25 August 2013

A quiet morning in the West

Week 34, 24 August 2013 - Al Abraq (Click to enlarge image)

David White and I decided to drive out west to Al Abraq to see if any numbers of migrants had arrived.

I guess the absence of shooters (which is a good thing) highlighted that migrants were yet to arrive in numbers at this oasis farm. Nevertheless, we were there and enjoyed the solitude of this unique area.

There were many Warblers in the reeds at the pool near the main house, but also a Whinchat.

Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
We opted to walk around the farm rather than drive and found Lesser Grey Shrike

Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor)
A fly-over by a single Black Kite

Black Kite (Milvus migrans)
3 species of Wagtail; Yellow, Grey and two Citrine Wagtail at the elevated reservoir

Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola)
A Byzantine Stonechat (note the pale unstreaked rump) was seen near the crops, this is a female - perhaps they arrive before the males?

Female Byzantine Stonechat (Saxicola m. variegatus)
A small flock of European Bee-eaters were sitting in the top of a dead tree and one individual had caught a large wasp that beat repeatedly on the branch to ensure it was finally safe to eat.

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)
As with other areas, there were some Dragonflies about. I have not seen this species in the East - but still don't know the identification.

Unidentified Dragonfly

This one is one of the Emperor's (perhaps either Vagrant or Lesser?) and is probably the largest Dragonfly found in Kuwait - it is quite impressive.

One of the Emperor Dragonflies

One of the Emperor Dragonflies

We will be back again in September when numbers and diversity should be quiet different than they were today.

Wetland, desert and shoreline

Week 34, 23 August 2013 - Jahra area and SAANR (Click to enlage image)

I decided to cover a few areas today, as there was also a reasonable high tide around 1pm. So, first stop was Jahra Pools Reserve where water levels had been supplemented. Water is key for this reserve, but obviously water is also in demand for many other uses and the reserve isn't always at the top of the list.

There wasn't too much new and migrants still appear to be trickling in, there were numbers of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus) portrait
Whilst watching the Bee-eaters, I saw Warblers gleaning insects off the fence; a few Marsh Warblers

Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris)

Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris)
And a single Indian Reed Warbler

Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
I saw the first Little Crake of this Autumn, also using the fence to forage for food.

Little Crake (Porzana parva)
A female Byzantine Stonechat was a new arrival...note the pale rather than streaked rump. Our ringing records show that Byzantine arrive earlier than European and Caspian (Oct/Nov)

Female Byzantine Stonechat (Saxicola m. variegatus)
Not too much else to be seen, so I headed to SAANR and checked the wadi on the top of the ridge. Whilst driving to the wadi I was wandering if Lillith Owls may have dispersed from where I had seen a pair earlier this year outside of the reserve. Knock me down, the first bird I see in the wadi is a Lillith Owl, so that is great news. Unfortunately it didn't stay out in the open for long.

I heard a soft whistle-like call coming from the stony ridge above me and after a long search found a very well camouflaged small Lark that it was coming from - a Bar-tailed Lark. 

Bar-tailed Lark (Ammomanes cinctura)

Walking back to the car, this slender and very quick Lizard darted out in front of me. It took some time to relocate and thanks to Abdulrahman for confirming it's identification.

Small-spotted Desert Racer (Mesalina guttulata)
By now, the heat had sucked the moisture out of me, so I headed for the comfort of the car and a/c and drove to the pool at Talha (thanks to Haitham for giving me the correct name which means; the big lonely tree beside the pool). 

The strategy here is to find some shade and wait for birds to come and either drink or seek shelter. However, photographic conditions are far from perfect with birds in harsh sunlight, shade or cover. Nevertheless, there was a fair selection that included a first year Barred Warbler

First year Barred Warbler (Sylvia nisoria)
A few Eastern Olivaceous Warblers

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida)

At full stretch; Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida)
Garden Warbler

Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin)
Eurasian Wryneck

Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)
A few very shy first year Eurasian Golden Orioles

First year Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus)
Grey Wagtails have now joined the Yellow Wagtails

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
A couple of Shrike species, including this first year Mauryan Grey Shrike

First year Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)
Greater Short-toed Larks, looking punk-like with it's crest, were found among the Crested Larks

Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla)
As was a Tawny Pipit

Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)
Not sure if this is pale Dragonfly is a different species, or just a juvenile of a species I have seen before?

Dragonfly - id?
By now it was time to get to Jahra East Outfall for the 4.0m high tide at the wrong time of day in terms of sun. Two Common Snipe dropped in to the grass next to the outfall as I arrived

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
Today the predominant wader was Little Stint with a large flock stretched all along the beach. Working through them, I found Dunlin and Curlew Sandpiper

Dunlin (Calidris alpina), Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) and Little Stints (Calidris minuta)
Common Ringed Plover

Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
Not many Greater Sand Plovers, but a few Lesser Sand Plovers

Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius atrifrons)
Temminck's Stint

Temminck's Stint (Calidris temminckii)
And a flock of Pied Avocet

Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
and of course all the other waders associated with this important staging area which included; Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Eurasion Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-necked Phalarope, Marsh Sandpiper, Ruff, Ruddy Turnstone as well as Slender-billed Gulls, Caspian Terns, Sandwich Terns, Gull-billed Tern and both Marsh Terns (Whiskered and White-winged).

Sadly, I saw that it isnt just birds that are senselessly persecuted during migration - it appears that some fisherman don't care for Stingrays, as I found many that had just been dumped on the shoreline as part of the unwanted catch....

Just a small part of the many dead and discarded Stingrays dumped on the shoreline

21 August 2013

What am I?

Week 33, 15 August 2013 - JPR and SAANR (Click to enlarge image)

It was thrilling to discover that after almost a year, we were again able to access the awesome Sabah Al Ahmad Natural Reserve - it almost felt like Christmas in August for me.

On the 14th, Kuwait's first Striolated Bunting was discovered at Tuhla and I was able to briefly see (twitch) it, but not photograph it due to a problem between photographer and camera. 

On the drive home, this lead me to the question - What am I - a birder first or a photographer first? I was frustrated that I was not able to capture this bird in pixels (which was a first and a one-day bird) or just enjoy it through my binoculars and hope that my aging memory will remember what it looked like in a year's time. I certainly want to try and photograph birds that I encounter as best as I can in the time that I have whilst in the field. I understand, that if you really want that perfect image, you need to spend hours in a hide in the best available light - but in these days of juggling limited time, it is hard to achieve - so I guess I'm a little of a hip-shooter, taking the best advantage of what is presented to you at the time. 

Of course, I will generally chase rarities but both in the hope of seeing and photographing them. The photographs can be shared with a much wider community, whereas just looking through the bins it is only pleasurable to yourself and then difficult to share with others.

In light of this dilemma  I coined these two words that could possibly combine both passions - "Photograbirder" or "Birdographer" - now I need to choose which is appropriate!

But, I digress - back to the birding..I made a brief stop at Jahra Pools, more as a last ditch attempt at the Pygmy Cormorant which hadnt been seen for a few days - no Pygmy (again), but I did get my first Mauryan Grey Shrike of this Autumn

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahotra pallidirostris)
Driving into SAANR was wonderful and of course there were a number of birders/photographers at Tuhla, all looking and waiting to see if the Striolated Bunting was going to make a return. I put in a 7-hour stretch without success, but while waiting did enjoy some other species that came in to drink at the pool. Two Black-headed Buntings sat in the Acacia for sometime, before quietly coming down to drink

Black-headed Bunting (Emberiza melanocephala)
A Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin was quite animated and entertained us with its display

Displaying Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Erythropygia galactotes)
There were quite a few Common Whitethroat's coming to drink

Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)
As well as some Warblers, this is Upcher's

Upcher's Warbler (Hippolais languida)
The jury is still out on this Warbler, but Booted Warbler is being considered as one of the possibilities.

Possible Booted Warbler (Hippolais caligata)

A single Green Sandpiper seemed out of place this far in the desert

Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)
On the edges of the pool, Crested Larks were deploying their heat prevention strategies, keeping their profiles low and out of the wind that was blowing

Crested Lark (Galerida cristata) keeping low out of the wind
Greater Hoopoe-lark's did the same thing, although this one was not in a scrape, but still trying to reduce it's overall size by hunkering down and keeping low.

Greater Hoopoe-lark (Alaemon alaudipes)
Again, Dragonflies were prolific and active around the pool, but only after the flock of European Bee-eaters had passed.