28 September 2020

A long, but rewarding day

Week 37; 11 September 2020 - Pivot Fields, Mutla'a Ranch and Pivot Fields

With yesterday's excitement still fresh in my mind, I was back at the Pivot Fields at 6am when the gates opened, followed shortly by John Gurnett. 

The Bay-backed is only the 1st vagrant of this year and with flights restricted due to Covid, we had really been hoping for more than this.

If we keep looking diligently, we should find more before the year is out. Nevertheless, we were at the Pivots and spent a solid hour at the marsh - but not quite as productive as previous weeks, certainly from a Warbler perspective. The male Yellow-crowned Bishop added a splash of colour in the reeds

Yellow-crowned Bishop (Euplectes afer)

There was still a small family of Graceful Prinia's around

Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis)

Whilst there were quite a few Garganey on the bigger pool

Garganey (Anas querquedula)

There was a lone White-winged Tern foraging over the pool

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)

Whilst Marsh Harriers cruised by above the reeds causing havoc every time they made a low pass

Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

Western Cattle Egret's were flying over, from one field to another

Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

along with a few Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)

Walking back to the car, I had a Tree Pipit foraging between the smaller Sabkha Bushes

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)

And another Harrier quartering over the adjacent field - Montagu's I suspect

Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus)

Driving around the perimeter of one of the fields, a tired Common Quail tried to hide in a Libyan Jird burrow

Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix)

The Black-winged Kite was in the usual area on the overhead power lines

Black-winged Kite (Elanus c. vociferus)

Whilst this Black/Black-eared Kite was enjoying some breakfast in the shade of the Tamarix Trees

Black-eared Kite (Milvus m. lineatus)

I stopped at a patch where there is a dripping water pipe, with good cover around it and was rewarded with an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (not the Blythe's I was hoping for)

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida)

Continuing with the drive, a single 1st year Collared Pratincole, although this ones tail is quite shorter than the primary projection. I think it is too difficult to consider any other species at this age

Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola)

Close by was a small flock of Greater Short-toed Larks drinking from the run-off of the Pivot irrigation

Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla)

And a little further on, a Pied Wheatear, already looking for shade

Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

This juvenile Daurian Shrike was hunting from a concrete pillar

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)

I headed for the shallow pan just off the tar road, finding Woodchat Shrike on the overhead line.

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)

As well as Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters hunting from the same lines

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus) with a Bee

I got onto this passing Oriole too late - but always good to see

Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus)

The Sand Martin's were drinking on the wing from the pool, so I spent quite some time to try and get that 'image' of them touching the water with their bills. I was pretty pleased with the results, although the light wasn't ideal

Sand Martin (Riparia riparia)

By 10am it was too hot and birds had retreated to the shade, so I did the same. 

Later in the afternoon, I drove north to visit Mutla'a Ranch, another site I haven't been to in many months. It has changed a bit and it looks like the owners are now turning it into a farm for dates and other produce and as a result a lot of irrigation pipes have been laid. First up was a Pied Wheatear

Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

Followed by a young Great/Steppe Grey Shrike

Great/Steppe Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor lahtora)

I walked the uncultivated area and with the help of some raucous White-eared Bulbul's, was able to find the Eurasian Scops Owl that they were so unhappy about. I was quite surprised and pleased to see this one quite out in the open, compared to how they normally huddle up against the stem of the tree

Eurasian Scops Owl (Otus scops)

I heard Bulbul's making a racket elsewhere so went to investigate, this time it was a large female Eurasian Sparrowhawk that the Bulbul's flushed - it was considerate and gave a decent fly by

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes)

In the same area, I had a confiding Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin within the minimum focusing distance of my prime lens

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes)

As the sun was going down, a single Pallid Swift appeared overhead

Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus)

Another sunset, this time from Mutla'a, to end the day

Mutla'a Sunset (Apus pallidus)

I stopped for a quick bite a McDonald's on the way back to the Pivots after dark and this time from the outside of the farm. Barn Owl had been reported earlier in the week by other birders. 

It was not a tough tick, one was already sitting on the fence post when I arrived. Not so easy though, trying to operate the torch and take a picture at the same time. They really are striking Owls, but I also did donate some blood to the local mosquitoes whilst enjoying them in the silence of the desert night

Western Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

Three Owl species in a week, I was pretty chuffed

A Mega at JEO

Week 36; 10 September 2020 - Jahra East Outfall

I received an excited call from Rashed Al Hajji just after 7:30am telling me he had found a Shrike that he was not familiar with, like a Red-backed, but not the same. He suspected it may be Bay-backed and sent me some back of the camera images. It certainly looked encouraging and since we are not familiar with the bird, I shared with others and feedback was more than favourable that it was indeed a Bay-backed Shrike, a 1st for both Kuwait and the Western Palearctic (pending KORC acceptance)! By 8:30 the bird had disappeared into the reeds at the Outfall, so perhaps it was resting up for the rest of the day?

As it was a week-day, I had to keep my fingers crossed that it would stay till later in the afternoon when I finished work. 

So at 4pm, I was in my car heading to JEO. Abdulrahman Sirhan was already at the site and sent a message that he had just seen the bird coming out of the reeds. The temperature had started cooling a little, but it flew back into the reeds a short while later. 

I arrived at the site followed by Omar Al Shaheen and we split up to look for the bird. Fortunately, it didn't take long, when Omar called me to say he found the bird low down in the shade of a Sabkha Bush which was a relief.

Bay-backed Shrike (Lanius vittatus)

Omar then left and I stayed with the bird as it alternated between making sorties to tops of the bushes, feeding off insects (Ants) on the ground and then returning back to the reeds. By this time Khaled Alghanem joined me and we spent over an hour enjoying the bird. It certainly didn't allow to close an approach, but we got saturated views of what we think is a 1st year female. 

Hope you enjoy the pictures of this Autumn 'star' as much as we enjoyed the bird

1st year female Bay-backed Shrike (Lanius vittatus)

I call this my Industrial Habitat shot with the stacks of the Desalination Plant in the background

Habitat shot

By this time the sun was starting to dip in the west, so we both headed home when the bird returned back to the reeds, hopefully to stay till tomorrow for those that missed it today. Here a Woodchat Shrike on the way out

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)

and another Kuwait sunset, after a successful Twitch!

Jahra East Sunrise with returning Grey Herons