08 March 2012

A bird or four on Leap Year

Week 09, 29 February 2012 - Sharq Harbour

While my family was at a birthday party, I spent an hour at Sharq Harbour although it was a little late in the morning. Many of the large white-headed Gulls appear to have departed, so only a few late leavers are still around.

I found a Caspian Gull

Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)
As well as an adult and 1st year (juvenile) Great Black-headed Gull - these are really magnificent gulls, from someone who is not really a Gull birder. This year seems to have been very good for these Gulls, with many birds seen over the winter.

Adult Great Black-headed Gull (Larus ichthyaetus)

Some movement caught my eye and I saw this Indian Reef Heron dash out from behind the harbour wall to pounce on a fish discarded from one of the dhows, quite eagerly chased by a Gull, without success.

Indian Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea) being pursued unsuccessfully by a juvenile Gull

07 March 2012

A hint of Spring in the West and South

Week 09, 28 February 2012 - Al Abraq and Khiran

Daniele and I spent the day together exploring the oasis farm of Al Abraq and later in the day some rubbish dumps in the south near Khiran, not a great setting - but it produced a good bird.

After a 5:30 start, we headed to Al Abraq, finding a Steppe Eagle that had roosted on the berm overnight, just as we turned off the tar into the desert

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
Sadly, not much further on we found another that had been killed as target practise by the shooters that recklessly roam around the desert looking for anything to shoot and kill

What a waste of a magnificent raptor
A lone car outside the farm, spoilt part of the morning as it raced up and down the fence trying to shoot something, sadly we had to turn a blind eye and deaf ear and try enjoy our birding and photography. Although it was still around 8 degrees, there was a feel of spring in the air with a good count of early Spring migrants that had started to arrive (hence the shooters too!). We were surprised to see a single Hypocolius at the big pond as we drove it, but it didnt stay too long.

Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus)
Many Chiffchaff were found feeding and foraging at the pond

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
A Song Thrush was a little more accomodating

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)
As was a Blue Rock Thrush still all fluffed up from the cold night

Male Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)
As usual, we drove slowly around the farm, as generally birds seem more obliging from the car; we again had large numbers of Stonechats with the majority being Caspian

Caspian Stonechat (Saxicola m. variegatus)

We also had both Common Redstart

Male Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
and a cracking male Western Black Redstart

Male Western Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)
at the far end of the farm, we sat patiently near one of the small fields that was getting water from the water truck and were rewarded with some good and confiding birds; Water Pipit

Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)

Meadow Pipit
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)
and the real bonus, an unexpected Buff-bellied Pipit

Buff-bellied Pipit (Anthus r. japonicus)

As well as a few White Wagtails

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
and the returning Black-headed Wagtails which will soon replace the Whites as their departure is imminent

Black-headed Wagtail (Motacilla f. feldegg)
A lone Skylark seemed out of place with the Pipits and Wagtails

Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis)
Continuing our drive, we found Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
More Pied Wheatears, here a female posing and leaving

Female Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

And a smart looking Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca)
and finally a greyish looking Tawny Pipit, after which we decided to head to Khiran

Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)
It was a long drive (by Kuwait standards) from Al Abraq to road 290 in the south, but when we arrived it didnt take long to find our target species - Red-tailed Wheatear, in fact we found 2 birds

Red-tailed Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia)
On the way to exploring a different area, we came across some large patches of spectacular Desert Lilies, which spring up in certain areas after the rain.

Desert Lillies

Exploring one of the jebels (basically an exposed rocky outcrop), we came acrossing a displaying male Red-tailed Wheatear which rounded off a great days birding and photography quite satisfactorily

Male Red-tailed Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia)

06 March 2012

Spring shooting with pixels at the Pivot Fields

Week 08, 24 February 2012 - Pivot Fields

After rugby practise Jaden and I met up with Daniele Occhiato, a visiting birder and great photographer from Florence in Italy to spend a morning at the Pivot Fields, where we were kindly granted access in one car. Although still quite brisk temperatures, the trickle of arriving migrants put a feel of Spring in the air.

Daniele is a great Western Palearctic birder and a master with his Canon outfit (1DM4 and 600mm coupled with either 1.4 or 2x extender) and I learnt a lot from him during the morning, although the 50D is much slower in focussing than the 1DM4 with the same lens combination. Nevertheless, I was more pleased with the results, than with my first attempt. As I promised to myself for 2012, I have also started shooting in RAW, but the post-processing changes will still take time to become more familiar.

During the morning we noted an influx of Wheatears, still the most common was Isabelline Wheatear

Isabelline Wheater (Oenanthe isabellina)
But, many Pied Wheatears had also arrived, with most sporting their new Spring plumage
Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

We also found a very strangely marked Pied Wheatear, so were not sure if this is an aberrant vittata - any opinions out there?

Pied Wheatear - odd vittata?

Many Stonechats were aslo seen, these are European

European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

Shrikes were represented by Woodchat

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)
and an obliging Daurian

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)

As is to be expected, the White Wagtails are thinning out and are now replaced by Black-headed Wagtails (feldegg)

Black-headed Wagtail (Motacilla f. feldegg)
A stop at the Camel Pen provided a few Namaqua Doves and flocks of House Sparrows

Male House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Driving back to Croc Pond we had a distant female Hen Harrier - so excuse the poor record shot

Female Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
And a fairly obliging Long-legged Buzzard

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus)

Stopping to check out the Croc Pond , we had this impressive beast nonchalantly stare back at us

Nile Crocodile