17 April 2015

Under a crescent moon

Week 13, 23 March 2015 - Entertainment City, Doha

My son plays cricket on the pitch next to Entertainment City once a week, after work.

The past week, I saw an Egyptian Nightjar hawking under the lights on the pitch. As the daylight hours are now increasing, I took my camera this time and obviously the Nightjar never made an appearance.

While my son was warming up, I strolled around the grounds which have quite good habitat; palms, large casuarina and eucalyptus trees. Secretly I'm hoping to find Barn Owl - no luck with that species either/yet. 

I did however see a large mixed Hirundine flock passing high overhead after the sun had set. These were all taken with the Canon 100-400mm II, but birds were literally dots in the viewfinder..

In amongst the Barn Swallows were Red-rumped

Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica)
A few Common Swifts

Common Swift (Apus apus)
and only once I downloaded my images did I find that one was also an Alpine Swift - so that was an unexpected bonus.

Alpine Swift (Tachymarptis melba)
Tonight was a waxing crescent moon, with just a sliver visible and pretty cool with the Hirundines passing below it...

Crescent Moon and Swift
By now it was too dark for any more birds, so it was onto the cricket action as the practice match had started. So, I put the lens to the test under the lights with ISO cranked up to 4000 and was pretty happy with the results.

Cracking it away under the lights

15 April 2015

Cloudy with a chance of Wheatear's

Week 11, 14 March 2015 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

One week on, I was back down in the south of the country on what remained and overcast and cloudy day all day. This time I left earlier than usual, as I wanted to get to the reed habitat at first light. I grabbed my usual Egg McMuffin breakfast and cappuccino on the way and still the same staff who now seem to recognise me, still ask what I will be having - when I say the usual, it goes straight over their heads!

When I arrived I heard Eurasian Stone-curlew calling, only to discover it was a boom box in the desert to attract this species for the falconers. Shortly afterwards they arrived in their Landcruiser and proceeded to drive all over and flatten the fragile desert flora, trying to flush an unsuspecting Stone-curlew. 

They finally did find one and fortunately this time, the Falcon was hardly interested and didn't have much aggression in chasing after the bird after they flushed it with the car (modern day falconry!) - so the Stone-curlew lived to tell another tale and the falconer had a challenge trying to get his reluctant bird back on the hand. 

These images taken in the pre-dawn light and from quite a distance - but they tell the story!

Falconers quarry; Eurasian Stone-curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus)

Strike 1

Strike 2
Strike 3 and the Stone-curlew thankfully escapes and disappears into the distance

You're out and coming home now! I'm not ready
Little Crakes were still present, but this time only 2 male birds

Male Little Crake (Porzana parva)

A stunning male Central Asian Black Redstart took some patience getting close, before it relaxed enough for me to get a few images

Male Central Asian Black Redstart (Phoenicurus o. phoenicuroides)

A solitary Water Pipit, now resplendent in breeding plumage was foraging in a small pool of water

Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta ) in breeding plumage
In the reeds there was a mix of Common Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
and a single Great Reed Warbler that didn't stay in the open for too long

Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
Western Yellow Wagtail numbers continue to increase. I have noted a few variations with the supercilium and thanks to Yoav, this one is not a classic supercilius as I had also thought, but couldn't peg it to any other form.

Black-headed Wagtail (Motacilla f. supercilius)
Shrikes were represented by Turkestan

Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroide)

The Darkling Beetles get hammered by the Shrikes
and Mauryan Grey

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)

Away from the reeds in the desert scrub, some of which was now flattened, I found Tawny Pipit

Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)
A few male Northern Wheatears

Male Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
as well as a few Pied Wheatear

Female Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
By now it was time to head to the boat, but there wasn't much to be seen other than a single Sandwich Tern 

Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis)
a Great Black-headed Gull on the breakwater,

Great Black-headed Gull (Leucophaeus ichthyaetus)

Down the runway

followed by a Caspian Gull

Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)
and a Eurasian Curlew fly by.

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata)
Road 278 itself was pretty productive with many passerine migrants now on the move; a single male Ehrenberg's Redstart was seen in the acacia's

Male Ehrenberg's Redstart (Phoenicurus p. sammamisicus)
along with Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)

More Stonechat's - mostly female North Caspian (the males have the Wheatear type tale)

Female North Caspian Stonechat (Saxicola m. hemprichii)

and my first male South Caspian Stonechat of the spring (pure white rump)

Male South Caspian Stonechat (Saxicola m. variegatus)

I found a roost of Spanish Sparrows, that probably wont be around much longer

Female Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis)

Male Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis)

A Common Kestrel was seen roosting in the shade of a building

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
In an area with some contours and height, I added Common Rock Thrush

Male Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis)
Blue Rock Thrush

Female Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)
Eurasian Hoopoe

Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
and a Ménétriés’s Warbler

Male Ménétriés’s Warbler (Sylvia mystacea)
Exploring an open desert area, more Mauryan Grey Shrikes were seen

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)

as well as a few Woodchat

Male Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)
some late Daurian Shrikes

Male Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
and more Turkestan

Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
and as the day had warmed up, Wheatears were everywhere - this was the prelude to their peak a few days later when we counted over 900 Wheatear in various locations around Kuwait.

Pied Wheatear made up the bulk of the numbers

Female Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

Male Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

followed by Northern Wheatear 

Male Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

Male Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca)

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca)
And a late Red-tailed Wheatear was still present

Late Red-tailed Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia)
All in all, a great day for passerine migrants which seem to prefer to remain grounded during inclement weather - so I guess mild fall out was enjoyed today..