24 July 2015

Spring Census

Week 15, 10 and 11 April 2015 - Many locations

Apologies for the spring posting in mid-summer, but I am slowly getting through my backlog!

We had agreed earlier in the month with the Kuwait Birders to conduct a 48-hour spring census covering as many locations across Kuwait, as was possible. Mid-week the weather was perfect, but as it happens on more than one occasion, the perfect weather turns for the worse on the weekend. And, so it happened with us with wind and blowing dust for the whole weekend. As the census was already planned, we all pushed on.

Day 1 - 10 April 15
Markus Craig, Neil Tovey and I teamed up for the weekend so that we traveled together in one SUV. We had an early start despite the crappy and windy weather and made our first stop in the west at Al Abraq. As it is spring, migrants abound and they attract the shooters like a plague, but the poor weather played in our favour and most shooters didn't stay out too long. We chose to walk the farm first, staying clear of the boundary fence where shooters were patrolling early in the morning. A Red-breasted Flycatcher was welcome as one of the first birds

Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva)
We then had a darker Whitethroat and after much scrutiny and deliberation agreed on Hume's Whitethroat

Hume's Whitethroat (Sylvia althaea)

In the same acacia type tree's we also found Willow Warbler

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)
As well as this Warbler, which I suspect is Eurasian Reed

Probable Eurasian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
We continued walking and a couple of Common Redstart's were added to the growing list.

Male Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)

We then changed tactics and drove around the farm to the fields; here a car allows you to get closer to some species. We had a very dark streaked Lark that challenged us again - we finally agreed that it was Lesser Short-toed Lark.

Lesser Short-toed Lark (Alaudala rufescens)

It wasn't too long after this that another Lark dropped into the field next to us. We could not believe that it was one of the most sought after Lark's in Kuwait and the Region - Dunn's! I was on the wrong side of the car, so could not get an image. Many thanks to Markus Craig for sharing his image for this post.

The elusive Dunn's Lark (Eremalauda dunni)
There was also a group of 3 Pale Rockfinch, a bird I haven't seen for some time.

Pale Rockfinch (Carpospiza brachydactyla)
Other birds around the fields included; Grey-headed Wagtail

Grey-headed Wagtail (Motacilla f. thunbergi)
South Caspian Stonechat

Male South Caspian Stonechat (Saxicola m. variegatus)
There weren't many more birds to be found, so we drove east and then north to Mutla'a Ranch. The bigger tree's at this farm, provided a little more shelter as we added more birds to the list including Common Rock Thrush

Male Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxatilis)
White-throated Robin

Female White-throated Robin (Irania gutturalis)
and Masked Shrike

Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)
For this kind of event, you need to quickly work a location and move on - and so we found ourselves at Jahra Farm where we added both Myna's - Common and Bank.

Jahra Pools was next and here the wind seemed to pick up pace again, but birds were still to be seen; Collared Pratincole near the beach

Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola)
As well a few Kentish Plovers with young

Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) with young
Red-necked Phalarope on one of the small pools

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
Spotted Crake skulking around the reeds

Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana)
and many other wetland birds like Little Grebe, Common Moorhen and Grey-headed Swamphen (this one had a very pale grey head!)

Paler Grey-headed Swamphen (Porphyrio  p. poliocephalus)
a distant pair of Red-wattled Lapwings looked quite settled and may end up breeding at JPR

A pair of Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)
A Western Osprey cruised by overhead before we moved to Jahra East.

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Here we added many shorebird species to the list that were roosting on the beach. 

The final stop was the western boundary of Pivot Fields where the last few birds were added to the list before the sun set; Lesser Kestrel, Black Kite and Greater Short-toed Lark were just some. It was a long day in less than ideal conditions and we were happy with our 100+ tally.

Day 2 - 11 April 15
I had to go to work at 9am for a few hours, but left home earlier and did some birding on route to work. The weather had not improved much and the sky had an orange tinge from the blowing sand - not conducive to photography at all!

My first stop was near Scientific Center to check for Skua's out at sea - no luck, but an obliging White-cheeked Tern flew parallel to the Corniche

White-cheeked Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)
A White-headed Wagtail on the verge next to McDonald's on Gulf Road was unexpected - this is the sub-species that is the least common.

White-headed Wagtail (Motacilla f. leucocephala)

A little further up Gulf Road, I found Yellow-headed Wagtail

Yellow-headed Wagtail (Motacilla f. lutea)

Red-throated Pipits

Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus)

and Tree Pipit, a new species for the list

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
Stopping at the outfall in Sulaibikhat, there was a huge flock of Common Black-headed Gulls roosting and feeding around the outfall

Common Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)

Gull-billed Terns were patrolling along the coast and outfall

Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)
A male White-throated Robin in the car park at Souk Sharq was quite out of place

Male White-throated Robin (Irania gutturalis)
Once I had finished at work, I met Markus, Cognelia and Neil at JPR - Markus had added Pied Avocet to the list whilst waiting. We then drove in one car to the coastguard station at Boubiyan and had a great afternoon with the coastguard. We checked the various channels on Boubiyan where breeding was just kicking off for most of the species that breed on this vast island including; Grey Heron

Nesting Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Western Reef Heron

Nesting Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)
Eurasian Spoonbill

Eurasian Spoonbill

Crab-plover (Dromas ardeola)
Slender-billed Gulls

Breeding Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei)

and Gull-billed Terns

Adult Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)
Lesser-crested Terns were seen overhead, but they breed on the off-shore islands further south

Lesser Crested Tern (Sterna bengalensis)
We stopped on Warba Island where we were hosted and treated to tea with the officers on duty. Although there is very little habitat on this flat island, what little habitat there was, attracted a number of migrants; European Stonechat

Female European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)
Willow Warbler

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Other good birds seen included Pied Wheatear, Yellow Wags, White-throated and Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Blackcap, Daurian Shrike, European Bee-eater, Common Whitethroat and Barn Swallow.

A Walton's Mudskipper bid us farewell as we walked down the pier to the boat

Walton's Mudskipper (Periophthalmus waltoni)
We enjoyed the hospitality of the coastguard before it was finally it was time for the long trip back to the coastguard station and then to still drive to JPR by which time it was dark when we arrived and called it a day. Not as many birds today, as expected - but an enjoyable experience.

Over the coming days, we consolidated the sightings from all the other participants and ended with a credible 146 species for the 48-hour spring census - which was admirable given the adverse weather for the whole weekend. Thanks to all for participating, it was a fantastic success - same time next year!

07 July 2015

Anniversary Birding

Week 14, 04 April 2015 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

Although it was my anniversary, we deferred the celebrations to a dinner for two.

I didn't get any extra attention ordering my usual breakfast at McDonald's on the way down to the Sea City Project in the south of Kuwait. 

As usual I stopped at some degraded reed habitat on route and picked up some pretty good birds to start the morning. A Western Marsh Harrier that had roosted overnight on the deck, didn't stick around too long. It's a good thing, as this is a public area, it is Spring migration and shooters are around, so I'm happy that the raptors are weary rather than confiding.

Male Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

Tree Pipits were foraging along some of the standing water

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
Common Sandpiper were present

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
As were Little Ringed Plovers, who may end up breeding in this area come the summer

Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
Indian Reed Warbler was seen briefly in the reeds

Indian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus s. brunnescens)
A Masked Shrike (one of my favourite Shrikes) was seen sitting quietly and patiently in between some of the larger reeds - a perfect ambush perch!

Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)
A flash of black and white flying down from the reeds some distance away turned out to be a male Semi-collared Flycatcher, a good record for the south of Kuwait

Male Semi-collared Flycatcher (Ficedula semitorquata)
Not too long after this, a Spotted Crake came out of cover, before running back into the reeds - another great record for the south

Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana)
I stopped and got out the car to listen to a bird calling in the reeds, when I came back I found a Damselfly sp in my car - this is a species I have been searching for quite some time - not an ideal place to photograph it. Later I was able to identify it as Evan's Bluetail

Evans Bluetail (Ischnura Evansi)
In the acacia alongside the road, Common Redstart's were quite numerous 

Female Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)

Male Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
I found a flock of European Bee-eaters roosting on an old building

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)
Inside the project, Bottlebrush shrubs were in flower and both Eurasian Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat just love their flowers in the spring

The impressive and distinctive Bottlebrush flower

Male Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)

I recorded my first Spotted Fly's of this spring

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
As well as Eurasian Wryneck

Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) foraging for ants
Today, only Pied Wheatears were seen

Male Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
Together with a few Woodchat Shrikes

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)
and a Turkestan Shrike

Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
This ideal perch was the demise of one and lunch for another - not sure what may have used the perch, but a Sparrowhawk seems a good first choice.

Nature's dinner plate
In the same grove of tree's I was really pleased to find a Eurasian Scops Owl that of course saw me long before I saw it. Once alert, they will flush easily, so I was very careful to avoid this and luckily it stayed for a mug shot and then I left it in peace.

Eurasian Scops Owl (Otus scops)

A Pallid Harrier was seen briefly as it passed by overhead

Male Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)
A few Black Rats were not that good to see, hopefully they wont spread - but they are a potential food source for raptors passing by. Maybe I get to see fur instead of feathers on that branch in the future!

Black Rat