20 February 2012

Flies, damn flies!

Week 07 - Wafra Farms and Kirhan

A Masked Wagtail had been found a week ago by a visiting Swiss group of birders, in the south of the country. After my son's golf lesson, armed with a Google map provided by Abdulrahman, we headed south in gloomy overcast weather in the hope that it would still be there. This gave me the opportunity to teach my son how to read a map and foir him to navigate us to the site. It was a long drive for what is still considered a sub-species of White Wagtail, but we took it as an adventure to have a look at this striking bird.

When we arrived at the location, pretty much a compost heap from a nearby chicken battery - we found Pekka, whose car was almost 40% covered in flies (on the outside), so much so that it looked mottled. The reason for the bird activity was obvious, the flies were their food too.

Wasnt this going to fun to open the window for a photograph. The bird was around, but it took some time for us (actually Jaden) to locate it - but unfortunately on the other side of a fence.

I grabbed a few record shots of the Masked Wagtail (through the fence), but in doing so, provided an opportunity for very many flies to come swarming into the car.

Masked Wagtail (Motacilla a. personata)

Since we already had flies irritating us in the car, we missed photographing a skittish Finschs Wheatear, but got another record shot of an early arrival in the form of a Woodchat Shrike - letting in some more flies.

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)
By now the flies were too much for us, so we headed back East finding a large herd of camels on the Wafra Road

Camel herd on the Wafra Road
We then headed a short way south past Kirhan, where we were able to relocate the Red-tailed Wheatear still in gloomy conditions.

Red-tailed Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia)

By now lunch was calling, so a drive back to friends, still trying to get rid of the flies in the car (in fact that took a few days) for any enjoyable rest of the day. What was quite amazing though, is that a fly can stick to the bonnet (a pretty smooth surface) up to 120 km/h before it could hold on no more!

15 February 2012

In search of the Med

Week 05 - 04 February 2102, Green Island and Sharq

A Med Gull had been found by Pekka and his group earlier in the week, while I was in South Africa. So, after my son Jaden's golf lesson we headed to Green Island for a look see...

It was a long shot and we were unsuccessful, nevertheless we enjoyed a stroll around this man-made island and I was able to try and teach Jaden some id features of the more common birds.

We found a small group of Great Cormorants on an exposed Sandbank

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Then flushed a pale form Indian Pond Heron that was feeding on the bank.

Pale form Indian Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)
Today, the Red-vented Bulbuls were a little more obliging

Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)
and the male Ruppells Weaver made a statement in it's breeding plumage with a number of new nests hanging in a nearby tree

Ruppell's Weaver (Ploceus galbula)

At Sharq Mall, someone was feeding the gulls and quite a frenzy was created. The majority were Caspian and Common Black-headed Gulls, although I did check to see if there was a Med Gull lurking amongst them.

Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)

Caspian Gulls? and Common Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) squabbling over scraps

08 February 2012

A few days with Biodiversity East

Week 04 - 25 - 28 January 2012, various sites around Kuwait

We are working on an exciting project with the team from Biodiversity East and they were in Kuwait for a few days to meet with the Sponsor of the project and to visit some of our birding hotspots.

25 Jan 12

The first site visited was Pivot Fields and this is truly a fantastic location that has turned up many specials and rarities throughout the year. Following the very little rain, some flowers added a splash of colour in amongst the green

A splash of colour
This male Spanish Sparrow one of the victims from a shooter seen driving around on the outside of the farm

Wounded male Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis)
 Today was one of the biggest solar flares in the last 6-years and I'm not sure if this caused some of the strange cloud formations in the sky

I understand this is called a Sun Dog and is caused by ice crystals very high up in the atmosphere

Sun Dog?
Here a very strange circular cloud that slowly dissipated

Strange clouds
 We had some good bird sightings, including some obliging Desert Wheatears

Male Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)

A Black-crowned Night Heron coming in to roost, after it had been flushed by a Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
We then headed to another great site called Jahra Pools Reserve where we found Bluethroat

Red-spotted Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)
and still many White Wagtails

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
And this injured adult Greater Flamingo - possibly, actually probably from shooters

Injured/wounded Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
At Sulaibikhat, we were surprised to see White-winged Tern in full breeding plumage as we wrapped up the day

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)

26 Jan 12

This was a special afternoon as we had managed to arrange a recce to Boubiyan Island with the coastguard. Unfortunately, due to fading light we were not able to see as much of the island we had hoped for - but it still was very exciting nevertheless

Some Grey Herons on the breakwater as we departed

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
One of 4 Great Black-headed Gulls seen while steaming north up the Gulf

Great Black-headed Gull (Larus ichthyaetus)

Heading North
Many Great Cormorants were seen on the water and roosting on some of the buoys

Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Once at Boubiyan, we encountered numbers of Armenian Gulls

Armenian Gull (Larus armenicus)
As the light was fading, photograph opportunities were limited - but we were able to land on the island and explore some of the habitat

Boubiyan Island habitat

On the way back to the mother ship, we were treated to a glorious sunset

Magnificent Boubiyan sunset
27 Jan 12

Most of the day was spent inside SAANR and although we did not see a variety of birds, this pristine desert was enjoyed by all

The Wadi's on the ridge just inside the reserve produced Eastern Mourning Wheatear and Arabian Red Fox

Eastern Mourning Wheater (Oenanthe lugens) in wadi habitat
As well as some pretty cool landscape

SAANR landscape

At Tuhla, we had an Eurasian Sparrowhawk roosting in the cover and an Eastern Imperial Eagle pass by overhead in the strong wind

Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)
28 Jan 12

Our last day together was spent at the Al Abraq oasis farm in the far west.

We arrived early in the morning and again enjoyed exploring all aspects of this farm.

A slow orientation drive around the farm produced one of many adult Blackbirds

Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula)
We then parked the cars and explored on foot, finding Daurian Shrike

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
Mauryan Grey Shrike

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahotra)
In one of the pens, we saw an injured Cinereous Vulture that was been kept for safe keeping

Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus)
and a few Water Pipits at the big pond in front of the house; where Aris had seen and photographed a single male Dead Sea Sparrow

Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)

Here is the very happy team after the end of a successful visit to Kuwait

L to R - Graham, Stamitis, Vasso, Nancy, Aris and yours truly