16 June 2019

Back to the Pivots

Week 24; 15 June 2019 - Pivot Fields

I had a fantastic and hectic 5-days in Ethiopia racking up 206 species with 65 lifers and many endemics seen. That along with great scenery and a few new mammals including Ethiopian Wolf on Sanetti Plateau, Gelada Baboon and confiding Black and White Colobus Monkey's.

With not many options available, it was a reality check going back to the Pivots after being at altitude for most of last week.

One of the Pivot Fields

Today I was solo and through the gate at 6am and just headed straight to the pool. With the intense summer heat, the big pool has almost evaporated and should be gone in the next week or so. The smaller pool with reed habitat, looks like it is still retaining it's water. Black-winged Stilt is still the most abundant species

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

Caspian Reed Warblers

Caspian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus s. fuscus)

Love the reed framing the Warbler in this image

And Indian Reed Warbler were quite vocal to start, but didn't take long to quieten down and head back into the reeds

Singing Indian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus s. brunnescens)

This morning, only one Sedge Warbler was seen

Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)

Again, while patiently waiting and sweating for birds to show themselves, I entertained myself with the Darters, using my 600mm as a 'macro'

Darter sp,

Darter sp.

Not much else was around, so I retreated to my Blazer and some AC and did a circuit around the farm. This was productive, as I found Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

Six juvenile Cream-coloured Courser

Juvenile Cream-coloured Courser (Cursorius cursor)

a dark phase Booted Eagle

Dark phase Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata)

and an Isabelline Wheatear with what seems to be a deformed upper mandible

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

I had 30 species in just over 2-hours which was encouraging for this time of year

The Pools at the Pivots

Week 22; 01 June 2019 - Pivot Fields

As Jahra Pools is still closed for maintenance, there are not many other options to consider at this time of year. So, at 6am sharp, Paul Scott and I were again at the gates to the Pivot Fields to see what may still be lingering.

This time, we headed straight to the two pools, as this was the most productive area last week. No stray dog's today, so patience was needed as we stood at the edge of the pool where it was already very warm. Like before, Black-winged Stilts were noisy and abundant

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

This morning Graceful Prinia's were very active around us - I could show frame filling images, but prefer to show them with some habitat around them to give context

Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis)

Overhead Pallid Swifts were feeding as they were last week

Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus)

The resident Crested Lark's were seen coming to the pools to drink, feet dangling in the air as a cooling mechanism

Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)

Two Collared Pratincole's were also seen roosting on the edge of the pool and every now and then would take off, fly a circuit and come back to roost

Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola)

A surprise was a single Purple Heron coming in to land in the reeds - not sure if it's a late leaver or early arrival

Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)

While waiting, I was also checking for invertebrates and found this Wasp species

Wasp sp.

As well as a number of Darter species, which are always good photographic subjects.

Darter sp.

By now we were wilting and sweating, so it was back in the car with some ac for a last circuit around the farm

This was worth it, as we found a 1st year Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark courtesy of post breeding dispersion.

Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark (Eremopterix nigriceps)

I will be away next week on a solo 5-day birding break to Ethiopia which I am really looking forward to.

Wilting at the Pivots

Week 21; 25 May 2019 - Pivot Fields

As we head toward summer, an early start is important, so by 6am Paul Scott and I were going through the gate at the Pivot Fields.

We did a quick circuit of the farm and realised that the best spot were the two large pools; one which is quite open and the other which has expanding reed beds and more cover. This is where we spent the 2-hours before the heat had us wilting.

Black-winged Stilt's were the most abundant species.

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

Suddenly there was some commotion and many of the birds flushed and we discovered a pack of stray dog's coming through the shallow pan - trying to catch some food. This was a 'bonus' for us, as they flushed around 5-7 Little Bittern's that were hiding in the reeds. We suspect that since conditions are ideal at this pool, this species will probably breed or is already breeding here

Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)

Overhead, numbers of Pallid Swift were feeding and these are always a challenge to photograph in flight

Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus)

Sadly, Common Myna numbers seem to be increasing when a small flock of 5 flew by

Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)

There were still quite a few Sedge Warbler's present, but certainly not as many as 2-weeks back

Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)

We did also have a few Great Reed Warblers

Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)

A distant bird flying quickly above the reeds turned out to be a female Common Cuckoo

Female Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)

Another surprise was a single Little Tern that suddenly appeared and hunted for 10-15 minutes on the bigger pool before continuing on it's way

Little Tern (Sternula albifrons)

There were several 1st year White-tailed Lapwing's, so it seems there was breeding success in Kuwait this year for this species

White-tailed Lapwing (Vanellus leucurus)

Most Yellow Wags have long since departed, but we saw a single and late Black-headed Wagtail feeding along the water's edge

Black-headed Wagtail (Motacilla f. feldegg)

Again, we found one of the Cat E Yellow-crowned Bishops, but now transitioning to non-breeding plumage.

Yellow-crowned Bishop (Euplectes afer)

Squacco Heron's are starting to show their breeding plumage

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)

By now, we were starting to melt ourselves, so a last drive around one of the fields produced a Spiny-tailed Lizard in the same area we had previously seen them

Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard (Uromastyx aegyptia microlepis)

A Maculatus Quest

Week 20; 18 May 2019 - Southern Kuwait

Paul Scott and I were on another quest, this time to the south of Kuwait in search of the rare Spotted Toad-headed Agama. A species I had seen about 5-years ago but had recently been found again at another location by Pierre-Andre Crochet in April.

On the way to the area, we stopped to check some reeds along a trench and found quite a few delicate Evan's Bluetails - a species that I have only ever seen once before in Kuwait, surprisingly at the same location

Evans' Bluethail (Ischnura evansi)

We spent almost 3-hours searching a 800 x 200m grid for the 10cm long Agama - talk about a 'needle in a haystack'.

Whilst searching (driving-walking-driving), we did pick up a couple of migrants, the first was a Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush

Female Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis)

Followed by two Shrike species; Lesser Grey and Red-backed. Here this female devouring one of the many big Grasshoppers we had seen

Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)

Here one of the 'live' Grasshoppers in question

Grasshopper sp.

After 2.5 hours with the temperature rapidly increasing and still no luck with the Agama, we decided on one last drive around the location and as it often turns out, this time we were in luck when some slight movement caught my eye and in front of the car was a single Spotted Toad-headed Agama.

Spotted Toad-headed Agama (Phrynocephalus maculatus)

We stopped the car and slowly crept toward it. It didn't stay static and I tell you, this little guy went from zero to flat out across the desert, in a blink of an eye and due to it's cryptic pale colouring it was well camouflaged on the same colour stony and sandy desert. 

We re-located it and spent almost 30-minutes enjoying this rare coastal reptile that probably should be re-classified as critically endangered

Spotted Toad-headed Agama (Phrynocephalus maculatus)