24 October 2014

Finally, some Raptors

Week 39, 26 September 2014 - Khuwaisat, Mutla'a Ranch and Jahra Pools

This was a boys birding morning when my son Jaden joined Neil Tovey and I to check for migrating raptors. We were at Khuwaisat just as the sun started peeping over the the Gulf; sadly so were quite a few shooters - although most seemed to be targeting Quail judging by the volume of the calls that were being played out of boom boxes to attract these diminutive game birds.

One not so lucky Quail; big gun for such a small bird!
As the sun slowly rose, we had a few Harriers and Kite on the move and then we came across a medium sized raptor that had us going for some time, as it was flying away. It eventually landed in a distant tree and we managed to get around 100m away without disturbing it - we had debate as to its identity but finally agreed on Bonelli's Eagle. A few gun shots from the shooters chasing Quail put it up again and it landed quite a distance away before disappearing over the 801 and into SAANR.

Bonelli's Eagle (Aquila fasciatus)


There were a few larger raptors that had also roosted overnight, from a distance these were Greater Spotted Eagles.

Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga)
A few Steppe Buzzards also came out of the Casarina Tree's from the farms in this area later in the morning where they had roosted for the night. This image giving an idea of the desert habitat these birds pass through on migration

Migrating Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)
An Isabelline Wheatear was seen sitting high on one of the berms enjoying the early morning sun

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)
As we were leaving, Omar Al Shaheen alerted us to a European Honey Buzzard that was still roosting on the deck.

European Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus)
We then headed to Mutla'a Ranch on the top of the ridge hoping to see some other raptors as they came soaring over - but no luck with that idea. However, whilst we were there we got the message that two Levants Sparrowhawk had been found soon after we had left the Honey Buzzard - damn!

Nevertheless, we worked the Farm, finding a few Pallid Harriers

Male Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)
and one of the first Red-breasted Flycatchers of this autumn passage

Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva)
My son found a Darkling Beetle and was patient as I took a photo of it crawling up his arm. According to Wikipedia; the Darkling Beetle is the common name of the large family of beetles the Tenebrionidae. The number of species in this family is estimated at more than 20,000 and the family is cosmopolitan.

Darkling Beetle from Kuwait
Soon after, we also found a Schmidt's Fringed-toed Lizard

Schmidt's Fringed-toed Lizard (Acanthodactylus schmidti)
Without much more to be seen, we headed back to sea level to spend an hour at Jahra Pools Reserve although by now it was pretty hot. A few waders were seen in their winter plumage; Little Stint

Winter plumage Little Stint (Calidris minuta)
and Dunlin

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
and finally a juvenile Grey-headed Swamphen disappearing quickly into the reeds proving another successful breeding season for this species at JPR

Juvenile Grey-headed Swamphen (Porphyrio  p. poliocephalus)

A morning of challenging Wheatears

Week 38, 20 September 2014 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

Another day in the south of Kuwait that included a mixture of marine and desert habitat over the course of the day. 

I made a stop at some reed habitat near Road 278 and had a few good migrants, feeding around some of the surface water was a 1st year Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
and a Common Ringed Plover for comparison

Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
Hawking from the reeds a 1st year Turkestan Shrike

Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides), possibly karelini


and in the desert habitat, a 1st year Northern Wheatear remained wary of me

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
and a more easily identifiable and striking male Pied Wheatear made a brief appearance.

Male Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)


Whilst driving further south, a 1st year Eastern Black-eared Wheatear was seen

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca)
Whilst cruising the lagoons inside the project, I found a male Little Bittern on the beach. I can only guess that it was exhausted, as this was pretty untypical habitat for this usually skulking species.

Male Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)

In another cut-off trench with reed habitat, I recorded a single Grey Heron

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
and more amazingly a female Garganey sitting very still deep inside the reeds. I'm still amazed that I managed to get onto it - but a very good record for this far south in Kuwait.

Garganey (Anas querquedula)
I then went exploring in some desert habitat and came across a good number of Wheatears. The male Eastern Black-eared Wheatear was an easy id

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca)
But some of the 1st years were more difficult, this is 1st year Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca)


I am still unsure of this species, I had it pegged as a 1st year Pied, but it may also be Eastern Black-eared.

Pied or Eastern Black-eared Wheatear?


A much paler Wheatear made a brief appearance, Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)
Once I had exhausted this area, I explored a little more around Khiran village adding only a 1st year Red-backed Shrike to the list of birds seen for the day.

1st year Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)






18 October 2014

Migrant passerines in the South

Week 36, 06 September 2014 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

I have been a bit slack in keeping my Blog updated, so a bit of a belated post from September

I was down in the south of the country at the Sea City development near Khiran.

I spent time on the lagoon waterways and exploring some of the redeveloped habitat; not many shorebirds along the beaches, but that was probably due to the increased pedestrian traffic on the beaches.

However, I did get onto a few of the larger shorebirds when a flock of 8 Black-crowned Night Herons dropped in. This was the first time I had seen this species in the south.


Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
A little later, 4 Purple Herons flew by overhead.


Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
In some reed habitat near Road 278, I found a single Pied Wheatear


Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)


A  few Western Yellow Wagtails


Western Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava flava), probably beema
and two Greater Short-toed Larks


Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla)
Around the development there were a few other passerine migrants to be found in singles and two's. This female Caspian Stonechat (note the plain uppertail coverts) is the first one I have seen this autumn migration anywhere in Kuwait.


Female Caspian Stonechat (Saxicola m. hemprichii)
A couple of Common Whitethroat's


Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)
A single Woodchat Shrike


Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) with a snack
and a few skittish Ortolan Buntings, a bird heavily persecuted in Europe before it even starts on it's migration journey


Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana)
I had 3 Golden Orioles, but as with other locations they disappeared long before I could get close. Given some of the horrific images I have seen on Social Media of the number of Golden Orioles shot and killed during migration, I am happy to see them fly away long before I can get close.

On my way home from the south, I recorded a Northern Wheatear in the shade of a tree on Road 278.


Male Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)




30 September 2014

Warblers of JEO - Part 4

Week 35, 29 August 2014 - Jahra East Outfall (JEO)

In this final installment, a few of the other more obvious Warblers and other species that were observed in the morning session are shown below.

Similar in size to the small Acro's, I had a single Upchers Warbler that was seen almost alongside the Basra as it came down to drink and have a early morning bath. In the gloom of the reeds and out of direct sunshine, it appeared very cold in colour and almost grey reminiscent of a 1st year bird.

Upcher's Warbler (Hippolais languida)


A little later, I saw some movement near the base of the reeds some distance away and got onto a pretty dark Warbler that appeared to be skulking through the reeds - certainly not as active and buoyant as the smaller Reed Warblers. I initially thought this could be River, but it was a Savi's Warbler. However, I had not seen such a dark form before and Peter agrees with me that this 1st year bird could be fusca - but this is not 100% confirmed.

Savi's Warbler (Locustella luscinioides), possibly fusca?

Savi's Warbler (Locustella luscinioides)
The last Warbler species to make an appearance was an equally active and quite distinctive Sedge Warbler. We also have Moustached, but these tend to be a little more discreet and skulking. The fresh plumage of the Sedge suggests another 1st year bird, as adults only moult in winter.

Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)

Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
During the course of the morning, a number of other species were seen - even though the focus was on the Warblers and trying to re-locate the Paddyfield. There was a Common Sandpiper sat quietly on the dead reed mat in the outfall

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Numbers of Western (Blue-headed) Yellow Wagtails - at this time of year, they are difficult to pin down to race

Blue-headed Wagtail (Motacilla flava flava)
Lastly, an adult Red-backed Shrike in the early morning light

Adult Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
and later a 1st year Masked Shrike to round off a satisfying and challenging morning and a little frustrating by not picking up the Paddyfield I had hoped to find.

1st year Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)