18 March 2019

Dawn in the West, Dusk in the East

Week 11; 16 March 2019 - Various Sites

I had a great day's guiding with Linda Widdop, the VP of Delaware Valley Bird Club (DVBC) in Philadelphia who was in Kuwait on business. Not a great start when Google Maps hadn't been updated with all the road works around the Hotel and quite frustrating when you can see the Hotel, but not quite get there. 

I planned a route starting in the west at Abraq and from there heading back east to finally end the day at Jahra Pools. Unfortunately we had quite a brisk wind for most of the day, but migrants were on the move. As like last week, Al Abraq was pretty cold early in the morning but we combined our time here with both walking and driving. The pool at the entrance had Grey Wagtail and we watched it dismember a Dragonfly for breakfast

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)

There were a number of Green Sandpiper seen and heard

Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)

In the woods, the numbers of Willow Warbler had increased, but there were also still a few Chiffchaff both seen and heard

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

In the open desert area we had a number of Hoopoe and later a few Tawny Pipits dropped in - probably as respite against the wind

Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)

Whilst overhead a couple of Common Swift passed by very quickly

Common Swift (Apus apus)

We got onto a stunning male Common Redstart and in the same area also Common and Lesser Whitethroat. A male Ménétriés’s Warbler played hiding-go-seek with us, but did eventually present itself briefly

Male Ménétriés’s Warbler (Sylvia mystacea_

Linda picked up a raptor high overhead which turned out to be a Steppe Eagle

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)

whilst I briefly got onto a Black-winged Kite (not the same juvenile as my last visit), as it flew by low over the trees

Black-winged Kite (Elanus c. vociferus)

By now we weren't adding new birds, so headed east and north to Liyah which is primarily an open desert reserve. We added Desert Wheatear and Mauryan Grey Shrike and had better views of Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. The unexpected migrant, at least for this reserve, was a male Semi-collared Flycatcher that had perfected the art of keep of lot of foliage between us and him.

Semi-collared Flycatcher (Ficedula semitorquata)

After a quick stop for a McRoyale (which is apparently not on the McDonald's menu in the USA) we headed south to Sulaibikhat Bay for the incoming tide.

There was quite an assortment of Gulls; Slender-billed, Common Black-headed, Caspian, Steppe, Heuglin's and a single Baltic on the edge of the big flock of Redshank

Baltic Gull (Larus fuscus) and Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)

The Greater Flamingo flock was edging closer until some wanker with his drone and not a care for anyone else flushed them all, together with the Gull and Wader flock

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)

A couple of Gull's were still coming in from further down the coast, but continued with the rest of the flock

Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)

Possible Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)

There are a number of Eurasian Collared Doves at this location, this one flying low in the wind with the causeway as a backdrop

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)

It was then back north for a walk around Jahra Farm where the same unique farming technique has been practiced for over 100 years. We had a number of species here, including the resident White-throated Kingfishers

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)

Overhead, Linda picked up another soaring raptor - this also a Steppe Eagle, but with a really dark head which is a plumage variant I have not seen or read about before. Perhaps it is related to the age of the bird?

Dark-headed Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)

Our last stop was Jahra Pools, just over the 80 Freeway from Jahra Farm and here we racked up many more species of Ducks, Grebes and other reed dwelling species. A pair of Pied Kingfishers had us entertained for some time as they hunted in the main pool

Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)

And in a quiet pool, we picked up both Spotted and Little Crake which Linda was thrilled about. At the causeway we had a variety of Heron's including Great White Egret

Western Great Egret (Ardea alba)

We also watched a female Western Marsh Harrier spooking all the birds, as it flew low over the reeds

Female Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

And later this male Marsh Harrier that I am struggling to age

Male Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

Jahra Pools is still THE place for Greater Spotted Eagles and we had our fill with these magnificent raptors as they slowly dropped out of the sky

Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga)

to come and roost for the night

Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga)

In amongst the Greater Spotted's, a Western Osprey had also found a high perch for the night

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

By now the sun had hit the horizon and it was time to head back to the Hotel whilst recounting the highlights of the day. We had just over 80 species of which just under 40 were new species for Linda. This is not a bad haul for this early in the spring migration and with an unfavourable wind

You can read Linda's account of the day on her Blog;

08 March 2019

Spring has sprung

Week 09; 02 March 2019 - Abraq, Liyah and Jahra Farm

Paul Scott and I had an early start to get to Abraq a little after sunrise on a crisp and clear morning with an azure blue sky and the mercury around 5-degrees. It was certainly a lot colder than we thought it would be.

First bird we saw was a Grey Wagtail, just after the entrance of the farm - so that was encouraging.

Male Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)

We flushed a Squacco Heron from the same area, to slow to change the camera settings, so a Squacco in motion

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)

We walked the wooded area and found that Willow Warblers had also arrived and were foraging together with the Chiffchaff's. With its pale legs I thought the bird below was Willow, but I stand corrected with the insight's of an experienced ringer who confirms it is Chiffchaff; small dark bill, neat eye-ring and short wings

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

We heard the long staying Hume's Leaf Warbler and took some time to get images of this fast moving and energetic little bird - in fact there were two birds present

Hume's Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus humei) playing hiding-go-seek

In the open area, we had a male Western Marsh Harrier pass by overhead

Male Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

A Daurian and Mauryan Grey Shrike were also seen, so finally some spring migrant action

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)

We then had a walk through one of the areas that last year was just sand, but is now covered in grass and flowers and looked for invertebrates; Painted Lady's still abound

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

As do the possible Bordered Straw Moths

Possible Eastern Bordered Straw (Heliothis nubigera)

Possible Bordered Straw (Heliothis peltigera) paler than the Eastern Bordered Straw

and there were many caterpillars seen on plants and on the ground - I suspect these are Painted Lady caterpillars

Possible Painted Lady Caterpillar

Not sure what this smooth caterpillar is, but it shook off the ants that 'attacked' it and continued on its way

Unknown Caterpillar

Fighting off the Ants

Another Striped Hawk-moth was a highlight for Paul

Striped Hawk-moth (Hyles livornica)

We had an unidentified Beetle

Beetle sp.

and Wasp with a partially red abdomen

Wasp sp.

We also found a young nymph Grasshopper that had us stumped. But after sharing the images with Dr. Arne Lehehman, he identified it as 2nd instar Stone Grasshopper which will grow to 4-6cm in a couple of weeks

2nd instar Stone Grasshopper (Eremotmethis carinatus)

I showed Paul the Desert Hyacinth and it appears to have flowered in the last week

Desert Hyacinth (Cistanche lutea)

The Red Thumbs were still showing and have quite a repugnant smell and for the rest, the flower show continues

Flower sp.


We headed back east to Liyah where the camel herds are still grazing freely inside the reserve - the fragile ecosystem certainly wont last long. We had Desert and Isabelline Wheatear along with Woodchat and Mauryan Grey Shrike and a single male Siberian Stonechat

Male Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola m. variegatus)

Last stop of the day was at Jahra Farm, I was heartened to see my  Dad's spirit bird as we walked in the gate

Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

A Common Myna flew past carrying food or nesting material

Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)

And a single Bank Myna came past in the opposite direction

Bank Myna (Acridotheres ginginianus)

Another Moth that looks similar to the one I found last week?

Possible Nomophila noctuella

The White-throated Kingfisher's were actively calling in preparation for the pending breeding season. One of them zipped by in front of me, this was the best I could do..

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)

So, it seems migration has finally kicked off and the coming weeks should hopefully be better, unless of course all the emergent habitat in the desert disperses the migrants?