01 April 2019

A Quest to the South West

Week 12; 23 March 2019 - Salmi and Al Abraq

Following the record winter rains, the desert truly transformed with a grass and floral display in the late winter and early spring. Obviously expansive habitat attracts all sorts of invertebrates and Kuwait has had an unprecedented irruption of Painted Lady butterflies and a host of other insects. With the onset of spring, many birds start breeding and of those, species which may not have bred in Kuwait for many years prior.

One of our birding colleagues Rashed Al-Hajji has been checking many sites and did really well to find Desert Lark breeding in the SW of Kuwait. This is a species not yet on my Kuwait list, so together with Paul Scott we decided to visit the site which is where Kuwait, KSA and Iraq meet. It meant an earlier than usual start for the long drive (by Kuwait standards) to get to the site after sunrise. On arrival we were struck by how pristine the habitat was and that it was also devoid of any litter. We parked the car and spent most of the morning walking which was really enjoyable.

Here is the view into Iraq with Wadi Batin in the distance

Desert scape

The first bird was a female Pied Wheatear that was doing a lot of wing-flicking, much like a Variable would - but unfortunately it was not that species

Female Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

We had barely gone 100m from the car when we heard Desert Lark calling nearby and finally we were able to locate it feeding on the gravel plain. Their melodious call is really something to appreciate and we enjoyed this lone bird for a couple of minutes before it flew off

Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti)

As it got lighter, so more birds started making an appearance, Northern Wheatear's were up next. Being on foot is enjoyable but does have the disadvantage in not being able to get too close to birds, especially on relatively flat terrain

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)

Continuing walking, more Pied Wheatear 

Male Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

Followed by another Desert Lark which was a little more obliging. We didn't see any obvious breeding activity, but were more than happy with the great sightings of these Larks

Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti)

As it warmed up, we started looking for invertebrates, finding a couple of Beetle species (to still be identified). One was an instar, so not sure what brute that will become?

Beetle sp.

Beetle sp.

Beetle Instar sp.

This cool looking Domino Beetle was one that was more easily identified

Domino Beetle (Anthia duodecimguttata)

We had an interesting Fly species

Fly sp.

And some small Wasps

Wasp sp,

This is the caterpillar of the Striped-Hawk Moth that was quite exposed crossing an open patch of sand - the chances of survival have to be pretty slim

Striped Hawk-moth (Hyles livornica) catarpillar

Not sure what the plant is with the purple flowers, but it certainly stood out in the beige desert

Colour in the desert

Walking back to the car we found a Bosk's Fringed-toed Lizard - my first encounter with this smart looking reptile

Bosk's Fringed-toed Lizard (Acanthodactylus boskianus)

and then another Desert Lark dropped in - closer than any of the others we had seen earlier.

Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti)

From this site, we drove east for a quick detour at Al Abraq. However, we did stop on route to enjoy watching the display flight of a few Greater Hoopoe Larks - my camera grabbed focus on the wrong bird in this image, but I'm posting anyway so you can see the amount of white in the wings in flight

Greater Hoopoe-Lark (Alaemon alaudipes)

It was pretty warm once we reached Abraq, so bird activity had already quietened down. I was alerted by the agitated alarm call of two White-eared Bulbul and with some effort eventually managed to find the culprit; a one-eyed Eurasian Scops Owl - the bandit of Al Abraq  ;-)

Eurasian Scops Owl (Otus scops)

Later we picked up our first Eastern Black-eared Wheatear of the spring

Male Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca)

Followed by a couple of Squacco Heron's feeding in some of the flooded fields

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)

Painted Lady's are still hatching - so the irruption is not over yet

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

Grasshopper numbers seem to also be increasing

Grasshopper sp.

Some of the flowers have given way to seeds and soon these too will be dispersed until the next rains give them life.

Dispersion awaits

Finally it was time to call it a day and a successful day at that! Just before the gate of the farm, we enjoyed watching a few Spanish Sparrows feeding on some non-indigenous flowers, before heading back to Kuwait City.

Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis)

No comments:

Post a Comment