28 March 2013

Wheatear's, Thrushes and Shrikes

Week 11, 16 March 2013 - North of Mutla Ridge (Click to enlarge image)

I spent a great morning north of Mutla Ridge with a few members of KEPS and visited an area that I had last been to in 2007/2008. The regenerated habitat in this area was protected and as a result the migrant spring birds were undisturbed and had plenty of insects and caterpillars to feed on.

Driving across the desert we couldn't help but notice the abundance of small plants with yellow flowers that appeared to cover the desert like a carpet. 

A carpet of yellow flowers 
However, even more exciting was a small flock of 57 Caspian Plovers, with many in breeding plumage.

Caspian Plover (Charadrius asiaticus)

Wheatear's were present in numbers and one particular Eastern Black-eared Wheatear with a black throat had us initially thinking we had a late Finsch's Wheatear.
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca)

A few more Black-eared with dark throats were seen later in the journey, with both birds singing their hearts out.

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca)

Here is a more 'classic' Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca)
And for comparison a tricky vittata Pied Wheatear - this image was completely blown out (something went wrong with my camera settings),but I was able to salvage it to some degree of acceptance for publishing from the RAW images

Vittata Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
Also seen was a typical male Pied Wheatear in full song

Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
We were fortunate to find both Rock Thrushes, first up a male Blue Rock Thrush

Male Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)
and a little later a stunning male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush

Male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis)

We had a good numbers of Shrikes, all of them Mauryan Grey Shrikes

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)
We came across one individual that had just caught and killed a snake and followed it when it flew with it's prey into an Acacia Tree. Here we watched it impale the snake on a thorn, so that it had leverage when trying to eat it from where the head was - a fascinating interaction.

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris) with a snake

Here some of the quite lush vegetation in one of the natural depressions

Greenery in the desert
In another area with a few taller trees, we found Turkestan Shrike

Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
A few more Mauryan Grey Shrike, this one with a formidable hook on its bill

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)
A single Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra)
A few Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)

and a Eastern Orphean Warbler that took quite some time to get onto.

Eastern Orphean Warbler (Sylvia crassirostris)

On our way out, our only raptor of the morning in the form of a Pallid Harrier

Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)

17 March 2013

A quiet morning in the South

Week 11, 14 March 2013 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City (Click to enlarge image)

I was back at Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City and spent some time off-shore and exploring the lagoons in Phase A2.

The numbers of Great Cormorants and large White-headed Gulls have reduced dramatically in the last week and I'm sure almost all will have headed north in the coming week or two.

A single Sandwich Tern was seen close to the Harbour.

Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis)
A flock of 9 Squacco Herons looking for a place to roost provided some good images and a challenge for the auto focus when they were flying toward me.

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)

Once I had finished on the boat, I explored some desert areas, but already the heat haze playing havoc on image quality. A distant Northern Wheatear was seen

Male Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
As was this wounded Pied Wheatear

Male Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
Red-throated Pipits were my first for this Spring

Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus)
It was despairing to come across these 36 Stingrays (3 species) that were dumped in the car park of the slipway near the harbour by local fisherman - just an unwanted casualty of the nights fishing.

3 Species of Stingray in the 36 dumped in the car-park after a nights fishing

This sighting on top of news that the annual Spring carnage of indiscriminate shooting, maiming and killing of migrants is also in full swing in the north of Kuwait (where there are still many desert camps) and out of the public eye. News has filtered through of 3 Critically Endangered Sociable Plovers being shot and killed for fun, as well as hundreds of Caspian Plovers, Bimaculated Larks and Skylarks - and that was just this week, at the start of Spring migration. This has been raised to OSME and Birdlife International in the hope that we can raise this to the relevant authorities so that changes can be made to legislation to limit and curb this annual massacre!

Usual Suspects at Green Island

Week 11, 12 March 2013 - Green Island and Sharq (Click to enlarge image)

After dropping my son at school, I had an hour for a quick stroll around Green Island just off the Corniche. It was a fine Spring morning and great to hear the resident birds in song.

It was the usual mix of Eurasian Collared Doves

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
Laughing Doves

Laughing Dove (Spilopelia senegalensis)
The entertaining White-eared Bulbuls

White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus l. leucotis)
and the less common or obliging Red-vented Bulbuls

Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)
The Ruppells Weavers are still present and easy to hear and find on the Island. Mr. Ruppell was quietly enjoying the fruits of the flower on the Bottlebrush Tree

Male Ruppells Weaver (Ploceus galbula)
However, Mrs. Ruppell wasnt having any of this; "How is that 4th nest coming on Ruppell, it's been 2-days since I tore down your 3rd useless attempt?"

Female Ruppells Weaver (Ploceus galbula)
Coming Dear!

Now, where should I build this final nest (hopefully) to keep her quiet once and for all?

The only migrants seen were this Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)
and a chance sighting of 3 Red-rumped Swallows passing by overhead in amongst some Pallid Swifts

Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica)
I stopped briefly at Sharq Harbour to photograph the Common Black-headed Gulls which are now all in full breeding plumage, prior to their departure

Common Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) in breeding plumage

There was also some interesting interaction between a Great Cormorant that had picked up a dead fish and was swishing it about to get the excess water off, when it suddenly slipped out of it's beak. Quick as a flash, this Gull (not sure of the ID) was onto the free meal and was away before the Cormorant could react and it really had me smiling.

Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) with breakfast

Oops, I dropped it....

Don't worry, I've got it

Thanks, see ya!