07 June 2012

Make another plan

Week 22, 02 June 2012 - Jahra Pools Reserve (JPR) (Click on images to enlarge)

This weekend we had planned a long time in advance to visit the southern islands of Kuwait, islands I had not yet visited. Unfortunately the weather man didnt get the memo and most maritime activities were cancelled due to high winds and of course dust - what would Kuwait be without dust?

The bad weather was not a deterrent for me very early Saturday morning - in fact it was clear blue sky, but still with very strong winds. I hadnt been to JPR for sometime and also wanted to see the progress on the new roads within the reserve.

There was much construction activity within the reserve, but the new roads are taking shape. Water pipes have also been provided, so that water for JPR can now be better controlled and more areas within the reserve can also now receive water, so good for birds and birders all round.

I was quite suprised to find an adult European Roller on one of the quieter roads, out of the gusting wind

Adult European Roller (Coracias garrulus)

The most common species in the pools were Black-winged Stilts - also staying near the reeds for shelter

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
One of the larger pans near the fence had a few 'marsh' terns who seemed to enjoy the blowing wind as they hawked insects off the surface. Almost all were White-winged Terns in full breeding plumage

Breeding plumage White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)

But I did pick up a single Whiskered Tern amongst the White-winged Terns.

Breeding plumage Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)

I was fortunate to get in a little birding, despite the challenging conditions when suddenly the blue sky disappeared and the dust came rolling in, all the way from Syria according to Satellite images and stayed this way for 3-days!

06 June 2012

To the Islands in the North

Week 20, 18 May 2012 - Boubyan and Warba Islands

We were fortunate to be able to visit Boubyan Island courtesy of the Kuwait Coastguard, to conduct a census on the birds that breed on this large island in the summer. What makes this fantastic, is that access to the island is restricted as it is a military area and in general the birds themselves appear to have no visible predators at this time of year. In general, attrition of young would be attributed to the harsh and overbearing summer temperatures.

After driving to the coastguard station, where we were made very welcome, we departed on the boat and headed in a northerly direction on a channel between the island and the mainland. A distant Osprey was observed sitting on a bouy, but more interestingly a lone Socotra Cormorant was also seen. I'm not aware of any records of this species this close to Iraq. It is known that there are two sub-populations, with the northern population breeding on the islands of the Gulf coasts of Bahrain, UAE, KSA and possibly Iran (but breeding has not been confirmed since 1972)

Socotra Cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis)
When we reached the bigger channel between Warba and Boubyan a few Lesser-crested Terns made an appearance

Lesser-crested Tern (Sterna bengalensis)
On route we did see a few areas where birds were breeding, but due to the tide we could not get close enough. Finally though, we found a mixed breeding colony and spent an hour enjoying the amazing spectacle of this mixed breeding colony and marvelled how these species shared the same stretch of beach in what seem harmony.

On the beach itself, almost all the Slender-billed Gulls had young and only a few were still sitting on eggs in between the sabkha. We estimated 2000+ birds in this area

Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei)

In amongst the mass of Slender-billed Gulls, we picked up a few Gull-billed Terns, also with young

Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)

A few Caspian Terns which also breed on the island were seen flying by overhead

Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)
Just off the beach the available sabkha habitat was shared by the larger Herons who all had raised nests built on top of the sabkha. There were a few Grey Heron with young

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

Slightly more Eurasian Spoonbills, also with young

Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)

But the majority were Indian Reef Herons of both forms....here some dark forms with dark young

Dark form Indian Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)

and some light forms with light young. We found it quite interesting to see an adult regurgitating food to its brood of 3 demanding chicks.

Pale form Indian Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)

and a light and dark form juvenile together

Dark and pale form Indian Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)
By now the temperatures had risen and we needed to move to get some relief from the heat, but not before checking the massive (2000+) Crab-plovers that didnt allow us to get too close. Only when editing my images, did I notice a juvenile Crab-plover in just one of the images - I'm guessing that other juveniles were still in their burrows which we also didnt see.
Crab-plover with juvenile (Dromas ardeola)

Crab-plover (Dromas ardeola)

We had hoped to see some Dolphin on this trip and were rewarded with a pair of Indo-pacific Humpback Dolphins on the way back to the Coastguard Station and a great sighting to end a rewarding day.

Pair of Indo-pacific Humpback Dolphins