20 October 2011

Southern Grey Shrike Ringing at A'Ali Farm - Bahrain

Whilst ringing at A'Ali Farm Abdulla had a single worm left for the spring trap, left over from the previous weeks ringing and as we had seen a nice male Desert Wheatear in the short cut areas of the farm we tried at first to catch this bird. It was not being very co-operative and the farm is a place where we cannot leave the trap for very long without moving it as there are a lot of ants about that kill the worm if they find it. We then moved the trap to a spray field area where there was a dark breasted Daurian Shrike and again this did not want to be co-operative and kept flying over the trap and never landing on the spray head under which the trap was positioned. There were quite a lot of Pied Wheatear about but as we were driving about we saw a Southern Grey Shrike sitting on some twigs as well as an Isabelline Wheatear. We put the trap under a nice metal post where the Isabelline Wheatear had been sitting and hoped for the best. To my delight the Southern Grey Shrike then landed on the metal post, saw the worm and promptly trapped itself. This was a new ringing species for me. I did not put these photos with the other ringing photos as I was making sure this bird was a Southern Grey Shrike rather than a Steppe grey Shrike as in first winter plumage they can look very similar. I would like to thank Major Abdulla, Brendan Kavenagh and AbdulRahman Al-Shiran from Kuwait for their help with the identification of this bird. Abdulla knew all along it was a Southern Grey Shrike but I wanted to make sure from my point of view. The two outer tail feathers of this bird were all white similar to Steppe Grey Shrike but also fitting elegeans Southern Grey Shrike, although the subspecies we are meant to get in Bahrain and Eastern Saudi Arabia is aucheri. This is a complex and often confusing group of birds whose taxonomic status is still being worked out. One thing is certain and that is we will document any birds we catch to see if we can work things out a bit better.