EURASIAN COOT occupying the shallow and seven POCHARD in slightly deeper wate…

ISLBIRDER Bounces Back with Two Ticks

Saturday 8 December 2012 was a memorable day for many reasons; not least because ISLBIRDER added two more species to his Pakistan List. However, we were lucky in other ways and by experiencing a huge concentration of species in a very small area of deciduous woodland that consisted of mature trees; sadly, a dwindling asset to the country’s population and wildlife.
We began with a brisk walk to the Margalla Hills Trail 5 Spring, the scene of recent successes (and dips for some). The usual cast of regular species were present but there were large numbers of one in particular, the LEMON-RUMPED WARBLER. At one time the whole dell was full of them and we searched through all to see if we could find a similarly sized Brooks’s Leaf Warbler but to no avail. The beautiful Lemon-rumped Warblers are a joy to behold with their long and bright supercilium, the yellowish crown stripe, their double wing-bar and the lemon rump that provides their name. However, it is their tiny size and arboreal acr…

Plumbeous Redstart A Life Tick

Saturday 1 December 2012 found us deep into the Margalla Hills National Park on a cold and frosty morning. We visited three beautiful and different valleys and thereby guaranteed ourselves a greater variety of birds. As you will note from this and previous blogs Islbirder is extremely fortunate to have as friends and companions some very talented wildlife photographers who, very kindly, allow me to use their photographs to illustrate our recorded birding adventures.
When we arrived at our first valley the ground was very icy and it had to be Islbirder who slipped and landed heavily on his backside. Fortunately, natural padding sustained most of the impact but a huge black bruise covering one buttock bears testimony to the combination of an overweight birder and a very hard rock.
The sight of the fast-flowing crystal clear stream with mist above the water indicated that it was warmer that the surrounding air soon dispelled the pain in the bum and we began looking for birds. The first …

Islbirder Dips!

I thought I should begin today’s new post by explaining some of the birding parlance that is used by birders. Hopefully, dear Reader, you will understand the relevance and also realise how cathartic compiling this particular edition has been following a traumatic birding morning.
Birder: A serious birder. Not birdwatcher or Dude (see below) and never a twitcher!
Dip Out or Dip: To miss seeing a bird that you were looking or hoping for.
Dude: A posh birdwatcher who doesn't really know much about birds or a novice birdwatcher, a slightly depreciatory term. Also used to refer to someone who primarily seeks out birds for photography rather than ornithological study. However, can I clarify; this does not include photographers who allow their photographs to appear on this blog. They are definitely birders.

First: A first record of a species in a defined place, such as an area or country first. Or, indeed on one’s Life List (see below).
Grip Off or To Grip: To see a bird that another birder m…

All Excited Over A Chaffinch

On Sunday 4 November we were deep into the Margalla Hills inside Khyber Paktunkhwa (KPK). This was a valley we had visited before with its allure of village life and beautiful surroundings. As the sun rose above the hilltops the birds began to appear and the only difficulty endured was where to look next. In all we saw 37 species in just a few hours and huge numbers of many. The photographers within our party, literally, experienced a field day. The irony was that our least common bird of the day is the most numerous species in the UK. It manifested itself in the form of a female COMMON CHAFFINCH. This was a life bird for two of our party and it is only the second time I have seen the species in Pakistan.

Larger birds seen were two YELLOW-BILLED BLUE MAGPIE and several BLACK-THROATED JAY. However, it was the passerine species seen and the one owl that were the most interesting. We were about 4000 feet above sea level but the sun of the sun soon warmed our backs on what had started as…

The Red-billed Leiothrix Have Arrived

Daybreak on Saturday 3 November 2012 found us at Margalla Hills Trail 5 on a beautiful yet chilly morning. Our goal, as during the previous weekend, was to locate and, if possible, photograph altitudinal migrants. Pretty much, the cast was similar to seven days ago but with the odd addition. The most obvious was a striking species and for such a colourful bird it is particularly secretive. However, the harsh call gave away the RED-BILLED LEIOTHRIX. Its breeding range is located within the mountainous areas from the Himachal Pradesh in India to the Burmese border. During winters the Red-billed Leiothrix moves to lower altitudes and, irregularly, the species can be found in the Margalla hills.
 We were again lucky to see more KALIJ PHEASANT and on this occasion a pair graced the spring area. This species appears far more common than experienced by birders during the 1980s. It was gratifying to see the WHISTLER’S WARBLER in the same location as last week but it was far more nervous and …

Whistler's Warbler at Trail 5

On Saturday 27 October 2012 whilst most of Islamabad was celebrating Eid ul Azha, we walked Trail 5 of the Margalla Hills during the early morning. There was a distinct chill in the air as we began that initiated the belief that species usually associated with the high mountains may be making their way to lower altitudes to spend the winter. What better place to do so than the Margalla Hills.
Things started well as one of our group spotted a WHITE-CAPPED WATER REDSTART on the kerbstone by the side of the Margalla Road but by the time we turned the car around it had gone; a good early date for this species. We were keen to reach the spring as soon as possible but it was, as always, difficult not to stop to look at various birds en route. The most obvious were the 15 or so KALIJ PHEASANT that we saw in two groups as they crossed the trail; some lingering by the side of the path. Another good bird was a LESSER WHITETHROAT of the subspecies Sylvia curruca althaea that breeds in the north…

Birding Deep into the Margalla Hills National Park

Early on Sunday 14 October 2012 we visited a  village that consisted of a few houses, some small and cultivated fields set in a wooded valley with a small stream coursing its way through the area. This was deep into the Margalla Hills National Park and a most picturesque setting for our group of five to spend a morning’s birding.
Two weeks ago these tiny fields had hosted a Spotted Forktail but this bird must have been passing through, as there was no sign of it today. The weather was beautiful and the chance of altitudinal migrants was high. The first bird was a GREY WAGTAIL on a wire. We made our way to the stream and spaced ourselves out to provide more coverage. There we waited for the birds to come to us. It was slow at first but as the sun’s rays warmed up the far bank more birds appeared. A bird on another wire attracted our attention. It was a typical Muscicapa Flycatcher but was dark on the mantle with a long primary projection. The throat was white with contrastingly dark u…

Altitudinal Migrants Hit Trail 5

Sunrise on Saturday 13 October 2012 saw us on Trail 5 of the Margalla Hills looking for altitudinal migrants from the Himalayas. The trail was busy with hikers and the spring was quiet from a birding perspective. During the walk up to the spring a Barking Dear bounded across the trail in front of us and provided incredibly close views. There were large groups of ORIENTAL WHITE-EYE and most had GREY-HOODED WARBLER associated with them. Amongst one of these feeding waves we had good views of a BLACK-CHINNED BABBLER; normally a furtive species. We saw several raucous GREY TREEPIE and a few BLACK BULBUL flew noisily overhead. Rustling leaves, once again, gave away the presence of a RUSTY-CHEEKED SCIMITAR BABBLER.
The highlights of the morning were two stunning male RUFOUS-BELLIED NILTAVA; an exciting discovery as we had only once previously seen this species as we descended Mukshpuri. The males displayed their brilliant blue crowns, black throats, blue upperparts and orange underparts.

Butterflies of Pakistan

The Butterflies of Pakistan are amazing. We will add more photographs to this page.

Sirkeer Malkoha is Bird of the Day

Out at Sunrise on Sunday 7 October 2012 and birding on the eastern shoreline of Rawal Lake. A lone GREY HERON stood motionless on a small island created by the, still, low water levels. A flight of duck circled the lake before daring to land on its waters. The flock consisted of eight NORTHERN PINTAIL and a, tiny by comparison, EURASIAN TEAL. These birds had peeled of from the main flight that had decided not to land and most of these had been TUFTED DUCK. The call of a distant REDSHANK was heard but we did not see the bird. For the time of year we were disappointed not to have seen more waders. A lone WHITE-BROWED WAGTAIL landed on one of the beached boats and began singing loudly and melodious it was too, for a wagtail.
We ventured closer to the reeds and vegetation at the lake’s former high water mark to look for passerines; a Bluethroat high on agenda. It was not to be as we flushed a PADDYFIELD PIPIT and found one of its more interesting cousins in the form of two migratory TREE…

Paddyfield Warbler & Common Cranes

On Sunday 30 September 2012 we were a little lazy following the previous early rise and did not hit Trail 5 of the Margalla Hills National Park until mid-morning. Not the greatest time to go birding but at this time of year migration can throw up surprises. The first few birds of note were all resident: STRIATED PRINIA and RUFOUS-FRONTED PRINIA and both Treepies, RUFOUS TREEPIE and GREY TREEPIE.
The sound of rustling leaves on the ground walking this trail usually means RUSTY-CHEEKED SCIMITAR BABBLER and this was no exception as a pair of these normally crepuscular birds showed well.
Whilst watching a large group of ORIENTAL WHITE-EYE, I noticed a bird with a bright blue mantle shoot across the trail into cover and back again. I could hear the giveaway call of a Flycatcher and soon located a beautiful male BLUE-THROATED FLYCATCHER Cyornis rubeculoides. It is a stunningly attractive species.

Even though I later saw a new species for my Pakistan List, the highlight of the day was meeti…

Bee-eaters Ready to Head Off

Early on Saturday 29 September 2012 we were again back at Lake View Park looking for migrants. Water levels were higher, which is good news for the boatmen but are still far from normal at Rawal Lake. Waders were not in evidence so we concentrated on passerines. BLUE-TAILED BEE-EATER numbers were high with about 40 birds being present. There were less GREEN BEE-EATER, only about 10 in number but it cannot be long before they depart on their migratory journey that will take them south. However, there was only one INDIAN GOLDEN ORIOLE and that was an adult male.
There had been a huge fall of YELLOW WAGTAIL with at least 100 birds covering the arboretum area. Amongst them were some first-winter CITRINE WAGTAIL and a pair of WHITE-BROWED WAGTAIL graced the paved area. Amongst the trees we counted 6 COMMON CHIFFCHAFF. We could not find any Eurasian Teal, the only duck species were saw was EURASIAN WIGEON and there were only three.
Bird of the day was a LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD, which provided exc…

Red-necked Phalaropes at Rawal Lake

On Tuesday 11 September, before travelling away for a week, we took the opportunity to pay a morning visit to Lake View Park in an attempt to relocate the Red-headed Buntings seen and photographed a few days previously by our friend. Sadly, the Red-headed Buntings had gone but there was an exciting consolation in the form of a pair of RED-NECKED PHALAROPE. Normally, this dainty little wader passes by Pakistan in large flocks some 50 miles offshore over the ocean. Very occasionally Red-necked Phalaropes are seen in Pakistan near inland waters but this is an uncommon phenomenon. Red-necked Phalaropes spend a lot of their time swimming in a distinctive spinning motion as they pick insects of the surface of the water using their delicate bills. Phalaropes are one of a few families of birds where the female is more brightly coloured than the males. Our last encounter with Red-necked Phalaropes had been on the Outer Hebrides and it was great that we added it as species number 310 onto our …