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!

17 May 2016

Building, filtering and striding

Week 17 and 18, 16 - 24 April 2016 - Various Sites

My father-in-law came to stay with us for a month in April and also to celebrate his 80th birthday with the family.

There was not too many new places to show him in Kuwait, as he has visited every year since we first arrived.

One morning, we visited Green Island as it is a pleasant walk and also offers great views of the iconic Kuwait Towers. Surprisingly very few migrants present, but the male Rüppell's Weaver was very busy nest building.

Male Rüppell's Weaver (Ploceus galbula)
The following weekend, we strolled around the new Al Shaheed Park, which is a very pleasant green belt with some quirky art in the park, situated on the outskirts of Kuwait City. 

Getting in early is the trick, to avoid the heat and when fewer visitors are present. Most of the usual urban birds are present; predominantly House Sparrows, Eurasian Collared Doves and numbers of White-eared Bulbul's. 

White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus l. leucotis)
Again, surprisingly few migrants during our walk, other than a surprise Little Bittern in the reeds at one of the water features

Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)
In terms of invertebrates, a few Dragonflies

Dragonfly sp.

Same sp. as above
as well as Water Strider's on the ponds. Water Strider's are in the family Gerridae (order Heteroptera) and number around 350 species, so not sure which species occurs in Kuwait

Water Strider sp.

On the last weekend, we had an hour at Jahra Pools Reserve, before visiting the Red Fort. 

At one of the pools a drake Garganey was foraging/filtering along the water edge, behaviour I have not seen from Garganey before (I suspect this bird was injured, as it was still present a few weeks later). I photographed this with Canon EF 100-400 f/4.5 - 5.6 IS II and EF 1.4x III coupled to the 1DM4 and was pretty happy with the result, although the focus acquisition and speed would be faster on the 1Dx

Drake Garganey (Anas querquedula)
In the same pool there were numbers of Wood Sandpiper, in fact these were the most predominant waders today

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
and a single Red-necked Phalarope skulked in some cover

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
Driving around the reserve, we picked up a possible Turkestan Shrike in the Phragmite reeds 

Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
and finally a Temminck’s Stint before running out of time and heading the the Red Fort before the sun set

Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii)

09 May 2016

Migrants heading north

Week 15, 09 April 2016 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

In comparison to last year, this spring migration has been low in both abundance and diversity with no plausible explanation; but perhaps the hazards of migration (increased trapping and killing/shooting together with the other natural hazards) are now starting to manifest with less birds being seen during migration. Only next year will we be able to confirm if this is indeed the case, when we can look back and compare stats.

Nevertheless, I was on site just after sunrise and enjoyed watching a few Squacco Herons that were still roosting in the reed bed.

Squaccon Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
A single Ortolan Bunting dropped in for a drink, but didn't stay long. I had a glimmer of hope that it might be something else, as typically this species is part of a larger flock - but not so today!

Male Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana)
Two Common Sandpiper were seen perched uncharacteristically on top of a sand mound

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
I found a few Common Redstart's in some trees alongside the road

Female Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)

Male Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
Like the last 3 visits to the south, I was rewarded with good views of Desert Finch - perhaps they may be preparing to breed, as I have recorded them in the same tree on a number of occasions

Male Desert Finch (Rhodospiza obsoleta)

Eurasian Wryneck was still present

Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)
As was a male Semi-collared Flycatcher

Male Semi-collared Flycatcher (Ficedula semitorquata)
However, a real surprise was a Song Thrush, which is typically a wintering species in Kuwait - so this guy has stayed on to enjoy the warmer weather. It is these surprises that keep birding interesting, as everytime you are out you see or discover something new about birds - just fantastic!

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)
The Bottlebrush shrubs have come into flower and the Lesser Whitethroat's

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)
and Eurasian Blackcap's are the two species that really enjoy the distinctive red flowers

Male Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
Woodchat Shrikes were still present, this one with a 'kill' nearby

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)

Woodchat 'take-away lunch'
But have now been joined by Turkestan Shrikes

Possible Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)

Definite Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
And a fleeting glimpse of a Masked Shrike

Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)
The only raptor seen today was a Eurasian Sparrowhawk that passed by overhead in a flash of an eye - this a record 'grab' shot..

Female Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)