29 April 2014

We can chum together

Week 15, 05 April 2014 - Umm Al Maradim Island

It had been some time in the planning, but finally I managed to arrange a round-trip to Umm Al Maradim Island for a pelagic and cetacean survey. Umm Al Maradim is one of the smaller islands in the south of Kuwait'. I had visited all of the other 8 off-shore islands of Kuwait, except for this last one and the one whose name means the "mother of boulders"

We departed from Khiran in great weather and flat seas and with the coast still in sight encountered two probably Arctic Skuas, but they were flying low and away from us, so almost impossible to clinch the id. As we got into deeper water and away from the coast, the number of Bridled Terns who are returning for the summer breeding season started increasing.

Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus)
The Bridled Terns were by far the majority when we finally reached the island.

Umm Al Maradim Island
We did a slow cruise around the island and headed back to Khiran. On route we came across a big school of predatory fish that were hammering some smaller fish.

Predatory Fish
Only 1 Lesser Crested Tern showed some interest in the scraps left behind once the shoal sounded.

Lesser Crested Tern (Sterna bengalensis)
We made a stop near Mina Al Zour where we chummed the water with some smelly and oily chum to see if we could attract any birds. Unfortunately the current was too strong and as we had moored the chum was soon out of sight (in hindsight we should have drifted with the chum slick). Nevertheless, the smell did attract a single first year Socotra Cormorant, so all was not lost.

Socotra Cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis)

03 April 2014

Never Give Up!

Week 11, 14 March 2014 - Jahra Pools Reserve (JPR)

A belated post from last month, for some reason I just haven't had the time to sit down and submit a post. I hadn't been to JPR for sometime and my son Jaden was also hankering to spend a morning birding with me. So we were up early after packing a cooler and headed out to the reserve. I set Jaden up with my 50D and a 400mm lens and let him click away to his hearts content.

Birding was fairly quiet, although all the usual suspects were seen in and around the pools, however not many migratory passerines were seen at all.

March is traditionally the month when most winter visitors depart, spring migrants start arriving and many of the resident birds start breeding. A few Little Grebe's already had young birds.

Juvenile Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), Jaden

Jaden's favourite bird is Purple Swamphen (one of his images appears on the cover page of his school calendar) and he was able to photograph the eastern sub species

Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio  porphyrio seistanicus), Jaden
and the grey-headed nominate species 

Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio  porphyrio), Jaden
We found a number of Squacco Herons roosting on an exposed sand bank

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
and a Little Egret hunting in a quiet pool

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Jaden
A few lingering winter visitors were still about in the form of White Wagtail

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba), Jaden
and Water Pipit

Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)
Along one of the roads, we enjoyed a calling and displaying Graceful Prinia

Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis)

Jaden alerted me to some juvenile Greater Flamingo's

Juvenile Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), Jaden
and when we stopped, we flushed two Pied Avocets

Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
There was a large flock of Common Black-headed Gulls feeding from the surface on the large pool, with the majority now in breeding plumage as they fatten up for their return north

Common Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
While we were watching the Gulls, an adult Black-crowned Night Heron flew in and instead of landing in the reeds, it landed atop a tall tree in the middle of the pool

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), Jaden
In the reeds, a male Byzantine Stonechat was hawking for insects.

Male Byzantine Stonechat (Saxicola m. variegatus)
However, the highlight of the morning for both of us was watching a Western Osprey hunting around the large pool - putting many birds to flight each time it plunged unsuccessfully into the water.

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Jaden
I explained to Jaden that it will continue until it was successful (never give up!) and as luck would have it, on its 4th attempt that we saw, it hit the water behind some reeds, so we missed the main spectacle, but did see that it was finally successful as it flew away from us with a really large tilapia type fish (certainly bigger than I expected to see in the pool).

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), hovering and quartering before the successful catch

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), 4th time lucky and a good sized catch
And with that, it was time to head back home after stopping for a customary Egg McMuffin and hot chocolate from the Sulaibikhat McDonalds - a great father and son morning together...