09 October 2019

Sunset stroll on the beach

Week 40; 05 October 2019 - Abu Hassania

Since this morning at Abraq was pretty successful, I decided to head to my local beach at Abu Hassania just before sunset. I checked the big trees along the shoreline and inadvertently flushed a couple of Steppe Buzzards and European Sparrowhawk's that had come in from the sea to roost overnight.

I didn't expect to see much, but found a Mediterranean Pierrot

Mediterranean Pierrot (Tarucus rosaceus)

A little later I had a fairly obliging Eastern Black-eared Wheatear after the sun had set. I had to push the ISO to get a half-decent exposure. However, I still need to work on improving my PS post processing for high ISO images. These were taken at ISO 3200 and 6400 and even for a 1Dx, they are quite noisy in my opinion.

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca)

The unexpected surprise was an Egyptian Nightjar that gave me the run around. Even if you think you know where it landed after flushed, it is never quite where you thought. But eventually, I did pin it down. This also taken after sunset, which is around 5:20pm with autumn almost at an end

Egyptian Nightjar (Caprimulgus aegyptius)

This is a Hadra, a traditional inter-tidal fish trap that I thought was illegal, especially on a public beach

Traditional Hadra

Walking back to my car, I surprised this feral cat in amongst the run-down buildings

Feral Cat

08 October 2019

Raptor Bonanza

Week 40; 05 October 2019 - Al Abraq

It had been some time since we last visited Al Abraq; the reason for not visiting is mostly due to the shooters who camp on the boundary of the farm shooting at everything that flies in or out of the farm during migration - so it is not a pleasant situation for any birder.

However, we are reaching the tail end of autumn migration, so Paul Scott and I decided it was worth the drive. Before reaching the farm we had seen Steppe Eagle, Pallid Harrier and the first Greater Spotted Eagles. There were a few shooters outside the farm, but fortunately they didn't stay too long.

No sooner had we arrived, when I heard the unmistakable call of Red-breasted Flycatcher. We stopped to walk and found 3 birds, but getting clear views was a real challenge.

Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva)

There was also Thrush Nightingale, Blackcap's, Willow Warblers and a number of Spotted Flycatchers

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)

I heard a raptor calling and found an adult Asian Shikra being harassed by an active juvenile bird. The adult was one of the most cooperative and relaxed that I have encountered for some time, although getting close and clear views was difficult, as I didn't want to put the bird under any pressure

Adult Asian Shikra (Accipiter badius)

Juvenile Asian Shikra (Accipiter badius)

Driving around the farm it was evident there were quite a number of Accipiters, most were Eurasian Sparrowhawk, but one with dark eyes stopped me in my tracks - Levant Sparrowhawk. It was quite hidden in the foliage of a tree, so getting clear views was difficult. This is only the 2nd time I have seen this species during my time in Kuwait

Levant Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes)

Elsewhere we had Black Kite and a few perched Steppe Buzzards

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

A Long-legged Buzzard seen disappearing from view when we checked some standing water were the raptors were coming to drink

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus)

In the same pool, an unexpected Wood Sandpiper was seen with a Moorhen

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)

On the way out, a dark Buzzard passed by overhead - it was a mad scramble to stop the car, haul out the big glass and get it in focus before it disappeared. Initially I thought dark phase Steppe Buzzard, but looking at the images on the back of my camera saw it was a juvenile European Honey Buzzard - sometimes tricky to separate if you don't get clear views in the field.

Juvenile European Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus)

We met with some Falconers who kindly allowed us to photograph their birds - truly magnificent close up, although I would prefer to see them wild and free - but for sure, these birds are well taken care of. They do look pretty impressive with their headgear

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

So, 10 raptor species in 3-hours was a pretty good haul and I'm sure if we had stayed longer, may have added one or two more species that could have passed by overhead.

30 September 2019

A circuit around Kuwait City

Week 39; 28 September - Pivot Fields, Jahra Farm and Sulaibikhat Bay

I picked up Debbie Barnes at her Hotel Apartments in Sabah Al Salem before sunrise and we negotiated some hectic traffic on the 6th Ring Road before finally reaching the gates at the Pivot Fields just after sunrise. Debbie is from Colorado Springs and is in Kuwait for a week's business and wanted to squeeze in some birding and to connect with a few target species. We met up with Paul Scott and together spent a few hours criss-crossing the Pivots appreciative of the change of the oppressive moisture laden SE wind from yesterday to a normal NW wind.

Once inside the farm, we found a flock of 7 very skittish Red-wattled Lapwing and whilst watching these had 3 Western Marsh Harriers congregate in one area where one of the birds was trying to catch something in a small reed bed. 

Excuse the 'soft' images, but for distant birds the haze/remnant humidity plays havoc with crisp focusing.

Female Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

One of the targets was Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and this was one of the birds we saw quite quickly. In fact there were still quite a few Bee-eaters around the farm.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)

We stopped to check the Black Kites roosting on one of the Pivots and I noted that the numbers of Western Cattle Egret had also increased since my last visit

Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

Another target was European Roller and we were fortunate to see one sunning itself on one of the Pivots.

European Roller (Coracias garrulus)

We visited the fenced pool and had a quick glimpse of the White-throated Kingfisher, but unfortunately it wasn't obliging for any pictures. However, we were rewarded with a brief and intense aerial 'dog fight' between a juvenile Asian Shikra that came out of the woods at speed to intercept and immature male Pallid Harrier over the field a short way away from us. It was over quite quickly and I was able to capture a few images - despite the heat haze and heavy air from yesterdays uncomfortable humidity. It seemed strange to me that there would be a 'territorial' dispute when both of these species are migrating?

Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) and juvenile Asian Shikra (Accipiter badius)

After the David and Goliath interaction, both birds went their very separate ways, with the Pallid heading back over the fields

Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)

and the Shikra back to perch in the woods

Juvenile Asian Shikra (Accipiter badius)

Down at the marsh, we had Daurian Shrike

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)

and instead of the usual Yellow-crowned Bishop, a Streaked Weaver - another Cat E species

Streaked Weaver (Ploceus manyar) - Cat E

A last circuit around the farm produced two Montagu's Harrier.

Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus)

So the Pivots delivered for the target species and some decent raptors. We then headed north to Jahra Farm, even though the temp had ratcheted up somewhat.

At Jahra we added Masked Shrike, Rose-ringed Parakeet, no Bank Myna's and a few more Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters feeding above the farm

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)

We had a comfort break at the local McDonald's before heading to the coast and Sulaibikhat Bay for the high tide at 11:30 - not the best time of day for photography by any stretch - high temps, heat haze along with 'heavy air' from yesterday's humidity. Any pics would be a bonus, but as the tide started receding so the shorebirds arrived. Crab-plover was the main target and we were rewarded with 7 birds.

There were good numbers of other shorebirds; Eurasian Curlew, Eurasian Whimbrel, an out of place Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Ruddy Turnstone, Kentish Plover, Greater Flamingo and hundreds of Slender-billed Gull's

Little Stint (Calidris minuta)

There were a few roosting Terns; Gull-billed, White-cheeked and Caspian, but only one came close enough to get a relatively sharp image, this was a winter plumage Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)

By now, Debbie's battery was running low and not helped by some jet lag and the high autumn temps - we are still in the mid-40's at the end of September! So, we headed back to her apartment, making a stop for some groceries on the way.