Birding Blog and Birding Quiz

This is about birding in parts of the Middle East, mostly Aden, when I was 19. What I discovered there led to Aden's wetlands' designation, many years later, as an IBA - Important Bird Area.

UFOs? - often the flying objects I saw were unidentified! You are invited to name some of those and join me in my voyage of discovery. No sharp colour photos I'm afraid. ID in the old style, on the basis of written descriptions and pics from my pen. Look for QUIZ.

During the whole period abroad I kept a detailed log of bird observations. Extracts from these 64-year old notes are in black and quotes; memories and modern day comments are in blue. It is enormous fun, recapturing the glow of being 19! My notes cover extended stays, in the last days of Pax Britannica, that would be difficult if not dangerous to duplicate now, and so provide a unique window on bird life.

When the blog opens my life list numbered 158. Updates are given periodically. * indicates a lifer. Additions to the Aden colony list are on a gold background.

You can of course, as usual, read this blog backwards in time. However, if you prefer it in chronological order and shorter, jumping much of the detail, follow the marked path. Episodes open with >>. To get to the next episode, click the red link at the end of an episode, starting here.>>>

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Aden: my most frequented birding spot (and a Halloween destination!)

>>Cemetery Valley: 23 October 1946

Life list now 222 species
Added to Aden colony list: 14 species

Though the Salt Pans was my favourite birding spot in Aden, it was some distance away and I could visit only about once a week. However, during the autumn of 1946, I found another place much nearer in which I could bird watch every day if I wanted. This was Cemetery Valley. I passed through it several times each day, on the short walk between my billet and place of work - HQBF.
The map (taken from 1940s map) shows the location. I do not know who was buried in the cemetery but suspect that it was reserved for “natives” as we called the local inhabitants. The images below (photos by Roy Hopkins, 1952-53) shows the trajectory of the path along which I walked to and from work , the topography and habitat. The hillsides were bare rock but the valley floor was irrigated with waste water from the buildings on the hills on each side as well as from the (living) occupants of the valley. “Natives” had huts there and “dhobi wallahs” laundered the uniforms of the airmen. They cultivated small plots and a couple of dozen trees grew. This little oasis was very attractive to birds, especially to passerines during the migration seasons.
Above: Cemetery Valley looking west


Above: Cemetery Valley looking east with billet up hill on right

Nowadays the oasis has disappeared as this Google satellite photo shows. The cemetery is still in place as are the structures that were formerly my billet and HQBF, but, what was bare rock, cultivation and trees is now covered with buildings.>>> to be continued

My first observation here seems to have been on 23 October 1946: “Saw the following wheatear in Cemetery Valley among rocks on the north side at c 1320 hrs. Crown, upper neck, back, wings dark greyish or sooty brown. White lower rump, upper tail coverts, probably a little on base of tail, otherwise tail black or grey tipped white (very little). Pale yellowish-buff eyestripes meeting on forehead. Underparts all white except for grey or blue-grey chin and throat and pinkish-buff tinge on upper breast and flanks. Legs dark greyish. Size smallish for wheatear.” Later I identified this as a ________________*. The species had already been reported at Aden by Barnes and Meinertzhagen.

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (23 October 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post. 

Aden: seven new species for the Colony

>>Salt Pans: July-September 1946

Life list now 221 species
Added to Aden colony list: 14 species

The chart in the previous post showed an increase in the number of species of wader on the Salt Pans from July to September 1946 even above that recorded at the height of the spring migration. In fact, during those three months, I saw nine species on the Salt Pans that I had not previously seen in Aden. Seven of these were new to Aden and five new to me.>>>
The first, and most unusual in appearance, was present the whole of July 1946 on the Salt Pans. Eventually I realized it was a male __________________ in breeding plumage. This species had not been included in the previous lists of birds of Aden so my observation was the first for the Colony. I thought I was quite familiar with this species in England, but the ones I had seen there were immature birds in the autumn, and they completely failed to prepare me for the creature I found on the Salt Pans on 1 July. This was my description:My original impression was of an all-black wader not more than half Curlew size. Upon coming closer I found that (a) wings were lighter than breast and back, probably speckled brown, (b) legs dull dark red, © bill medium length and slightly down-curved. The shape was puzzling and, I thought, resembled rather that of a Ruff. It flew up when I was c. 40 yards off and I saw that rump was white (end of tail probably dark) and that wings seemed even lighter, particularly on trailing edge (contrast of this with black head and breast noticeable). The only puzzling feature by now was an apparent light (white?) spot on the forehead. It did not call. 
On 10 July I noted: Rather stout body, white rump was partly interrupted by a dark wedge down from the back,as in accompanying sketch. On 22 and 28 July: Much whiter on neck, head and vent region. 

On three days during September (1, 19 & 29) I saw single immature birds of this species in their more familiar plumage.

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (1 July 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post. 

Next was the Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus: one on the Salt Pans on 17 August and two on 22 September. This was another bird I knew well, both plumage and call, from England and, on the first date, I noted the black under wing and white rump in flight. On the second appearance I also saw the black under wing and heard the diagnostic call. This is the first time that the species was identified in the Colony. Lieut. Barnes in 1893 wrote:

He was obviously mistaken as the Green Sandpiper never occurs in immense flocks anywhere. Since he did not mention seeing the Curlew Sandpiper, he was probably referring to that species as it does also have a white rump and was in Aden harbour in winter 1946-8 in flocks of several hundred.

On 25 August I was surprised by a party of about 10 ______________* on the Salt Pans, a new bird to me and to Aden colony. My description of one on a flat sandy spit:They were long, low birds on the ground with a body about equal to that of a Redshank (or just less). Head was noticeably blunt and bill very short and angled above. Upperparts appeared dark sandy or medium brown, lighter and more chestnut on the upper neck. Head and breast were the same colour but underparts shaded to white on belly and under tail. Wing tips showed black above both in flight and on the ground. When one got up from fairly close quarters, very prominent features were white (rump?) upper tail-coverts and base of tail with a black projecting fork. Under wing coverts flashed chestnut. The call, repeated fairly often, was a harsh and rather nasal “chek”. They were fairly tame and allowed me within c 40 yards.

QUIZ: If you think you know what species these birds were, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (25 August 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post. 

My first Dunlin Erolia alpina for Aden was on 1 September and another on 29 September. This was a species I knew well from England and had been noticed by previous observers (Yerbury 1886, Barnes 1893, Meinertzhagen 1924) in Aden.

___________________________* on 8 September on the Salt Pans was a lifer and new species for Aden.I had seen it previously when flushed from the dyke beside the roadway but now saw it fairly plainly. Generally its shape reminded me of a Little Stint though head and bill seemed finer. Colour of upper parts was fairly olive, reminiscent of a Common Sandpiper. In flight, apparently completely white outer tail feathers showed. Call: a dull short twitter - ‘t-r-r-r-r’ or ‘tututututrrr’. It was shyer than most other waders there.”

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (8 September 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post. 

On 14 September I saw a snipe on Salt Pans. It was probably Capella gallinago as it zig-zagged in flight and probably called harshly, but there seemed to be white visible in the tail (indicating C. media). My view was too distant and brief to be sure. Previous observers had reported occasional snipe also.

19 September 1946 on the Salt Pans brought two lifers and new birds for Aden colony, both plovers. By coincidence, I saw the same two species there again on 29 September.

The first was the ___________________________* of which I saw one on the first day and 2 or 3 on the second. The latter were in a muddy backwater. "The diagnostic feature was the lack of white in the wing, clearly seen in flight, but also the bill was dark and the head pattern seemed different from that of the Ringed Plover C. hiaticula. Call was also different, lacking a lift at the end of the note: ‘tchuu-tchuu-tchuu’, rather like that of a Redshank Tringa totanus only softer, more flutey and wheezier."

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (19 September 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post. 

The second new plover seen on those days was the ______________________*, perhaps the same bird on both occasions. It was markedly smaller than Grey Plovers in the area (estimated 10" long) but of the same shape. The most detailed description was obtained on 19 Sep from 25 yards range.Upperparts were dark brown densely peppered with fairly small pale buffish or yellowish spots, giving a rather different affect than with the Golden Plover P. apricarius. These spots extended up the neck to the crown and apparently back to the tail. Underparts: pale brown or grey-brown, thickly and heavily mottled with chocolate(?) brown. This seemed to form 3-4 main bars across the breast and belly, covering 3/4 of the area. Part of the upper breast and throat were clear of this darker colour and were, consequently, quite light. This colour extended up to the bill, eye and lower cheek (from bill extended a darker patch to the eye?). [On 29 Sep, underparts were noted as whitish, clear on chin and throat, mottled grey and dark on breast and blotched dark (brown or black) on belly.] White or very pale buff supercilliary stripes were present over each eye and met over bill on forehead. (This was perhaps the most noticeable feature on the ground.) They went back to about end of ear coverts. Legs seemed grey or grey-green, medium shade, bill dark blue-grey(?). There was no white shown in flight, though perhaps an almost inappreciable wing bar above. [Underwing on 29 Sep was seen to be not white but darker.] The general effect both on the ground and in the air was of a very dark bird. Call when flushed was a short lower note followed by a longer higher note transcribed as ‘tu-wee’ or ‘ki-wee” on 19 Sep and ‘wu-deew’ or ‘ku-deee’ on 29 Sep. Both Yerbury and Barnes reported that they were told that “Golden Plovers” had been shot in Aden though they never saw a specimen.

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (19 September 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post. 

The last new species was not a wader but a _____________________*, on 17 August 1946. I only saw it in flight as it flew right away after being flushed on the Salt Pans.

"Size was about that of (or less than) a Green-backed Heron. Colour scheme appeared “pied”: upper wings and back dark blue-black or black with extremely noticeable “off-white” patches on shoulders. Neck, head and bill (long) seemed a pale pinkish-buff or yellowish, with hind part of body and feet the same. Underparts may have had a similar pattern."

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (17 August 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post.

Aden: autumn in midsummer!

>>Salt Pans: July-August 1946

Amazingly, the autumn migration of many birds begins around midsummer. These are species that migrate north in the spring to breed, and the further north they go, the earlier they return. Waders go furthest. Their chicks are able to fend for themselves as soon as they are hatched. Their parents often start their migration soon after this has occurred, leaving their young to grow to full size in the abundant daylight and insect life of the high Arctic summer, and then to follow them south to their winter quarters.

I had become aware of this phenomenon in England, where the first autumn waders arrived early in July. It did not seem so preposterous there that those were autumn birds as the weather, even in July, was often wet and cold. But in Aden July was very hot and I was anxious to discover if the birds from the north would follow the same schedule.

Here is a chart, compiled from my daily notes, that shows the average number of species of wader and the average number of individual waders per visit, in the months from March to September 1946. In July, the average number of species increased but the average number of individuals decreased compared to June! 

From this, the evidence of autumn migration beginning in July as far south as Aden was inconsistent. However, looking at the records on a species by species basis revealed a different story. Several species had low but fluctuating numbers in June and July but, in three species, numbers increased in July in a sustained manner, Redshank from 10 July, Greenshank and Common Sandpiper from 22 July 1946. These birds nest in the temperate zone of Eurasia and so did not have such a long flight to reach Aden as ones that breed in the Arctic such as the Terek Sandpiper, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper. These species did not show a sustained increase until late in August 1946.

Aden: breeding of Swift Terns

>>Salt Pans: 4 August 1946
Life list now 216 species 

On 1 June 1946 I noticed a new species of tern of which there was a flock of about 25. At first I could not name it but later identified it as the Swift Tern* Sterns bergii. On 10 July I estimated about 200 of these birds in two flocks on large pools where there was exposed mud. A flock remained in one of the pools (c. 400 by c. 500 metres) and numbered c.80 on 22 July and c.60 on 28 July. Then, on 4 August, in the same pool, I found the water level higher, all but three of the terns gone, but 37 eggs along the east side. “They were all either floating or lying on exposed mud at the edge. The wind was blowing strongly from the west (as usual) and I suspect that the eggs had been blown across the surface from a colony of Swift Terns nests in the centre of the pool. I have seen the species there in numbers not less than 60 for a month or two.


There were 15 eggs in one corner. 8 had white grounds, 3 pinkish stone (paler than III) and one ordinary stone. Spots on the latter were very small, like the egg of a Coot [Fulica atra]. I was able to retrieve three eggs (which seemed representative), sketch and measure them. I also took down the following descriptions.
I: ground colour white; spots mixed medium and very dark rich brown; a few medium to pale grey.
II: ground colour white, spots mostly medium to dark brown, the majority having grey edging.
III: ground colour fairly pale pinkish stone, spotted as in I but browns redder and greys bluer.
In all three, the surfaces were matt. When broken, I and III revealed respectively a clear red ball (yolk?) and an opaque orange mass; II was practically empty.”

Barnes (1893) has a similar description of Swift Terns eggs. His average size was 62 x 43 mm; mine 63 x 43 mm.

*Description on 1 June 1946: “Most noticeable feature at a distance on the ground was the contrast of white neck with dark body. At shorter range it was possible to see that the crown was very black; this rather crested cap extended to the nape in some some cases. The back, rump, upper tail and upper wing surfaces were quite dark grey or grey-brown appearing darkest on the primaries and lightest on the upper tail. In flight this dark plumage was much less noticeable. The neck and underparts seemed white. Bill: long, slightly down-curved and yellowish, feet and legs black or very dark. Their size was about equal or a little less than that of the Caspian Tern, the flight rather resembled that of this species. The call heard once or twice when one bird was disturbed by another was a very harsh “ark-ark”, quite unlike the quaver of the Caspian Tern.”  On 10 July 1946 I described the call: “resembles that of a breeding Black-headed Gull [Larus rhidibundus, which call I knew from England] only more grating.July 20, 2010.”

Aden: a summer visitor

>>Aden summer 1946
Life list now 215 species
Even though Aden seemed to have eternal summer to someone coming from northern climes, there were seasons. It was hotter in July than January and, more important for the birds, there was an alternation of wet and dry influences. As already mentioned, southwest Arabia is a continuation eastwards of the Sahel zone of Africa and is subject to monsoon rains. These generally fall in the summer, April to October, with a peak in July and August. In fact, a belt of rain follows the sun in the equatorial zone and moves north in the northern summer and south in the southern summer. Though Aden experiences little of this rain, it falls heavily in the mountains of Yemen to the north. The rain causes vegetation to grow and insects to flourish. Birds follow the rain belt and travel north from Africa to take advantage of the plentiful food.

Many birds anticipate the seasonal change in the area to which they are migrating so as to have young birds already hatched when the peak of food abundance arrives. It was one such bird that amazed me by its exotic appearance, even from a brief glimpse at Steamer Point on 5 May 1946. “From the billet I saw an unidentified species fly from the hillside to near Tarshyne. Size about as Starling [Sturnus vulgaris] or thrush, general colour very bright cobalt blue, apparently black or dark shoulders and bright red bill and head (?)” Because of the arid habitat I did not guess that it was, in fact, a kingfisher, though the brilliant blue in the plumage should have given me a clue. A few years previously I had found a dead Kingfisher Alcedo atthis in England and had made a display of the iridescent turquoise feathers from the back and wings. In fact, as I found out later, the Aden bird was a ___________________________*. I was not the first to observe this species in Aden. It had been reported by Barnes (1893) in January and by Yerbury (1896) in April. 

At about the time I saw this bird, there were, as already recounted, obvious signs of migration of birds through Aden bound for their breeding grounds far to the north, where the return of warm weather would bring about a vast increase in food supply. I had been very familiar with this type of migration in England. I did not realize that the bird I had just seen was my first encounter with a different class of migration, intra-tropical, which takes place within the tropics and is driven by the annual passage north and south of the rains. I would later in life come across the _______________ performing its migration in other parts of the Sahel right across Africa, almost as far west as the Atlantic coast of Mauritania. 

I obtained proof of its destination further north when I visited Lahej on 7 July 1946. Lahej was 15-20 miles north of Aden and was watered by a river that flowed down from the mountains of Yemen even further north. Surprisingly, I did not apparently link these birds with what I had seen at Steamer Point on 5 May >>> 
"Another bird was quite common and about the most striking there. In size it equaled, approximately, a Starling but the head and bill were comparatively very large and the tail a little longer. Head, neck and upper breast were a very light grey or grey-pink, black around eye (?), mantle (?), part of upper wings and primaries (only) black or very dark blue, rest of upper parts (including tail) very vivid blue. In flight this combination of black and blue on the upper parts was very noticeable. I'm not quite clear on the colour of the underparts but they were definitely darkish and showed up the whitish neck etc. Bill was a bright coral or orange red, legs a pinkish red. In flight this showed plainly together with a white patch beneath each wing. This bird spent a great deal of time calling "chwik" repeatedly as "jek-ek-ek-ek-.." or "jek-je-je-jek..." making the notes jumbled when calling them in fast succession. Once it dived with a splash into a pool of water rather like a kingfisher."

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (5 May 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post.

Aden Spring 1946: Odds and Ends

>>March-June 1946: other observations

Life list now 214 species

Resident birds
22 March: according to the note below I visited No 2 M.I. room (Medical Inspection room). The reason is not mentioned but it may well have been because of prickly heat, from which I remember suffering and which could have come on in the 11 days since my arrival in Aden. It was a very common and uncomfortable condition among us airmen, coming from the cool climate of England, caused by excessive sweating and blocked sweat glands. No doubt the MOs (medical officers) were accustomed to treating it. I used to wonder if officers and WAAFs (members of Women's Auxiliary Air Force) also got prickly heat since it seemed that sweating was the cause and my grandmother had impressed upon me:

Horses sweat,
Gentlemen perspire,
Ladies glow.

There must have been a line up to get treatment for I had time to write down descriptions of several different songs of the Yellow-vented Bulbul in the trees nearby. >>>
Bulbuls are among the best known song birds in Africa and southern Asia because some species are found in settled areas and even in towns, as in Egypt. Nowadays, the species in Aden (and along much of the coast of Arabia) is called the White-eyed Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos since it has a white ring around the eye, but I knew it as the Yellow-vented Bulbul, from the yellow patch under the tail, which was the easiest distinction from the Egyptian Common Bulbul which is whitish beneath the tail. It probably evolved from this species after the split caused by the formation of the Great Rift Valley that isolated Arabia from Africa. Some races of the Common Bulbul in Africa have yellow under the tail.

Corvidae: during these months I fairly often saw large black birds near Sheikh Othman, sometimes as many as 15-20 together. I realized they were some species of crow or raven. On 9 May, near the APL Lines, I obtained a detailed description that proved they were Brown-necked Ravens Corvax ruficoliis: black plumage with dark sooty brown head and neck. "The note was a little peculiar, a rather duck-like 'kwaark' thrice repeated when standing on a telegraph post. When I flushed it from another position its note changed to 'kweerk'." Another species at Sheikh Othman, of which I saw single birds on 12 April and 16 May, was the _____________________*. This was "smaller, black plumage and bill with a grey patch on the back of the neck, most noticeable."

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (12 April 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post.

Doves: there were three species (two lifers), all seen more or less regularly at Settlement Gardens, Sheikh Othman. The one I recognized first was the Palm Dove as seen in Egypt. The name used for the same species in the tropics is Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis. The second was another Sahelian species: the ______________________________*. It seemed more numerous than the Laughing Dove. I noted details of display and plumage. "3 May: a pair displaying. They did so on the ground. Two principal positions were adopted. The first, apparently, was a preliminary with the bill well tucked into the extended crop and with the body crouched till almost horizontal. When in this posture the bird 'crept' towards the other (retreating) bird, then it changed its gait to a dignified strut, at the same time bringing the axis of the body to 70-80 degrees from the horizontal, but keeping the bill still pressed close to the crop. The note during this performance was 'cr-oooooo-cr-r-r-roo-r', a continuous phrase lasting perhaps 2 to 2.5 seconds and constantly repeated." "20 May: they seemed to keep in pairs and the common song was 'tooo-cr-o-o-o-o-ooo'. One showed nearly all its points of interest while lying in the sun on the ground at c 20 yards with the right wing partly spread and the body a little on the left side. My description was: size about as Turtle-Dove (S. turtur), which I knew from England; breast, neck and head pinkish, slightly greyer on the head; belly and under tail-coverts white; upper parts very similar to a Turtle-Dove (but greyer?); white end to tail; blue feathers around 'bastard' wing displayed well when right wing spread; neck spot black completely encircled by bright pale blue, particularly noticeable towards the back; very thin white line around eye; bill dark blue; legs and feet dark flesh colour or dark pink; eye dark red." 

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (3 May 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post. 

The third species was the __________________________*. "20 May: shyer and less numerous than the preceding but two separate individuals seen. Feeding on the ground at 25 yards it resembled a large wagtail with the naked eye. One, probably female or juvenile, was about two-thirds size of Turtle-Dove; head, throat, neck, part of upper breast, back and closed wing (coverts) pinkish or greyish buff, tinged grey on wings and blue-grey on head; the greyish coverts contrasted with dark brown flight feathers, darker brown patches on back and, particularly towards the rump where, also, a whitish spot; upper tail coverts off-white tipped darker (also
some grey-brown and/or tinged blue-grey). No visible neck spot. Tail dark grey with bluish tinge above, black beneath; all underparts not previously mentioned white but under tail coverts black or dark tipped white (about 3 seen); bill green or blue-green; legs quite bright reddish-pink. The second individual was probably an adult male. It differed from the previous one in the following points: end of wing (primaries only?) apparently rufous; reddish-orange bill emphasized by black front of face (forehead, lores etc, chin), throat and parts of upper breast (black had irregular edge); otherwise apparently as the first bird even to white rump spot."

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (20 May 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post. 

Blackstart description 22 April at "Steamer Point very close to the billet: forehead, crown, sides & nape of neck, ear-coverts, mantle, upper wing coverts, rump, flanks, upper tail coverts (?), uniform medium clear grey. Throat, breast, belly, under tail coverts, lighter grey with tinge of brown, particularly chin and lores. Tail feathers black above. Primaries & secondaries brown. Feet & legs medium grey or grey-brown. Bill darker grey than back, particularly at the tip. "

Sooty Gull 16 May composite description from birds "in or near Telegraph Bay:
White over eye, round neck, unshaded breast, belly, flanks, tail. This bird was apparently adult and was the only one among 14 gulls. The others (juvs?) had a very faint red tip to their more leaden beak, no white over eye, head, back, breast, neck, upper wings more or less uniform brown, somewhat lighter than on back of adult, streaked in some cases on head, neck &/or shoulders. Several with sub-terminal black band on tail. Legs duller than adult." 

Black Kite breeding 2 June Settlement Gardens, Sheikh Othman: at least two at nest.

Graceful Warbler description "20 May Settlement Gardens, Sheikh Othman. In various spots including among tall corn (maize?), in trees and on the ground, saw several examples. Size was small but with a long & graduated tail (thickest at end). Head and back greyish, some ashy brown on latter. Tail (beneath) brownish rufous with end three tail feathers tipped white & dark brown sub-terminal band giving barred effect. Legs strongly pink. Song 'slenk-aslenk-aslenk'"

Kentish Plover breeding "1 June Salt Pans. I was very fortunate on the bank to come across a Kentish Plover's nest with three eggs. I was suddenly attracted by the very violent injury feigning of one about 30 yards ahead and looking down saw I was standing not more than a yard from the nest. It was quite easy to spot, even from a distance, as the eggs were paler than the general surroundings and was located 12-18 inches from a fairly well-trodden path on a bank about 1 foot above the water, composed of mixed earth and gypsum or salt. The display which was, I afterwards found, by the female (the male did not show up at all) seemed entirely silent. The bird squatted in a slight hollow and spread the tail in the usual manner. The wings were used much more energetically than I have ever seen before, in fact they were quite literally flapped. The bird didn this facing me and the whole effort was quite realistic as if it was indeed injured. It did not keep entirely in one position but 'flopped around' a good deal. After a few minutes, while I examined the nest, it quietened down and did not repeat this performance though gave a little of the normal 'running away' type of behaviour when I left the nest site. It preceded me along the bank for about 120 yards from the nest, then flew across to another bank and finally to within c 20 yards of the nest. It finally rerurned to the spot in short very hesitant runs. The nest was merely a shallow (c. 0.5-0.75") scrape (or hollow?) on the flat upper surface of the bank, filled with small pieces of the usual compound found there, probably something akin to salt. One unusual feature was the fact that the eggs were half buried in this material. When I removed one to examine it, one or two pieces fell into the cavity thus formed. Two of the eggs had been arranged more or less radially, the other approximately normal [at right angles] to the radius. The 'nest' was c 3.5" across and the eggs placed some 0.5-1.0" off centre. I was unable to measure the eggs but would say they were definitly smaller than my recollection [from England] of eggs of the Ringed Plover. The ground colour was a rather pale greyish stone, speckled and having small scribbles of black, concentrated, if anywhere, near the 'large' end, but nowhere very thickly clustered. The surface was quite matt and fairly dirty. I tested one in the warm salt water nearby and it floated quite well." At another place on the Salt Pans were two pairs of Kentish Plovers. Though they performed considerable injury feigning, both on the ground and over the water, I was not able to find another nest despite careful search.     


___________________________ 30 April Salt Pans: a flock of c. 40 with 1 Ringed Plover C. hiaticula and 6 Kentish Plovers C. alexandrinus. Most were in winter plumage but c 6 in breeding plumage, which enabled me to identify them. "They had a black mark from the dark bill to behind the eye, a sandy crown and gorget pr ring on throat (probably not as well defined as sketched) and white elsewhere on face, neck and underparts. The sandy colour extended down the back of the neck to the greyer mantle, back, upper wings, rump and upper tail. There was very little or no white on the sides of the tail. The size was c 1.5 times that of the Ringed Plover, the legs being comparatively longer and dark. From the flock in flight came two different notes, both a kind of twitter, but one much harsher than the other."

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (30 April 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post. 

_______________________________*17 May, Salt Pans. A single bird in full breeding plumage seen in flight. I was already familiar with the Black Tern C. nigra in England. This is the first record of the species for Aden and therefore the seventh species I added to the Aden list.The red feet were seen clearly but not the bill. The general impression was of the contrast of black head, neck, breast, belly and back with light wings and very white tail.”

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (17 May 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post. 
Hoopoe Upupa epops 1 May one seen at Sheikh Othman.

Swallow Hirundo rustica up to 20 on 5 occasions from 17 May to 1 June at various points in the Colony. Then about 5 at Sheikh Othman on 26 June.

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava: 30 April 1946, Salt Pans “On the bare earth beside a ditch was a very smart example of some subspecies of Motacilla flava. He was feeding in the usual way, dashing about and occasionally calling like a Yellow Wagtail M. f. flavissima [the only subspecies with which I was familiar]. Most of the plumage was of the standard M. flava type. The crown (& nape?) was a rich grey-blue, the lores and approximately as shaded dark in the diagram ‘sooty blue or green’, not really black. The amount of white on the chin was very small, just a touch under the bill. Otherwise underparts bright yellow with a ‘broken’ dark blue- or greenish-black gorget as indicated.” At another location “were c.10 more Motacilla flava. Two males I examined were both different from the one previously described, one having an almost uniformly dark gorget, the other apparently none at all. The ♀ seemed as usual for this species. On 3 May at Settlement Gardens “one ♂ which resembled those previously seen except the black on the underparts, instead of forming a gorget, ran down the centre of the breast and belly in uneven marks.”

_____________________________*12 May, Salt Pans. A single bird that I was unable to identify at the time. “From its habit of standing in the open and constantly flicking its tail (body & tail as in sketch), and its size (about that of Whinchat), I thought it might be a chat. The colour was generally brown but the rump was chestnut. There was also a faint, thin whitish eye stripe and the tail feathers seemed tipped with about 0.1" of white. Under tail coverts and/or vent very white.”

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (12 May 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post.

_________________________________* 5 May Khormaksar, barbed wire fence to airfield. “Flushed 2 or 3 times from the wire and low bushes were two or three of this species. I noticed the general resemblance to the Nightingale L. megarhynchos (which I knew in England), particularly in shape and with its rufousy rump. However, it was definitely larger and, when examined, found to be much darker and browner beneath and with a less noticeable eye stripe. Another prominent feature was the faint blue-grey mottling or series of lines on the breast.

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (5 May 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post.

Whinchat Saxicola rubetra, a species I knew well in England, Single females in Settlement Gardens Sheikh Othman on 3 May (noted that “the eye stripe seemed brighter and the breast redder than in the species seen in England”) and along the perimeter fence at Khomaksar airfield on 5 May.

Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe. One only, species not 100% certain “ ..flitting along the ground. The general plumage was brownish with white rump, not pied” near Sheikh Othman, 24 April.

“25 April 1946, Steamer Point. While looking around from the billet, I saw the following bird in the valley to the south, resting and standing among the rocks. Size, between Wheatear and Song Thrush, general shape and appearance resembling Wheatear, particularly with its short tail. Upperparts (except rump) including whole head, neck and bill, blue-grey; rump and lower back, white or vivid blue-white; brownish flight feathers. Breast, belly, under tail coverts, whitish almost completely obscured by orange-chestnut spots or mottling, particularly bright beneath tail. There may have been another with it but this only seen from a distance with the naked eye. I think it was a ♂ ________________* “

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (25 April 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post. 

 Warblers. I was unable to identify about 15 Phylloscopus warblers (a genus I did not know well) seen on 6 May along the perimeter fence at Khormaksar airfield though I noted the following: "generally greenish, smaller than the Common Whitethroat, with a thin pale eye stripe. One had a very noticeable patch of yellowish feathers in the position x on the sketch which showed up particularly in the closed wing". There was a Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis which I did know well in the same area on this date. On 12, 17 & 22 May I saw single Sedge Warblers Acrocephalus schoenobaenus (again knew well) on the Salt Pans.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata. Two in Settlement Gardens on 3 May and one along the perimeter fence at Khormaksar on 6 May. I noted that they resembled this species as I knew it in England but seemed much greyer at close quarters.

Golden Oriole* Oriolus oriolus. On 3 May in Settlement Gardens “I had glimpses of 2 or 3 Golden Orioles. One at least was an adult male but the others passed too fast for me to be sure.”

Aden: Waders on Salt Pans Spring 1946

Life list now 206 species

>>Overall picture
My previous posts about the Salt Pans have been mainly concerned with discoveries of new species of wader (shore birds). However, I was interested in more than this. Because there was no book on the birds of Aden, I wanted to discover what should be in such a book. I needed to unravel the status in the colony of each species of bird. Was it a resident or a seasonal visitor? If the latter, what were the seasons? Was it common or rare?  Did it breed there?

My first season was the Spring of 1946, March to June, and I was able to collect enough information during that period to begin to see some answers, especially regarding waders, my speciality. I knew that most of them bred during the summer in northern Europe and Asia, migrated south in the autumn to their winter quarters and returned via a northerly migration the following spring. Consequently I expected that the waders on the Salt Pans in March would have wintered there, or be passage migrants on their way north, and that the numbers would decline at some point. After each visit I kept a log of the number of each species seen and hoped that the fluctuations of such numbers would indicate what was going on.

Nowadays I would monitor these numbers on a computer. But, in those days, computing facilities were very primitive. In fact, the slide rule (which I still have) was my only computing equipment in Aden, left over from my aborted Engineering course at University College Nottingham. It was highly portable and required no battery but also had no apps! Its main use for birding came from the millimetre scale down one side with which I could take measurements of specimens. So I had to use my head as the computer and build up intuitive ideas of status. 
Fortunately the numbers are in my old notebooks and I have entered them into spreadsheets from which I have been able to produce summaries. These give a more accurate picture than the vague ideas that were forming in my mind at the time.
Here is a chart showing what I found about the Spring of 1946. The bars give the average number of waders per visit during each month. The blue bars are the number of species and the red bars the number of individual birds. Both reached a peak in April and declined to June. This information indicated that there would be interesting questions for the months to come: How much wintering of waders? How to interpret the relatively large numbers into June? Which species are passage migrants only? Does this pattern repeat in 1947? What can be found out about the timing of each species of wader? Some of the answers will be contained  in future posts.>>>

Fresh species of wader
The Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola, seen on 10 June 1946 on the Salt Pans, was a species not mentioned by the previous authors so my record was the first for Aden and the sixth species that I added to the Aden list. Most of my additions to the Aden list to this point had been waders: out of 22 species of wader so far identified by me in Aden, five were new. Names of additions to the Aden avifauna are on a gold background.

Here is my description of the Wood Sandpiper, a species I already knew from England: "I was first attracted by its much smaller size than the other waders (it was with the Greenshank and Redshanks at the north end of the bank but in the water) and I first took it to be a Curlew Sandpiper. This impression was accentuated by its comparatively dark appearance but, as I approached, I saw this was caused by a heavily spotted breast rather than the brownish-chestnut of the other species. I also saw that the bill was straight and relatively shirt and slender. I put it to flight and several times it uttered a shrill 'cheef-cheef-cheef'. The white rump and upper tail were noticeable as was the dark barring at the end of these feathers. In flight the under wing seemed, while not very dark, not noticeably light. However, I only had a brief glimpse of this. I was unable to see the length of the legs as the bird stood in the water but, in flight, they seemed to extend slightly beyond the tail. The bird was definitely not a Marsh Sandpiper as it was (a) too dark, (b) not anything like as tall as a Redshank, (c) with too short a bill."  

Two species, Oystercatcher and ___________, were mentioned frequently by the other authors as occurring in Aden. I knew the Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus well in England so identified it straight away, but the _________________________*  was new to me and caused me much puzzlement. The only one observed during Spring 1946 was on 24 May on the Salt Pans.

"When first noticed it, it was standing on a small island of mud in a shallow but wide (12'-15') dyke (water channel). As I approached it quickly crossed the dyke by wading and swimming and mounted the opposite bank. Its left wing being broken, I was able to catch it while it ran across an area of dried mud since it stumbled a good deal. Because of its injured wing, I killed it and brought it back to Steamer Point. The only note heard was a rather melodious croak uttered once when first disturbed and several times when in the hand. The bill was about half closed when I heard the note. It tried to, and indeed did bite me but to no unpleasant effect."

I was very intrigued by the appearance of this bird and made extensive notes when I had it in the hand so as to be sure to be able to identify it later. I will not give them all here but include the following life size sketch of the bill.
Regarding the plumage, I wrote: "Whole head, neck, underparts, tail, thigh feathers, underwing coverts, upper tail coverts, rump and scapulars pure white. Patch of black covering whole mantle and long feathers extending down centre of back to rump, obscuring actual white back The sketch below gives a rough idea of the extent of the patch. Browner tinge towards rear. White feathers beneath black outside double shaded area."

I retained two long mantle feathers and one first primary feather. Their images are shown below.

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (24 May 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post.

Arabia’s African birds - my true UFOs!

>>Aden: Settlement Gardens
April-May 1946

Life list now 205 species

Arabia is part of Asia and separated from Africa by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Yet that was not always so. These waterways form part of the Great Rift Valley, a huge north-south cut, that stretches from Israel to East Africa. It split Arabia from Africa millions of years ago, and doing so split populations of birds. Some have evolved into distinct species on each side of the divide and others have remained as a single species. Furthermore, the southwest corner of Arabia, where Aden is situated, is far enough south to be affected by monsoon rains and so is a continuation eastward of the Sahel (most of Arabia is a continuation eastward of the Sahara). Thus Aden shares some of the Sahelian species that are found in Africa. I encountered four of these when I visited the Settlement Gardens in Sheikh Othman during afternoons after work on 15 April, 3 and 20 May 1946.  Sheikh Othman lay on the northern edge of Aden colony and I was able to get there by bus from Steamer Point. I had noticed the abundant vegetation (from irrigation) of the Gardens behind a mud wall when going past in the mail truck on the way to the APL (Aden Protectorate Levies) Lines (camp) a mile or two west of the town. The APL was established to provide native guards for the colony and was on its perimeter. The Settlement Gardens became one of my most frequented birding spots. Click here for a satellite view of the modern state of the Gardens. They are now completely surrounded by urban development.
Settlement Gardens, Sheikh Othman (in green)
From 1940s map
Grid squares 1 km each side
The birds I had met with on the salt pans, described previously, were species whose range extended to the north and with which I was already familiar or could identify from books on European or Egyptian birds. However, In the Settlement Gardens were some tropical species for which I had no means of identification and so recorded detailed descriptions. For the first two I had a fairly good idea of the identity, but the second two were so unfamiliar that I could not even guess the names so I invented nicknames that I used during my whole stay in Aden. Though these species were new to me, they had previously been recorded in Aden.>>>

Here are excerpts from my notes. 15 April 1946: “Upon entering the gate, I was first struck by the number of a still (29/5/46) unidentified species, though I suspect it is some kind of weaver. The male is mainly bright yellow in colour and just a little larger than a House Sparrow [Passer domesticus]. Details are: whole underparts lemon yellow; crown more orangy; lores and a patch extending over forehead and chin black, tinged with red at the edges; top of neck and mantle greenish-yellow; rump yellow; top of tail greyish-green; wings greyish- or yellowish-green above with two yellow bars, primaries edged yellow; bill black, probably larger than that of a House Sparrow. Note: a repeated (often) harsh ‘tzik’; song, somewhat reminiscent of that of a Corn Bunting [Emberiza calandra] in its screeching clatter. The female seems very similar to a ♀ House Sparrow except for a yellowish tinge on the throat, upper breast, rump and sides of tail. Both sexes paid particular attention to a queer kind of nest, many of which were suspended from various kinds of trees. They have an entrance at the bottom and are composed chiefly of grass or the slender growth of a certain type of tree growing commonly in the gardens.” This was the _________________________* a species that is also found in neighbouring parts of Africa. Yerbury’s 1886 paper gives the first record from Aden.

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (15 April 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post.

"Another new species is, I now know, the Eastern Long-tailed Yellow-breasted Sunbird [Nile Valley Sunbird* Hedydipna metallica]. I made the following description of it at the time: size, body very tiny, probably ≤ that of Goldcrest [Regulus regulus]. Head, throat, neck and rest of upperparts including top of tail very dark with the following sheens: purple where the black of the throat meets the yellow breast; little or none on face below eye; bright green on crown, nape and back; blue on rump. Underparts yellow on breast shading to whitish belly. Black secondaries and primaries, latter edged with fawn. Bill long and down-curved slightly, black. Medium tail, graduated, with two very long projecting feathers. Note: approximately ‘tzar-aeee’. Two species, one western and the other eastern, of very similar long-tailed yellow-breasted sunbirds occur across the Sahel from the Atlantic coast of Africa to South-west Arabia. The eastern species also ranges up the Nile to Egypt, hence its name.

3 May 1946: “I identified the ♀ sunbird. At first I was puzzled by this. The upperparts including head above the eye and nape were a grey tinged probably with blue but possibly brownish. Above the eye was a rather noticeable light eye-stripe. The underparts were yellow, the flanks being less so than the breast and belly. The bill was very similar to that of the ♂, longish and slightly down-curved, and the habits of hovering and, when perched, constantly flicking the wings, if anything more pronounced (particularly the former). The ♂ was seen in pursuit of a ♀ several times and often snatches of a loud and pleasing song heard. (N.B. tail of ♀ quite short.)” Yerbury’s (1886) account:

Continuing my notes of 3 May 1946: “I had quite a good view of a still (15/6/46) unidentified species. [I gave it the nickname ‘blackbird-like species’.] I saw it a the beginning of April in the APL camp and there seemed to be several of its kind in the Gardens.  
 In size it was about equal to a [House] Sparrow or, if anything, slightly larger. The tail was quite long, nearly if not equal to that of the body and graduated, being widest near the end something like that of the Magpie [Pica pica]. The whole plumage and the bill were black but there was some white in the tail. From above this was seen as white tips to the main feathers (in the sketch actual number of feathers not necessarily correct). Below, however, the white was more unevenly and more abundantly distributed. The song, which was heard once or twice, was reminiscent somewhat of a Blackbird [Turdus merula] and the bird itself also gave that impression both in flight and when perched. It frequently raised its tail quite at right angles to its body which was, itself, fairly upright.” 
This was the ________________________*, a species found across the Sahel from Mauritania in the west to SW Arabia in the east. Yerbury identified this bird and found a nest, as reported in his 1896 paper:   

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (3 May 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post.

20 May 1946: “I had closer views of the ‘sand martin-like species’ [so christened when glimpsed on 15 April 1946 because of the brown colour, horizontal posture and flocking behaviour.] There were several, probably family parties, in one area and they sat in rows on branches uttering their continuous twittering ‘chit-chit-chit’. Some (adults?) appeared to have a blue-grey tinge to the rump, otherwise they were brown. Legs were apparently white, bill horn-coloured and comparatively very large and heavy (more so than House Sparrow). The tail was black and pointed. 

 This was the __________________*, another species that ranges right across Africa in the Sahel zone and into SW Arabia. Once again, Yerbury (1896) has precedence:

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (20 May 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post.

Aden: Shrike migration spring 1946

Life list now 201 species

>>Not only waders!

Following the just-described adventures with waders on the Salt Pans, I saw several different kinds of migrant passerines (song birds), during the period 25 April to 30 May 1946. Here is my account of my encounters during that period with one family, the Shrikes, and, for comparison, what previous observers had written about them. >>>

30 April 1946, Salt Pans. Near the main road “I found a party of shrikes. There were half-a dozen altogether and I first noticed them on and in rolls of barbed wire. They dispersed upon my arrival and perched at various spots including the telegraph wires. One of them was a Lesser Grey Shrike * Lanius minor. The size was just greater than that of a Red-backed Shrike nearby. The most noticeable characteristic was the pinkish breast, white throat, upperparts grey, forehead, lores and behind eye black (no white over eye), bill and legs black. No black was seen on the belly. The wings were black and grey with a wide and noticeable white bar in flight. From the data, I cannot say if it was ♂ or ♀ [probably ♂ by the grey upperparts and pinkish breast]. The Red-backed Shrikes Lanius collurio were not quite as in England, one or two having a white wing bar for instance [The latter were probably Isabelline Shrikes Lanius isabellinus, a species I was as yet not aware of.] There were definite ♀ of this species (even barring etc. seen on the breast.)” On 3 May in the Settlement Gardens, Sheikh Othman, there was “a ♂ Red-backed Shrike (?). It had no white stripe over the eye and all of underparts except white chin and throat were ‘pinkish buff’. The back seemed, though of a richer brown than usual [i.e. as in England], not to be really rufous.I found more shrikes on 6 May between Khormaksar airfield and the mud flats. “Along a section of the barbed wire fence I estimated c.10 ♂ and c.5 ♀ Red-backed Shrikes (?) I noticed a ♀ approach a ♂ sitting on a pile of b. wire, and fluttered 4-6 feet from him, calling “tsack”. This was continued for about 5 seconds. The ♂ appeared completely unmoved. On another section of the fence there were three Lesser Grey Shrikes

>>These excerpts from Ibis show that my records of Lesser Grey Shrikes were the first for Aden and hence my fifth addition to the Aden list. These records were even more notable for, according to Meinertzhagen's 1954 book The Birds of Arabia, the Lesser Grey Shrike had never been reported in the whole of Arabia on spring migration (though noted in the autumn). From its breeding (orange) and winter (blue) ranges shown in the accompanying map, it would be expected in Arabia on both passages. Meinertzhagen's non-acceptance of my records was a blow, and the start of my apprehensive disagreements with him, for he was a highly respected authority. I subsequently learned that Steve Norris noted the Lesser Grey Shrike in Aden in spring 1952 and Paige (1960) in early May 1958. Such confirmation increased my confidence that I had been right and was repeated, as will be elaborated in other posts. Still, I never expected that Meinertzhagen would be exposed as one of the worst ornithological fraudsters in history.
Red-backed Shrikes had been reported before on migration by Meinertzhagen in April 1922 and were also observed by Paige in April-May 1958 and Clarke in May 1961. Later in the blog I will report my observations in Aden on other species of shrike, including all those mentioned above.
These passages highlight the importance given by previous observers in Aden to obtaining specimens of birds. Their motto was:
When I arrived in 1946, I did not have any means of following this old procedure: no gun, no way to preserve specimens. I had no camera. Modern tools such as mist nets with which to catch birds and field guides for identification had not yet arrived on the scene. The only means I had of authenticating my records was of writing down and sketching what I observed. Hence the wealth of descriptive detail and diagrams in my notes, which may strike a modern reader, who does not know the reasons, as strange and unnecessary. >>>

Aden Salt Pans 22 March - 18 April 1946

Life list now 200 species

>>More on Salt Pans

After this successful introduction to the Salt Pans, I tried to fit in one visit per week and my next five visits were on the following dates: Sun 22 Mar, Sun 31 Mar, Sun 7 Apr, Sat 13 Apr and Thurs 18 Apr 1946. Many of the same birds were present each time so, to avoid repetition, I am including here only new observations. >>>

On 22 March these consisted of behaviour details of one species and occurrence of two new wader species. The behaviour description: “I saw four single _____________________. Each of these gave me good views. The best was one I flushed from the bank and it perched on a low post about 12" above water level) some 5 yds from the bank and 30 yds from me. Several times it uttered what I find to be its characteristic alarm note, an explosive ‘sneeze’ - ‘ptzuuk’ or, on occasion, a more metallic ‘tzink’. All the while it jerked its short tail at a frequency of approx twice per sec. Its pose was rather peculiar - almost horizontal, or about as sketched, and became quite horizontal preparatory to taking wing.”

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (22 March 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post.

Two additions to my species list for Aden, one a lifer: “At another point I was attracted by the sight of a white head, black crowned, just visible above the bank. It turned out to belong to one of six Avocets* Recurvirostra avosetta. These flew up when I was 50-70 yds away showing their upturned bills and characteristic wing pattern very clearly. They landed in the centre of the pool, swimming quite freely and lightly on the water. Then, nearby, were three Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus. They showed all their characteristic features [as observed by me on Nottingham sewage farm the previous year] but did not call. There was some black on the head, little on crown, mostly through the eye (?)”

The visit on 31 March turned up three more wader species for the Salt Pans, two of them lifers.
“With c 12 Little Stints on the bank was one _____________________*. I took down the following description on the spot: Bill longish, up-curved, black or very dark with slight yellowish at base. Dark line thro’ eye. Legs short and yellowish. Back and wings ashy-brown, almost uniform. Shoulders, upper neck and crown lighter and more streaked. Face, forehead, throat and upper breast white with greyish or grey-brown speckles. Rest of underparts, white. Little white in tail but secondaries and, probably primaries, white tipped giving a white trailing edge to the wing. Call ‘twit-a-wit-wit-wit’.

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (31 March 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post. 

On the mud of another pool were 10 Flamingos, 2 Greenshanks, several Little Stints and 9 _____________________________*. Following description taken at the time: Size, just greater than that of Little Stint (one with them). General colour of upperparts grey-brown, but rather varied among individuals, some browner than others. Head, streaked much as with a snipe but greyer and lighter. Bill, fairly long and heavy, down curved but not as much as in Curlew Sandpiper - almost black in colour. Whitish eye-stripe noticeable. Underparts chiefly white, some colour on breast. Note, a very short titter.

QUIZ: If you think you know what species this bird was, please put its name, your name, how you identified it and the date (31 March 1946) in the comment box at the end of this post. 

In this pool, among the Little Stints, I heard the call of the Dunlin Erolia alpina but did not see it, though I saw one Dunlin (only a spot or two of black on the belly) on another part of the salt pans the same day."

7 April 1946 was notable for the addition of four more species of wader to my Aden list, though none of them were lifers. They were Lesser Sandplover Charadrius mongolus (as seen in Egypt), Grey Plover Squatarola squatarola, Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus and Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica.

On 13 April, I discovered my first breeding evidence on the salt pans, from “2+ pairs of Kentish Plovers. I suspect from their curious behaviour that they were breeding. They seemed anxious to lead me from a particular area. One representative of each pair (♀?) was the most perturbed. The method of each bird was to land about 20 yds from me and run away from me, adopting a crouching posture with wings slightly open, fluttering and pressed downwards. The tail was considerably depressed and spread, showing the white sides of tail and rump very prominently.”

The following week, 18 April, in the same area, more breeding evidence was obtained. I saw “five Kentish Plovers, one of which was a juvenile. It was the same size as the others but upper parts were much less uniform, being spotted and streaked with white (?). Black on head and neck missing. The forehead was nearly white but not sharply divided by a black line from the dark crown.”

Two of the waders named above were further additions to the Aden avifauna, bringing the number of species I had added so far to four. The new species for Aden were Avocet and Broad-billed Sandpiper, which do not figure in the lists preceding my visit. However, other observers after me reported them (e.g. Page 1960).