05/31/10

South Africa (ZA)   Kirhan Pearl City delivers it's specials  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 05:25:22 pm

Week 22 - 29 May 2010, Kirhan Pearl City Development

The wind had been blowing all week and at times around 40km/h. Finally it abated over the weekend and on Saturday I was finally able to conduct a bird census at Kirhan with Anand and Hassan our boat pilot. This time my family joined me in the hope of also seeing the Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphins (they were'nt disappointed). Images by Mike Pope


In calm conditions, we were on the water by 7am and cruising out of Phase A1 into the sea to check the buoys. Three Bridled Terns occupied the buoy we normally see the Socotra's roosting on. It was a good day for Bridled Terns, I counted 31 in total flying off-shore in a northerly direction.

Bridled Tern

Bridled Tern

Another showing the contrasting colours between upper and lower parts, a smart looking Tern

Bridled Tern

A single Swift Tern was seen on way to Phase A2

Swift Tern

In the new Phase A3, we found a roost of 4 Sandwich Terns, these much healthier looking than those with deformed bills at Sharq Harbour

Sandwich Tern

Heading back to Phase A1 across the sea, we spotted a lone 1st year Socotra Cormorant fishing - it kept its distance whilst eyeballing us

Socotra Cormorant

and then deciding to go and fish elsewhere - taking off with a few hop, skip and jumps across the water

Socotra Cormorant

It was then that I spotted a dorsal fin break the surface in the distance and we picked up 2 Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin adults and a calf. We slowly followed them as they leasurely swam south, joining up with 8 others. At times we were in 3m of water that was so clear we could see them swimming under and next to the boat, a truly magical experience. Photographing them was a challenge; as it is difficult to predict where they surface and when they do, they dont show their face for long. During this hour, we almost didnt feel like we were in Kuwait - enjoy the sequence.

Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin

Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin

Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin

Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin

Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin

Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin

Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin

05/23/10

South Africa (ZA)   BIF Continued  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 12:13:16 pm

Week 21 - 19 May 2010, Free Trade Zone

After photographing the Swifts in the air, I set myself a challenge after seeing them drinking on the wing from this sewage outfall. Why they drink from here I have no idea! Images by Mike Pope


This was challenging to say the least, as it was difficult to predict where they would come in from and where they would actually scoop their drink from the surface. The drinking on the wing, was very quick, but I was astounded by the size of these Swifts gapes as they came gliding in; no wander they dont miss flying insects in the air. This bird had 2 scoops to fill its throat before lift-off

Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

Another coming in with mouth wide open and lifting off after scooping up a small mouthful of water

Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

This is my best image; catching the Pallid Swift forcing the water up into it's mouth with it's lower mandible in the second that it drinks before heading into the sky to actually swallow the water

Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

05/20/10

South Africa (ZA)   BIF  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 12:34:15 pm

Week 21 - 18 May 2010, Free Trade Zone

I had noticed that a small flock of Pallid Swifts were feeding above a septic sewage outfall that flows into the northern part of the Gulf in the Free Trade Zone. This morning I brought my camera to work and managed to get some Birds in Flight images of the swifts and some others that passed by, all while trying to hold my breathe. Images by Mike Pope


Anyone who has tried to photograph swifts will tell you that they are notoriusly difficult to capture as it is challenging to predict their flight pattern and speed. So, I was very pleased with the results of these 2 images of Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

A single Sand Martin joined the Pallid Swifts for a brief moment

Sand Martin

Common Mynas were seen flying down the sewage channel

Common Myna

Small groups of waders were foraging along the banks, a Wood Sandpiper coming in to land

Wood Sandpiper

and a Little Stint with its rufous breeding plumage moving to a different area

Little Stint

05/16/10

South Africa (ZA)   Birding in the dustbowl  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 06:24:31 pm

Week 20 - 14 May 2010, Pivot Fields, Jahra Pools Reserver and SAANR

As it has happened on numerous weekends before, we have great weather leading up to the weekend and then on Thursday afternoon it all changes. This weekend was no different with thick dust descending on Thursday night giving us 200m visibility all morning Friday. The upside was that there was no wind and it kept most birds on the ground, the downside was that it was really challenging for photography and most images look as if they have had a warming filter added. Images by Mike Pope


I first headed to Pivot Fields and at that time of this summers morning I had to use lights and windscreen wipers as there was also some light rain to keep conditions dull. A drive around the reeds at the crocodile pond produced a few warblers including Basra Reed which didnt pose for a photograph. This Great Reed was a little more accommodating

Great Reed Warbler

A few smaller warblers were seen, this is probably a Marsh Warbler

Marsh Warbler

There are still numbers of Spotted Fly's around

Spotted Flycatcher

A grounded juvenile Greater Spotted Eagle

Imperial Eagle

This Roller was seen sitting very quietly on a cable

Roller

I was really surprised to see a Northern Wheatear, but discovered it was permantly grounded after being shot and wounded earlier in the migration

Northern Wheatear

The resident Crested Larks are pretty abundant, this one singing away

Crested Lark

A small flock of Western Cattle Egrets were catching insects under one of the pivot's irrigation sprays

Western Cattle Egret

A new area had been recently planted and the wet bare fields attracted a number of birds, including a few waders. A small group of Ruff, this the only one with orange legs were seen

Ruff

One of 5 Collared Pratincoles

Collared Pratincole

A single White Wagtail (normally a winter visitor) was rather surprising and this was one was not injured

White Wagtail

In this weather Turtle Doves, a prime bird for the many shooters in Kuwait, were also grounded

Turtle Dove


After 2-hours I headed to Jahra Pools Reserve where water had been restored after the Reserve had dried out during last month. Visibility was still down to less than 200m as this picture from one of the observation towers shows

Jahra Pools Reserve

The most numerous species by far was the many flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes all showing their almost complete breeding plumage. Across the water, the dust particles really confused my cameras focussing

Red-necked Phalarope

Red-necked Phalarope

I had caught a glimpse of a solitary Purple Gallinules disappearing into the reeds, when this Spotted Crake, one of many seen at this reserve, caught my eye

Spotted Crake

Turnstones are normally more easily seen along the coast, so it was surprising to find these two foraging along the fringes of this pan - not easy to see either

Turnstone

Willow Warblers are still abundant and seem to be foraging and feeding wherever they are encountered

Willow Warbler

Shrikes are still present and both Lesser Grey

Lesser Grey Shrike

and Red-backed Shrikes were seen

Red-backed Shrike

A Moorhen foraging for food away from water

Moorhen

Away from the main pan, there was a shallow section of water that held a variety of waders, including Curlew Sandpipers showing breeding plumage

Curlew Sandpiper

Little Stint, also in breeidng plumage

Little Stint

and Ringed Plover

Ringed Plover

A pair of White-tailed Lapwings have bred at Jahra Pools in the last few weeks and is the first confirmed breeding record for Kuwait - which is fantastic news. The young must have been in the same area, as the adults got a little agitated with me, so I moved off after taking the photograph

White-tailed Lapwing

After 2-hours at JPR, it was time for the last stop at SAANR where the dust was worse. I found the group of Hoopoe Larks in their usual spot. This is a newly fledged juvenile, showing that these birds have recently bred in the area.

Hoopoe Lark

Tuhla looked pretty gloomy from 200m away

Tuhla

A single European and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater were roosting in the trees. The Blue-cheeked was a little more active than the European

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

Still quite a few Yellow Wagtails around

Yellow Wagtails

a quick stop at the large pan in the wadi produced the expected waders, here a Wood Sandpiper taking it easy

Wood Sandpiper

quite a few juvenile Kentish Plovers

Kentish Plover

back to Tuhla where I watched this Little Bittern hunting unsuccessfully - here he looked a little bemused at being seen failing

Little Bittern

I was however entertained for the rest of my time in SAANR watching this Squacco Heron successfully catch a small fish in this sequence. The dilimma it faced was that it had caught the fish and a big strand of grass together, so how to drop the grass to swallow the fish - but in a blink of any eye it managed both

Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron

That small meal didnt quite satisfy the bird and it carried on hunting. Subsequent attempts I saw that included patient stalking and freezing, were all unsuccesful. Here another sequence, before it moved on to a different part of the pond

Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron

After this entertainment at the end of a dusty morning, it was time to head home, but not before I saw this Desert Monitor emerge from the water and climb the bank

Desert Monitor

05/10/10

South Africa (ZA)   Island and shoreline  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 06:13:06 pm

Week 19 - 05 May 2010, Green Island and Shuwaikh Port

Another perfect weather today, so I got an extra early start and I stopped at Green Island and checked out Shuwaikh on the way to work. Images by Mike Pope


Passage migrants are thinning out at a rapid rate, so I was pleased to see a few still around on this artificial islan. A Spotted Flycatcher was seen just inside the gates

Spotted Flycatcher

A late Grey-headed Wagtail

Grey-headed Wagtail

A Great Reed Warbler jumped onto something in the grass

Great Reed Warbler

An inquisitive, but juvenile White-eared Bulbul one of the offspring from the island

White-eared Bulbul

I heard the call of a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and discovered these two sitting cosily together at the top of the tallest tree

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

A male Collared Dove trying his best to keep a female to himself

Courting Collared Dove

A pair flying in

Collared Dove

I watched this stray cat with some amusement after it had fallen into the sea trying to pick up a large dead fish

Cat and Fish

A Garden Warbler was my first for this Spring

Garden Warbler

There are still many Shrikes about, a Lesser Grey looking out for food

Lesser Grey Shrike

Red-backed Shrikes are still the most predominant of the Shrikes passing through

Red-backed Shrike

Along the coast just before the office, Grey Plovers were seen foraging on the low tide flats

Grey Plover

Even seed-eating House Sparrows cant resist a tasty piece of protein

House Sparrow

A Kentish Plover enjoying the early morning sun

Kentish Plover

A lone Sanderling in amongst all the Curlew Sandpipers

Sanderling

05/05/10

South Africa (ZA)   Sharq to Shuwaikh  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 04:13:14 pm

Week 19 - 04 May 2010, Sharq Harbour and Shuwaikh Port

We had perfect weather today (as we normally do during the week), so I got an extra early start and I stopped at Sharq and checked out Shuwaikh on the way to work. Images by Mike Pope


Again, there were many terns (no gulls at all) at Sharq and today I saw their food source. Many hundreds of small fingerlings inside the harbour and along the breakwater - more than enough to go around

Tern Food

Sandwich Terns are still the predominant tern in the flock, here one still in non-breeding plumage

Sandwich Tern

and one in breeding plumage with a bill in good shape

Sandwich Tern

Lesser-crested Terns numbers had increased since my last visit, but were still outnumbered by Sandwich Terns

Lesser-crested Tern

Only two White-cheeked Terns were seen, the first swallowing its catch in flight

White-cheeked Tern

This one showing quite a full crop

White-cheeked Tern

In the Free Trade Zone, there are probably two pairs of House Crows and I have seen them flyng with nesting material, so breeding is imminent. This one photographed making itself known on the building where I work

House Crow

Ringed Plovers are still present at the stagnant saline pool

Ringed Plover

Probably one of the last Ruff still in Kuwait, deciding who to fly north with

Ruff

Curlew Sandpipers are almost all resplendent in breeding plumage and is currently the common wader on the Shuwaikh shoreline

Curlew Sandpiper

A creative image of a feeding Curlew Sandpiper

Curlew Sandpiper

05/03/10

South Africa (ZA)   Late Spring Birding  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 06:42:38 pm

Week 18 - 30 April 2010, Al Abraq Al Khabari and SAANR

I had missed the bulk of the Spring migration due to family committments and this was my first outing of April. A dust storm late on Thursday ensured that migratory birds were temporarily grounded today and the morning's birding with Graham Whitehead was pretty fruitful. Images by Mike Pope


I hadnt been to Al Abraq for months and we were there just after 7am in almost pleasant conditions, meeting up with Pekka Fagel and Brian Foster. Sadly, at this time of year this oasis farm is almost surrounded by shooters - shooting at anything and everything flying in and out of the farm. It is a little unnerving to be showered with falling pellets when a flock of Bee-eaters tries their best to make their way northward. As if the harsh desert environment with all it's natural hazards arent hard enough for these birds to get to their breeding grounds. We had to turn the other cheek and get on the the busines of birding and recording, but this dessimation of migratory birds would make a sobering BBC documentary. Warblers were well represented and generally more protected as they fattened up foraging in the cover of the trees on this farm. We found Upchers, Olivaceous and a few Marsh Warblers

Marsh Warbler

A possible Sykes Warber, much more greyish brown in colour than the Marsh

Sykes Warbler

A few Tree Pipits were still around, some coming into breeding plumage

Tree Pipit

We were surprised to flush a juvenile Shikra at this time of year. Fortunately it stayed in cover and hopefully escaped being filled full of holes. The 5-bars in the tail are good pointers for identifying in flight. Not good images, but a good bird

Juvenile Shikra

Juvenile Shikra

Along the cultivated area, a female Semi-collared Flycatcher was hawking from a fence post. The males have long since passed through and have probably already established their territories in anticaption of the arrival of the females.

Female Semi-collared Flycatcher

Female Semi-collared Flycatcher

Brian had a fleeting glimpse of a Thrush and it was with some excitement we tracked it only to eventaully discover is was a Song Thrush, albeit unusually late in the Spring

Song Thrush

The upside of chasing down the Thrush, is that it got us into more scrubby habitat and Brian called out again, finding 4 Desert Finches perched in a bare tree. This is the 8th record for Kuwait

Desert Finch

As I only had the morning, we had to leave Al Abraq and Graham and I headed to SAANR for the late morning stint. Driving to Tuhla, we found 3 Greater Hoopoe-Larks and suspected they had a nest somwhere. We sat quietly hoping they would reveal it to us, but no luck. We did watch one bird trying to catch a butterfly that came in to land on a bush - quite comical the way it jumped up and flopped back down again

Greater Hoopoe-Lark

Greater Hoopoe-Lark

At Tuhla we again sat quitely in the car watching birds in the small pan and others coming to drink. Goood birds again were female Semi-collared and Red-breasted Flycatcher, Common Rosefinch, Chestnut-shouldered Sparrow and Black-headed Bunting. A Little Egret was seen successfully catching small fish as it hunted across the pan

Little Egret

A Little Bittern sat quite unobtrusively in some overhanging branches close to the water

Little Bittern

Now, Red-backed Shrikes are the most predominant Shrike passing through, showing the pink hues on the underside, as they get ready for breeding season

Red-backed Shrike

Ortolan Buntings came down to drink

Ortolan Bunting

Time was running out, so we made a quick stop at the big shallow pan in the wadi. Along the waters edge there were small mixed flocks of Little Stint and Curlew Sandpipier

Little Stint and Curlew Sandpipers

A flock of 5 Black-winged Pratincoles was good to see sittng and flying around the fringes of the pan

Black-winged Pratincole

Black-winged Pratincole

Black-winged Pratincole

As we were leaving 5 Gull-billed Terns (my first for the Spring) joined the two White-winged Terns hawking over the pan

Gull-billed Terns

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