Week 51 - 19 December 2009, Pivot Fields, SAANR and Jahra Pools Reserve
We had a long weekend so Brian Foster and I managed a morning out to a few key sites. This was my last outing for this year and we were greeted with mild weather and clear skies. Kuwait has experienced some good rain by desert standards in the last few weeks and this bodes well for a colourful spring in the desert, with Iris's already starting to sprout. Images by Mike Pope
Our first stop was Pivot Fields which started off relatively quiet, although we did get onto a Buff bellied Pipit in fresh autum plumage that didnt stay long enough for a picture. This was followed by a Clamorous Reed Warbler
Birding picked up more as the temperatures rose and we found the large flock of Northern Lapwing, this one taking advantage of the surface water from the recent rains
At the depression we had a flock of around 67 Cattle Egrets, we sat for sometime watching this Cattle Egret going through what seemed like a set ritual for softening, washing and finally eating a Green Toad. Here it is using its beak to break bones and I assume get all the skin secretions out of the frog skin
It then rinsed and washed the Toad; this was performed many times whilst we watched the breakfast being prepared. It was interesting that the other Egrets did not interfere or try and steal this meal, unlike the piracy Gulls or Kites display
Finally the Toad was actually ready to be devoured, but this wasnt as easy as it seemed
Once down the hatch, it had to use a peristolsis type contraction to get the Toad down the gullet into the stomach - Im sure after this a siesta was needed!
After watching the Egret we found a flock of 18 Wood Pigeons on the pivot irrigation
A male Hen Harrier had been around for a week or so and we were fortunate enough to relocate it. In typical Harrier style, it flew low of the fields scattering all that was below it - I was lucky to catch a quick and unsuccessful pursuit of a Lark or Pipit
We raced to Jahra Pools where White tailed Eagle had been reported earlier, but I missed again! So, we headed to SAANR to try and relocate Hume's Wheatear found by Brian and Pekka on the 12 December. A Mourning Wheatear at the bottom of the wadi gave some hope and strangely no Red tailed Wheatear, which are almost always seen in this particular wadi.
We persisted to the end of the wadi and were rewarded with the Hume's Wheatear (a lifer for me) in the same spot as it was first seen. With patience, we got some saturated views of this 8th record for Kuwait
We tried Tuhla, but VWC was having a photographic field workshop which was encouraging to see, but with all the activity birds were nowhere to be seen. We headed to the Bay just behind Jahra Pools and managed to see the two Great crested Grebes, a rare winter passage visitor first seen on 14 December. Whilst here we had a last stop at Jahra Pools and were rewarded with two Pochard, another rare winter visitor and a 2nd lifer for me - this just a record shot
Purple Gallinules have been present since water was restored to this site
Rick Saval was returning for the Pochard and Grebe, so I dropped Brian at the observation tower and spent what turned out to be a rewarding 15-minutes at a small pool in the reserve. Bluethroat was foraging for insects around the base of the reeds
A Water Rail was most obliging as it enjoyed the mid-day sun
Unexpectedly, a Citrine Wagtail dropped in to feed on the gnats around this quiet pool
As I was about to pack up, this great little Mountain Chiffchaff arrived after gleening its way through the reeds
I managed to get this image as it briefly sat on a reed in the sun, showing the distinctive buffy brown plumage. With that, it was time to head home. However, in typical birding fashion; I had just arrived home when Brian called me to say the Eagle had landed - Aaaahhh! I'm hoping that the White tailed Eagle will remain for the winter and give me my first lifer in 2010, when I return from our Xmas vacation in the East - happy New Year to you all!
Week 47 - 17 November 2009, Jahra Pools Reserve
On the 14th November, Simon Price found 2 juvenile Greater White fronted Goose at a new Golf Club on the 306 Road to Wafra, this constitutes the 2nd record for Kuwait . Images by Mike Pope
This location was very close to where I work and I was able to make a detour before work to twitch the two geese. After getting permission to access, I found them at the furtherest end of the course and they allowed approach to a reasonable distance whilst they were feeding on the fairway. Here is one of the two warming up its wings and showing the wing bar
Here the two birds walk across the fairway with the darker one of the two in front
After saturated views, I headed back to work finding a few Desert Wheatear enjoying the lushness and food found on the course
Also enjoying the fairways were a few small flocks of Skylarks
Week 49 - 30 November 2009, Green Island, Sharq and Kuwait Port
I had an hour to spare and made a few stop overs up the Gulf Road on the way to the office. Images by Mike Pope
Winter is prime time for Grey Hypocolius and Green Island is the place to see them at 7am in the morning. I wasnt disappointed, finding 2 separate feeding flocks with numbers estimated at around 60 birds
Green Island is also a dead cert for Red vented Bulbul
Also seen was a large flock of Starling which winter in Kuwait
Just north of Sharq, I came across a small flock of Oystercatchers - striking colours in the early morning light
At low tide, this is also a good site for roosting gulls, that are challenging at this time of year. Yoav Perlman provided some guidance as to the id of the following gulls - I am happy to learn more about these, so feel free to provide any id hints. We suspect the bird in the foreground is Steppe Gull (Larus (fuscus) barabensis) and the one in the background Heuglins Gull (Larus (fuscus) heuglini)
We suspect this may be a 2 or 3cy Steppe Gull - note, note the bill pattern (very dark with white nail) which is good for this plumage, good neck streaks, and pale eye (which actually gets darker as they mature
A classic Steppe Gull (Larus (fuscus) barabensis), note mantle colour, bill shape and pattern, small dark eye.
At the harbour in the Free Trade Zone, there were large numbers of Greater Flamingo
Week 49 - 29 November 2009, Jahra Pools Reserve, Jahra Farm, SAANR
After dipping on the White tailed Eagle on Friday, I was back out at JPR after the soaking rain in clear, brisk weather. I was out of luck again, despite a few hours of searching and waiting. Images by Mike Pope
I was encouraged by the number of Eurasian Coot seen in and around the pools.
Spanish Sparrow numbers start picking up in winter
As do Pallid Swift
I get the feeling that Graceful Prinia's are not as abundant as they were when I first arrived in Kuwait in 2006
I took some solace in this distant flock of 6 Tufted Duck, a lifer for me - but somehow not quite on the same scale as a large raptor
A stop at Jahra Farm produced the usuals and a lone Rose ringed Parakeet flying over. The numbers of these birds also appear to have declined at Jahra Farms - if they have moved to a new roosting site, we havent discovered it yet.
Last stop was at SAANR, but with all the available ground water, birds were dispersed and very few were seen in the hour spent driving. White Wagtails are still guarenteed at most locations