04 November 2012

Birding with Ron Peterson

Week 43, 23 October 2012 - Al Abraq and Jahra Pools Reserve (Click on image to enlarge)

I had the pleasure of guiding Ron Peterson on his birthday, while he was here with his wife Jenny visiting their children in Kuwait. Ron is a talented wildlife artist who lives in the UK and didn't expect to see any birds on this visit. 
Fortunately, I managed to change that by taking Ron to 3 very different locations during the morning's birding.

After an early morning start, we headed west to the working oasis farm at Al Abraq where a few shooters tainted what would have been an even more enjoyable morning. Nevertheless, there were still good birds to show Ron.

A few Common Kestrels were found in a few locations around the farm.

Female Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) 
In some of the small fields where crops had been harvested, we found many White Wagtails which winter in Kuwait and these have now almost replaced the migrant Yellow Wagtails which have continued on their journey south. This particular bird had a yellowish tinge to it's white mask, possibly pollen from feeding?

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
Tree Pipits have also arrived and a few of these were foraging with the Wagtails or preening in the adjacent acacia trees.

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
I picked up an interesting small finch like bird in amongst the Wagtail flock that immediately reminded me of a non-breeding or female Whydah that I am familiar with in South Africa. With a lot of patience, we were able to get good views and finally decent photographs for later identification. Once back at home, I consulted The Helm Guide 'Birds of the Horn of Africa' and was able to  identify it as a female Exclamatory Paradise Whydah (Vidua interjecta) that parasites Red-winged Pytilia. It is common in Ethiopia and Sudan which are two of the countries that are closest to the Middle East. In all likely hood it is an escape, but it was fun to finally pin the identification.

Female Exclamatory Paradise Whydah (Vidua intefjecta)

As the morning warmed up, we picked up some Raptors in the form of a few Steppe Buzzards

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

I then had a challenge to get Ron good views of Red-breasted Flycatcher which was not as straight forward as it seems, but finally we did get onto a bird in some dense habitat

Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva)

Another bonus just before leaving were two Eurasian Crag Martins, a bird I have not seen for a few years in Kuwait and I was fortunate to get a record image.

Eurasian Crag Martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris)
From here we had a quick stop at SAANR and the tranquil pools at Tuhla where we found a single Spotted Flycatcher and two Common Redstarts, so we moved on to our final stop at Jahra Pools Reserve.

Fortunately there was still some water in the main pool, but all the others were now completely dried up. We had the usual suspects in the form of Moorhen, Little Grebe, Coot and a single Swamphen as well as a few winter plumage Black-necked Grebe's.

Winter plumage Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)

Driving around the reserve, we got crippling views of Blue-cheeked Bee-eater for Ron that would certainly look good on canvas.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)
Finally, before leaving a Greater Spotted Eagle came sailing gracefully overhead.

Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga)
It was certainly an enjoyable morning and one in which I could really show Ron what avian delights Kuwait has to offer, even in just a morning's outing and more importantly for Ron, how easy it was to get good views of many normally difficult birds to find in the UK.

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