15 February 2019

Birding in the rain

Week 06; 09 February 2019 - Al Abraq, Jahra Farm and Sulaibikhat Bay

I was solo today and although I had low expectations, decided to head out west to Al Abraq. It was raining when I left and the inclement weather continued through most of the morning. It is pretty special to enjoy dark clouds and rain in the desert, with Camels on the horizon

Dramatic clouds and desert scape

Iconic desert scape

The desert still has a carpet of green - but this is not going to last long, as the Camel and Sheep herds enjoy this time of plentiful

A carpet of green

I was last at Abraq 2-weeks back and amazingly the same birds seen then were still present today. The rain continued intermittently along with thunder and lightning and I just 'soaked' it up enjoying the freshness of it all. We have some interesting wintering Common Chiffchaff's and once the rain had stopped a few became a bit active. DNA is really required to nail down the race!

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus c. abietinus)

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus c. caucasicus/menzbieri)

4 Corn Buntings were the only spring migrant seen

Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra)

The male Eurasian Sparrowhawk was quite active, but looking closely it seems he has been quite lucky. It appears that he has a few shotgun pellet holes through his wing..

Male Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

The pair of European Stonechat's were again holding territory in the same patch and this was the only obliging bird at the farm. I managed to use a few lenses; first up the naked 600mm

Female European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

Male European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

At one point a Painted Lady flew out and in a flash the male Stonechat had it - he would have made a Bee-eater proud. He struggled to dislodge the wings and eventually gave up without eating it. These Painted Ladies must be pretty tough!

Male European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) with Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

Followed by 600mm + 1,4 converter

Male European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

and finally the 100-400 + 1,4 converter

Male European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

A small flock of Spanish Sparrows was foraging in the grass under one of the Acacia type trees

Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis)

By now the clouds had lightened, so I headed back toward Kuwait City, stopping at Jahra Farm - the first bird was a cracking male Masked Shrike feeding on some emerging flying ants after the rain

Male Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)

A couple of Song Thrush were still about - first time I have seen faint wing bars on this species

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)

A single Squacco Heron was flushed into a Palm Tree by one of the workers

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)

I found a tiny Green Toad in the small reservoir looking like it was hiding under an air bubble

Green Toad (Pseudepidalea viridis)

Last stop on the way home was Sulaibikhat Bay but it had clouded over and started drizzling again, so the light was far from ideal. A small flock of Greater Flamingo were filter feeding on the incoming tide

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)

There were both Common Black-headed Gulls

Winter plumage Common Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)

And quite a few Whiskered Terns feeding up and down the outfall

Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)

By now the tempo of the rain was increasing, so a good time to call it a day

08 February 2019

A hint of Spring

Week 05; 02 February 2019 - Khiran Area

Paul Scott and I decided a different tactic today and headed south to explore the coastal area near Khiran and the impressive Sabah Al Ahmed Sea City development. Following the previous outings, we had fairly low expectations.

However, our first stop produced a few early spring Wheatear's and we enjoyed seeing Desert and Isabelline, as well as the first Pied for this year which was the only one of the three that we managed to get images of.

Male Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

We then drove to the area where I normally find Red-tailed Wheatear and I'm pleased to say we managed to get onto one. Although this bird was not as obliging for images and always seemed to be on a rock above; nevertheless not always an easy bird to connect with

Red-tailed Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia)

We then explored the coastal area and struggled to find a place where we could actually access the beach. Not much other than a fly by Caspian Tern and a dead Hawksbill Turtle on the beach.

Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)

We checked a few other areas, but no winter or early spring migrants at all.

I did find this active and energetic Moth feeding on Nuwair and a Thistle when I photographed it - again not sure of the ID

Moth sp.

The weather is improving and with that we should start seeing the first of the spring migrants arriving

03 February 2019

WTF (What the fog!)

Week 04; 26 January 2019 - Al Abraq, Jahra Farm, Sulaibikhat Bay and Sharq Harbour

Paul Scott and I decided to try Al Abraq in the west again, even though the last visit was a little slow with few birds around. On the way, we hit heavy desert fog which made for a slow drive to the farm and it took at least another hour for the sun to burn through, so visibility was somewhat reduced to start. The Tamerisk trees were all glistening with the heavy dew on their branches and leaves


The few species we saw on our last visit, were still present. A few Common Chiffchaff's were seen and heard

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

The pair of European Stonechat's were still holding territory in the same field as the last visit. A few images of the female

Female European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

and the male
Male European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

Other than that, not much else to be seen. Out theory is that following the record winter rains, there is so much suitable habitat across the desert that even the winter birds are dispersed.

Of course, if you were a botanist, this abundance of flora would be fascinating to study, as there are many different varieties adorning the desert.

Desert Flowers

One of the Hover Fly species 'drying' it's wings

Hoverfly sp.

We also watched a day old Camel calf still on wobbly legs, suckling from it's mother

Camel calf

Just as we were driving out, I caught a Sparrowhawk in my peripheral vision and we jumped out the car and managed to get a few BIF's pics as it circled above us, getting higher and higher.

Male Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

We then headed back toward Kuwait, stopping at Jahra Farm. Here we found a small flock of Bank Myna's flying and calling around the farm - something seemed to have unsettled them. This image is not a composite, although it may appear to be so

Bank Myna (Acridotheres ginginianus)

Even Jahra Farm was quieter than usual, so we tried Sulaibikhat Bay, but the tide was still too far out. Cutting our losses, we made a last stop as Sharq Harbour in Kuwait City. Quite a number of Common Black-headed Gulls around the Dhow's in the harbour

Common Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)

A few larger Gulls also passed by overhead

Gull sp.

Gull sp.

As did Cormorants

Continental Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sinensis)

I saw a flash of blue dart across the water and land on the mooring rope of one of the Dhows - Common Kingfisher, an unexpected surprise in the City.

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

Another slowish day all round, so the Kingfisher was a good bird to end it on.