22 October 2012

Desert and Seas - not the retail outlet

Week 42, 17 October 2012 - Khiran and Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City (Click to enlarge image)

I had a meeting at Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City mid-morning, so left early to check out the desert habitat north of Road 290 in the south of Kuwait.

When I was last there, there was an informal dump site made up predominantly of builders rubble and this was pretty good for Wheatears. This time, progress had been made and much development was underway for Phase 4 and 5 of the Sea City project and the rubble had been moved to make way for a new road.

I searched the area and managed to find suitable desert habitat closer to Khiran itself where I found a male Pied Wheatear

Male Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
I then explored the small Jebel's that rise above the surrounding flat desert and found a female Pied Wheatear

Female Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
And a little later a Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)

Three down, one to go and for this bird the best bet was to find some builders rubble which I eventually did and after some time found the more sought after Red-tailed Wheatear.

Red-tailed Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia)

I headed to the Site Office of the project and with Anand arranged a quick survey along Phase A1 and off-shore. We first headed out to the marker buoys just off-shore and I was pleasantly surprised to find 4 Socotra Cormorants this late in Autumn or early winter.

1cy Socotra Cormorants (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis)
Heading back for our meeting, we found a single Eurasian Curlew

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata)
Whimbrel (note to self, learn how to clone the distracting paper out of the image)

Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
and one of three Grey Plovers. 

Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
Although not big diversity in the short time, I was very happy with the Socotra's and Red-tailed Wheatear.

15 October 2012

Autumn and Winter birds

Week 41, 11 October 2012 - Al Abraq (Click to enlarge image)

I needed to get out and enjoy some autumn birding and Al Abraq with it's diversity of habitat is special place, despite the usual shooters on the boundary with their Oriole playbacks spoiling the tranquility.

I was able to leave early to miss the bulk of the traffic on the 6th Ring Road and was through the farm gates just after 6am. Two juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons were seen at the pond just inside the gate, one of them swimming around in the water like a duck.

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
A little later I was joined by Khaled Al Ghanim and we searched for the Levants Sparrohawk(s) that were found earlier in the week by Pekka, without success. There were however numerous Accipiters around the farm and all those that we did get good sightings of were European Sparrowhawks.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

Walking through one of the groves of trees with the naked 600mm, I eventually managed to get an image of one of the two Red-breasted Flycatchers - in these circumstances, hand-held is the only option as these great little birds are very active and don't stay still for long.

Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva) 
Common Chiffchaff's have now arrived as the last of the Willow Warblers are departing

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
As have White Wagtails which will replace the last of the Yellow Wagtails in the coming weeks

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
Other raptors seen were Pallid Harrier

Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)
Common Kestrel, including this one that had escaped along with the raptor trap designed to catch it. So it is will die a slow death if it lands and the loops get caught in branches

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

A flock of European Bee-eaters were hawking around the pool at the entrance, this one in a fighter jet pose

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)
Later whilst perched in the tree's, a juvenile Eurasian Golden Oriole joined them and later came down for a drink

European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) and Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus)

A last drive around the farm later in the morning produced a juvenile European Honey Buzzard

Juvenile European Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus)
And my first Spanish Sparrow for this Autumn.

Male Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis)
And a juvenile Ortolan Bunting that created some initial excitement as I hadnt seen a juvenile before

Juvenile Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana)
By now the wind had picked up together with dust, so I called it a morning and headed back home 

03 October 2012

A wind'less morning

Week 40, 02 October 2012 - JPR and SAANR (Click to enlarge image)

I spent a few hours at JPR and SAANR this morning. Weather was perfect for us, but not for migrants as there was literally no wind at all, so it was a little of a bird'less day.

A small flock of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters had roosted overnight on the trees inside the entrance of JPR. Here is one being true to it's name - having caught a bee in flight!

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus) with a bee
The water that is left is evaporating very quickly and we hope that a solution is reached soon, so that supply can be restored for the balance of migration and the coming winter.

A Common Kingfisher was seen near one of the drying pans

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
This was a 'grab' picture of a juvenile Purple Swamphen that suddenly appeared out of the reeds, proving that breeding took place this summer - despite the fact that not many Swamphens have been seen, so that is certainly encouraging

Juvenile Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio  porphyrio)
I headed over to SAANR where it was even quieter, however a few Desert Wheatear's were seen on the way as well as Eastern Black-eared and Pied Wheatears

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca)

Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka) devouring an identified moth
At Tuhla, a female Eurasian Sparrowhawk quietly dropped in for a drink in the shade of an Acacia Tree

Female Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
Rashed was also out in this first week of August, but lack of a northerly wind ensured that migrants were almost absent

Rashed, always out there finding good birds

Ma’a salama Graham

Week 39, 29 September 2012 - Al Abraq

Al Abraq was the site where I had first introduced Graham Whitehead to the avian richness that Kuwait has to offer. It seemed a fitting location to bird with Graham Whitehead on his last weekend in Kuwait, before he returned to England.

We arrived early to find shooters on the boundary of the farm as is almost customary during autumn migration. Fortunately, there weren't many of them, but the evidence of their damage was still seen with two dead Eurasian Sparrowhawks and a number of Eurasian Golden Orioles that had been killed and wounded. A sad memory to leave Kuwait with for Graham, but we do hope that over time we can improve the need for and awareness of migrant conservation and protection.

Deceased Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

Wounded Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus)
We birded the interior of the farm and many Sparrowhawks were observed in one of the plantations

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), don't they look much better alive?
Passerine numbers were disappointing, but a single Tawny Pipit was seen

Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)
and growing numbers of Tree Pipits foraging along with Yellow Wagtails

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
A female Ménétriés’s Warbler was active in the exposed branches of an acacia tree and it appeared to have a longer than usual tail that it bobbed up and down excitedly

Female Ménétriés’s Warbler (Sylvia mystacea)

As the morning warmed up, a few more raptors appeared, Western Marsh Harrier

Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
An assortment of Pallid Harriers

Female Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)

Juvenile Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)

Male Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)

More Sparrowhawks and a bonus juvenile Shikra

Juvenile Shikra (Accipiter badius)

Surprisingly, a single Eurasian Teal flew out of the holding tank before we called it a morning and reminisced over the enjoyment of birding in this Land of Sand, we then said our goodbyes and headed back to Kuwait.

Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)

JPR Drying out

Week 39, 27 September 2012 - Jahra Pools Reserve (Click to enlarge image)

On the way to JPR, I stopped on the coast and photographed one of the many Gull-billed Terns foraging near an outfall

Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)
I was able to spend an hour at JPR at lunch time, not ideal light but better than nothing. Unfortunately, there is a dispute with contractors who laid the water pipeline and water supply to this critical reserve in migration has been interrupted and the pools are drying up rapidly. We all hope that this will be resolved soon, so water supply will resume.

The Western Marsh Harriers are still present at JPR, patrolling low over the reeds to ambush any unsuspecting birds

Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
Wader numbers are encouraging, but as water dwindles and evaporates, so will the birds. Quite a few Temminck’s Stint were seen

Temminck's Stint (Calidris temminckii)
Common Snipe numbers were also encouraging

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
A 1-cy Common Redshank that could be challenging if you are not familiar with  this plumage and legs that are not bright red

Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)

There were big numbers of Dunlin, with most already in non-breeding plumage

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

I watched a feeding flock (over 20 birds) of Pied Avocets in one of the shallow pans

Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
A 1-cy Red-backed Shrike perched on the fence near one of the pools

Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
A distant Long-legged Buzzard in the heat haze

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus)
In one of the deeper more protected pools, I found a few male Northern Shoveler's in eclipse plumage

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)

In a quiet pool that had a lot of concentrated fish (since it was drying out), I found a hunting Squacco Heron successfully filling up on small fish

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)

Whilst watching the Heron, I noticed that a Little Crake had popped up between some reeds and was happily preening itself

Little Crake (Porzana parva)
Later I found another Squacco Heron with very different plumage, before heading off

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)