30 November 2014

The Start of a Mega Week in Kuwait

Week 44, 01 November 2014 - Jahra Area

We had an early cold front that probably had some influence on the week that was to come, but it started with a flock of 7 juvenile Greater White-fronted Geese that were seen off the Jahra coast. As it transpired, ours must have been part of a much bigger flock that found their way to the western Arabian Gulf; as there were multiple reports of flocks of varying sizes from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and UAE.

This was the 3rd record for Kuwait which absolutely delighted the local birders and photographers and as they were 1st year birds, turned out to be very tolerant of people, which was to their detriment in the short term. Initially there were 7 birds and this increased to almost 30 by nightfall when they found their way to a roost site. I was among the lucky few who was able to enjoy these special Geese for a short time.

1st year Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)

A dedicated and committed photographer/birder with a tolerant and bemused Goose
Sadly, there is no happy ending to this 3rd record, as the small flock was decimated and killed by local shooters who trespassed into the area that they were roosting and obliterated them in one selfish and irresponsible act - depriving many others from enjoying what was a rare sighting of a very special species. Although the new environmental protection laws are supposedly in place, it wasn't evident on this occasion - but we live in hope that prosecutions will be forthcoming for the unmitigated and continuous killing of migratory birds in the future!

After enjoying the Geese, I spent a little more time in the Jahra area and found a roosting Steppe Eagle that was quite obliging and must have just been resting after an arduous flight. Quite spectacular to get so close to one of our bigger migrant raptors.

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)

Portrait of Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
A few other birds of interest were seen, a female Northern Pintail that was way more wary than the Geese

Female Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
A Little Egret 

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Followed by a White-tailed Lapwing

White-tailed Lapwing (Vanellus leucurus)
and a late Tree Pipit...

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
To follow on from what was the beginning of an epic 2-weeks in terms of rarities and vagrants we also had; 

3rd Greater White-fronted Goose (as in this post)
20th Dead Sea Sparrow
1st Hawfinch (new record for Kuwait and also part of a much larger eruption)
8th Sociable Lapwing
3rd Lesser Flamingo
12th Desert Finch
2nd Purple Sunbird

15 November 2014

Residents, migrants and visitors

Week 44, 31 October 2014 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

The weather did not play ball today, with wind and rising dust. Normal people stay indoors, but as birders we know that blowing dust gets the birds on the deck; so you have to be out and worry about valeting your car once the dust has settled, so to speak.

I started at some reed habitat just as the late autumn sun was rising, where I found a 1st year Long-legged Buzzard that had roosted overnight

1st year Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus)

A few Common Chiffchaff's were feeding along the perimeter and there were at least two sub-species

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita abietinus)

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) - this could be fulvescens or menzbieri
A territorial Eurasian Reed Warbler made a brief appearance toward the intruders. This is the furtherest south that I have seen this species. No light and dark reeds; so I had to push the ISO

Eurasian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
A 1st year Red-spotted Bluethroat darted out and disappeared; I sat quietly for 5-minutes and it popped out again.

1st year Red-spotted Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)

A Daurian Shrike as atop some reeds enjoying the early morning rays.

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
I inadvertently flushed a Squacco Heron who then proceeded to hunt stealthily along the edge of the surface water

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)

A couple of White Wagtails dropped in and their numbers will increase over the winter

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
A female Desert Wheatear made a brief appearance

Female Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)
Inside the project, a few other species were seen; 1cy Pied Wheatear

1cy Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

and an Asian Desert Warbler, that stayed in the vicinity of the Pied

Asian Desert Warbler (Sylvia nana)
A female Mallard which was quite unexpected, this from the same habitat where I had seen a Garganey last month

Female Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
A brief excursion off shore had a few wintering gulls; this Steppe Gull was feeding on a dead Cuttlefish and it was a challenge in the big swells to stay on the bird

Steppe Gull (Larus f. barabensis)

Surprisingly a single Lesser Crested Tern was present on the buoy

Lesser Crested Tern (Sterna bengalensis)
As were 6 Socotra Cormorants that may over-winter as did a few last year

1st year Socotra Cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis)
Slender-billed Gulls are also more prevalent in the south than Common Black-headed Gulls

Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei)
Finally, I explored around Khiran village, finding Mauryan Grey Shrike on the telephone pole

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)
and a distant Red-backed Shrike

1st year Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
In the desert area there were a number of Tawny Pipits

Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)
and a single Greater Short-toed Lark

Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla)
A few more Wheatear species were seen; here a female Pied Wheatear

Female Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
Another female and much darker Pied Wheatear

Female Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
as well as a good looking male Eastern Mourning Wheatear

Male Eastern Mourning Wheatear (Oenanthe lugens)
This rounded off a pretty productive morning's birding, despite the less than ideal weather which shouldn't keep you indoors!

I've still got the Blues

Week 42, 18 October 2014 - Green Island

We appeared to have a lull in migrants, so I went in search of butterflies, specifically the 'Blue's'

Green Island is a man-made island that juts into the Gulf and has some mature habitat that attracts both birds and butterflies.

After paying my KD 1/- at the gate I was alerted by some agitated alarm calls and found around 3 or 4 Lesser Whitethroat's in one of the bigger trees.

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)
It took some time, but they eventually did flush out the culprit, a 1st year Daurian Shrike that had caught an insect. With all the noise they were making, I thought it had reduced the Lesser Whitethroat population by 1.

1st year Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
Right, onto the butterflies. Late last year I discovered a new species for Kuwait in the south of the country; Western Pygmy Blue. Since then, wherever I have gone I have checked all the 'Blue's' to see if they occur elsewhere in the country - without success. That is, until today. At Green Island, I discovered a second 'isolated' population of this tiny butterflies which is pretty exciting news.

Western Pygmy Blue (Brephidium exilis)

Whilst creeping about, I also found another 'Blue' that I hadn't seen before and thanks again to Torben Larson for confirming the identity as Dark Grass Blue

Dark Grass Blue (Zizeeria karsandra)

So, a successful trip, but I am still looking for another Blue that may or may not occur in Kuwait, but will have to wait to Spring for the habitat to be in bloom

The Bird's and the Bee's

Week 41, 09 October 2014 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

I was down in the south for what turned out to be a quiet morning's birding, despite an encouraging start.

I made a stop at some reed habitat on route and was rewarded with a 1st year Little Crake, that had me going initially - but the long primaries and ever so slight hint of red at the base of the bill clinched the id.

Juvenile Little Crake (Porzana parva)

There weren't many migrants about, a single Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
along with a female Red-backed Shrike

Female Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
and a few Mauryan Grey Shrikes

A wary Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)
When I'm birding, I also keep an eye out for other insects; here a Darter sp.

Darter sp.
I think the Clouded Yellow's picked their migration time perfectly as most of the vociferous insect eaters have already departed. Here a male and female

Female Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus)

Male Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus)
The Mediterranean Pierrot is one of the small 'Blue's' and has a uniquely patterned underwing

Female Mediterranean Pierrot (Tarucus rosacea)

Male Mediterranean Pierrot (Tarucus rosacea)