27 August 2015

Return to Mutla'a

Week 34, 22 August 2015 - Mutla'a Ranch

Neil Tovey and I decided to return to Mutla'a at first light to see if the Sooty was still present, as it seemed to have disappeared late yesterday afternoon.

Hamad was also there and neither of us had any luck relocating the bird, so it was possibly a one-day bird.

We walked the farm, finding a female Whinchat

Female Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
Followed by a female Northern Wheatear

Female Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
Neil found a Grasshopper Warbler, but as we know these Locustella are notoriously difficult to find once they drop down to the floor. Whilst searching for it, I found a Garden Warbler

Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin)
This Warbler gave us the run around as it was behaving quite unlike the species we thought it was. In the end, it did turn out to be the species we thought it was - Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, even though the super is broader than it should normally be...

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida)
A Clouded Yellow, was a new addition to the butterfly list for this autumn.

Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus)
A quick detour around Jahra Pools on the way home, the White Storks were still present, but not much else.

More importantly, I have finally caught up my backlog and I hope not to get so far behind again - as it has taken a lot longer than I had anticipated to get up to date! 

Another Rarity!

Week 34, 21 August 2015 - Jahra East, Mutla'a Ranch and Jahra Pools

Markus Craig and I had an early start with Neil not joining us this morning. It was around this time last year that Paddyfield Warbler was found at JEO, so that's we were headed and arrived before sun-up.

There was already a car present, which turned out to be shooters. When they returned they didn't stay long and covered their number plates when they left - they must be aware of the new Environmental Law that is now in place, which is fantastic news.

At this time of year, the Warblers are a real challenge, as a number of species will have bred in the summer, so you have a mix of juveniles, adults and possibly a few new arrivals. Peter Kennerley has kindly given his opinion on a number of birds that challenged us!

We started off confidently with an obliging Savi's Warbler

Savi's Warbler (Locustella luscinioides)

An easy Woodchat and Lesser Grey Shrike, our firsts for the autumn

Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor)
There were a few Common Whitethroat also in the reeds

Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)
Then a number of adult Basra Reed Warbler told by having quite cold plumage and, importantly, it is quite heavily abraded, especially the tail and primary tips that appear to lack the white tips (thanks to Peter Kennerley for the detail)

Adult Basra Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus griseldis)

A Great Reed Warbler appeared low down in the reeds to come and drink - look at how the available light (or lack of sunlight) changes the colours!

Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus )
Here an Indian Reed Warbler catching the early sun, for comparison

Indian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus s. brunnescens)
But when it came to the smaller Caspian/European Reed Warblers - they posed the biggest challenge - thanks Peter for your input on these.

"Without seeing the upperparts it is difficult to be certain whether this is scirpaceus or fuscus. The fresh plumage confirms this to be a young bird but fuscus Reed Warbler actually has warm and cold morphs, the appearance of the warmer morph is very similar to scirpaceus Reed – warm morph fuscus (which breeds at the west of the range from central Turkey to some point to the east, probably reaches the west shore of the Caspian Sea) and is separable from scirpaceus Reed Warbler only biometrics, in particular wing length. It also has the later wing moult strategy of greyer/typical fuscus Reed and adults show whitish primary tips in spring.On this bird these features are hidden but wouldn’t apply to a young bird, so it could be either race."

Caspian/European Reed Warbler?

The colder tones suggest these are Caspian Reed Warblers; 

Caspian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus s. fuscus)

According to Peter, this Warbler may be of interest. "this is a much warmer, juvenile Reed Warbler, probably not long out of the nest as it appears rather short tailed. Warm tones are typical of scirpaceus Reed in Europe but I’m not sure whether this applies to fuscus. However, the the Arabian Peninsula a small Reed Warbler breeds. It is currently treated as fuscus but it is smaller than scirpaceus so cannot be fuscus. Your bird may belong to this population which has yet to be named."

A Warbler of interest.....
The Warblers are active for around an hour after sunrise and then slowly disappear back into the reeds, which is when we decided to head to Mutla'a Ranch.

As we were about to leave, a Black-winged Kite flew by overhead and down toward the sea - this was one that Markus was very happy to tick!

We first drove around the Ranch, finding Isabelline and Northern Wheatear which has now arrived together with Whinchat and a 1st year Red-spotted Bluethroat.

Red-spotted Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)
We got to the Alfalfa Field on the boundary of the farm and decided to walk. I went up the middle and Markus along the edge. I suddenly noticed a Falcon perched on a branch and silhouetted against the bright sky behind. At first look it was very dark with mottled underparts but with a distinctive yellow eye-ring, I grabbed a quick record shot and simultaneously called Markus, who was walking literally toward it and got him to join me in the middle of the field - a 2nd cal year Sooty Falcon and the 12th for Kuwait! We put out the news immediately, as this was a 'want' bird for many, including Neil who was out of his apartment in a flash - but not quite as fast as Ammar! It was at that point that the bird flew off, but not thermal upwards. As the fields were being watered, we knew it was waiting to come down to drink at some point, so we moved away and after around 30-40 minutes it returned and did land to drink. At this point, many had already arrived and were fortunate to get good views of this smart Falcon

2nd year Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor) and 12th for Kuwait

We decided to head back, stopping at Jahra Pools to tick White Stork for Markus. At one pool, we thought we had a roosting Black Tern, but later was confirmed to be White-winged after in-flight pictures were seen

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)
However, a distant Spotted Redshank was also a good bird to the days pretty quality list 

Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
There were a few satisfied birders by the end of today

26 August 2015

A new addition to the south

Week 33, 15 August 2015 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

I was hopeful that this visit would be a little more productive than last month; it was, but not by much more.

A Whiskered Tern when I stopped at the reed habitat. Some surface water was drying out, leaving the stranded fish easy picking for this marsh tern (although a decent marsh was very far from where we were)

Hunting Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)

You need to eat a lot of these to bulk up!

The resident Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard gave me the beady eye I as I drove past.

Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard (Uromastyx aegyptia microlepis)
A small family of Namaqua Dove were feeding on the side of the road on the way to the Marina

Male Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis)
Once out on the boat, we conducted a transect from Khiran to Mina Al Zour finding large numbers of Lesser Crested Tern

Lesser Crested Tern (Sterna bengalensis) - post breeding dispersal
As well as fair numbers of Socotra Cormorant, including a few adult birds which are not as common as the first year birds.

Adult Socotra Cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis)
Before returning to the Marina, I found a flock of 14 Steppe Gulls, which are winter visitors to Kuwait - but these have arrived somewhat earlier

Steppe Gull (Larus f. barabensis)
Coming in to the Marina, a couple of Eurasian Whimbrel were seen on the lagoon beaches

Eurasian Whimbrel (Numenius p. phaeopus)
In another trench, I found a small flock of Black-winged Stilts

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
In the coastal zone, there was not much around apart from a few Kentish Plovers and Western Reef Herons 

Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)
I did find two Godwit's, initially I though a Bar-tailed and Black-tailed due to the size difference and bill length and shape - but when they flew, it turned out that both were Bar-tailed. The only relevant explanation I could find on-line was that female birds are sometimes bigger than males?

Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) - note the size difference
Learn something everyday!

Cold blood on hot sand

Week 33, 14 August 2015 - Al Abraq

As a few migrants have been arriving in Kuwait, we (Neil, Markus and I) thought it a good idea to head out west and see what the Al Abraq farm had on offer.

This time of year, an early start is best to get to the farm at first light and as always we wander how many shooters will be around. This time only one car, but after a few words with them, they did finally move off (as they were also trespassing!). Unfortunately, the birds had been spooked by these shooters, so we had a tough time getting close to birds.

There were a few migrants about, but getting photographs was a challenge - it was just one of those days, so I used my bins more than my camera, so I guess I was birding! There were a number of Warblers in the Alfalfa fields which flushed occasionally into the adjacent tree's. I was able to get an image of one, but from the angle, not straight forward to ID - but probably a Marsh Warbler 

Probable Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris)
There was also a Yellow-throated Sparrow and it was always behind some cover - this is a poor record shot, just to confirm it's presence - but also showing the two wing bars.

Yellow-throated Sparrow (Gymnoris xanthocollis)
We did find a few Lizards earlier in the morning that were more cooperative than the birds; a small and then a much larger Schmidt's Fringed-toed Lizard

A small Schmidt's Fringe-toed Lizard (Acanthodactylus schmidti)

A much larger Schmidt's Fringe-toed Lizard (Acanthodactylus schmidti)

and later I also found a Snake-like Lizard which I hadn't seen before. Thanks to Abdulrahman for verifying it's ID

Snake-like Lizard (Acanthodactylus opheodurus)
It wasn't too long after this we called it a morning, as we weren't going to see much more

A tough day in the south

Week 32, 08 August 2015 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

It was a pretty bird-less day in the south at the Sea City project, not helped by a brisk wind which increased the Heat Index.

I found the Common Moorhen in the reed habitat where the ground water is diminishing and the water quality appears to be deteriorating.

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
A Blue-throated (Blanford's) Agamid was seen sitting proud quite high above the ground in an effort to keep a little cooler.

Blue-throated Agamid (Trapelus ruderatus fieldi)
Out on the boat, a single Socotra Cormorant seemed quite content in the heat perched on the buoy

1st year Socotra Cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis)
Not quite so for the juvenile Bridled Tern, sitting in the shade under the buoy.

Juvenile Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus), probably the same bird as the chick below
I think this is the same bird I saw as a chick on the same buoy almost 2-months ago, to the day

Adult and chick Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus)
A juvenile White-cheeked Bulbul seemed to be struggling in the heat

Juvenile White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus l. leucotis)
As was I....