19 July 2016

Boubyan Island

Week 23, 03 June 16 - Boubyan Island

We were 5 on this trip to census the summer breeding birds on Boubyan Island; Markus Craig, Neil Tovey, Dr. Will Le Quesne and Brian Hartley that was kindly hosted by the Coastguard.

An early start was needed to catch the tide and also to avoid the oppressive summer temperatures later in the day.

Soon after leaving the harbour we stopped to check a Kestrel soaring overhead...

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Shortly afterward were treated to a great sighting of 2 Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin that were both curious and obliging - unfortunately, I didn't have time to change my big glass to a more appropriate zoom. Nevertheless, I was happy with the 'portraits', as you normally don't see this species with their head's out of the water.

Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin (Sousa chinensis)

We went past Warba Island and from the north explored the various channels/khors inside Boubyan for the breeding colonies of the respective species.

First up was a Western Reef Heron breeding colony, with both pale and dark forms nesting side-by-side. Some birds were still on eggs, whilst others had large fledged young.

I was pleased to find an adult with a fine set of breeding plumes - the light wasn't the best, but I was happy with the result

Pale Form Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)

Dark Form Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)

Pale Form Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea) with young

Juvenile Form Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)

Pale and Dark Form Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)

Pale Form Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea) with stunning breeding plumes

Grey Herons also breed amongst the Western Reef Herons

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Although we saw many Crab-plover later (they were too distant photograph, especially with the heat haze). One or two were present foraging in this Heron colony

Crab-plover (Dromas ardeola)
Slender-billed Gulls breed in large numbers at a number of sites on the island. Again most young had fledged, but a number were also still sitting on eggs. How they survive these oppressive temperatures is a testament to how nature adapts to hostile climates

Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei) creche

Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei) still on eggs
Unlike our last visit, very few Gull-billed Terns were seen. Those that were seen were flying overhead

Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)
What was the most worrying, was the fact that no Spoonbills were seen during the first lap. On the second lap, I found a single Spoonbill on a nest amongst the Western Reef Heron. 

Despite intensive checking and searching, no others were found - so we are not sure if there has been a population collapse of this species on Boubyan?

Lone Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)

All in all a rewarding outing and thanks again to the Coastguard for their patience and hospitality. 

Following this outing, it was time for our summer/winter holiday back to South Africa - a long overdue break that we were really looking forward to enjoying!

Breeding Barn Swallow

Week 23, 03 June 16 - Jahra Pool Reserve

I had arranged a trip to Boubyan Island and got to the meeting point at Jahra Pools early so I could have a quick look around.

There were reports earlier in the week of breeding Barn Swallow and I was able to locate and see a number of nests with at least 2 having adult birds sitting on eggs/chicks. This is a pretty exciting breeding record for Kuwait for a migrant species.

Active Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) nests

Driving slowly around the reserve, I found a male Little Bittern hunting quietly and patiently in a quiet pool.

Male Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)
Caspian Reed Warblers were pretty vocal in the reeds with nest building in progress or imminent

Caspian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus s. fuscus)

A juvenile Namaqua Dove was seen, brood of summer 2016?

Juvenile Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis)
An unexpected Marsh Sandpiper was found foraging in a shallow pool - perhaps it is over summering?

Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis)
Also unexpected as it is more typically a winter visitor, was a male Northern Shoveler

Male Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
A pair of Little Ringed Plovers were quite vocal and for sure they should breed in the reserve this summer, finding their nest or young is another challenge all together.

Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
Finally, as I was leaving, a White-tailed Lapwing flew up from behind some reeds and was quite agitated. It was confirmed a few weeks later, that they too bred in the reserve this year which is really great news.

White-tailed Lapwing (Vanellus leucurus)
It was now time to meet up with the rest of the team for the visit to Boubyan.

07 June 2016

The last wave of spring

Week 19, 05 May 2016 - Liyah, Mutla'a and Jahra Pools

I have had a poor record for the first 5-months of this year and haven't been able to get out very often. Spring had sprung and most of the migrants had passed through, but I managed to get out for a morning at the tail end of spring, so to speak.

I woke before my alarm went off and was soon heading north up the 80 and then west onto Iron Horse Road to Liyah Reserve and was at the southern gate just after sunrise.

The southern part of the reserve has a ring road with trees around an old quarry with deserted buildings. I chose the loop around the ring road to start, as it had the sun behind me. Thankfully there were still signs of migration and this was the last wave of migrants that were passing through. 

The majority of species seen were Red-backed Shrikes and the males looking particularly smart in their breeding plumage and in the soft early morning light.

Male Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)

Female Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
Lesser Grey Shrikes were less abundant and also a little more skittish than the Red-backed...

Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor)
A single European Roller was present, but did not want to turn around

European Roller (Coracias garrulus)
A few Marsh Warblers were also seen in this last wave of migrants

Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris)

and surprisingly an Upcher's Warbler was also seen..

Upcher's Warbler (Hippolais languida)
In terms of other passerines, Spotted Flycatcher numbers were seen frequently on the loop drive

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
There were huge number of Dragonflies around - they timed their hatching to perfection, as all the Bee-eaters have already passed through - so score 1 for the Dragonflies. I suspect this is the young of one of the Emperor species...

Emperor sp,
After 2-hours, it was time to move to Mutla'a Ranch, but I was stopped by a family of Greater Hoopoe Larks on the side of the road.

Juvenile Greater Hoopoe-Lark (Alaemon alaudipes)
It was starting to warm up when I arrived at the Ranch, so I decided walking was a better strategy, as I could get into the palm groves where there was shade and cover..Here I found number of migrant species; more Spotted Fly's, Tree Pipits, Redstart and numbers of Eurasian Blackcap's

Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
A couple of Desert White butterflies were also seen around the small alfalfa fields

Desert White (Pontia glauconome)
Along with an Ortolan Bunting that had just cooled off in a small pool to escape the rising heat

Male Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana)

There were quite a few Willow Warbler, this one appears to have pretty dark legs, but quite yellow feet, which is not unusual for birds of this species from Asia (thanks to Peter Kennerley)

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Last stop of the morning, before the heat became too oppressive was Jahra Pools. The favourable conditions in terms of permanent water and pretty good winter rain have caused the phragmite reeds to expand rapidly. After the breeding season, measures will need to be taken by reserve management to curb the rapid growth and somehow cut them back before the few remaining pools are lost.

Nevertheless, some migrants and residents were still to be seen. The Ferruginous Ducks have had another fantastic breeding season

Juvenile Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca) - the pride of JPR!
In terms of waders, Wood Sandpipers were in the majority

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
Followed by smaller numbers of Curlew Sandpiper

Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)

and a couple of Ruff

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
The stand-out wader was a single Black-tailed Godwit

European Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa l. limosa)

and a Glossy Ibis, which in the right light, is actually quite impressive

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)
The only passerine of interest was a single Whinchat that stayed close to a large pool of water...

Female Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
By this time, the temp was heading to it's max of the day, so it was also time for me to retreat and head for pastures cooler. But for the tail end of spring migration, it was still an enjoyable day out!