14 May 2012

Migration thinning out?

Week 18, 05 May 2012 - Sulaibikhat, Jahra Pools Reserve and SAANR

Another early morning start to beat the early on-set of summer heat. I decided to drive along the Bay at Sulaibikhat, not realising that it was low tide and the sea was a long, long way out. I noted the Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes numbers had increased and many were seen.

At "Manchester Club" car park, a scan over the distant flocks produced a familiar and recognisable silhouette, in the form of a Black Stork (16th record). A poor record photograph was taken across the low tide flats

16th record of Black Stork (Ciconia nigra)
On the north side of the car park, a late departing Common Black-headed Gull was seen amongst many Slender-billed Gulls

Common Black-heaed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)

Portrait of Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei)
I watched with interest as this Slender-billed Gull swallowed without too much trouble a Mud Skipper that initially looked way to large for it to do so..

Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei) swallowing a large Mud Skipper
I then made my way to Jahra Pools Reserve where there was a lot of activity in the form of construction. Some to fix and upgrade the current road system and others accessing the new pipeline on the seaside of the reserve. I didnt hold much hope of seeing anything interesting with all this traffic, dust and noise. However 4 White-tailed Lapwings were welcome. I found a small dead-end road into the reedbed that was a little protected and was rewarded with some really good birds in the form of Mountain Chiffchaff

Mountain Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus sindianus)
A singing Basra Reed Warbler that will be monitored for signs of breeding this summer, where it has done so before

Basra Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus griseldis)
And many active Willow Warblers

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)
A last look over the pools gave a juvenile Little Grebe, so successful breeding for this pair

Juvenile Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Not much else was about due to the traffic of the trucks, so departed to SAANR as a last stop for today's outing.

The small pool on the top of the ridge after the entrance gate produced one of many Upchers Warblers seen today. This bird showing a characteristic spring white panel on the wing and swaying of the tail

Upchers Warbler (Hippolais languida)

A small detour on the way to Tuhla gave a few more obliging Red-backed Shrikes which are quite striking in the breeding plumage

Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)

At Tuhla I found Mike and Sylvie Newey and later Graham Whitehead - by now the wind had picked up a bit, so birds werent too active, however I did find a Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes)
and missed photographing a small flock of 3 Black-headed Buntings, but got the 2 Yellow-throated Sparrows

Yellow-throated Sparrow (Gymnoris xanthocollis)
Just as I was leaving a Pallid Harrier came swooping in looking for a quiet place to land and have a drink. All in all, a relatively quiet Spring migration day, but it seems the bulk have moved through as the summer heat slowly intensifies.

Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)

The day before, while my family cycled around the new exercise track near Mesilla junction on 6th Ring Road, I walked with my camera (since I havent bought my mtb yet), a couple of migrants were seen in the surrounding habitat, including a few of Spotted Flycatchers

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
and a number of distant Lesser Grey Shrikes that were all a little wary of the people excercising
Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor)

10 May 2012

Wild Arabia with National Geographic

11 - 21 April, 2012 - Abu Dhabi, UAE - World Première
and 25 April  - 12 May, 2012 - Dubai, UAE (Click on images to enlarge)

I was thrilled to have had a selection of my bird images from Kuwait chosen for this prestigious open air Exhibition endorsed by National Geographic that premieried in Abu Dhabi and is now being show-cased in Dubai until the 12th May 2012.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Premiere, but Nancy who is based in Dubai visited this fantastic exhibition and sent some pictures to give an indication of the size of it all. I'm told that it created a lot of interest and a good few traffic jams and we certainly hope that this exhibition will be taken to other major cities around the world to showcase Wild Arabia.

More information about this initiative and exhibition can be found at http://www.wildarabia.com/

A few of my bird images from Kuwait are shown in some of the outdoor displays below.

01 May 2012

Serenity in SAANR

Week 16, 21 April 2012 - SAANR (Click on images to enlarge)

It had been sometime since I last visited SAANR and with the pulsating Spring migration, I wanted to avoid any places where shooters would be out in force - so the peace and tranqulity of SAANR it was.

Today, we had high cloud most of the day that made for acceptable photography for the duration of the morning and kept temps bearable.

Driving toward Tuhla, I made a small detour past a line of trees that have grown quite a bit in the past 2-years, finding a host of passerine migrants including numerous Spotted Flycatchers.

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
On reaching Tulha, I spent a quiet 2-hours slowly driving around the pond, small reedbed and surrounding trees with each turn providing something new. Not big numbers, but certainly a lot of variety. A magnificent Masked Shrike in breeding plumage was found in the overhang of a tree

Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)

I parked on the edge of the pan and was entertained by; Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)
A female Blackcap that almost looked comical with the erect crest

Female Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)

and the ever stunning White-throated Robin

White-throated Robin (Irania gutturalis)
There were birds calling in and around the reeds, so a slow drive around produced a host of other species. Rufous-tailed Scrub Robins have made a return

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes)
A few Tree Pipits were also seen, but in much smaller numbers

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
Great Reed Warblers were prevalent inside and and foraging around the reeds

Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
A European Turtle Dove landed not to far from me and went about it's business with seemingly no concern - this wouldnt be the case at Al Abraq!

European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur)
When I looked again, a European Bee-eater stood out conspicously against the reeds - I didnt even see or hear it come in

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)
Mostly female Common Redstarts were seen today and these too were quite obliging

Female Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)

A Common Whitethroat foraging amongst the few spring flowers

Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)
I also found a dead Corncrake, which I assume was a natural migration fatality

Deceased Corncrake (Crex crex)
I decided to head for the bigger pan in the wadi, finding a Whinchat on the way

Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
and a pale form Booted Eagle overhead, the distinguishing "landing lights" clearly visible in these images

Pale Form Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata)

At the wadi pan, there were numerous Red-necked Phalaropes, a few Ruff, Common and Wood Sandpiper, Little Stint and Common Snipe as well as White-winged Tern in breeding plumage and this Whiskered Tern. This bird was feeding on the wing, taking insects off the surface - after many attempts I was able to capture this action in pixels.

Feeding Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)

On the way back to Tuhla, I stopped at a large patch of green in a depression that hosted hundreds of Ortolan Buntings, outnumbering all other migrants seen today. Here also Spring flowers were in full bloom

Spring flowers
Back at Tuhla, I found a skulking Little Bittern

Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)
Around the reeds one more time, I had a male Ortolan Bunting stripping the seeds of the tops of the grass heads. A few times, it would pull the grass stem down, stand on it and than strip off the seeds - oblivious to me being so close.

Male Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana)

And lastly a Wryneck contentedly feeding on the ground at an ant burrow it had found, which reminded me that it was my time to head home for lunch.

Feeding Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)