31 December 2019

End of the Decade

Week 52; 28 December 2019 - Pivot Fields

This was my last day's birding before the year end, so too Pivot Fields it was which I worked really hard over 4-hours. Most of the expected wintering birds were seen, but nothing out of the ordinary. I guess it is tough expecting to top the Waterhen in the same month!

Near the Camel pens, I had two Eastern Stonechat

Eastern Stonechat (Saxicola maurus)

And quite a few Water Pipits feeding on the decomposing alfalfa bales. Surprisingly these bales generate a lot of heat from the inside which in turn affects the sharpness of the image 

Caucasian Water Pipit (Anthus s. coutelli)

The Long-legged Buzzard's don't let you get close at all. With all the activity around the fields, you would think they would be a little more tolerant

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus)

The wintering flock of Black/Black-eared Kite were close to 50

Black Kite (Milvus migrans)

There were two huge flocks of Northern Lapwing that were quite flighty

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus

but I did also manage to get reasonably close to some roosting in a field.

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus

I had a flock of 15 Spur-winged Lapwing, the biggest number I have recorded to date

Spur-winged Lapwing (Vanellus spinosus)

I spent some time at the marsh, where I eked out one Jack Snipe amongst the countless Common Snipe (although I'm really looking for Pin-tailed)

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)

7 of the 8 White-winged Terns seen were in full breeding plumage, getting the glint in the eye is quite a challenge

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)

A flock of Ruff looking like a fighter jet display, inverted and coming in to land at the marsh

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

Amongst the Green Sandpiper, I found a Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)

By now the temperature was really pleasant and mild for a mid-winters day, so took a drive around the perimeter and some of the pivots - finding Eastern Imperial Eagle

Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)

and the cracking fulvescens Greater Spotted, for comparison, that has been present for quite some time

Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga fulvescens)

There was a bit of a fight between two Sparrowhawk's that flushed from the Tamerisk Trees on the boundary - a bit far off to get any decent images though

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

I came across four Wood Pigeon perched on the overhead line

Common Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus)

I spent quite some time watching this Cattle Egret trying to down a Green Toad - would be a piece of cake for a Cormorant. At one point, another Egret came over and even then the Egret couldn't get it down - so I left it in peace.

Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) with Green Toad (Pseudepidalea viridis)

You can tell we are having a mild winter, when a Spiny-tailed Lizard awaken from its hibernation - judging from its colour, it was still really cold

Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard (Uromastyx aegyptia microlepis)

And that brought and end to another enjoyable morning's birding at the Pivots.

The next decade is almost upon us, so wishing all those who visit my blog a very happy new year and that 2020 is all that you wish for and more!

Hit and miss at JPR

Week 52; 27 December 2019 - Jahra Pools Reserve

My last weekend's birding of this year before I head down to SA for my long overdue summer holiday. I spent a few hours at JPR in the afternoon trying to re-locate the Waterhen, White-tailed Eagle and interesting Martins seen by visiting birders earlier in the week, without success.

Nevertheless, it is still a reserve to be enjoyed and there were still good numbers of Greater Spotted coming in to roost for the night.

Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga)

The Western Osprey is still here and has been present for a couple of weeks now 

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

I was surprised how few Water Pipit's there were

Caucasian Water Pipit (Anthus s. coutelli)

I had one White-winged Tern over the big pool

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)

and down at the beach, a few Eurasian Curlews in the inter-tidal zones. These had really long bills, so possibly orientalis 

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata orientalis)

Checking the skies for any Hirundines, I had two Barn Swallow and plenty of Pallid Swifts

Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus)

Got a bit creative with the back and rim lighting on the reeds, as the sun slipped to the horizon

Backlit Phragmite Reeds

Sunset over Jahra

23 December 2019

Jahra Pools keeps delivering

Week 51; 21 December 2019 - Jahra Pools Reserve

I had to work most of the weekend, but keenly followed the progress of visiting international birders who came during the week and weekend to twitch the Waterhen and Sunbird. 

Yesterday the 8th White-tailed Eagle and possibly the 2nd Pale Martin (pending confirmation) were found at JPR by our visitors. Finally I managed to get to JPR late this afternoon for 90-minutes birding before sunset.

At the big pool I had two female Western Marsh Harriers actively hunting

Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

No sign of any ominous looking raptor in the woods, but I did have a 'pair' of White-tailed Lapwing at one of the smaller pools - the looked good in the late afternoon light

White-tailed Lapwing (Vanellus leucurus)

Down at the beach, the tide was a zillion miles out, but there were a couple of Greater Spotted Eagles already roosting at the edge of the low tide zone, with a large flock of Greater Flamingo's as a backdrop

Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga)

Two Gull-billed Terns were quite active over the beach 

Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)

Although a long way off, I noticed up to 6 Greater Spotted Eagles appearing a little agitated in amongst the reeds where the outfall flows into the sea, some flying in and then out again. Others just seemingly jostling amongst themselves. However, one of the Eagles was larger than the others, but it was only when I checked my images on my computer could I confirm this was indeed the White-tailed Eagle - not an ideal sighting by any stretch of the imagination. Hopefully it stays till next weekend and gives better views

Greater Spotted Eagles (Aquila clanga) and White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) on the right

By now, the sun had disappeared, so I had to exit, stopping for this Greater Spotted that was roosting on the side of the road. I had 13 Greater Spotted Eagles that had come to roost for the night in the reserve, not all happy that the White-tailed had decided to do the same.

Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga)

18 December 2019

A WP Mega to see out the Decade

Week 50; 14 December 2019 - Jahra Pools Reserve

I started the day just after sunrise at Jahra Farm checking for Thrush and Pipit species, given that UAE had a few Buff-bellied and Olive-backed this past week. No luck at all, but I did have a Masked Shrike and Western Cattle Egret

Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

I then headed across the freeway to JPR, blissfully unaware how the morning was to unfold.I stopped at the big pool and watched a male Western Marsh Harrier hunting over the reeds.
Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

The Gadwall were nervous and took flight frequently

Gadwall (Anas strepera)

The Black-necked Grebes were a long way off, not so for the many Little Grebes

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

On the way to the beach, a White-throated Kingfisher sat patiently in a dead tree waiting for breakfast

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)

Not far off, a Greater Spotted Eagle with a bulging crop rested in a tree, while a few others were circling overhead

Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga)

Down at the beach, there were small flocks of Spanish Sparrows

Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis)

and a Daurian Shrike

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)

The tide was really far out, so not much to be seen in the inter-tidal zone

Deciding to do a last circuit of the reserve, I took a road that is bordered by tall reeds on either side on the way back to the big pool. Driving slowly as I approached the junction of a road that is closed with warning tape, I saw a dark medium size bird standing motionless on a pool of water, facing away from me. Moorhen was the obvious thought as they are a dime a dozen, but the bill was just too long. As I stopped, it turned to face me and all I saw was white cheeks and underparts - White-breasted frigging Waterhen (I have seen them plenty times in India and Sri Lanka). It is a species we have long considered should be found in Kuwait, as it has been recorded in UAE and Oman. But, this record is especially special as it is a 1st for Kuwait AND the WP!

1st White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) for Kuwait and WP

As I stopped, it darted out of the pool and into cover and I only managed to get off one frame. The only strategy was to sit and wait while I put out the news to the birders on our WhatsApp group who all changed what they had planned for the day and made their way to JPR.

White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus)

Fortunately it stayed in the area and most were able to connect with it over the course of the day and the following day.

It was still present on 17/12/19 for a visiting international birder and should hopefully stay, as quite a few more international birders have planned to arrive in the coming days!