17 May 2016

Building, filtering and striding

Week 17 and 18, 16 - 24 April 2016 - Various Sites

My father-in-law came to stay with us for a month in April and also to celebrate his 80th birthday with the family.

There was not too many new places to show him in Kuwait, as he has visited every year since we first arrived.

One morning, we visited Green Island as it is a pleasant walk and also offers great views of the iconic Kuwait Towers. Surprisingly very few migrants present, but the male Rüppell's Weaver was very busy nest building.

Male Rüppell's Weaver (Ploceus galbula)
The following weekend, we strolled around the new Al Shaheed Park, which is a very pleasant green belt with some quirky art in the park, situated on the outskirts of Kuwait City. 

Getting in early is the trick, to avoid the heat and when fewer visitors are present. Most of the usual urban birds are present; predominantly House Sparrows, Eurasian Collared Doves and numbers of White-eared Bulbul's. 

White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus l. leucotis)
Again, surprisingly few migrants during our walk, other than a surprise Little Bittern in the reeds at one of the water features

Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)
In terms of invertebrates, a few Dragonflies

Dragonfly sp.

Same sp. as above
as well as Water Strider's on the ponds. Water Strider's are in the family Gerridae (order Heteroptera) and number around 350 species, so not sure which species occurs in Kuwait

Water Strider sp.

On the last weekend, we had an hour at Jahra Pools Reserve, before visiting the Red Fort. 

At one of the pools a drake Garganey was foraging/filtering along the water edge, behaviour I have not seen from Garganey before (I suspect this bird was injured, as it was still present a few weeks later). I photographed this with Canon EF 100-400 f/4.5 - 5.6 IS II and EF 1.4x III coupled to the 1DM4 and was pretty happy with the result, although the focus acquisition and speed would be faster on the 1Dx

Drake Garganey (Anas querquedula)
In the same pool there were numbers of Wood Sandpiper, in fact these were the most predominant waders today

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
and a single Red-necked Phalarope skulked in some cover

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
Driving around the reserve, we picked up a possible Turkestan Shrike in the Phragmite reeds 

Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
and finally a Temminck’s Stint before running out of time and heading the the Red Fort before the sun set

Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii)

09 May 2016

Migrants heading north

Week 15, 09 April 2016 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

In comparison to last year, this spring migration has been low in both abundance and diversity with no plausible explanation; but perhaps the hazards of migration (increased trapping and killing/shooting together with the other natural hazards) are now starting to manifest with less birds being seen during migration. Only next year will we be able to confirm if this is indeed the case, when we can look back and compare stats.

Nevertheless, I was on site just after sunrise and enjoyed watching a few Squacco Herons that were still roosting in the reed bed.

Squaccon Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
A single Ortolan Bunting dropped in for a drink, but didn't stay long. I had a glimmer of hope that it might be something else, as typically this species is part of a larger flock - but not so today!

Male Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana)
Two Common Sandpiper were seen perched uncharacteristically on top of a sand mound

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
I found a few Common Redstart's in some trees alongside the road

Female Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)

Male Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
Like the last 3 visits to the south, I was rewarded with good views of Desert Finch - perhaps they may be preparing to breed, as I have recorded them in the same tree on a number of occasions

Male Desert Finch (Rhodospiza obsoleta)

Eurasian Wryneck was still present

Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)
As was a male Semi-collared Flycatcher

Male Semi-collared Flycatcher (Ficedula semitorquata)
However, a real surprise was a Song Thrush, which is typically a wintering species in Kuwait - so this guy has stayed on to enjoy the warmer weather. It is these surprises that keep birding interesting, as everytime you are out you see or discover something new about birds - just fantastic!

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)
The Bottlebrush shrubs have come into flower and the Lesser Whitethroat's

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)
and Eurasian Blackcap's are the two species that really enjoy the distinctive red flowers

Male Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
Woodchat Shrikes were still present, this one with a 'kill' nearby

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)

Woodchat 'take-away lunch'
But have now been joined by Turkestan Shrikes

Possible Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)

Definite Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
And a fleeting glimpse of a Masked Shrike

Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)
The only raptor seen today was a Eurasian Sparrowhawk that passed by overhead in a flash of an eye - this a record 'grab' shot..

Female Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

A bowl of Wheatears

Week 13, 26 March 2016 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

It is great to get to your location, just as the sun is starting to rise - and the world around you is starting to stir.

There is a large House Sparrow roost in the reed beds and some of the males were just starting to fluff up and sing. But, as soon as the sun hits the reeds they are off, to wherever it is they spend the day around the project.

Male House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Today, Wheatears had arrived in numbers (collectively known as a bowl or a shaft of Wheatears) and these were made up predominantly of Isabelline 

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)
and Pied
Female Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

Male Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
followed by Northern 

Female Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)

Male Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
and a single Black-eared

Male Eastern Black-headed Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca)
I continued my good fortune in finding Desert Finch again..

Male Desert Finch (Rhodospiza obsoleta)
Other good spring migrants included; Eurasian Wryneck

Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)
Common Rock Thrush

Female Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis)
and a male Semi-collared Flycatcher that was difficult to pin down

Male Semi-collared Flycatcher (Ficedula semitorquata)
Aside from a Mauryan Grey Shrike

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)
I also recorded quite a few Woodchat Shrikes

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)

Once out on the boat, a few lingering Caspian Gulls were seen on the beaches, these wont be staying much longer

Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)
Shorebirds were represented by Grey Plover

Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
and Common Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
and a little later a Little Egret

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Kentish Plovers were seen with young and will probably raise another brood in the coming months

Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) with young
I found quite a few 7-spot Ladybirds on some desert scrub which was a new addition for the insect checklist for the south..

7-spot Ladybird (Coccinella 7-punctata)