30 September 2019

A circuit around Kuwait City

Week 39; 28 September - Pivot Fields, Jahra Farm and Sulaibikhat Bay

I picked up Debbie Barnes at her Hotel Apartments in Sabah Al Salem before sunrise and we negotiated some hectic traffic on the 6th Ring Road before finally reaching the gates at the Pivot Fields just after sunrise. Debbie is from Colorado Springs and is in Kuwait for a week's business and wanted to squeeze in some birding and to connect with a few target species. We met up with Paul Scott and together spent a few hours criss-crossing the Pivots appreciative of the change of the oppressive moisture laden SE wind from yesterday to a normal NW wind.

Once inside the farm, we found a flock of 7 very skittish Red-wattled Lapwing and whilst watching these had 3 Western Marsh Harriers congregate in one area where one of the birds was trying to catch something in a small reed bed. 

Excuse the 'soft' images, but for distant birds the haze/remnant humidity plays havoc with crisp focusing.

Female Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

One of the targets was Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and this was one of the birds we saw quite quickly. In fact there were still quite a few Bee-eaters around the farm.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)

We stopped to check the Black Kites roosting on one of the Pivots and I noted that the numbers of Western Cattle Egret had also increased since my last visit

Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

Another target was European Roller and we were fortunate to see one sunning itself on one of the Pivots.

European Roller (Coracias garrulus)

We visited the fenced pool and had a quick glimpse of the White-throated Kingfisher, but unfortunately it wasn't obliging for any pictures. However, we were rewarded with a brief and intense aerial 'dog fight' between a juvenile Asian Shikra that came out of the woods at speed to intercept and immature male Pallid Harrier over the field a short way away from us. It was over quite quickly and I was able to capture a few images - despite the heat haze and heavy air from yesterdays uncomfortable humidity. It seemed strange to me that there would be a 'territorial' dispute when both of these species are migrating?

Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) and juvenile Asian Shikra (Accipiter badius)

After the David and Goliath interaction, both birds went their very separate ways, with the Pallid heading back over the fields

Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)

and the Shikra back to perch in the woods

Juvenile Asian Shikra (Accipiter badius)

Down at the marsh, we had Daurian Shrike

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)

and instead of the usual Yellow-crowned Bishop, a Streaked Weaver - another Cat E species

Streaked Weaver (Ploceus manyar) - Cat E

A last circuit around the farm produced two Montagu's Harrier.

Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus)

So the Pivots delivered for the target species and some decent raptors. We then headed north to Jahra Farm, even though the temp had ratcheted up somewhat.

At Jahra we added Masked Shrike, Rose-ringed Parakeet, no Bank Myna's and a few more Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters feeding above the farm

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)

We had a comfort break at the local McDonald's before heading to the coast and Sulaibikhat Bay for the high tide at 11:30 - not the best time of day for photography by any stretch - high temps, heat haze along with 'heavy air' from yesterday's humidity. Any pics would be a bonus, but as the tide started receding so the shorebirds arrived. Crab-plover was the main target and we were rewarded with 7 birds.

There were good numbers of other shorebirds; Eurasian Curlew, Eurasian Whimbrel, an out of place Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Ruddy Turnstone, Kentish Plover, Greater Flamingo and hundreds of Slender-billed Gull's

Little Stint (Calidris minuta)

There were a few roosting Terns; Gull-billed, White-cheeked and Caspian, but only one came close enough to get a relatively sharp image, this was a winter plumage Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)

By now, Debbie's battery was running low and not helped by some jet lag and the high autumn temps - we are still in the mid-40's at the end of September! So, we headed back to her apartment, making a stop for some groceries on the way.

28 September 2019

Steppe Buzzard migration

Week 38; 21 September 2019 - Khuwaisat

Yesterday afternoon Paul Scott and I agreed that we had to come back to this site in the morning to see the birds depart once it was warm enough to generate some thermals.

I managed to enjoy the sunrise over the Gulf on the way to the site - I'm a sucker for sunrises and sunsets

Khuwaisat Sunrise

Sunrise over the Arabian Gulf

We waited patiently at the site, but there were a few wanker shooters who disturbed some of the raptors and they were forced to leave their roost. 


Most flew a short distance and landed in the desert, as there was no updraft for them to make any progress.

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

Whilst waiting we did enjoy watching an Arabian Red Fox start his morning hunt, but something disturbed him and it was an impressive sprint back to his den.

Arabian Red Fox (Vulpesnv. arabica)

Finally around 8:45 it had warmed sufficiently for the birds to leave and we enjoyed the spectacle of around 200 Steppe Buzzards leaving their roost site in small kettles. Most got high quite quickly, so no eyeball level images this year. It was good to see a few different plumage variations - enjoy!

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

Unfortunately, not many other species amongst them other than Black Kite. I'm still not clear on the status of these Black-eared types - some kind of integrade, but perhaps best referred to as Eastern Black Kite?

Eastern Black Kite?

Montagu's Harrier

Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus)

and a cracking adult Pallid Harrier

Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)

Will leave this post with what I consider the best image of the morning..

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus) and moon

Raptors on the move

Week 38; 20 September 2019 - Khuwaisat

One of our birding friends Aziz reported a massive raptor passage from 8am to 2pm on a strong NW wind today with many passing directly over, but good numbers dropping in to roost at some of the Khuwaisat Farms. Paul Scott and I headed there late in the afternoon to see if any more might drop in.

It was not the case, but we saw that there were many Steppe Buzzards that were already roosting in the Cassarina Trees inside the farm. A few were still restless and we managed to get a few images as they flew out and returned to roost. The dark form Steppe is one plumage variation that really stands out for me

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

Dark Form Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)

Whilst waiting for others, an Eastern Black-eared Wheatear alighted on a discarded carpet - not quite Aladdin, but impressive in the golden hour light

Male Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca)

Aziz had caught an Arabian Fat-tailed Scorpion, an invertebrate I have wanted to see for a very long time. It is pretty impressive and is considered to be one of the 5 most toxic scorpions in the world - now I just need to see the Desert Viper!

Arabian Fat-tailed Scorpion (Androctonus crassicauda)