22 February 2020

Sunbird Friday

Week 08; 21 February 2020 - Abdullah Al Salem

Paul Scott and I spent a morning in the lovely private garden where the Sunbird's had been present all week - just not today!

Nevertheless, it was still an enjoyable morning with good conversation and enjoying a garden that transports you out of Kuwait.

We were entertained by fair numbers of Common Chiffchaff - this one having very little yellow?

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

As consolation for not seeing the Sunbird, we were entertained for about 10-minutes by a Hummingbird Hawk-moth as it foraged and pollinated the flowers in the garden. It's eyes are quite amazing and they look like they are always watching you. Reading up on the 'Net, the dark spot in the eye is called a 'pseudo-pupil'. It is actually a patch of facets absorbing most of the light coming from your direction. As you move relative to the moth's eye, the patch seems to move. However, all you are seeing is a new patch of light-absorbing facets.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)

Guiding - Day 2

Week 07; 15 February 2020 - Al Abraq, Poultry Farm Pivots, Mutla'a Ranch, Jahra Pools and Sulaibikhhat

This morning was an earlier pick-up for Max as we had the long drive out west to Al Abraq where we hope to find some uncommon lingering passerines.

The injured Caspian Gull that I had seen on my previous visit was still at the pond near the entrance to the farm

Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)

The farm was really quiet today, although there were two Long-eared Owls about that had been flushed too often, so we didn't disturb them any further. We checked a small flock of Hirundines overhead which contained a single Common House Martin (at this time of year, you need to check carefully if they are not of eastern origin). This bird does seem to have a 'dirty' vent and throat - but tail looks too long, so House Martin it stays

Common House Martin (Delichon urbicum)

There were quite a few Desert Hyacinth that have sprung up since my last visit

Desert Hyacinth (Cistanche lutea)

The last drive around produced two different male Stonechat's; Caspian

Caspian Stonechat (Saxicola m. hemprichii)

and Armenian (this one much more 'black + white' giving it a pied appearance)

Armenian Stonechat (Saxicola m. variegatus)

And the Spring's first Feldegg Wagtails

Black-headed Wagtail (Motacilla f. feldegg)

There was very little else, so we cut our losses and headed further west to Poultry Farm Pivots where we enjoyed a walk. A good few Pipit species; Meadow, Red-throated and numerous Water Pipits

Caucasian Water Pipit (Anthus s. coutelli)

A small kettle of Steppe Eagles passed by overhead

Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)

However, the highlight was 4 Caspian Plover's in a freshly ploughed field with two in summer plumage. It has been a few years since I have last seen this species.

Caspian Plover (Anarhynchus asiaticus)

It was then back east, detouring past Mutla'a Ranch which only produced 4 Eurasian Sparrowhawk's

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

Nothing new at Jahra Pools, but still good sightings of many species, including another Stonechat

Caspian Stonechat (Saxicola m. hemprichii)

We agreed on a last ditch attempt for the Lesser Flamingo and stopped and scanned at various locations along Sulaibikhat Bay (I don't think we missed any flocks) - it was just not there! At the KISR Outfall we enjoyed watching a flock of 30+ Whiskered Terns foraging over the outfall

Perfect symmetry; Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)

This joy was interrupted by a flock of 12 House Crow's (this is probably the whole Kuwait population - I hope!) coming in to roost for the night as the sun hit the horizon.

House Crow (Corvus splendens)

Then it was back to Salmiya and to drop Max back at the hotel after an enjoyable two days of birding together.

Guiding - Day 1

Week 07; 14 February 2020 - Abdullah Al Salem, Al Shaheed Park, Sulaibikhat Bay, Jahra Farm and Jahra Pools

Kuwait had a really cold front earlier in the week, so that was a worry for this weekend's guiding. I picked up Max Dettori from his hotel in Salmiya and we headed to Sulaibikhat Bay to check for the Lesser Flamingo that had been seen a few days earlier. We scanned many large flocks without success. 

By 9am we were sitting comfortably in the private garden in Abdullah Al Salem on Sunbird watch. Our hosts kindly provided tea/coffee and cakes and it wasn't long before we were rewarded with a brief appearance of the female. A little later, the male put in an appearance in his fresh breeding plumage - big WP tick for Max!

Female Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus)

Male Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus) on a Cosmos plant

We then headed to the other side of 1st Ring Road for a quick walk around Al Shaheed Park with the weather warming up pretty nicely. First spring migrant was a Common Nightingale that proved tricky to get good views as it stayed deep in cover.

Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)

Next was a Woodchat Shrike

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)

Followed by two Masked Shrike's - although some of these birds do overwinter

Female Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)

Male Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)

Leaving the Park, we made another detour past Sulaibikhat as the tide would be more favourable - still no luck. But in the distance we enjoyed watching an impressive 'murmuration' of waders whirling about above the shoreline

Murmuration of Waders

Onward to Jahra Farm where we had an enjoyable walk - Black/Black-eared Kite overhead (this one has 6 primary fingers)

Black Kite (Milvus migrans)

Together with a mixed Hirundine flock that contained a few Red-rumped Swallows

Red-rumped Swallow (Cecropis daurica)

Then it was across to Jahra Pools Reserve where we had a Pallid Harrier along with the Western Marsh Harriers

Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)

Greater Spotted Eagles along the coast

Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga)

and a large flock of Greater Flamingo's that suddenly took flight

The chaos of Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) take-off

For the last hour of the day, it was a last try to check the Flamingo flock - we scanned till our eyes hurt, no sign of the Lesser

Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)

There were a few large Gulls whirling about overhead - not 100% sure on the ID of this one, as it is still moulting into summer plumage

Gull sp.

By now the sun was headed to the horizon, so good time to call it a day and with the Sunbird in the bag!

11 February 2020

The onset of Spring

Week 6; 08 February 2020 - Sulaibikhat Bay, Jahra Farm and JPR

As its winter, it's quite acceptable to have a later start. Today I had a slow drive up the coast stopping at the KISR Outfall to check if the Lesser Flamingo's were still present (there were 2 reported a week or so ago). The tide was so far out, that it was almost impossible to check.

I enjoyed watching this Little Egret fishing while trying to warm up as the sun slowly rose from the horizon

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

This is also one of the locations for Hypocolius and I wasn't disappointed with a flock of 60+  Stunning birds!

Male Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus)

Female Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus)

A bird sitting high in a tree caught my attention, got my bins onto it and saw it was a Weaver, but not Rüppell's. A few pics and checking the field guide, I concluded it was a Golden-backed Weaver transitioning into breeding plumage. Definitely a Cat E species, although in UAE it is now established and considered a Cat C species (introduced but with a sustainable breeding population)

Golden-backed Weaver (Ploceus jacksoni)

I then headed to Jahra Farm for a quick walk around, this site has been very quiet of late and today was no different. Although, I did enjoy a pair of Barn Swallows collecting nesting material and flying off into Jahra town to build their nest. Another breeding record outside of Jahra Pools where a few pairs breed each year - so this is pretty exciting.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Green Toad's were out in force, warming up for spring

Green Toad (Pseudepidalea viridis)

It was then across the freeway to JPR, finding the long-staying Spur-winged Lapwing

Spur-winged Lapwing (Vanellus spinosus)

and Common Kingfisher on the boundary fence

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

On the big pool, Great Cormorants have transitioned into breeding plumage

Continental Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax sinensis)

Last week, I had seen a smallish Great Egret in one of the ponds and wandered if it could be Intermediate (which is overdue in Kuwait). Today it was in the same pool again and I managed to get a few images as it flew off. The gape extending beyond the eye means it is still a Great Egret

Western Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Water Pipits are also slowly transitioning into their breeding plumage, but for me their numbers are really down this year

Caucasian Water Pipit (Anthus s. coutelli)

There were good numbers of Red-spotted Bluethroat, with many having over-wintered. This one playing a little hiding-go-seek

Red-spotted Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)

Daurian Shrikes are also numerous and no sign of the Brown Shrike this morning

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)

By mid-morning I reluctantly had to leave and take my SUV for its 5000km service