05 March 2014

Departing visitors and returning migrants

Week 08, 22 February 2014 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

Winter is slowly receeding as the days start lengthening. Down at Sea City in the south, the morning coolness was exaggerated by the wind chill created by the twin 200hp motors of our boat. There is a sense of change in the air, wintering Great Cormorants are now looking like distinguished gentlemen in their breeding plumage as they prepare to head north.

Male Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
The Great Black-headed Gulls which arrive late in the Kuwait winter are transitioning to breeding plumage..

Transitional Great Black-headed Gull (Larus ichthyaetus)
Whilst some are already ready for courtship

Great Black-headed Gull (Larus ichthyaetus) in full nuptials
Grey Herons are more abundant around the project

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) a resident summer breeder
as are Western Reef Herons

Pale form Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea) a resident summer breeder
and a Caspian Tern was seen roosting on one of the pristine beaches (well one that was recently cleaned!)

Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia) another resident breeder
It was low tide, so we ventured off-shore and headed north up the coast toward Mina Al Zour where there are some exposed sand banks on the low-tide.

Mina Al Zour low-tide sand bank
A few of the Common Black-headed Gulls are now sporting dark hoods

Common Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) a soon to be departing winter visitor
I now know why birds are thin on the lagoons on low tide, as the sand banks were literally covered in birds - Cormorants, Gulls and Terns. I estimated that there were close to 2,000 birds in the mixed flock.

Mixed Cormorants, Gulls and Terns

Gulls and Terns
I counted 37 Great Black-headed Gulls, certainly the most I had ever encountered in my time in Kuwait

Great Black-headed Gulls (Larus ichthyaetus)
Another unexpected species this early in the season was a flock of over 40 Lesser Crested Terns, together with many Sandwich Terns. We normally only get this species closer to summer when they come to breed on the off-shore islands.

Unexpected Lesser Crested (Sterna bengalensis) and Sandwich Terns (Sterna sandvicensis)
Inside the project, I found a Squacco Heron successfully hunting - excuse the trash, but the wind had blown some of the building waste into the trench, which the Heron used to its advantage.

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
A few Cistanche lutea had sprung up around the project

Cistanche lutea
In some of the rocky areas, I found a male and female Blue Rock Thrush, finally a welcome splash of colour.

Female Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)

Male Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)
The number of Isabelline Wheatears has also increased quite dramatically.

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)
A few Pied Wheatears had also now arrived, but were a little more elusive.

Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
Heading south of Khiran down the coast, there are still areas with carpets of yellow (Senecio desfontainei) and it really is enjoyable to see.

'Nowair' (Senecio desfontainei)
On the coast, I found a large flock of mixed shorebirds - predominantly Lesser and Greater Sand Plovers

Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii)
But also numbers of Eurasian Curlew

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata)
And returning Black-winged Stilts that will also breed in Kuwait during the summer

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

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