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Nile Cruise, Egypt, 19-26.12.12 (1 Viewer)


I may be relaxed but I'm not drunk....
I've written a report in Word, which I'll cut and paste in chunks below. Three lifers (African Pied Wagtail, Nile Valley Sunbird and Red Avadavat), two WP "ticks" (Senegal Thick-knee and Painted Snipe) plus distinctive local subspecies (Purple Swamphen, Yellow-billed Kite, Barn Swallow and LG Bee-eater) and a host of interesting waterbirds made this an excellent trip for birds, despite the fact that this was not the intention! The birding fitted in very well with the sightseeing part of the holiday, and was low-key enough to cause no conflict with my non-birding wife (on previous "dual purpose" holidays, there was usually at least one occasion when an early morning wander was overstretched, to find an annoyed missus waiting impatiently...).


I may be relaxed but I'm not drunk....
19-26 December 2012


This was a “proper holiday” rather than a birding trip; a destination agreed upon by my wife, and one where there was plenty I wanted to see quite apart from any birds that might be present. Consequently, the telescope and long camera lens were left at home.


Wed 19 Dec – arrival.
Thu 20 Dec – Luxor West Bank – Valley of the Kings, Colossi of Memnon, Temple of Queen Hatchepsut; late afternoon cruise to Esna (overnight at far side of lock).
Fri 21 Dec – Cruise from Esna to Kom Ombo (Temple of Sabek), with arrival mid-afternoon. Overnight cruise to Aswan.
Sat 22 Dec – Aswan Dam, Philae Temple/boat trip.
Sun 23 Dec – Abu Simbel (by coach from Aswan), afternoon cruise back towards Luxor, with most of journey overnight.
Mon 24 Dec – Luxor East Bank – Qena and Temple of Denderah in morning, free afternoon.
Tue 25 Dec – Luxor East Bank – Karnak and Luxor Temples in morning, cruise up to King’s (aka Crocodile) Island in afternoon.
Wed 26 Dec - departed early afternoon.

General info

The holiday was booked via Thomsons, and the ship was the Jaz Regency – all-inclusive food was fairly basic but no complaints, being well-prepared, buffet-style “all you can eat”, and no-one seemed to have any stomach problems all week. The ship held about 80 passengers and did not feel at all crowded. All rooms had a non-opening “picture window”, which was totally useless for most of the trip as moorings were alongside other ships, and daylight cruising time was spent on deck.

All tours (apart from Abu Simbel – the extra cost being money well spent for the experience alone, and it was interesting to travel there via the oft-mentioned “convoy”, especially when this was so spread out that there was often not another vehicle within sight, front or rear!) were included as part of the holiday package, and were split into groups for the week with our very own Egyptologist, a lady called Heba. This worked well, and would have made the trip worthwhile even without the birds. The sites visited were most impressive; it really is a “must see” destination!

The only negative I can think of is the persistence of the salesmen and the relentless pursuit of tips by every local encountered; they block your path, thrust “free gifts” into your hand and are difficult to ignore (the best approach) – it’s a shame, really, because everyone we spoke to said they’d be far more likely to buy from them if they’d just stood back and let them browse.
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I may be relaxed but I'm not drunk....
Birds seen

In general, all birds were seen on, over or alongside the Nile River, with the greatest variety being seen on the “cruise” days rather than those days spent at moorings. Very few species were seen on the tours; having recently visited Israel, and being keen to see the monuments, no real effort was made to look for birds on these tours. The trip to Abu Simbel gave the greatest potential for a surprise sighting or two – however, with less than three hours at the site, all of which were spent at the temples and surrounding area, there was simply too little time to see much beyond the temples themselves, and I considered myself fortunate to chance upon two African Pied Wagtails. Viewing from on the top deck was straightforward, with the ships being relatively small – in general, one simply stood on the side nearest the bank, but keeping an eye out for sand/mudbars midriver, which were often packed with birds and passed at close range (and were often overlooked until it was too late, unfortunately – no second chances from a moving ship!). A telescope would have been useful, as often the birds on the banks were too far away for positive identification with just 10x binoculars (but could look a little odd on a sundeck, especially as only one other passenger had any interest in the birds whatsoever). The following annotated list gives an idea of what’s on offer –


I may be relaxed but I'm not drunk....
Egyptian Goose – common, seen daily, max flock 50+.
Pintail – small numbers on a couple of days (cruise days passed through a couple of areas with large concentrations of duck sps, very few ducks noted on other occasions).
Shoveler – about 50 on each of two days.
Wigeon – 1,000+ on a couple of days.
Teal – 20 or so on a couple of days.
Ferruginous Duck – small flocks on a couple of days, plus one large flock of 70+ - total around 150.
Tufted Duck – small numbers on a couple of days.
Black-necked Grebe – about 50 seen on one day, a handful on one other day.
Little Grebe – two or three seen.
White Pelican – about 40 around Abu Simbel, one further downstream, all on 23.12.
Cormorant – common, with many flocks of 100+ esp at Abu Simbel.
Bittern – one, on 21.12.
Night Heron – single on 23.12, two on 25.12 near King’s Island.
Striated Heron – one on mooring rope on 22.12, two on 25.12.
Cattle Egret – very common, several large flocks going to roost in evenings numbered 100+ per flock.
Squacco Heron – very common and obvious, although in small groups, seen daily.
Little Egret – a few singles seen, not very common.
Great White Egret – just one seen, on 23.12.
Grey Heron – common, seen daily.
Purple Heron – very common and obvious, seen daily.
Glossy Ibis – very common, with roost flocks numbering 100+ and totalling low 1,000s.
Spoonbill – only noted on 23.12, when about 40 seen.
Greater Flamingo – singles on 21.12 and 23.12.
Osprey – surprisingly uncommon, only seen on 23.12 (3 birds).
Eastern Imperial Eagle – one over Philae Temple area on 22.12.
Black Kite – all identified birds were of “Yellow-billed” aegyptius ssp, seen most days in small numbers.
Marsh Harrier – small numbers most days.
Common Buzzard – all Steppe vulpinus ssp, seen on three days.
Sparrowhawk – seen on a couple of occasions.
[Levant Sparrowhawk – a frustrating view of what looked like an adult male, on edge of Edfu on 21.12, but with no prior experience of this sp, had to let it go.]
Black-winged Kite – singles on 20, 21 and 24.12.
Kestrel – singles seen most days.
Lanner Falcon – one, perched on rockface, 21.12.
Moorhen – common.
Coot – fairly common.
Purple Swamphen – green-backed madagascariensis ssp, very common, seen daily.
Black-winged Stilt – very common, seen daily.
Senegal Thick-knee – one seen extremely well on bank, then in flight, on 23.12.
Little Ringed Plover – only identified a couple of times, but likely to have been fairly common.
Ringed Plover – a few seen most days.
Spur-winged Plover – present in small numbers almost everywhere.
White-tailed Lapwing – one near King’s Island on 25.12.
Dunlin – a few seen.
Little Stint – very common, seen daily.
Wood Sandpiper – small numbers most days.
Common Sandpiper – ones and twos most days.
Redshank – a few seen.
Spotted Redshank – a few seen.
Greenshank – just a couple noted.
Marsh Sandpiper – seen on three days.
Black-tailed Godwit – seen most days in small numbers.
Common Snipe – common, seen most days.
Ruff – very common, seen daily.
Painted Snipe – single males seen on 21.12, between Edfu and Kom Ombo, and on 25.12 near King’s Island.
Black-headed Gull – common; the only gull sp identified.
Gull-billed Tern – very common; the only “larger” tern sp seen.
Black Tern – a few singles mixed in with flocks of other marsh terns; the rarest of the three sps.
White-winged Tern – fairly regular, but never more than 10 or so at any one time.
Whiskered Tern – the commonest of the marsh terns, with flocks of several 100s frequently seen.
Feral Pigeon – common.
Laughing Dove – the only other dove/pigeon sp seen (no Collared-types noted at all).
Pallid Swift – common, with flocks of up to 500 seen.
Hoopoe – regular, in small numbers.
Pied Kingfisher – always present in small numbers.
Little Green Bee-eater – up to four seen on three days, cleopatra ssp.
Crested Lark – flew over boat a couple of times, also seen in fields (but most larks etc in the fields were too distant for identification).
Rock Martin – small numbers seen most days; breeding at Abu Simbel, 100+ present.
Barn Swallow – very common, with largest flocks numbering over 1,000; all appeared to be of the savignii ssp, very distinctive dark appearance, with orange/red underparts.
Meadow Pipit – only identified on one day, 25.12, but probably overlooked.
Red-throated Pipit – seen/heard daily in small numbers.
White Wagtail – very common, especially around the towns.
African Pied Wagtail – two at Abu Simbel, 23.12, on bank of Lake Nasser just below the temples.
Yellow Wagtail – a few seen in fields alongside river.
Grey Wagtail – one, on 21.12.
White-crowned Wheatear – one on 22.12 and 3 on 23.12.
Graceful Prinia – 5 or so at Abu Simbel, 23.12.
Lesser Whitethroat – a few seen most days.
Sardinian Warbler – a few seen or heard most days.
Reed Warbler – one in garden of coffee shop at Abu Simbel on 23.12.
Clamorous Reed Warbler – a few seen or heard most days.
Willow Warbler – two on 25.12 in same trees as the Sunbirds.
Chiffchaff – a few seen most days.
Common Bulbul – fairly common, seen most days.
Nile Valley Sunbird – adult male in transitional plumage, plus 2 female/juvs, in the only flowering tree clump at Luxor Temple on 25.12.
Hooded Crow – common, seen daily.
House Sparrow – common.
Red Avadavat – ca 10 in reeds by King’s Island, Luxor, on 25.12.

(total 86 sps)


Well-known member
Thanks for posting the list Mark. I've printed it out, it will be useful to me as I'm going on a similar trip in January.

A telescope would have been useful, as often the birds on the banks were too far away for positive identification with just 10x binoculars (but could look a little odd on a sundeck, especially as only one other passenger had any interest in the birds whatsoever).

I'm going to take my travel scope and I don't care if I look a little odd on the sundeck! Have decided not to take the big scope as I think the travel one will be easier when walking to and around the archaeology sites.

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