30 June 2019

Residents with a sprinkling of Migrants

Week 26; 29 June 2019 - Pivot Fields

The Pivot Fields is still the best option for summer birding for me, that is until we finally get our permits issued for JPR following the recent maintenance on the roads.

A 6am start is essential, to get the best out of the 2-hours available before it gets way to hot. I checked a few spots on the way in, but with no luck - so headed to the two big pans that are a magnet for any birds in this heat.

As usual, the Black-winged Stilts are present in numbers and a very vocal.

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

Both Caspian and Indian Reed Warblers were calling from the reeds. I haven't seen Little Bittern in the past few visits, but am almost certain they are quietly breeding in the reeds. 

I saw a large wader on the far side of the pan, but it was against the light. I drove all the way around and then crept toward where I thought it may be. I was not as stealthy as I thought I was and it flushed; an Black-tailed Godwit in full summer plumage. It didn't stay away for long and after 10-minutes came circling back and landed in a different area and continued feeding

European Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa l. limosa)

A flock of 10 Little Terns was a surprise

Little Tern (Sternula albifrons)

Also seen were Green and Marsh Sandpipers, a couple of Collared Pratincole's and the expected Kentish and Little Ringed Plover

I heard some Lapwings calling above me as they slowly descended to land in one of the fields - 4 Spur-winged Lapwing! I drove to the field where I saw them land and found another 3! That made it 7 and a new HDC (Highest Daily Count) for Kuwait

Spur-winged Lapwing (Vanellus spinosus), note the spurs

Whilst waiting in the grass on the edge of the pan, I photographed a few Dragonflies. Thanks to Prof. Christian Monnerat for the ID and for the many other Dragonflies I have photographed

Male Diplacodes lefebvrii

And also found what I thought may be a new Damselfly - however it may be a female of the known species. Waiting on confirmation of the ID from Christian

Damselfly sp.

By now I was wilting, so a quick drive around the farm finding Cream-coloured Courser, the same pale form Booted Eagle as last week, Black Kite, a Black-winged Kite and finally a juvenile Greater Hoopoe-Lark in between feeding and resting in any shade it could find

Greater Hoopoe-Lark (Alaemon alaudipes)

I was pretty happy with 32 species seen in 2-hours birding at this really productive site 

25 June 2019

Good summer birding

Week 25; 22 June 2019 - Pivot Fields

Early starts are the only option in the summer months, today I was solo and through the gate to the southern pivot fields at 6am.

Instead of going straight to the big pan, I detoured around the small fenced pool and was rewarded with a stunning dark morph 2cy juvenile Long-legged Buzzard (originally I thought it was a dark morph Western Marsh Harrier) feeding voraciously on a Libyan Jird. Fortunately Dick Forsman gave his valued opinion and corrected my initial ID. I didn't realise that dark Long-legged Buzzard also has the white nape patch like Western Marsh Harrier. The best features are the barred primaries, secondaries and tail seen in flight, while in Marsh Harrier there are, at the most, just a few irregular bars in the inner primaries and tail feathers.

I spent almost 20-minutes enjoying the bird which eventually flew off when it's crop was bulging. Interesting was that it didn't finish it's meal, nor took it when it flew off -  perhaps it would come back later?

2cy dark morph Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus)

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus) with Libyan Jird (Meriones libycus syrius)

I then headed down to the larger pan where I could have the sun at my back whilst checking for birds. As before, Black-winged Stilts were the most prevalent and vocal - although I couldn't really see any signs of breeding to justify their agitated behaviour.

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

Checking for Swifts or Swallows, I found a single Sand Martin overhead

Sand Martin (Riparia riparia)

In the reeds were both Indian and Caspian Reed Warblers

Caspian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus s. fuscus)

Whilst Graceful Prinia's were seen on the edge of the pan and along the outside of the reed beds

Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis)

There was some interesting interaction beyond the pan between the 'resident' Red-wattled Lapwing's and now two Spur-winged Lapwing's

Young Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) harassed by a Spur-winged Lapwing (Vanellus spinosus)

One of the Red-wattled was a young bird

Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)

and I suspect that one of the Spur-winged was also a young bird

Spur-winged Lapwing (Vanellus spinosus)

Possible 1st year Spur-winged Lapwing (Vanellus spinosus)

By now it had heated up, so a quick drive around the farm gave a moulting Black Kite with what looks like a Moorhen as breakfast, but frustratingly always flying away from me

Black Kite (Milvus migrans) feeding on the wing

Common Kestrel numbers had increased since last week, with possibly some 1st year birds with the adults

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

On the previous two visit's I had seen a large Desert Monitor but it disappeared in the flash of an eye. Today, I found one (maybe the same individual) out in the open and I managed to get an image as it sprinted across the desert and disappeared into a hole - probably that of a Spiny-tailed Lizard

Desert Monitor (Varanus griseus) at speed

Again, a pretty good day for mid-summer and scorching temperatures with around 26 species seen

16 June 2019

Back to the Pivots

Week 24; 15 June 2019 - Pivot Fields

I had a fantastic and hectic 5-days in Ethiopia racking up 206 species with 65 lifers and many endemics seen. That along with great scenery and a few new mammals including Ethiopian Wolf on Sanetti Plateau, Gelada Baboon and confiding Black and White Colobus Monkey's.

With not many options available, it was a reality check going back to the Pivots after being at altitude for most of last week.

One of the Pivot Fields

Today I was solo and through the gate at 6am and just headed straight to the pool. With the intense summer heat, the big pool has almost evaporated and should be gone in the next week or so. The smaller pool with reed habitat, looks like it is still retaining it's water. Black-winged Stilt is still the most abundant species

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

Caspian Reed Warblers

Caspian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus s. fuscus)

Love the reed framing the Warbler in this image

And Indian Reed Warbler were quite vocal to start, but didn't take long to quieten down and head back into the reeds

Singing Indian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus s. brunnescens)

This morning, only one Sedge Warbler was seen

Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)

Again, while patiently waiting and sweating for birds to show themselves, I entertained myself with the Darters, using my 600mm as a 'macro'

Darter sp,

Darter sp.

Not much else was around, so I retreated to my Blazer and some AC and did a circuit around the farm. This was productive, as I found Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

Six juvenile Cream-coloured Courser

Juvenile Cream-coloured Courser (Cursorius cursor)

a dark phase Booted Eagle

Dark phase Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata)

and an Isabelline Wheatear with what seems to be a deformed upper mandible

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)

I had 30 species in just over 2-hours which was encouraging for this time of year

The Pools at the Pivots

Week 22; 01 June 2019 - Pivot Fields

As Jahra Pools is still closed for maintenance, there are not many other options to consider at this time of year. So, at 6am sharp, Paul Scott and I were again at the gates to the Pivot Fields to see what may still be lingering.

This time, we headed straight to the two pools, as this was the most productive area last week. No stray dog's today, so patience was needed as we stood at the edge of the pool where it was already very warm. Like before, Black-winged Stilts were noisy and abundant

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

This morning Graceful Prinia's were very active around us - I could show frame filling images, but prefer to show them with some habitat around them to give context

Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis)

Overhead Pallid Swifts were feeding as they were last week

Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus)

The resident Crested Lark's were seen coming to the pools to drink, feet dangling in the air as a cooling mechanism

Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)

Two Collared Pratincole's were also seen roosting on the edge of the pool and every now and then would take off, fly a circuit and come back to roost

Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola)

A surprise was a single Purple Heron coming in to land in the reeds - not sure if it's a late leaver or early arrival

Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)

While waiting, I was also checking for invertebrates and found this Wasp species

Wasp sp.

As well as a number of Darter species, which are always good photographic subjects.

Darter sp.

By now we were wilting and sweating, so it was back in the car with some ac for a last circuit around the farm

This was worth it, as we found a 1st year Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark courtesy of post breeding dispersion.

Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark (Eremopterix nigriceps)

I will be away next week on a solo 5-day birding break to Ethiopia which I am really looking forward to.