04/29/11

South Africa (ZA)   The tranquility and sanctity of the Pivot Fields  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 09:41:25 am

Week 16 - 23 April 2011, Pivot Fields

The shooting became intolerable, so I left this green oasis and headed for the tranquility of the Pivot Fields where the sound of shooting was replaced by pivot sprinklers and calling birds. Images by Mike Pope


Each visit to this location is different, as crops are harvested and new fields prepared and seeded. The water and insects are a real magnet for migratory birds in this safe haven. A stop at the croc pond didnt produce the Pygmy Cormorant, but I did find a leucistic House Sparrow being harassed by a 'normal' male Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

Another Turkestan Shrike

Turkestan Shrike

And a Woodchat Shrike

Woodchat Shrike

There were also many male Pied Wheatears at this site

Pied Wheatear

This is the 2nd smallest Spiny-tailed Lizard (Dhub) that I have seen in Kuwait - around 15cm long

Dhub

I found a mixed flock of Pratincoles against the light, this a Collared

Collared Pratincole

together with a few Black-winged

Black-winged Pratincole

Black-winged Pratincole

There was a possibility of a Grey-necked Bunting in amongst the many Ortolans (in fact one was seen at this site the very next day!), so I scoured the fields carefully finding Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting

and a cracking male Black-headed Bunting

Black-headed Bunting

Black-headed Bunting

Driving to a plowed and irrigated section, I flushed an Isabelline Wheatear

Isabelline Wheatear

many birds took advantage of the small pools created during irrigation

Ortolan Bunting

a pair of Pale Rock Sparrows

Pale Rock Sparrow

Red-throated Pipit enjoying a bath as the temperature rose

Red-throated Pipit

There are still many Yellow Wagtails present of various sub-species - lutes, feldegg, beema and thunbergi

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail


04/25/11

South Africa (ZA)   The 'GORY' of Spring Migration  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 05:05:13 pm

Week 16 - 23 April 2011

This oasis farm is a special place all through the year. It is located in the far west of Kuwait and is the only habitat in 100's of kilometers for resident and migratory birds. It has produced some fantastic rarities over the years and is always worth visiting, despite the long drive as there may just be something special. During migration, this oasis farm is a magnet for passage migrants for both food and rest and it is this time of year that many International birders visit Kuwait to witness and enjoy the spectacle of Spring migration. Images by Mike Pope


I left just after sunrise to get to the farm by 7am, as we have had favourable winds and the signs were good for passage migrants. Imagine the sinking feeling and dimay I had in my heart when this was the scene I encountered before driving through the gate of the farm. The farm is fenced and has a berm all around the farm for further protection. This does not deter in the slightest and in fact gave many of the shooters the elevation they needed to see above the fence and trees.

I have been advised not to publish the images of the shooters and their vehicles as I may violate privacy laws and I need to respect this, irrespective that these shooters are contravening many local laws themselves. Also notwithstanding the fact that they are also killing birds migrating from my country and birds that my fellow birders look forward to enjoying each summer - now at least they will understand why migratory bird numbers are reducing each and every year - not just because of natural barriers and hazards, but by being killed in some countries along the way, just for fun!

Shooters

I understand that laws and legislation is in place to minimise and prevent this seemingly uncontrolled killing, but in my time here (5-years), I have yet to see or witness any official actually step in to stop shooting of wild birds in the desert and urban areas. Is it just general apathy or unwillingness to enforce and prosecute? On the other side of the coin, I have met many people that are trying to make a difference in many ways - but it isnt enough, as this killing continues through spring and autumn migrations - year after year...

Shooters

In my view and experience, this is just an uncontrollable free for all

Shooters

with no regard to preservation or conserving for the future of Kuwait

Shooters

Whilst inside the farm, there were times I thought I was in the middle of Libya with shooting from all directions and pellets raining down on both me and my car

Shooters

I didnt stay too long and didnt walk much for fear of making any sheltering birds fly out of the farm - because that would mean death or crippling. These shooters are not allowed into the farm, but it does not stop them killing birds inside the fence. I was asked on a few occassions to pick up dead birds and throw them to the culprits on the other side - guess what my answer was! No birds are spared flying in or out of the farm, but at this time of year Bee-eaters are prime targets - possibly because of the bright colours

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

I didnt stay too long and didnt walk much for fear of making any sheltering birds fly out of the farm - because that would mean death or crippling. These shooters are not allowed into the farm, but it does not stop them killing birds inside the fence. I was asked on a few occassions to pick up dead birds and throw them to the culprits on the other side - guess what my answer was! No birds are spared flying in or out of the farm, but at this time of year Bee-eaters are prime targets - possibly because of the bright colours

European Bee-eater

European Bee-eater

European Bee-eater

Even Raptors are not spared - this was a Common Kestrel

Common Kestrel

I guess the dead birds are lucky in respect that their death was quick, not so for these with broken wings - another of many Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

A European Roller that will be eaten by something when night falls

Roller

Roller

Roller

Another bewildered Kestrel awaiting its fate

Kestrel

This wounded and magnificent male European Sparrowhawk, just broke my heart

Sparrowhawk

This massacre and carnage of migratory birds is not an exeption and not restricted to one day either, but rather pencilled in as a highlight on the calendar every year. I hope this small post highlights that there is a long way to go in terms of conservation, gun laws, hunting and before eco tourism can be considered as a profitable revenue stream in Kuwait. This too is the image that our international and well travelled birders will take back to their respective countries and discuss with their peers, is this how we want to showcase the potential that Kuwait has to offer - I think not!

Sparrowhawk

04/24/11

South Africa (ZA)   Birding in the dust  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 03:17:06 pm

Week 16 - 22 April 2011, Sharq, Sulaibikhat and Jahra

Following the pelagic trip I decided to drive up the coast and check for Terns and Gulls followed by Warblers and Waders in Jahra. Images by Mike Pope


We hadnt seen any Little Terns on our trip, but I knew they were back and Sharq Harbour is a place where you can get close. There were a few feeding inside the harbour and others along the breakwater

Little Tern

Little Tern

Two Terns were seen flying north up the coast and we are trying to confirm if these are Little or on the outside chance Saunders. These were the only two images I was able to get, but any opinion for either species will be appreciated

Tern

Tern

I stopped in Sulaibikhat where I found a mixed flock of Gulls in the deterioating weather conditions. I thought all Black-headed and large White-headed Gulls had long departed. Here I found a single Black-headed in amongst all the Slender-billed Gulls

Black-headed Gull

One of two Heuglin Gulls in pristine plumage

Heuglin Gull

A Great Black-headed Gull stood head and shoulders above the flock

Great Black-headed Gull

This and the next Gull in moulting plumage are Heuglins

Gull

Gull

We are not sure of this Gull; head and bill shape suggest armenicus but it appears too dark. Gonys a bit too prominent, small eye in front of head - could it be barabensis?

Gull

A couple of Lesser-crested Terns dropped in to roost with the gull flock

Lesser-crested Tern

Stopping on the spit at Manchester Club produced a few Squacco and one Purple Heron and a single Spotted Crake skulking in the reeds

Spotted Crake

Weather had worsened, so I thought Jahra Farm might provide some shelter. Sadly, so did some of the local kids who were shooting migrants with an air rifle - this in a residential area. They were unhappy with me when I chased off the Bee-eaters they were trying to shoot, cest la vie! Migrants are even targetted by kids with catapults and air rifles in built up areas and are not taken to task by authorities

Shooters

After chasing off as much as I could and trying to tell them that shooting was not good (not understood with the language barrier), I headed to Jahra Pools where there was a large group of visiting international birders. Weather was not conducive to productive birding, but I did find some Tree Pipits

Tree Pipit

A few waders were seen, but Wood were the most confiding

Wood Sandpiper

However, it was the shere numbers of Red-necked Phalaropes that have arrived at this protected reserve that was the most impressive. We have estimated close to 1000 birds and they are entertaining to watch as the spiral around in circles feeding and displaying

Red-necked Phalarope

South Africa (ZA)   Pelagic in Arabian Gulf  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 02:39:43 pm

Week 16 - 22 April 2011, Pelagic to Kuwait's islands

I arranged a late spring pelagic trip to survey seabirds and cetaceans in the waters on the way too and around a few of Kuwaits off-shore islands. We were again fortunate to have access the the fantastic boat from Alghanim, which made the trip even more memorable. Images by Mike Pope


In the week leading up to the trip, Kuwait had experienced some unstable weather and the forecast for our trip was a little dubious. Nevertheless in overcast and calm conditions 5 of us headed out from Marina crescent and headed to Failaka Island. We werent far off shore when we found our first pelagic species, resting on the water - 4 Arctic Skua's! Getting photographs was another challenge again, as it generally is from a boat, coupled with gloomy conditions

Arctic Skua

Arctic Skua

Arctic Skua

We continued to and reached Failaka where we had a single Great Cormorant, Indian Reef Heron, a couple of Slender-billed Gulls and two Swift Terns. Sadly this one tangled up in some discarded fishing line

Swift Tern

Swift Tern

We checked the two smaller islands off Failaka, without success and then headed south to Kubbar seeing no birds or cetaceans at all on route. It was obvious we were too early in the breeding season at Kubbar, with very few Terns seen. A couple of Bridled Terns flew by overhead

Bridled Tern

A hunting Osprey was an unexpected suprise

Osprey

Lesser-crested Terns were the most abundant, but were only found roosting on a buoy away from the island. They are very striking in the their breeding plumage

Lesser-crested Tern

Lesser-crested Tern

A lone White-cheeked Tern was seen when we departed Kubbar. As our skipper Ian had predicted, winds picked up on our return to the marina in Salmiya and it was a bumpy and wet ride back, but not as bad as it would have been in a smaller boat. We were a little disappointed in that we didnt see a single cetacean and only 5 Arctic Skuas - I think the weather played a role in the low numbers and species diversity, but still a good trip. From L to R, here is the crew of our pelagic; Mike Newey, Abdulrahman Al-Sirhan, Brian Foster, Mike Pope and Anand Manickam

Pelagic crew

South Africa (ZA)   The marvels of Spring migration  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 09:04:11 am

Week 16 - 23 April 2011

In between the constant firing of shotguns and falling pellets I still managed to find some good migrants. Understandably they were skittish and nervous and wisely stayed in the available cover. Images by Mike Pope


A Steppe Buzzard kept safe perched in the middle of the farm

Step Buzzard

A Pallid Harrier came in low and then disappeared over the fence at the back of the farm where there were no shooters

Pallid Harrier

There were many Sparrowhawks inside the farm, but flushed easy when farm workers walked by, this looks like the adult male that was later shot and wounded

European Sparrowhawk

The amazing White-throated Robins are now passing through

White-throated Robin

I saw my first Lesser Grey Shrike of this Spring

Lesser Grey Shrike

A Masked Shrike inside some cover

Masked Shrike

Turkestan Shrikes arrive some time after the bulk of Daurian Shrikes have passed through. By now the incessant shooting had become unbearable, so I left this green jewel in the desert

Turkestan Shrike

04/20/11

South Africa (ZA)   Exploration birding in Saudi Arabia - Day 2  -  Categories: Around the Region  -  @ 06:36:44 pm

Week 15 - 15 and 16 April 2011, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

We found clean accommodation in Zulfi when we arrived last night and after the noise and sleeping on a bed like a brick, we were ready to explore Zulfi by 5:30am. Zulfi town is situated in a valley below a small escarpment that could hold some interesting birds. Images by Mike Pope


However, we first tried to find a small desert lake, but alas it was dry. We did pick up 3 male Hen Harriers and this cracking pale phase Booted Eagle to start the day's birding

Booted Eagle

All Grey Shrikes were carefully checked, looking for the southern special - aucheri. Unfortunately all birds we did see were Steppe Grey Shrike

Steppe Grey Shrike

We found some good habitat that was protected by a fence and spent some time walking and exploring, with some anticipation of finding a rarity - which didnt materialise, but I enjoyed the habitat. We found good numbers of Common Redstart

Common Redstart

A couple of Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

A long snaking line of "marching ants" ala Photoshop moving from one location to the next

Marching Ants

Many Libyan Jirds (I assume the same species as we get in Kuwait) enjoying the abundant food

Libyan Jird

More Steppe Grey Shrike - the flight shot clearly shows T5 and T6 tail feathers as white, which is one of the key id features for Steppe

Step Grey Shrike

Step Grey Shrike

We headed back to Zulfi, where we explored both the top and bottom of the rocky escarpment. Looking from the ridge over the town, we saw House Martin and two Pale Crag Martins, quite high against the light - so please excuse the poor images

Pale Crag Martin

Pale Crag Martin

Observing from a different part of the ridge, produced the bird of the day - this 'brutish' Alpine Swift which came over quite low, circled twice on a thermal and then disappeared

Alpine Swift

Alpine Swift

Walking through the gardens on the edge of the escarpement finally produced my second target bird - Black Bush Robin (a rarity which I missed in Kuwait last year) - an impressive bird

Black Bush Robin

Black Bush Robin

here we found the only Masked Shrike of the trip

Masked Shrike

We came across a mixed flock of both Ortolan and these Cinereous Buntings with both male and female

Cinereous Bunting

Cinereous Bunting

Exploring the base of the escarpment, we found Olivaceous Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Graceful Prinia and Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat

and two very skittish Green Bee-eaters

Green Bee-eater

By this time it was time to drive to Artawiyah to explore some of the old abandoned farms. We didnt add many new birds to the day's list, but did see Grey Wagtail, Spotted Flycatcher, Tree and Red-throated Pipit

Red-throated Pipit

and a single Wryneck

Wryneck

From here we headed back out into the desert to the Hume's Whitethroat location. Again we found Steppe Grey Shrike and it was this speficic bird the escaped our trap 3 consecutive times, as we tried to catch it to take measurements. Again this bird showing white T5 and T6 tail feathers

Steppe Grey Shrike

Steppe Grey Shrike

a male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush added a splash of colour to the desert landscape

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush

in this habitat, we found another 2 Desert Larks

Desert Lark

By this time, it was time to start the long drive back to Kuwait and we drove slowly across the desert until we intersected with the road to Hafr Al Batin. Here we flushed a Turtle Dove that was roosting under a small bush. All in all this was an interesting trip and great to see some new birds and habitat different to what we have in Kuwait, including some dune landscape

Turtle Dove


04/18/11

South Africa (ZA)   Exploration birding in Saudi Arabia - Day 1  -  Categories: Around the Region  -  @ 11:51:56 am

Week 15 - 15 and 16 April 2011, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

My family have returned to South Africa for Easter, so Abdulrahman Al-Sirhan and I planned an exploratory trip to the central northern region of Saudi Arabia around Artawiyah. I was suprised at how painless the border formalities were at Salmi in the SW of Kuwait - no need to even exit the car. Images by Mike Pope


Whilst waiting for Abdulrahman at the Kuwait Zoo, I found a female Black Redstart

Black Redstart

and a stunning lutea Yellow Wagtail backlit for a little creativity - ok, that was the best angle I could get on the bird

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

Once border formalities were over we headed toward Hafr Al-Batin (named after Wadi Al Batin, I presume). About 50km before we turned off the tarmac and followed GPS to a tributary wadi where Pharoah Eagle Owl was found by Abdulrahman in January 2010. We finally found the wadi and quietly explored it on foot, flushing a single Pharoah Eagle Owl that we didnt see, until it flushed. Clearly, this quiet isolated wadi is its territory and we were well pleased in finding it again

Pharoah Eagle Owl

We couldnt relocate the owl, so explored the wadi system and amazingly found another two magnificent owls. Could this be a pair and the first bird seen, last seasons offspring?

Pharoah Eagle Owl

Pharoah Eagle Owl

Pharoah Eagle Owl

Pharoah Eagle Owl

Just as we were driving out of the wadi a fawn coloured bird caught my attention as it flew across the wadi and landed - Desert Lark, my first target species of the trip. We had 4 birds and watched two of them square off against each other - mating courtship or territorial posing?

Desert Lark

Desert Lark

Desert Lark

Before reaching the main road, we heard the stunning call of Hoopoe Lark, it was easily located as it launched itself into the air after each medley in an impressive display flight, that was not easy to capture

Hoopoe Lark

Hoopoe Lark

Hoopoe Lark

At the side of the main road, we came across this unlikely group of Cattle Egrets and a single Squacco Heron, literally in the middle of the desert with no sign of water anywhere close

Cattle Egret and Squacco Heron

We passed through Hafr Al Batin and headed to Artawiyah across some interesting landscape including some red dune habitat. Before Artawiyah we detoured into the desert to explore some interesting habitat that Abdulrahman had seen using Google Earth. It was an interesting stop as the available cover provided shelter and food for many passing passerines. We saw two Icterine Warblers that werent co-operative for photographs and this Humes Whitethroat, that proved also to be elusive

Hume's Whitethroat

We also found Barred Warbler and Common Whitethroat, but by far the most abundant were the Willow Warblers on passage. At first their colouring confused us, as they had a pale pinkish hue with very little yellow on many of the birds. It was only whilst editing the images, did I discover that the pink hue was the dust from the shrubs that they were feeding on

Willow Warbler

Willow Warbler

Willow Warbler

Willow Warbler

04/14/11

South Africa (ZA)   Unsuccessful twitch  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 09:23:12 am

Week 15 - April 2011, SAANR

News of the 2nd record of Mongolian Finch found again by Khaled Al-Ghanem spread quickly - seen in the same location as the first sighting. Many birders and photographers made a visit and patiently waited for hours at a small waterhole on the top of the ridge in SAANR. Yours truly did the same for 90-minutes, but was unsuccessful. Images by Mike Pope


However, all was not lost and other good birds were seen coming in to drink during the vigil. My camera seemed to struggle a bit in the hazy conditions and I was disappointed on the lack of sharpness, despite the use of a beanbag. Most numerous were the Ortolan Buntings (checking carefully for any Grey-necked Buntings)

Ortolan Bunting

Ortolan Bunting

The careful checking did pay off, when a single Cinereous Bunting made a brief appearance - but very far off - this just a record shot

Cinereous Bunting

Crested Lark, the most common lark in the reserve were surprisingly shy and skittish around the waterhole

Crested Lark

Not so for the Yellow Wagtail (beema)

Yellow Wagtail

Two Pale Rock Sparrows dropped in briefly, but didnt drink

Pale Rock Sparrow

Having only seen my first Trumpeter Finch this year, I had prolonged and closer views of this bird this morning. The presence of juveniles suggest that this species is breeding in the nearby wadi.

Trumpeter Finch

Trumpeter Finch

Trumpeter Finch

On the way out, a Pied Wheatear was seen in the wadi - this I believe is the vitatae varient

Pied Wheatear

South Africa (ZA)   Khiran Census  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 08:58:02 am

Week 14 - 09 April 2011, Khiran Pearl City Development

It had been some months since my last census at the Khiran project in the south of Kuwait near the Saudi border. This time my family joined Anand and I on a cool spring morning with high cloud as we checked the islands and sea for migrants. Images by Mike Pope


The habitat on the islands has grown a lot since last spring and now provides cover and food for passage migrants - there werent big numbers of birds, but good diversity. Again we added new species to the growing species list for Khiran. A single Tree Pipit was found foraging on the first island

Tree Pipit

Lesser Whitethroat was seen on both islands

Lesser Whitethroat

Daurian Shrikes were numerous

Daurian Shrike

A Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin was actively feeding

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

On the bigger island we had a few flowering Bottlebrush shrubs that attracted many passerines - here we ticked Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

with many Blackcaps

Blackcap

A stunning Steppe Grey Shrike was seen. Abdulrahman has been studying this complex and mentions that despite what is known about Steppe Grey Shrike bill colour, only first winter birds have horn coloured bill. In spring all birds seem to show dark bill with a hint of a pale base in some. Notice that in this bird the lore is not very dark (i.e. not concolourous with the eye stripe).

Lesser Whitethroat

Overhead we had a singel Imperial Eagle, a few Harriers fly by, including this male Pallid Harrier

Pallid Harrier

we also had two Common Kestrel passing by

Kestrel

after the islands, we headed out to sea to check the marker buoys to the harbour and surprisingly found two Bridled Terns

Bridled Terns

Bridled Terns

We stayed next to the buoys doing a little fishing (catching two small snapper type fish) and seeing a Great Cormorant fly by - no Socotra's today, although some were seen last week at Port Zour. Our captain Hassan then spotted a pod of 5 Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphins and we followed them for 15-minutes, never quite getting ahead of them - but a good end to a pleasant morning in the south

Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin

Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin

04/04/11

South Africa (ZA)   Hairdresser Birding  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 01:15:48 pm

Week 13 - 02 April 2011, Sulaibikhat Bay and Jahra Pools

My wife had an appointment at the salon and my son suggested we go to the desert, I didnt need any further prompting so we took a slow drive along Sulaibikhat Bay and then to Jahra Pools. Images by Mike Pope


We headed to Sulaibikhat first, unfortunately the tide was way out, but we were treated to the usual Wheatears - first up was Northern

Northern Wheatear

a lot of Pied's in various stages of breeding plumage - but this one very striking in its full dress

Pied Wheatear

and a single Eastern Black-eared

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

From here we headed to Jahra Pools, where water levels are quite high and the reeds have exploded, making visibility over the pan difficult in some places. We were unable to locate the Ferruginous Duck seen yesterday but did see all 3 Crakes (Baillons, Little and Spotted) again and found Green Sandpiper gleening midges off the surface of the water

Green Sandpiper

A flock of 8 Black-crowned Night Herons dropped in uncharacteristically for a drink almost at mid-day

Black-crowned Night Heron

A female Stonechat high in this dead tree

Stonechat

A couple of Daurian Shrikes were seen along the boundary fence

Daurian Shrike

and a solitary Woodchat Shrike

Woodchat Shrike

On the way to lunch, a few soaring raptors were seen - the highlight being a Short-toed Snake Eagle

Short-toed Snake Eagle


South Africa (ZA)   Sports Birding cont....  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 12:33:30 pm

Week 13 - 01 April 2011, Hunting and Equestrian Club

Later in the afternoon my son had tennis lessons in the adjacent Hunting and Equestrian Club. I wandered around the garden findnig pretty much the same birds seen at Sahara earlier. Images by Mike Pope


Again Red-throated Pipits in breeding plumage were prevalent

Red-throated Pipit

As were Tree Pipits, this one showing quite a lot of warm buff on breast and flanks

Tree Pipit

This one striking a different posture and looking much bolder and bigger with a much more prominent orbital ring than the previous bird

Tree Pipit

A White-eared Bulbul was showing some strange courtship or submissive behaviour, but not getting any attention from either of the other two birds

White-eared Bulbul

White-eared Bulbul

A Common Kestrel roosting for the night in the late afternoon sun

Common Kestrel

04/03/11

South Africa (ZA)   Sports Birding  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 04:09:47 pm

Week 13 - 01 April 2011, Sahara Golf Club

My son had his golf lesson early this morning on the course and in between strokes, I noted migrants all over the course. Images by Mike Pope


At this time of year, migrants are to be found all over Kuwait and golf courses are particulary attractive - grass, water and food (and of course no shooters, other than wayward golfers). Most of these images were taken around the water hole on the 18th. Pipits are abundant with the majority being made up with Red-throated

Red-throated Pipit

Red-throated Pipit

and Tree Pipits

Tree Pipit

with Water Pipits getting fewer by the day

Water Pipit

a Common Sandpiper was foraging around the edge of the water hole

Common Sandpiper

Chiffchaffs are to be found everywhere, this bird having very little yellow in it's plumage

Chiffchaff

a pair of Ortolan Buntings were my first for this spring

Ortolan Bunting

Hawar-Islands.comBirding Top 500 CounterHawar-Islands.com
Bahrain Bird Report Bahrain Kuwait Birding


powered by
b2evolution