24 November 2013

What a Week!

Week 47, 20 November 2013 - Al Abraq and Jahra

As mentioned in the previous post, Kuwait and pretty much most of the Middle East had a low pressure system that brought heavy and intense downpours in a very short time causing floods and damage to many areas.

On the 16th, the 10th Eversmann's Redstart (a mouth-watering WP species and very tempting for a number of listers who have yet to add this scarce bird to their lists) and 1st Goldcrest for Kuwait were found at the western oasis farm of Al Abraq. Many birders made the trip out to the farm, but were unsuccessful in their attempts to relocate the birds and after that the rain came again.

To add to an already fantastic week, the 2nd Striolated Bunting was recorded in one of the oil fields in the south of Kuwait.

On the 20th, there appeared to be a break in the weather, so I decided to head out to the farm picking up Markus Craig and Bouke Atema on the way. We were at the farm very early, so early in fact that the gate was still locked - a bit of a heart stopping moment. Fortunately a farm hand came to open the gate and we were in. As often happens at this farm, birding is very quiet early in the morning and birds appear as it starts to warm up.

We walked the farm and at one stage split up, with Markus and I exploring one area where we located the Goldcrest in a feeding party of Common Chiffchaffs - just brief views were afforded before it disappeared in the canopy. 

We checked another area and found a unexpected juvenile Common Cuckoo that we initially thought was a small accipiter (as it isn't supposed to be here at this time of the year)

Juvenile Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)
A female Ménétriés’s Warbler was also unexpected

Female Ménétriés’s Warbler (Sylvia mystacea)
Bouke then came back and said he had seen and photographed a very obliging bird which he was not familiar with. Looking at the image on the back of his camera, I immediately saw that it was the Eversmann's - I thought Markus was going to have a mild heart attack, as this was one of his most wanted WP birds. Bouke took us back to the spot and there it still was - we were able to get pretty close and soaked up this magnificent male bird for the next hour as it interspersed between foraging on the ground and sitting inside one of the acacia trees. No excuses for the multiple images below.......

Male Eversmann's Redstart (Phoenicurus erythronotus)

We then got on our phones to call the birders who had missed the bird(s) on the 16th and 17th. In the meantime, we went back to the area where we had seen the Goldcrest together with Abdulrahman to search again - whilst searching Abdulrahman found a Yellow-browed Warbler. Just then, we caught a glimpse of a small bird in the canopy and lo and behold the male Goldcrest was back. Movement in the adjacent tree revealed a 2nd Goldcrest (perhaps a juvenile or a female?) - how much better can it get. This time I was able to squeeze off a few images against the light and in the darkness of a grove of tree's. We suspect this is the eastern race coatsi, the male of this race does not have the orange on the back of the crest according to Birds of Central Asia.

By now a good number of other birders had arrived, so we pointed them to where the birds were last seen.

Male Goldcrest (Regulus regulus coatsi)

We had 3 species of Redstart today, including this Western Black Redstart

Western Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)
By now we had 'sucked' Abraq dry, so headed off to Jahra area, stopping in at Jahra Farms. Not too many birds, but a 'trapper' who was catching Hypocolius flushed a few Thrushes from a tree.

Trapped Hypocolius for the market or a meal?
Tracking the bigger bird, I saw it had a dark head - the first Black-throated Thrush of this and last winter (last year was very poor for Thrushes). It landed close to Markus and I was only able to get one image that only RAW and Photoshop could save.

Black-throated Thrush (Turdus atrogularis)
It flew off again and I tracked it with my 1DM4 and was impressed when the AI Servo focus held on the bird as it flew behind a palm tree - truly impressive - so the images below are included to show this amazing technology..

Black-throated Thrush, BIF tracking with the superb 1DM4

Behind the palm and still in focus

Out from behind the palm and tracking continues (as long as you keep the focus point on the bird - not always easy)

Just before leaving, I flushed Pipit landed in a Date Palm. There was a suggestion that this could be Olive-backed, but further investigation and opinions from others have suggested that this is rather the eastern race of Tree Pipit, harringtoni. Key features include heavy, almost blotch streaking, head pattern, heavy mantle streaks and distinct pale fringes to the tertials.

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis harringtoni)

All in all, a day to really remember

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