24 March 2019

Spring migration picking up

Week 11, 16 March 2019 - Al Abraq and Jahra Farm

Paul Scott and I had an early start in good weather for the drive west to Al Abraq in the hope the migration had picked up a little since last week. On arrival we stopped at the pond near the entrance while we got our optics and camera gear sorted. A number of Common Chiffchaff were active in the trees next to the pond.

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

We then had a slow drive around the farm inadvertently flushing a Steppe Buzzard that had roosted for the night

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

In the open desert area we noted that the number of Pied Wheatear's had increased and almost all males. There is also plumage variation between the males - some have pretty white underparts, whilst others have hints of pale beige/brown

Pied Wheatear 1 (Oenanthe pleschanka)

Pied Wheatear 2 (Oenanthe pleschanka)

Pied Wheatear 3 (Oenanthe pleschanka)

There was only one female amongst the males

Female Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

In the fields, a single female Armenian Stonechat was seen

Female Armenian Stonechat (Saxicola m. variegatus)

Along with two Daurian Shrikes that looked smart in their breeding plumage

Daurian Shrike 1 (Lanius isabellinus)

Daurian Shrike 2 (Lanius isabellinus)

and soon after a stunning male Western Blue Rock Thrush that was quite content sitting quietly in a low bush seemingly enjoying the early morning sun

Western Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)

We then parked the car and walked which was fairly productive in one area where there were many more Common Chiffchaff, as well as Willow Warbler calling

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

Along with some Eurasian Blackcap's

Male Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)

A single Lesser Whitethroat gave fleetingly good views

Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia c. halimodendri)

and a cracking male Ehrenberg Redstart that with patience was eventually quite obliging

Male Ehrenberg's Redstart (Phoenicurus p. sammamisicus)

A Deer wandering around the farm was a bit of a surprise, but it had escaped from it's pen


The flower show is still in bloom and Painted Lady butterflies are seemingly still everywhere

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

and there are more to come with many pupae seen in the vegetation. This one was visibly vibrating - so hatching was imminent

Painted Lady pupae (Vanessa cardui)

I photographed a Mediterranean Pierrot

Mediterranean Pierrot (Tarucus rosacea)

and it was replaced by a Fly when I hesitated in taking another image - now you see me, now you don't!

Fly sp.

These yellow flowers were quite pungent and more appealing to Hover Fly's

Hover Fly sp

A Small Cabbage White stood out from the crowd of Painted Lady's

Small Cabbage White (Artogeia r. iranica)

These Bordered Straw type moths are also very active in the day feeding together with the Painted Lady's

Possible Bordered Straw (Heliosthis peltigera)

Possible Eastern Bordered Straw (Heliosthis nubigera)

Grasshopper numbers are also starting to increase

Grasshopper sp

On the way out, we were quite surprised to find a Little Bittern at the pond

Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus)

As well as a Ruff that had also dropped in

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

We then headed back east, stopping off at Jahra Farm - by now it was pretty warm and there wasn't too much around - but we did enjoy the antics of around 4 White-throated Kingfishers that were very vocal and seemed quite territorial - or there were a few males competing for the attention of a female?

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) and Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

Calling White-throated Kingfisher

Displaying White-throated Kingfisher

Territorial White-throated Kingfisher

Don't want that anymore

We did keep an eye on the sky and were rewarded with a distant Short-toed Snake Eagle passing by overhead.

Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)

Migration is certainly evident, but still abundance and diversity are pretty low and hopefully will pick up in the coming few weeks

18 March 2019

Dawn in the West, Dusk in the East

Week 10; 09 March 2019 - Various Sites

I had a great day's guiding with Linda Widdop, the VP of Delaware Valley Bird Club (DVBC) in Philadelphia who was in Kuwait on business. Not a great start when Google Maps hadn't been updated with all the road works around the Hotel and quite frustrating when you can see the Hotel, but not quite get there. 

I planned a route starting in the west at Abraq and from there heading back east to finally end the day at Jahra Pools. Unfortunately we had quite a brisk wind for most of the day, but migrants were on the move. As like last week, Al Abraq was pretty cold early in the morning but we combined our time here with both walking and driving. The pool at the entrance had Grey Wagtail and we watched it dismember a Dragonfly for breakfast

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)

There were a number of Green Sandpiper seen and heard

Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)

In the woods, the numbers of Willow Warbler had increased, but there were also still a few Chiffchaff both seen and heard

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

In the open desert area we had a number of Hoopoe and later a few Tawny Pipits dropped in - probably as respite against the wind

Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)

Whilst overhead a couple of Common Swift passed by very quickly

Common Swift (Apus apus)

We got onto a stunning male Common Redstart and in the same area also Common and Lesser Whitethroat. A male Ménétriés’s Warbler played hiding-go-seek with us, but did eventually present itself briefly

Male Ménétriés’s Warbler (Sylvia mystacea_

Linda picked up a raptor high overhead which turned out to be a Steppe Eagle

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)

whilst I briefly got onto a Black-winged Kite (not the same juvenile as my last visit), as it flew by low over the trees

Black-winged Kite (Elanus c. vociferus)

By now we weren't adding new birds, so headed east and north to Liyah which is primarily an open desert reserve. We added Desert Wheatear and Mauryan Grey Shrike and had better views of Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. The unexpected migrant, at least for this reserve, was a male Semi-collared Flycatcher that had perfected the art of keep of lot of foliage between us and him.

Semi-collared Flycatcher (Ficedula semitorquata)

After a quick stop for a McRoyale (which is apparently not on the McDonald's menu in the USA) we headed south to Sulaibikhat Bay for the incoming tide.

There was quite an assortment of Gulls; Slender-billed, Common Black-headed, Caspian, Steppe, Heuglin's and a single Baltic on the edge of the big flock of Redshank

Baltic Gull (Larus fuscus) and Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)

The Greater Flamingo flock was edging closer until some wanker with his drone and not a care for anyone else flushed them all, together with the Gull and Wader flock

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)

A couple of Gull's were still coming in from further down the coast, but continued with the rest of the flock

Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)

Possible Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)

There are a number of Eurasian Collared Doves at this location, this one flying low in the wind with the causeway as a backdrop

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)

It was then back north for a walk around Jahra Farm where the same unique farming technique has been practiced for over 100 years. We had a number of species here, including the resident White-throated Kingfishers

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)

Overhead, Linda picked up another soaring raptor - this also a Steppe Eagle, but with a really dark head which is a plumage variant I have not seen or read about before. Perhaps it is related to the age of the bird?

Dark-headed Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)

Our last stop was Jahra Pools, just over the 80 Freeway from Jahra Farm and here we racked up many more species of Ducks, Grebes and other reed dwelling species. A pair of Pied Kingfishers had us entertained for some time as they hunted in the main pool

Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)

And in a quiet pool, we picked up both Spotted and Little Crake which Linda was thrilled about. At the causeway we had a variety of Heron's including Great White Egret

Western Great Egret (Ardea alba)

We also watched a female Western Marsh Harrier spooking all the birds, as it flew low over the reeds

Female Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

And later this male Marsh Harrier that I am struggling to age

Male Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

Jahra Pools is still THE place for Greater Spotted Eagles and we had our fill with these magnificent raptors as they slowly dropped out of the sky

Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga)

to come and roost for the night

Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga)

In amongst the Greater Spotted's, a Western Osprey had also found a high perch for the night

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

By now the sun had hit the horizon and it was time to head back to the Hotel whilst recounting the highlights of the day. We had just over 80 species of which just under 40 were new species for Linda. This is not a bad haul for this early in the spring migration and with an unfavourable wind

You can read Linda's account of the day on her Blog;