25 August 2015

Another Mega and 1st for Kuwait

Week 31, 31 July 2015 - Al Abraq, Jahra Pools and a Pelagic

Unfortunately, Markus Craig could not join Neil Tovey and I today, as he was sick and man down. So just the two of us headed off to the farm in the west and arrived just after first light.

As usual we walked the farm first, finding 1st year Black-headed Buntings in the reeds around the pond near the house

1st year Black-headed Bunting (Emberiza melanocephala)

Also in the reeds, a single Red-backed Shrike

Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
Lurking in the tree's around the pond I found an Upcher's Warbler

Upcher's Warbler (Hippolais languida)
and Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin foraging in the leaf litter

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes)
We were lucky enough to see a Long-eared Hedgehog as it quickly scurried down the bank probably heading to the pond to drink, or escape the cat that flushed it? It was a little too close for my camera to focus sharply, but still a good record of these uncommon mammals

Long-eared Hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus)
Not much else to be seen, so we headed east for Jahra Pools reserve and arrived around 11am when it was already too hot for much to be expected - little did we know!

A quick drive around the reserve produced a Temminck’s Stint

Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii)
and a female Common Pochard

Female Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
We then headed to the shoreline parking area for the high tide where there was an impressive mixed flock of shorebirds with Broad-billed Sandpipers making up almost half the numbers - this is a really smart Sandpiper.

Broad-billed Sandpiper (Limicola falcinellus) with Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) and Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii)

Broad-billed Sandpiper (Limicola falcinellus)

By now it was way too hot to be out, so we called it a day. Just as we were driving up the access road from the parking site at the coast, a Gull with a black head bathing and preening at the base of some reeds some distance from the road caught my eye. Black-headed Gull, I shouted to Neil as he hit the brakes - No, its not a Black-headed Gull he shouted, it is a Gull with a black head I responded, just as the Gull took off - I lept out of the car and thankfully, my 1DM4 tracked the Gull as it flew and disappeared over the reeds. What was it - Little, Franklin's - we couldn't be sure? A Gull in full breeding plumage and a black head in summer, it had to be something different! Unfortunately my images didn't help too much as the bird was flying away, but it looked like it had white trailing edges to the primaries and secondaries. 

We put the news out to the group immediately with one of the images and set out trying to relocate it. We drove to where we thought it may have flown - but it wasn't there; crap! Back to the coast to where we had first seen it - not there either. There was a large flock of Slender-billed Gulls roosting on the sea, so Neil got his scope out and I got my bins and together we scanned through the flock. I've got it shouted Neil as I also got it in my bins. But, it was a way off, floating on the sea in amongst the Slender-bills. Although a long way off, through the scope we could make out the extent of the black hood, white tips on the primaries and also noticed a yellow tip to the bill. However, when it flew back to roost on the beach, we could see the white wedge in the upper wing pattern and finally clinched it as Kuwait's first Sabine's Gull - a real mega of an arctic species in a desert!

Sabine's Gull (Xema sabini), a 1st for Kuwait and a Mega

This is probably the only image of it's kind where you find the arctic Sabine's together with Slender-billed Gull, Crab-plover and Oystercatcher in the same image. We were pretty stoked to say the least and fortunately it seemed to stay for the day, so that those that did come, did connect with it.

Sabine's Gull with Crab-plover, Slender-billed Tern and Oystercatcher - where else in the world could you see this combination?

Later in the afternoon, we joined some of our birding friends for a Pelagic trip out into Jahra Bay, as a few weeks back a good number of Skua's were present. Unfortunately today, we only had a distant view of a single Pomarine Skua in quite rough conditions.

The sunset on the way back, was fitting, for what turned out to be an epic day!

What a day!

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