03 December 2013

Desert Birds

Week 49, 02 December 2013 - SAANR

This morning there was a definite drop in temperature and the brisk winds added to the chill factor. I hadn't been to SAANR for quiet sometime, so headed out early, not counting on getting stuck on the 6th Ring Road for over an hour - in the end I only reached the reserve gates around 8am in what is normally only a 30 - 40-minute drive.

By then the wind had increased a little more, so it was a lot brisker than earlier and all subjects today were less than obliging. Checking the big wadi on Jal Al Zor ridge, I spooked an Arabian Red Fox that I hadnt seen in a small hollow and it bolted away at speed, only stopping 200m away at a safe distance to stare back at me.

Arabian Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes arabica) at speed

Aside from on Desert Wheatear trying not to get blown off the ridge, no birds were seen. But the dune ripples provided a creative moment

Abstract dune
I explored a large part of the reserve to check on wintering MacQueens Bustards, but none were to be seen. The most abundant Wheatear was Isabelline.
Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)
I found two pretty large flocks of Eurasian Skylarks that were foraging in areas with new habitat following the recent rains. A Mauryan Grey Shrike sitting tight in some micro habitat was unexpected..

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)
From Tahla I drove to check on the big wadi where previously there was a big pan. Just before descending to the valley, a Long-legged Buzzard that was roosting on the deck in the sun flew off and drifted across the wadi basin. This is a species that I certainly don't see as often as I used to do when I first came to Kuwait.

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus) in desert habitat
It was encouraging to see that there are now two pans in the wadi, so this will be good for both the wintering birds and the early spring migrants.

Driving back out of the Wadi, I had 3 species of Wheatear all in the same area - this is the Wheatear ID challenge, see how you go.....

Wheatear 1

Wheatear 2

Wheatear 3
Back at Tahla, a Black Kite (or another candidate for Black-eared) was trying to make progress in the strong wind.

Black Kite (Milvus migrans )
The White-throated Kingfisher, added a splash of colour to the acacia trees, but seemed to be avoiding getting wet.

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)
Right, the answers to the Wheatear Challenge:

Wheatear 1 - Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)
Wheatear 2 - Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
Wheatear 3 - Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina )

Overhead, the only 'birds' I really saw where big shiny ones and all were leaving sky trails in their wake in the clear blue sky

I prefer clear blue skies

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