20 May 2013

Migration fading, but breeding continues

Week 20, 18 May 2013 - Jahra Pools and Farm (Click to enlarge image)

David White and I spent a morning birding the Jahra area. Summer is on it's way and we now need to get up a lot earlier for good early morning light.

Passerine migrants were very thin on the ground today, with the majority now having passed through. There are still small numbers of waders present like; Little Stint, Curlew and Wood Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover and the odd Ruff.

There are still signs of breeding with an adult Black-winged Stilt still sitting on her nest, but also with this juvenile Black-winged Stilt seen.

Juvenile Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
However, the most exciting find was that of another batch of Ferruginous Duck ducklings when we discovered this female with 9 ducklings in close company which constitutes the 2nd breeding record of this species this year at JPR. It suggests that there are either 2 pairs present or the female of the first batch laid a second batch of eggs. The first batch of 4 ducklings are still present, but are bigger and pretty independent. These are record images as they were taken against strong backlight

2nd breeding record of Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca) for this Spring

The reed beds have numbers of Graceful Prinia's - so this population seems to be doing very well. 5-years back their numbers had dwindled after a particularly cold winter, so encouraging to see so many again.

Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis)
I have now seen Namaqua Dove on a few occasions in the reserve the past few weeks, but this is the first male

Male Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis)
Exploring the area with Caserina trees there were also some bushes with red berries that many species were feeding on, including a cracking adult Rosy Starling earlier in the week. We found 3 Eurasian Golden Orioles - although they were skittish and did not allow close approach (for us anyway)

Female Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus)
We were very excited to find 2 Hypocolius, one was very brown suggesting a juvenile. Only later did I discover that a raid was conducted at the Friday Bird Market last week and many birds (Bank Myna's, White-eared Bulbuls and Hypocolius amongst others) were confiscated (which is great news). After the birds were assessed, most were released back into the wild at JPR and these 2 Hypocolius were amongst the freed birds.

Recently released male Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus)

There were also numbers of White-eared Bulbuls in and around the reeds slowly adapting to their freedom.

Recently released White-eared Bulbuls (Pycnonotus l. leucotis)
We moved on to Jahra Farm, but it was already very warm but did have a few European Bee-eaters

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)
and this male Common Stonechat with 3 rather large ticks on it's head - which must be very uncomfortable and irritating.

Male Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) with a few ticks
With most migrants now departed, we will continue to check for breeding birds that are still in their breeding cycle.

14 May 2013

Mission accomplished

Week 20, 13 May 2013 - Entertainment City and JPR (Click to enlarge image)

I was on a mission today to find and photograph two species. The first eluded me last week, yes I know it is only a Cat E species, but I still needed it for my Kuwait list (after 7-years).

We awoke to a morning of haze/dust so I didnt expect to have a productive morning, nevertheless I headed off to the new area near Entertainment City in search of Indian Silverbill. No luck with the first sweep of the area, so I was content to photograph of few of the remaining passerine migrants, as most have already moved on. Sitting quietly at a small pool of water I had Red-throated Pipit

Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus)
Tree Pipit

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
A few Skyke's Wagtails

Sykes Wagtail (Motacilla f. beema)
and Whinchat

Female Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
I had just started my 2nd loop when a flash of movement caught my eye under an Acacia type tree; sitting very still was this agamid. Thanks to all who provided a consistent opinion on the ID of this Agama.

Blue-throated Agama (Agama blandfordi)

Carrying on with the drive, I spotted a small bird sitting on a fence and from the profile knew it was the Silverbill. Unfortunately it disappeared soon after I got my bins on it. So, they were somewhere in the vicinity; time to get out the car and explore more slowly and carefully. I was alerted by their call and found a small flock of 10 feeding on a patch of grass with seed-heads and managed to get relatively close to them whilst they were feeding.The habitat is more than favourable for breeding, so now that we know where they are we can monitor to see if the flock slowly grows in size. They really do have quite large bills for their diminutive size

Indian Silverbills (Lonchura malabarica)

Massive bill on this diminutive seed-eater
First objective achieved, time to move to Jahra Pools where Eurasian Coot had been seen with young a few days back. According to Gregory 'Birds of the State of Kuwait' there is only 1 confirmed breeding record from JPR in 1996, so this is the second record for JPR and the birds and young were first seen and photographed on 09 May 2013.

The first loop of the reserve showed that wader numbers are reducing, although the Red-necked Phalarope flock seems to be growing with 81 birds seen today. A few Red-backed Shrikes still remain, but only a handful were seen compared to the big numbers over a week ago

Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
The Black-winged Stilt is still sitting tight on eggs

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) on eggs
and another batch of 2 Kentish Plovers chicks were seen on the edge of one pool

Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) chick
Finally I got distant views of a Eurasian Coot pair with 4 chicks, but in a different pool to the parents seen earlier this week. Checking another pool, I finally found the original pair with their 4 chicks - so two pairs with 4 chicks each (so far!) I must say, the chicks have a face that only a mother could love - but still an exciting record for Jahra Pools Reserve

Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) with chicks, 2nd confirmed breeding record for JPR

Mission accomplished!

12 May 2013

Off-shore at Sea City and Zour

Week 19, 09 May 2013 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City and Mina Al Zour (Click to enlarge image)

The weather had stabilised and improved by the end of last week, so I was able to get off-shore from Sea City without getting wet and my kit sprayed.

The Bridled Terns seen last week were still present this week on the off-shore buoys and this pair was also seen mating in preparation for the coming breeding season on the off-shore islands.

Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus)

Mating pair of Bridle Terns (Onychoprion anaethetus)

Two Socotra Cormorants were also in the vicinity of the buoys but were initially roosting on the sea

Socotra Cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis)
We traveled north up the coast to Mina Al Zour and found Lesser Crested, White-cheeked and a few more Bridled Terns roosting on buoys much further out to sea. There was a mixture of ages in both species with some adults already in their breeding plumage, some younger birds and others in moult.

The Lesser Crested are the cool kids on the block, sorry buoy

Lesser Crested Tern (Sterna bengalensis)

Whilst the White-cheeked are more elegant and sophisticated

White-cheeked Tern (Sterna bengalensis)

Suddenly there was a lot of activity in the sea and the Terns all took off in the same direction - we saw the surface water boiling as some predator fish hammered a school of smaller fish. This activity generally doesn't last long and when we got there only the Bridled Terns remained, as the bait ball had gone deep and moved off - only to re-appear about 100m further a little later.

Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus) over the feeding frenzy

You can just see the predator and prey fish below and to the left of the Tern
During this opportunistic feeding frenzy a flock of 13 Socotra Cormorants flew in out of nowhere, certainly the biggest single flock I have ever seen in Kuwait. The joined in the fray, but were also just too late

The flock of 13 Socotra Cormorants (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis)

Once back on dry land, I found a Sedge Warbler in some suitable habitat, a species I had not seen in Sea City on previous visits.

Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)

Exploring a new area

Week 19, 07 May 2013 - Doha Area and JPR (Click to enlarge image)

One of the KEPS Members had told me about an area near Entertainment City where he had found Indian Silverbill. I have seen this species many times around the Gulf, but it has eluded me in Kuwait.

I spent about 90-minutes in the area which has some good habitat in a fenced area that is currently not accessible, but is probably where the Silverbills are more likely to be found. No luck with the Silverbills, but with time I should find them, however a pair of Yellow-throated Sparrows was reward enough for the time spent.

Yellow-throated Sparrow (Gymnoris xanthocollis)
I then moved to Jahra Pools (although mid-morning light was not ideal for photography) and saw that many of the Curlew Sandpipers are now sporting their brick-red breeding plumage

Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) in breeding plumage

There was only one Dunlin present, but I was able to get a record image of it together with a Curlew Sandpiper for comparative purposes

Comparative image of Curlew Sanpiper (Calidris ferruginea) and Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

There were still good numbers of Red-necked Phalarope in one of the main pools, this one taking a break from spinning around

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
In previous visits I had only seen male Little Bitterns so it was good to see a female this visit. With the favourable and stable water conditions at JPR through the winter and spring, there is a good chance that this species may be breeding in the dense reed beds.

Female Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)

Cook hair!
Numbers of White-winged Tern were present today, some roosting on the sand bank and others feeding over the pools

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)
A single Daurian Shrike was unexpected as most have already moved on..

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
Spotted Fly's are now relatively easily seen in suitable habitat

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
Hey Dad!

Western Cattle Egret (Ardea alba)