27 August 2016

The Golden Hour

Week 34, 19 August 2016 - JPR

Markus Craig and I visited Jahra Pools Reserve in the late afternoon, which is the best time for photography, for the remaining accessible pools.

Even though it was early afternoon, a few Black-crowned Night Herons were already active and flying around above the reeds.

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
A few Caspian Reed Warbler's were seen from one of the observation towers

Caspian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus s. fuscus)
After a drive around the reserve, we found ourselves back at the pool in a good spot with the sun dropping in the sky behind us - perfect. Black-winged Stilts are generally quite photogenic and I quite like the image of the bird directly facing me.

Adult Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

There were many Grey-headed Swamphen's at this time of the afternoon

Grey-headed Swamphen (Porphyrio  p. poliocephalus)
A single European Black-tailed Godwit was still present

European Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa l. limosa)
And a few more Black-crowned Night Herons dropped in

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
A new migrant addition was a skulking Little Crake

Little Crake (Porzana parva)
A number of Shorebirds or waders were foraging on the shoreline and in the shallows including a few Ruff

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
Temminck's Stint was not seen on the previous visit

Temminck's Stint (Calidris temminckii)
There were quite a few Squacco Heron in breeding plumage and they are still looking pretty striking

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) in breeding plumage

There was also a very dark Squacco present and we debated the possibility of it being Indian Pond - but it remained as a juvenile Squacco Heron (not sure if it is an offspring of the Reserve?)

Juvenile Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)

Juvenile Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) - but a different bird to the one above

By now the sun was close to the horizon when I heard a Spotted Redshank fly by overhead. I thought it wasn't going drop in - but it circled back and dropped out of the sky, but into another pool further away from where we were parked. This just a record image, only because I haven't photographed one in breeding plumage yet!

Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
By now the sun had set, when we came across a very early Grey Wagtail. Here the haze is created by the evaporating moisture from the ground still evaporating in the late afternoon heat. 

1st year Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
Whilst we were watching the Wagtail, a Red-spotted Bluethroat popped out of the reeds for a record image

Red-spotted Bluethroat (Luscinia s. svecica)
All in all, a pleasant afternoon in the reserve, but still the migrant numbers are relatively low; however this should change in the coming 2-weeks

16 August 2016

A trickle of Passerine Migrants

Week 33, 13 August 2016 - Al Abraq 

Today Hassan Abouzeid, a colleague from work who shares the same interest and passion in birds and photography joined me on the long drive to Al Abraq in the west. We had a very early start to get to the farm just after sunrise to check on the arrival of the autumn migrants.

Much to our dismay, it looked like a school camp with many teenagers carrying air rifles and playing looped calls of migrant birds and creating carnage inside the farm. They have no regard for privacy and do not seem embarrassed at all about jumping over the fence to shoot any or all birds on this private property. Fortunately, the owners arrived shortly after us and soon chased all of them off and out of their property. Sadly birds were all very skittish, but that is to be understood. We first walked the farm, which is one of my special locations in Kuwait as it offers diverse habitat for many different species.

One of the first species seen was Corn Bunting, followed shortly afterwards by Common Whitethroat and in this image the white throat from which it gets its name, can be clearly seen..

Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)
A first year Barred Warbler was seen near the alfalfa fields

Barred Warbler (Sylvia nisoria)
As was one of many similar Warblers, this was only this one that I was able to photograph. I suspect it may be Marsh?

Possible Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris)
It took a little patience for this female Red-spotted Bluethroat to turn and face us.

Female Red-spotted Bluethroat (Luscinia s. svecica)
A lone Western Cattle Egret passed by overhead   ;-)

Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
We spent some time photographing some of the Dragonflies on the farm; this A Lesser Emperor

Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope)
And this, I'm not sure?

Dragonfly sp
Since it was heating up quickly, we left as I still wanted to show Hassan around Jahra Pools - where it was very windy when we arrived, so not too much to be seen or to photograph. Nevertheless, an enjoyable day with good conversation, despite the shooters early on, spoiling the start of the day!

AND with this post, I have finally caught up with my backlog of posts!

From Dusk to Dark

Week 33, 12 August 2016 - Jahra Pools and Sulaibiya

No posts in Kuwait for last weekend, as I was visiting my good friends in Qatar (see the post here - http://kuwaitbirding.blogspot.com/p/around-region.html)

I had mentioned in a previous post about the sweet afternoon light at Jahra Pools, so after a morning of tennis (yes, we play all year round!) and some time at the pool I was back at JPR in the late afternoon. A single Black-tailed Godwit was seen in one of the pools

European Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa l. limosa)
And a young Grey-headed Swamphen was foraging in the reeds

This year's Grey-headed Swamphen (Porphyrio  p. poliocephalus)
Again, I found a likely spot, opened all the windows and switched off the engine and leaked while I photographed the birds in the pool in the golden hour. Most of the birds were the same as the previous week, but with a few new additions. Dunlin still present

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
But Curlew Sandpiper was new

Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)
A small flock of Greater Sand Plover flew in, but didn't stay long

Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii)
One of this year's Little Ringed Plovers was foraging in the shallow water

This year's Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii)
Wood Sandpipers were also a new addition to the birds seen last week

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)

But White-winged Tern numbers seemed to have increased.

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)

As the light was fading fast, I had a quick drive around the reserve - Yellow Wagtails numbers are also slowly increasing

Black-headed Wagtail (Motacilla f. feldegg)
I found a family of 5 Little Ringed Plovers all foraging on a raised mound of sand - it seemed there were small insects coming out of the sand to feed and the Plover family made the most of this unexpected food supply

Adult Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii)
I took this abstract landscape

Jahra Pools Landscape
Followed by a few Black-crowned Night Herons that were getting pretty vocal from their roost

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Calling Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
Just before the sun set (I'm a sucker for sunsets/sunrises)

Another Jahra Pool sunset
As I was going past Sulaibiya on the way home, I made a stop to try locate Barn Owl and get that elusive photograph - no luck this time in even seeing the bird. 

There was however a Green Toad eruption, with so many Toads all over the desert. So, I got down to their level (lying flat on the sand), to get a few images.

Green Toad (Bufotes (Bufo) variabilis)

A single Desert Gecko was also seen, but was less obliging than the Toad's - same tactic again; get down on the sand!

Desert Gecko (Stenodactylus doriae)
Again, an enjoyable afternoon and evening out - still no Owl image though!

A Mega Day

Week 30, 30 July 2016 - Mutla'a Ranch and Jahra Pools

It was a year ago today that Neil and I found Kuwait's first Sabine's Gull, so we decided we had to go out today and see if we could find something special in the mid-summer heat.

Neil went direct to Jahra Pools, whilst I said I would check out Mutla'a Ranch at first light. No Barn Owl and other than one or two migrants, just the usual resident suspects; Crested Lark

Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
and Namaqua Dove

Female Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis)
So, back down the ridge to Jahra Pools to check the birds on the high tide line with Neil. Whilst driving through the reserve, I had my first Red-throated Bluethroat of the autumn. I was just lining up the photograph, when my phone rang - it was Neil, get here quick I have a possible Arctic Tern in my scope!

Red-spotted Bluethroat (Luscinia s. svecica)
I wasn't far away, so within 5-minutes I was checking the roosting Tern through the scope and it certainly had all the attributes of Arctic, plus Neil had also seen it flying. This will be the 7th record for Kuwait, if accepted by KORC. The bird was a long way off and with the heat haze coming off the sand, even a record image was tough. But I managed a few images to add to the Rarity Form.

7th Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) for Kuwait - pending KORC acceptance

While standing chatting, we talked again about Black Tern and sure enough we picked up one a little further away than where the Arctic Tern was roosting - this the 16th record for Kuwait..

16th Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)
In the same area, but feeding on the banks was the Western White Stork that was still present.

Western White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)
In amongst the waders on the shoreline were a few Lesser Sand Plovers in breeding plumage. Again heat haze played havoc with image quality...

Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius atrifrons)
Shortly after this Neil had to reluctantly leave. I saw that there were quite a few Terns (including the Black) feeding over the outfall in the reserve, so I headed there in my car where I also had slightly better light. In fact, I photographed all 3 Marsh Tern species feeding over the outfall which was a real win!

1. Black Tern

16th Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)

2. Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)

3. White-winged Tern

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)

Today again proved that even in adverse weather (in terms of mid-summer temperatures), good birds can be found if you are prepared to get out and sweat it out in the mid-day heat (it topped out at 50 degrees today!)