03/29/11

South Africa (ZA)   Post Sandstorm Birding  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 02:22:17 pm

Week 13 - 26 March 2011, Pivot Fields

We had the mother of all sandstorms blow over Kuwait last night as it barrelled its way south over Saudi and even Yemen. Amazingly, this morning was fine and clear, apart from the blanket of dust and sand over Kuwait with a few trees knocked down. I decided to spend the morning at the Pivot Fields. Images by Mike Pope


I found many dead Sparrows on the road to Pivot Fields, obviously killed during the sandstorm whilst roosting on the road. A few of the tall casarina trees inside the farm had also been blown over, but overall birding was pretty good. A Stepp Buzzard was seen just after the main gate

Steppe Buzzard

There were a few Wheatear species seen, but Northern dominated in terms of numbers, here a male

Northern Wheatear

and a female

Northern Wheatear

a single Desert Wheatear was seen

Desert Wheatear

and a couple of Pied's, this one struggling with a missing leg (probably shot at)

Pied Wheatear

another still in transition plumage, eating some strange berry found in the sand

Pied Wheatear

also seen were a few Eastern Black-eared Wheatears, an adult (black-throated variant) and one in transition plumage

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

I was thrilled to find a small flock of 25 Caspian Plovers, really magnificent in breeding plumage. It appeared that they were also eating the same berry I saw the Pied Wheatear eating

Caspian Plover

Caspian Plover

A Collared Pratincole stayed close to the flock of Caspians

Collared Pratincole

Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters are masters in flight and appear to catch bee's with ease

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

Wagtails and Pipits were well represented, here a lingering White Wagtail

White Wagtail

A couple of Yellow Wagtail subspecies - beema's

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

And a single supercilaris

Yellow Wagtail

Red-throated Pipits have now arrived in numbers

Red-throated Pipit

The few last remaining Water Pipits are now showing signs of breeding plumage

Water Pipit

Tree Pipits in amongst the Red-throated

Tree Pipit

and Tawny Pipits on the sandy fringes of the cultivated crops

Tawny Pipit

Harriers were buzzing up and down the fields putting up birds on each pass, first up was Marsh

Marsh Harrier

A magnificent male Hen Harrier

Hen Harrier

followed by a male Pallid Harrier for comparison

Pallid Harrier

another Pallid Harrier was found roosting in the shade

Pallid Harrier

I found a skulking Great Reed Warbler in this pile of broken branches

Great Reed Warbler

on route to the croc pond, more Stonechats

Stonechat

and my first Winchat of this spring

Winchat

and a Namaqua Dove at the camel pens

Namaqua Dove

The croc pond was pretty active and I finally saw the Pygmy Cormorant again, which has remained since December 2010

Pygmy Cormorant

a few Cattle Egrets were roosting with Night and Squacco Herons together with a single Little Egret

Little Egret

a flock of 5 Glossy Ibis were sitting in the shade

Glossy Ibis

I watched this Grey Heron swoop into the pond, alerting the crocs, but managed to impale this Tilapia on the wing and return to the bank to work out how to get it off it's beak

Grey Heron

Initially it was unperturbed when one of the massive crocodiles decided it was siesta time and came up the bank behind it. It didnt take too long before the Heron departed to finish his meal without having to look over its shoulder

Grey Heron

A huge flock of Hirundines passed overhead and in amognst the many Pallid Swifts and European Swallows, I picked out the similar sized but much darker Common Swifts

Common Swift

an aerobatic Red-rumped Swallow

Red-rumped Swallow

a few Sand Martins flying with some House Martins

House Martin

The highlight however, was a single tiny Little Swift amongst the flock that was really difficult to track, but my first in Kuwait and a good way to end the morning

Little Swift

Little Swift

Little Swift

03/27/11

South Africa (ZA)    -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 05:32:28 pm

Week 12 - 19 March 2011, Al Abraq

I hadnt been to Al Abraq for many weeks, so together with Brian Foster, we decided to spend a morning at this location in the far west of Kuwait to check what the southerly winds may have blown in. Images by Mike Pope


Coming to Al Abraq, you know spring migration has started by the number of cars and shooters patrolling the outside boundary of the farm shooting anything that flies in or out. We saw a Hoopoe blasted out of the sky for fun as we drove in through the gate at around 7:30am. Once inside though, we were treated to a fine male Black Redstart and we extra careful not to flush any birds

Black Redstart

We were surprised to find quite a few winter visitors still lingering on and taking advantage of the food the spring migrants enjoy. Still many Song Thrush, some White Wagtails, one Blackbird and this Robin that shall be leaving imminently

Robin

A slow drive around the oasis farm produced; Common Redstart

Common Redstart

Stonechat which are here in numbers

Stonechat

Loads of Chiffchaff everywhere

Chiffchaff

A flock of around 13 Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron

And a single Purple Heron overhead

Purple Heron

A pleasant surprise was a Black-winged Kite, now considered to be an annual spring passage migrant

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

We then parked the car and walked in habitat away from the road, picking up Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat

A cracking male Menetries Warbler

Menetries Warbler

Pipits were well represented with Tawny

Tawny Pipit

Around half a dozen Tree Pipits

Tree Pipit

Tree Pipit

Tree Pipit

A single Meadow Pipit

Meadow Pipit

A pipit I am not sure of yet - either Meadow or Red-throated?

Pipit

Some Wheatears were seen, this an Eastern Black-eared with a dark throat

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

A stunning male Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtail

We saw Great Reed Warbler and a few Reed Warblers

Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler

This male Blue Rock Thrush was our last bird on the way out

Blue Rock Thrush

The owner of the farm had 6 Falcons on display, this Gyr Falcon is a fantastic specimen, bulging muscle and power

Grey Wagtail

03/16/11

South Africa (ZA)   Last day in Free Trade Zone (FTZ)  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 07:10:29 pm

Week 11 - 10 March 2011, Sharq Harbour

Today was to be our last in the FTZ before we moved to Salmiya to the south of Kuwait City (but in hindsight it was not to be), so I had a brief stop at Sharq Harbour in overcast and drizzly conditions before getting to work at 7:30. Images by Mike Pope


Given the inclement weather, there was much Gull activity around this small fishing harbour, it was mostly dull but interspersed with some patches of sunlight. Many Black-headed Gulls around, almost all now sporting a chocolate-brown head as they gear up for departure

Black-headed Gull

The Slender-billed Gulls are competing for food with Black-headed and the larger white-headed Gulls - but not for much longer

Slender-billed Gull

The Gull highlight was the presence of at least 4 Great Black-headed Gulls - they really are so much bigger and quite regal in comparison

Great Black-headed Gull

Great Black-headed Gull

Great Black-headed Gull

Many of the other gulls are still in moult and ID is still not straight forward to me, but with Yoav's input these are all Heuglins Gulls. Bill structure is also good for Heuglins - it's a strong bill! Gonys varies among individuals, especially among sexes (males have larger gonys than females)

Heuglins Gull

A Heuglins Gull

Heuglins Gull

These are more difficult, but are probably also Heuglins

Gull

Heglins Gull?

Gull

A Grey Heron looking ungainly as it comes in to land on a light post

Grey Heron

A pale morph Indian Reef Heron passed by

Indian Reef Heron

Cormorants were also fishing inside the harbour, here an all black male Great Cormorant

Great Cormorant

A striking male with a juvenile

Great Cormorant

Male in flight

Great Cormorant

Most of the Terns were Sandwich and again many with deformed or broken lower mandibles, which must indicate some deficiency (calcium?) in their diet if they keep breaking off

Sandwich Tern

I did see one adult in magnificent condition

Sandwich Tern

The last highlight was a single Swift Tern which doesnt often come in-shore, although it didnt stay long

Swift Tern

But did 'drop' in for a snack inside the harbour

Swift Tern

03/07/11

South Africa (ZA)   A chilly Spring Day  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 01:55:06 pm

Week 10 - 05 March 2011, Jahra Farm, Jahra Pools and SAANR

It was an unexpected 9 degrees when Brian Foster and I got to Jahra Farm. Today we opted to miss out on the usual stop at Pivot Fields, as we covered the usual circuit. Images by Mike Pope


Chiffchaff's were literally everywhere today, but still they have to be checked in case there is something interesting amongst them. In the fields, we had a few Grey Wagtail - this one missing a few outer tail feathers

Grey Wagtail

The White-throated Kingfisher was in full cry ahead of the coming breeding season. This bird still looks out of place in Kuwait for me, especially after seeing it again in the greenery of Sri Lanka

White-throated Kingfisher

Brian picked up a Turtle Dove which is now confirmed as Oriental. After further inspection of the photographs we believe this to be a meena Oriental Turtle Dove based on; lack of bare skin around eye, slightly bulkier size, breast darker pink, darker grey panel on wing, white tips to tail and white vent, which would still need to be accepted by KORC

Oriental Turtle Dove (meena)

Oriental Turtle Dove (meena)

Oriental Turtle Dove (meena)

Oriental Turtle Dove (meena)

We had Red-rumped Swallows overhead as we headed back to the car to warm up and a small flock of Bank Myna on the way out

Bank Myna

Next stop was Jahra Pools, on the opposite side of the 80 from Jahra Farm. Water levels have subsided, exposing sand banks for migrating waders and more Grey Wagtails

Grey Wagtail

A male Little Bittern slowly crept through the reeds to get to the early morning sun

Little Bittern

Little Bittern

We had a full-house of Crakes today, a single Bailons Crake that was chased off by the more aggessive Little Crake

Bailons Crake

We counted around 17 Little Crakes running around like chickens in a farmyard on one secluded stretch of water

Little Crake

and at least 6 Spotted Crakes

Spotted Crake

Whilst sitting quietly in between the reeds enjoying the Crakes, a small flock of Penduline Tits were nearby feeding on the plumes of the reeds - although the light wasnt favourable

Penduline Tit

At full stretch

Penduline Tit

Penduline Tit

We drove to the northern side, finding Daurian Shrike

Daurian Shrike

We checked the main pool before leaving, finding male Stonechat

Stonechat

A Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

5 White-tailed Lapwings, so we hope that they may breed again for the second time

White-tailed Lapwing

And an unexpected Black-tailed Godwit in a flock of Ruff's

Black-tailed Godwit

A Sparrowhawk overhead as we departed for SAANR

Sparrowhawk

We drove to Tuhla on reaching SAANR and had a good haul of Wheatears on the way; starting with a late Persian Wheatear after the gate, Desert, Pied, Isabeline, Northern

Northern Wheatear

And a cracking male Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

A Woodchat Shrike was seen

Woodchat Shrike

and a magnificent male samamiscus Common Redstart - why isnt this a species on its own? Here discovering that this beetle was not as tasty as it first thought - it didnt finish the rest of it, as it is apparently very bitter

Common Redstart

here showing its distinctive white wing panels

Common Redstart

Many more Chiffchaffs at the pond, together with a Menetries Warbler

Menetries Warbler

The first Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters of this spring arrived overhead

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

One of the rangers alerted us to two large birds at the Wadi Pan where we saw many other waders, Avocet and Teal and finally finding the two large birds to be White Storks

White Stork

White Wagtails are now also looking a lot more striking

White Wagtail

My time was running out, so we had a last stop at the wadi on the ridge, flushing the resident Arabian Red Fox - but no sign of any Wheatears

Arabian Red Fox

I mentioned to Brian that this is the spot where Trumpeter Finch is usually seen and I still hadnt seen one. Well the ornithological god's must have been smiling on me, as suddenly one popped up on the wadi floor below and then disappeared. Finally, this seemingly common bird is now added to my Life List

Trumpeter Finch

South Africa (ZA)   Free Trade Zone  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 12:49:29 pm

Week 10 - 03 March 2011, Free Trade Zone

We will soon be vacating our offices in the Free Trade Zone and moving to Salmiya, I wont miss the traffic getting here each day, but will certainly miss the birds on my doorstep. Images by Mike Pope


This time of year Greater Flamingo's are prevalent from Free Trade Zone north to Doha Spur

Greater Flamingo

A Squacco Heron coming into its breeding plumage

Squacco Heron

Together with a Slender-billed Gull looking particularly rosy

Slender-billed Gull

Overhead, Pallid Swifts are becoming more vocal

Pallid Swift

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