21 August 2018

Father and son twitch

Week 17; 27 April 2018 - Jahra Pools Reserve

My friend Markus Craig had found Kuwait's 1st Eastern Cattle Egret earlier this week at JPR. My family was visiting for a few weeks, so it was a great opportunity for a father and son twitch to JPR although the weather was not great too start - a little cloudy and gloomy and fingers crossed that the bird was still present.

On arrival I had a very yellow Phylloscopus Warbler just beyond the entrance gate - I needed to make sure it was not Wood, so this delayed us heading immediately for the Egret. Turned out to be a Willow in the end.....

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)

We then headed to toward the outfall which is a little elevated and would allow us to scan the area where it had been present. A Barn Swallow was roosting near the deep water crossing, a few of these pairs are now breeding residents!

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

You certainly do need a 4x4 in JPR now...

No luck from here, so we backtracked back to the water crossing, finding European Bee-eater.

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)

I received a call from Humoud who was also looking for the bird to say he had found it at the location we were heading to. Once there, it was easily found, but was pretty active; foraging and then flying off to forage and feed elsewhere. Jaden and I both enjoyed watching and photographing the bird for a prolonged period

Eastern Cattle Egret (Bubulcus coromandus) - a 1st for Kuwait

Nearer to the beach, we had a few Collared Pratincoles overhead testing our BIF skills

Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola)

At one of the small pools are real pale headed Beema Wagtail - when I first saw it I thought it might have been White-headed

Sykes’s Wagtail (Motacilla f. beema)

In the same pool a Spotted Crake fed quietly at the far end close to the reeds in case it need to retreat quickly if any danger presented itself

Spotted Crake (Porzana porzana)

We enjoyed watching a Daurian Shrike pounce on one of the many Darkling Beetles

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus) with Darkling Beetle

and further down the same track a gorgeous Red-backed Shrike

Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)

along with Lesser Whitethroat

Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia c. halimodendr)

There were a few Red-necked Phalarope's feeding and spinning in a pool close to the road. I switched the car off and we photographed quietly from the car

Female Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)

Male Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)

as the birds seemed quite relaxed, we got out of the car and I showed Jaden what a difference and impact it makes to your image when you photograph at eye level.

This was a high note to end of on before our customary Egg McMuffin from McDonald on the way home

Boubyan and Warba Island

Week 14; 06 April 2018 - Boubyan and Warba Island

I arranged a trip with Kuwait Coastguard for the KORC members, so we could get a sense of the numbers of species preparing for the coming breeding season on Boubyan. This is a restricted area and the Kuwait Coastguard kindly offered to take us through some of the Khawr's that snake through Boubyan and their skill and knowledge to navigate these tricky Khawr's is invaluable. It is within these Khawr's that many of the resident species breed.

On the way up, we had Eurasian Curlew fly across bow of the boat - quite a challenge to even find it in the view finder.

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata)

A little further, Swift Tern was seen overhead (apparently there is a substantial breeding colony of this species on the island that we need to check on our next visit).

Swift Tern (Sterna bergii)

The first Khawr we traversed had the Gull-billed Tern breeding colony and it is quite something to be surrounded by them

Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)

The next had Slender-billed Gull's and they are quite striking in their breeding plumage with the pink wash to the underparts and the way they extend their necks characteristically in flight when displaying

Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei)

The last Khawr was where the majority of Herons breed close to the shoreline on elevated nests - Grey Heron. Here three youngsters on one of the nests - not sure where the fish came from?

Juvenile Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

As well as Indian Reef Heron

Juvenile Indian Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)

Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea) - dark form

Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea) - pale form

It was whilst watching the adults and young that we saw our only Eurasian Spoonbill fly overhead. It seems the number of breeding pairs has decreased significantly over the past few years - not sure of the reason, but perhaps competition with the Herons for available and suitable nest sites?

Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)

We did also see the Crab-plovers, but they were too distant for images

On the way out, we made a stop on Warba Island as this usually produces passerine migrants, even despite the lack of any suitable habitat other than some scraggly shrubs and reeds around the coastguard station, but Eastern Orphean Warbler

Eastern Orphean Warbler (Sylvia crassirostris)

White-throated Robin to add a splash of colour

White-throated Robin (Irania gutturalis)

a few Pied Wheatear's and a Woodchat Shrike were all enjoyed by the team.

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)

Walking back to the boat, the tide was receding, so we enjoyed the 2 species of Mudskipper that occur on Warba; Walton's

Walton's Mudskipper (Periophthalmus waltoni)

and Slender

Slender Mudskipper (Scartelaos tenuis)

Overall a good day and thanks again to the Kuwait Coastguard for their hospitality, skill and patience whilst taking us to the various breeding locations.

19 August 2018

Post COTF18 birding

Week 13; 31 March 2018 - Al Abraq

I returned earlier this week from taking part in Champions of the Flyway (COTF18) with Team Rockjumper (Adam Riley, George Armistead and Toumas Seimola and myself) to both compete and raise money for Birdlife Croatia and Birdlife Serbia in their plight to protect migratory birds along key flyways in their respective countries. We can proudly say that the 32 competing teams raised in excess of $100,000 and set a new COTF milestone. Team Rockjumper raised 150% of our conservation target and recorded 161 species in the 24-hour period of the race and had a really great time in doing so.

As migration was in full swing during COTF it was obvious that I would be out over the weekend and since the preceding weekend at Abraq was so good, that is where I headed today and again some great birds were to be had.

Before I reached the gate to the farm just as the sun was coming up, I saw some migrants where the water tankers fill their tanks for the farm. In particular a Red-throated Pipit which was not here two weeks ago was feeding in and around the trucks. I must say the drivers looked at me strangely when I got out my car and lay flat on the ground. Later one of them came to see what I was doing and since we didn't speak the same language I just showed him the back of my camera - he smiled and gave me the thumbs up

Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus)

Once inside, I had a slow drive around to get a sense of what was here, a distant roosting European Turtle Dove was a great start as these birds are certainly becoming fewer each year as they are persecuted on every leg of their migration journey

European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur)

Some European Bee-eaters had also roosted overnight

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)

A Masked Shrike was fleetingly seen before it disappeared into cover

Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)

In the open desert area, Isabelline Wheatear's were numerous

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

Two nomadic Pale Rockfinch dropped in briefly to feed on wild seeds before disappearing again

Pale Rockfinch (Carpospiza brachydactyla)

At the fields where crops were being watered, there was a lot more action with a few races of Yellow Wagtail foraging amongst the crops - Sykes’s Wagtail

Sykes's Wagtail (Motacilla f. beema)

Yellow-headed Wagtail

Yellow-headed Wagtail (Motacilla f. lutea)

and this unknown race which may be a beema variant - if you any idea's, let me know.

Yellow Wagtail - race?

A few more Red-throated Pipits

Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus)

However, the highlight for today was a single Eurasian Siskin feeding feverishly on the seeds from some flowers - pulling them out from the base of the 'pod'

Eurasian Siskin (Carduelis spinus)

In the same area, a female Siberian Stonechat was hawking from the tops of the same flowers

Female Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola m. hemprichii)

Along the road quite a few Rufous-tailed Scrub Robins were quite active

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes)

As with the last visit, there were still good numbers of Pied Wheatear present with a bit of variation between some of the male birds

Male Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka) - no rufous

Male Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka) - with rufous chest

female Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

There were fewer Northern Wheatear's

Male Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)

and Eastern Black-eared Wheatear's

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca) with dark throat

Spotted Flycatchers now put in an appearance

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)

A Mauryan Grey Shrike was seen on the boundary fence

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)

Whilst a stunning Western Blue Rock Thrush was at the now empty pond at the entrance to the farm

Western Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)

At this time of year, you also have to keep an eye out on the skies above - hirundines were represented by Common House Martin

Common House Martin (Delichon urbicum)

and Sand Martin

Sand Martin (Riparia riparia)

Whilst there were also fly by's of Western Marsh 

Male Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

and Montagu's Harrier

Male Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus)

A little later when thermals strengthened a single Eastern Imperial Eagle came soaring by majestically overhead..

Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)

However, the best part of the whole day was the almost complete lack of shooters around the farm - not sure why, but I appreciated it immensely!