25 September 2012

Not about birds

Week 38, 21 September 2012 - Kubbar Island (Click to enlarge image)

On the weekend we had the opportunity for an afternoon at Kubbar Island with our good friends George and Michelle Lambross and our boys.

The wind had abated the day before, so weather conditions were near perfect departing from Marina Crescent. As always, we kept an eye out for birds on route with the odd Lesser Crested Tern and a few large White-headed Gulls seen.

However, the highlight of the trip was coming across a pod of between 20 - 25 Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins (a first for me in Kuwait), halfway to Kubbar. We stopped the boat and enjoyed their company as the swam around the boat for almost 20-minutes.

From Wikipedia it states that up until 1998, all Bottlenose Dolpins were considered members of the single species T.truncatus. In that year, the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) was recognised as a separate species. T. aduncus is generally smaller than T.truncatus, has a propotionally longer rostrum and has spots on its belly and lower sides (whch we didnt see).

Here are a selection of images from this enjoyable encounter.

Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops aduncus)

After a relaxing afternoon snorkelling and relaxing at Kubbar, we enjoyed the tranquil sunset on the return to Marina Crescent
Sunset over Salmiya


24 September 2012

Raptor Watch Cont...

Week 38, 19 September 2012 - Khuwaisat and SAANR (Click to enlarge image)

This morning I was able to get to the roost site earlier than 2-days back. Although numbers were down, most of the Raptors had roosted in the trees on the farm in Khuwaisat and not many were seen on the desert.

Just before the farm, I found an obliging Short-toed Eagle with it's characteristic large yellow eyes and round head sitting on a telephone line.

Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)
By now the roost had taken off and were starting to thermal, as with previous days the majority were Steppe Buzzards

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

But I picked up a bigger and darker bird amongst the flock which was a sub-adult or 1cy Egyptian Vulture, one of four that were seen this morning

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)

As the flock(s) dispersed after thermaling updward, I again headed to SAANR, picking up a single Steppe Eagle on the way.

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
At Tuhla inside the reserve, there were no raptors, But a patient wait produced a few Steppe Buzzards, one a dark morph adult that looks very different to all the other variants.

Dark morph adult Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

A Pallid Harrier put in a brief appearance
Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)

But a large Steppe Eagle gliding low overhead put up most of the birds - it really is intimidating close-up.

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
Whilst waiting for more raptors to appear (which they didnt), a Yellow Wagtail posed for a picture.
Sykes Wagtail (Motacilla f. beema)

23 September 2012

Raptor Watch - Cont.

Week 38, 17 September 2012 - Khuwaisat and SAANR (Click to enlarge image)

On the weekend (14/09) we had strong winds and dust from the NW and this brought in really big numbers of Raptors. Birders who were able to get out early in the week reported in excess of 2,000 Raptors, made up mostly of Steppe Buzzards in a variety of plumage variations, but also many Honey Buzzards and a few Crested Honey Buzzards.

I was able to get out early one day in the week to finally witness this amazing spectacle for myself as the birds departed from their overnight roost and started thermalling in small kettles, slowly disappearing from site.

A few images of some of the Steppe Buzzards follow....

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus) migration

A lone 1cy Black Kite stood out from the thermalling flock

1cy Black Kite (Milvus migrans)
Once the majority had moved off, I went off to SAANR - just after the ridge, I came across a Steppe Eagle patiently watching a Marsh Harrier devour the remains of a Spiny-tailed Lizard.

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) with Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
Once I got to Tuhla, I joined many of the other birders patiently waiting for birds to stop over for a drink before continuing on their migration. Again, most were Steppe Buzzards.

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

Just after I left, Khaled Al Nasrallah called me to say a juvenile Honey Buzzard had stopped for a drink, so I finally ticked this species on my Kuwait list, but was unable to get an image. On the way back to the main gate, a pale phase Booted Eagle came by quite low on its way to Tuhla

Pale phase Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata)

13 September 2012

Raptor Watch

Week 36, 6, 7 and 8th September 2012 - Jahra Pools Reserve (Click to enlarge image)

Earlier in the week a few kettles (40 and then 20 birds) of European Honey Buzzards were seen migrating through SAANR and JPR. So,  I spent a few hours on each day at JPR with a few of the other local birders hoping for ideal conditions and to see the passing raptors.

Session # 1

Wind was pretty strong today and so minimised the chance of Raptors stopping for a drink and they didn't. We had to contend with watching some of the waders like; Little Stint

Little Stint (Calidris minuta) 
quite a few juvenile birds were seen, namely Dunlin

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
Curlew Sandpiper

Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)
and Common Ringed Plover

Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
Also seen were a number of Little Egrets in the various ponds

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
And the flock of Garganey that had survived some of the shooting

Garganey (Anas querquedula)

Session # 2

I again returned to JPR for a few hours from 7:30 - 10am and again the winds were not as favourable as they should be. In terms of raptors, only the Marsh Harrier was seen harassing birds as it flew low over the reeds. More of the same species seen yesterday in terms of waders, but some more exciting species too like a Common Greenshank (that I hadn't seen at JPR yet)

Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
Alongside a Marsh Sandpiper for comparison

Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis) 
A Common Snipe was quite obliging as it stood quietly in some shelter

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
However, more exciting was a distant single Broad-billed Sandpiper (which I had seen the week before, but there were no photo opportunities)

Broad-billed Sandpiper (Limicola falcinellus)
In and around the reeds I found a pair of Great Reed Warblers

Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
and a skulking Little Crake

Little Crake (Porzana parva) 
Garganey were still present on some pools

Garganey (Anas querquedula)
And in a flying flock, a Northern Shoveller was also seen

Garganey and the much bigger Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Whilst talking with Khaled Alghanem a flock of 19 Black-crowned Night Herons flushed from a big clump of reeds in one of the main pools - more 1cy year birds than adults - photo's were difficult against the light

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
Along roads I had Isabelline Wheatear

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)
and my first Pied Wheatear for this autumn

Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
Who said you cant shoot 'macro' with a 600mm?

Dragonfly (not sure which species?)
But what I enjoyed the most was a pair of Little Grebes feeding their 4 young chicks on worms they were diving for an plucking off the base of reeds - it was quite a special occasion watching the parents tend to the hunger needs of their brood - I hope you enjoy the images..

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) chicks

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) adult feeding chick

Session # 3
This time the weather appeared perfect and Gill and Jaden joined me for a enjoyable morning at JPR, again with many of the local birders (Khaled, Mohammad, Mahmoud, Aziz). While waiting for the ideal time (8:30 - 10) we explored the reserve with me showing my wife and son some of the more common species. I had let me son Jaden use my 50D and 400mm and he got good images of Common Snipe

Common Snipe ( (Gallinago gallinago) by Jaden
and later a creative image of a Common Moorhen

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
Most of the common waders were still present and I photographed Dunlin in an interesting 'pose'

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
A Ruff

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
And a wounded Terek Sandpiper, also not a common species in this reserve - but obviously with all the water conditions are attracting many more species than usual.

Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus)
I also got an image of the Common Snipe to show the difference between 400 and 600mm

Common Snipe ( (Gallinago gallinago)
Again the Little Grebes were seen close by feeding their chicks

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

In terms of raptors today there were two Western Marsh Harriers

Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

and we did see a few others namely; Egyptian Vulture, Long-legged Buzzard, Montague Harrier, Steppe Eagle, but all were too distant for photographs. A Western Osprey came over the hide and finally landed in a distant pool. Gill and I drove around the reserve to the pool and found it drinking. We approached slowly and since the Osprey was on Gill's side I passed her the hefty Beast (600mm) and she managed to photograph from a distance the bird in the water. When it finally flew, Gill was able to track and get off a few fantastic images as it flew toward us. 

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) by Gill

I then turned the car around to go back to the hide only to have the bird fly by on my side, so I too managed to squeeze off volley at 10fps. These actually turned out to be the best images I have of Osprey so far, so we were both very pleased.

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) by Mike
In the same pool, many White-winged Terns were seen hawking and feeding off the water

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)
No other raptors were seen from the hide, but a tatty Blue-cheeked Bee-eater came in to perch on the old tree in the pool.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)

We then called it a morning, said our goodbyes and photographed this Black-tailed Godwit on the way to the gate

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)