18 February 2015

A Red-breasted Valentine's gift

Week 07, 14 February 2015 - Jahra Pools Reserve

Markus Craig had found the 2nd Red-breasted Merganser on 11th February while most of us were at work, a mega bird for most of us Kuwait birders. However, it disappeared later that the same day, so in our minds it was a 1-day bird.

On the afternoon of the 14th, we got news from Omar Al Shaheen that it was back at the same site and this time it was the weekend! I was busy with homework revision with my son, but once I had finished was given the green light to get to the pools. Once I reached the site, I hooked up with Omar and through his scope he put me onto the bird - a really long way out, paddling with a group of 11 Great Crested Grebes. But still, unmistakable! I tried a few futile record shots - the bird was literally a speck within the center focus point of my viewfinder, sitting in a sea that merged with the sky. I enjoyed it as best as I could as it slowly glided further away.

Spot the Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) - the 2nd for Kuwait

In the distance the big 'murder' of Starlings seen earlier this year was again wheeling and turning through the sky creating some crazy shapes as they tried to agree where to roost for the night

A 'murder' of Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris )
I then had to rush back home for Valentine's dinner with my wife. On the way out, my first Pied Wheatear of the spring

Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
and a pair of Eurasian Wigeon in the dying light

Cracking male Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)

Female Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)

A light sniff of Spring

Week 06, 07 February 2015 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

It was back down to the south of the country to the Sea City project. With temperatures becoming more bearable in the early morning, you get the sense and feeling that spring is around the corner.

At the reed patch, I found a solitary and motionless Common Snipe, that is until I took the first image and it exploded in a blur of wings and feathers and flew off

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
Indian Reed Warbler was my first sighting in the south, 

Indian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus s. brunnescens)

it came out of the depths of the reeds to chase away two Common Chiffchaff that must have been foraging in it's territory

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
A male Desert Wheatear flew in from somewhere in the desert and alighted on this stick for a short moment.

Male Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)
A little later a Grey Heron passed by overhead

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
The rest of the day again proved to be quite deficient on species diversity, although I did pick up the first Woodchat and Mauryan Grey Shrike of the spring. The balance of birds were all Wheatears; here an Isabelline Wheatear in fine spring plumage - in fact it's 'dark' upperparts and loral line seemingly passing through the eye had me second guessing myself

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina) in Spring plumage

The rest of the Wheatear's seen were all Desert

Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)

As always, when birds are thin on the ground, you look for other creatures of interest - Darkling Beetles were seen in a few areas

Darkling Beetle
The number of Dragonflies seen was astounding - predominantly all Vagrant Emperors (I think) - the Bee-eaters are in for a feast when they arrive in the next few weeks. I managed a few DIF (Dragonflies in Flight) 

Vagrant Emperor (Hemianax ephippiger)
as well as a few static poses

Male Vagrant Emperor (Hemianax ephippiger)

17 February 2015

Piracy in the south

Week 04, 24 January 2105 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

After my customary breakfast stop, I spent some time at the patch of phragmite reeds on the way to Sea City. This time there were some Spanish Sparrow roosting together with the House Sparrows

Male Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis)
Common Chiffchaff numbers have started to reduce, certainly in the south

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
With some patience, I finally had the elusive Common Moorhen come out from the base of the reeds to feed before it disappeared back into the depths and safety. Bear in mind this is a public area, so is prone to shooters stopping by frequently

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
A male Desert Wheatear put in a brief appearance before heading back into the desert

Male Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)
Once out on the boat, we headed a little north up the coast to Mina Al Zour finding a few distant Great Black-headed Gulls (finally, these were my first of the winter). 
Great Black-headed Gull (Leucophaeus ichthyaetus)
Of interest there were a fair number of Sandwich and Lesser Crested Terns actively feeding off-shore. One of the Lesser Crested was suddenly attacked by an Arctic Skua that came out of nowhere, forcing it to disgorge it's catch. The Skua spiraled down to the sea and landed - allowing us to get a little closer in the boat before it took to the sky again. My best view of this bird so far!

Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus)

Many large white-headed Gulls were also present, hopefully I have them all the pegged; first up Caspian Gulls

Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)

Then Heuglin's

Heuglin's Gull (Larus f. heuglini)

and finally Steppe

Steppe Gull (Larus f. barabensis)

Back on land, I explored the area south of Khiran, finding a distant Red-tailed Wheatear

Red-tailed Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia)
and an Eastern Mourning Wheatear

Eastern Mourning Wheatear (Oenanthe lugens)
And a Isabelline Wheatear

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)
As well as a roost of mixed shorebirds

Dunlin (Calidris alpina) and Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius atrifrons)
Asian Desert Warbler's are still plentiful

Asian Desert Warbler (Sylvia nana)
As are Painted Lady butterflies - here a bee and butterfly together

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
There is a feel of spring in the air despite the lack of winter rain, as the Desert Blue Iris are all starting to flower

Desert Blue Iris (Gynandriris sisyrinchium)
and Cistanche lutea seem to be sprouting up everywhere.

Cistanche lutea