14 November 2015

Owling the night away

Week 39, 29 September 2015 - Desert area in the west

Earlier in the week, there had been confirmed reports of Barn Owl, a species I had not yet connected with in Kuwait (although I had seen two deceased birds that had been hit by cars on the freeways).

We suspect it may be a resident species, but it is considered scarce in Kuwait.

We arrived in the general area around 8pm at night and this is a special time to be in the desert; it is quiet and takes some time to get your orientation. A few of my local birding friends were already there and had briefly seen the bird.

We tried in a different area and after some time, my son picked up a flying Nightjar in the spotlight, followed shortly by a much bigger and paler bird; the Barn Owl. There was no opportunity to get a picture, as it flew over us, quartered and then disappeared back into the night.

We waited around for some time and then agreed it wasn't going to return, so we focused on some of the Nightjars we had seen hunting on the wing. All the birds we saw were Egyptian, but it took some patience to eventually get close to one that was roosting on the ground. Flash as the primary source of light, isn't always the most flattering - but I'm happy that these are not too 'artificial'. It will take a few more images to get the optimum exposure, but the subject doesn't always give you the opportunity to practice

Egyptian Nightjar (Caprimulgus aegyptius)

Near some water we also found an unexpected Green Toad. According to the IUCN Red Data List, the status of Green Toads in Israel, Jordan, Sinai (Egypt) and of the isolated, relict population in the southern Hadramaut in southwestern Saudi Arabia is currently unclear and it is possible these populations should be included within either Bufotes variabilis or Bufotes boulengeri pending further review

Green Toad (Bufotes variabilis or boulengeri)
We will plan to get out there again, as I need to improve the images and also to see if we have better luck with the Ghost of the Night

12 October 2015

A mix bag of autumn migrants

Week 38, 19 September 2015 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

There were no opportunities for birding elsewhere in Kuwait this month, so again I was back in the south at the impressive Sea City project.

Starting along the urban desert area after the obligatory McDonald's breakfast on-route, I had my first Desert Wheatear of this autumn

Female Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)
around 3 Isabelline Wheatears

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)
A couple of Western Yellow Wagtails were found foraging in one of the cut-off trenches. In autumn they are pretty tough to assign to race, but this may be Beema

Western Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava flava)
A 1st year Turkestan Shrike perched in the reeds

Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
Some slight movement, also in the reeds, alerted me to a Common Kingfisher patiently perched on a reed; waiting to ambush it's next meal

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
shortly afterwards a Montagu's Harrier caught me by surprise, flying low past my car. Again the auto-focus of the 1DM4 impressed me by locking on for one sharp image before the Harrier disappeared across the desert.

Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus)
Once out on the boat, not many shorebirds were to be seen - although I did find a Purple Heron that had roosted overnight on the beach

Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
It was joined by a Common Greenshank - two's company?

Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
Elsewhere I had a pale form Western Reef Heron foraging along the waters edge

Pale form Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)
and a Mauryan Grey Shrike

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)
A couple of wintering Gulls have already returned to Kuwait, I suspect this tatty moulting individual is Heuglin's

Heuglin's Gull (Larus f. heuglini)
I was then back in the car on route to a productive coastal spit, first finding a Lesser Grey Shrike

Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor)
then Northern Wheatear

Female Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
Western Marsh Harrier

Female Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
and a small flock of Greater Short-toed Larks

Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla)
Once at the coastal spit, there was a good mix of shorebirds present; 

Part of the mixed shorebird flock; Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii) and Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
another Purple Heron

Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
A couple of Ruff

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
A few Grey Plover

Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
and this was one of many in the big flock of Dunlin

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
While photographing the Dunlin, I noted a small wader amongst them. Knock me down if it didn't decide to forage and feed along the waters edge and 'inadvertently' come closer and closer to me. I was already sitting low in the sand and for what must rate as the best views I have ever had of a Broad-billed Sandpiper. This sighting closed out a pretty good day!

Broad-billed Sandpiper (Limicola falcinellus)

10 October 2015

A smattering of migrants in the South

Week 37, 12 September 2015 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

I had a morning at Sea City in the south of Kuwait and had expectations of some good autumn passage migrants.

Sadly this was not to be the case today with only a handful of migrants seen.

Common Whitethroat was the most prevalent and this was the first time I saw one raise a 'crest' when it appear to be agitated over something nearby

Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)

A Great Reed Warbler was seen nearby

Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
As was a Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
A Tree Pipit was found 'hiding' in the shade

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
Elsewhere, I recorded a single Ortolan Bunting

Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana)
As well as a probable Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida)
And a Mauryan Grey Shrike in some desert area

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)
And a Woodchat Shrike

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)
Along the lagoon beaches there were Grey Plover

Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
and a single Sanderling

Sanderling (Calidris alba)
And a pair of Ruddy Turnstone which I haven't seen in the south for some time

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
Whilst a few lingering Lesser Crested Terns were found roosting on the off-shore buoys

Lesser Crested Tern (Sterna bengalensis)

10 September 2015

A morning around Jahra

Week 35, 28 August 2015 - Jahra Area

I was solo today as Neil and Markus had other commitments, but still made an early morning start to get to Jahra East before sunrise. I enjoy this time of the morning, hearing and seeing the world slowly wake up and of course enjoying the sunrise

Jahra sunrise
I found a spot on the smelly outfall and sat patiently waiting for the birds to start calling and then appearing. Interestingly, the Warblers generally don't sing much at first light, preferring to wait for the sun to hit the reed beds before getting active. First up was an inquisitive Savi's Warbler

Savi's Warbler (Locustella luscinioides)
Followed briefly by a probable Caspian Reed Warbler (of which there were much less this visit than on my previous visit with Markus)

Probable Caspian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus s. fuscus)
A few Basra Reed Warblers made an appearance, but didn't stay out in the open for too long. I suspect the first 3 images are of a 1st year bird?

Basra Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus griseldis)

This female Barred Warbler seemed quite out of place skulking around inside the reeds and only briefly coming out, but in a slow and deliberate fashion - unlike any behaviour I have seen before

Female 2cy Barred Warbler (Sylvia nisoria)
Common Whitethroat's were fairly abundant 

Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)
A single Spotted Flycatcher made a dash, landed briefly and then was gone

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
Some movement at the base of the reeds caught my eye and slowly a Little Crake crept out and foraged out in the open for a short time

Little Crake (Porzana parva)
As I was about to leave, a single Indian Reed Warbler made an appearance.

Indian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus s. brunnescens)
Next stop was Jahra Farm where I found a few more passerine migrants to add to the day's list. Eurasian Wryneck was elusive, but I managed an interesting pose before it too disappeared into thicker cover

Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)
A single Mauryan Grey Shrike was seen on the boundary fence of this small farm.

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)
Last stop was Jahra Pools Reserve, although it was already getting too hot. I recorded my first Common Snipe of this autumn passage

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
There were fair numbers of Garganey about and clearly they are dabbling ducks

Female Garganey (Anas querquedula)

Clearly a dabbling Duck
Numbers of Grey-headed Swamphen were seen 

Grey-headed Swamphen (Porphyrio  p. poliocephalus)
There was a mix of 1st year, young juvenile and adult Little Grebe's about

Adult Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Upcher's Warbler was seen a few times in different areas of the reserve, foraging along the perimeter of the reed beds

Upcher's Warbler (Hippolais languida)
Although against the sun, a record image of my first White-tailed Lapwing for this year

White-tailed Lapwing (Vanellus leucurus)
On one of the quieter roads, I managed to get fairly close to this cracking male Woodchat Shrike, before calling it quits and finding a place for a late breakfast

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)