05/25/11

South Africa (ZA)   In search of a rarity  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 12:41:24 pm

Week 20 - 21 May 2011, Jahra Pools and Pivot Fields

Whilst at Kubbar yesterday, I received an sms from Brian Foster who found a Pied Bushchat (a first for Kuwait) at Jahra Pools Reserve. Images by Mike Pope


There is nothing worse waking up to twitch a rarity and seeing that the weather had taken a turn for worse - and so it was this morning with some dust and strong gusting wind. Nevertheless, I was still in the reserve by 6:30 (and wasnt the first). After 3-hours and more of searching, the bird was not relocated. A Graceful Prinia was found singing near where the Bushchat was seen

Graceful Prinia


Migration has definitely thinned out and is almost at an end, so a late Corn Bunting was a surprise

Corn Bunting


a young Red-backed Shrike without a tail - not sure if this was lost as part of moult

Red-backed Shrike


We have had a few plumage variants with Turkestan Shrikes of which quite a few are still around. The birds with very pale upperparts are probably a different sub-species

Turkestan Shrike


I headed to SAANR, but could not get access and this will be the case until late July. Disppointed I headed to Pivot Fields where some signs of late migration were enjoyed together with some summer arrivals, like this White-winged Black Tern

White-winged Black Tern


A Glossy Ibis feeding in the fields

Glossy Ibis


One of 3 very skittish Red-wattled Lapwings, a good tick at this site

Red-wattled Lapwing


A late Woodchat Shrike on the pivots together with quite a few European Rollers

Woodchat Shrike


Bare patches had many bright yellow Dhubs - they change to a paler colour as the temperature heats up

Dhub


A few Raptors were seen, here a lone Montagu Harrier

Montagu Harrier


One of the many Black Kites seen around the Pivots

Black Kite


The highlight however was a flock of around 50 Lesser Kestrels, hunting from the Pivot Irrigation as it moved slowly across the fields. Simple tactics, just drop down onto any exposed small mammal, reptile or insect.

Lesser Kestrel


Here a sequence fo 3 birds that dived for the same Beetle and the 2nd bird, emerging as the winner

Lesser Kestrel


Lesser Kestrel


Lesser Kestrel


Lesser Kestrel


Lesser Kestrel



05/23/11

South Africa (ZA)   Breeding Terns on Kubbar Island  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 01:18:56 pm

Week 20 - 20 May 2011, Kubbbar Island

We arrived at Kubbar Island in good time across a flat and calm Arabian Gulf and moored just off the island where we could already see that Tern numbers had absolutely swelled since the last visit. Images by Mike Pope


The view of this small, but important summer breeding island from the boat

Bridled Tern


It didnt take long before a few came to roost on the railings of the boat - this I assumes keeps them cooler as they are further above the ground

Bridled Tern


We put all our camera kit in waterproof bag and swam a short distance to the shore, where we enjoyed this breeding spectacle of three tern species (no sign of Swift Tern yet). Bridled Terns nest under the salt bushes and pairs take turns in incubating the egg(s)

Bridled Tern


This pair outside their nest

Bridled Tern


with birds all round you, it is just special and difficult to choose which to photograph

Bridled Tern


as the day warmed up and it did, it was interesting to see the Bridled Terns fly a short distance away from their nests and then dip their breast feathers into the surface to wet them and take a quick drink, returning to incubate their eggs with cool feathers. Critical I guess to regulate the eggs temperature when the ambient temperature is 44 degrees

Bridled Tern


Bridled Tern


Bridled Tern


Bridled Tern


a little later I watched these two birds in a territorial battle or vying for a interested female and got a great sequence of images

Bridled Tern


Bridled Tern


Bridled Tern


Bridled Tern


Bridled Tern


Bridled Tern


Bridled Tern


Bridled Tern


Bridled Tern


Bridled Tern


The White-cheeked Terns nested on bare ground and in some sparse grass just inside the perimeter of the island

White-cheeked Tern


Their nests gave some 'breathing' space between pairs

White-cheeked Tern


White-cheeked Tern


White-cheeked were agressive if you got to close and would fly above you 'chattering'

White-cheeked Tern


I also observed them wetting their breast feathers, but couldnt get an image - this one however returning from the sea

White-cheeked Tern


This one bringing in a Flying Fish (first time I have seen one in Kuwait) to it's mate that was sitting on eggs earlier

White-cheeked Tern


White-cheeked Tern


White-cheeked Tern


The Lesser-crested Terns were more gregarious and situated in a small collective breeding colony on the eastern side of the island. To me, these are the coolest terns, especially when the fluff up their afro crest

Lesser-crested Tern


Lesser-crested Tern


and very elegant in flight

Lesser-crested Tern


this one bringing in some food for its mate, somewhere in the melee. Feeding will reach a frenzy in a couple of weeks when eggs hatch and will be a great time to visit

Lesser-crested Tern


as long as we dont have these guys here again! Flushing, traumatising and then netting these breeding terns for fun; on what should be a protected island at this important time of the year

Ignorance


Ignorance


05/22/11

South Africa (ZA)   A trip to Kubbar Island  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 11:23:46 am

Week 20 - 20 May 2011, on route to Kubbbar Island from Salmiya

I had planned a second trip to Kubbar Island with family and friends to check on status of breeding on the island and last attempt for a stray Persian Shearwater. Images by Mike Pope


We departed from Marina Mall harbour in ideal conditions around 8am and headed south east across the Gulf to Kubbar Island. After around 15-minutes out, we started seeing the first of many feeding terns. Two Swift Terns were obvious from their size

Swift Tern


Compared to the numerous and smaller White-cheeked Terns

White-cheeked Tern


I found two (adult and juvenile) Arctic Skua's resting on the sea. As we got closer, the took off and immediately set about chasing a much smaller White-cheeked Tern that was flying above them. The interaction between the 3 birds was fantastic to watch as these 'predators' do what they do best - mid-air piracy

Arctic Skua


Arctic Skua


The continued harassment started to pay dues and here you can see the Tern starting to regurgitate its earlier meal

Arctic Skua


but not before it tried one final move by defacating on the Skua, which did not deter in the least

Arctic Skua


Arctic Skua


finally the Tern dropped its regurgitated food and the marauding Skua's followed it acrobatically as it fell to the sea

Arctic Skua


Arctic Skua


All quite spectacular to watch and over in less than a minute and not even time to stop the boat (fortunately the sea was calm). We continued to Kubbar, but no sign of any stray Shearwater

Arctic Skua


05/15/11

South Africa (ZA)   A fishy tale  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 02:03:25 pm

Week 19 - 13 May 2011, Marina Crescent, Salmiya

Not birding related, but when one of the worlds biggest and threatened fishes swims into the Marina on our doorstep, it is eventful . Images by Mike Pope


Anand, the marine biologist from Khiran called me on Thursday to say that a 5m Whale Shark had inadvertently swum into the harbour at Marina Crescent. It's exit out of the harbour would be 'blocked' for a few days while it was studied. This is the second time that a Whale Shark has accidently swum into this harbour and I guess we were speculating whether this could be the same fish?

Whale Shark

The primary reason for holding it inside the harbour (until today, I believe) was to try and raise funds from the private sector to purchase and fit a satellite tag. Very little is known about the status and movement of Whale Sharks in the Gulf and this was an ideal opportnity to tag this fish. I do find it quite strange though that funds need to be raised from the private sector for a tag to conduct further research and add to better understanding the movement of this awesome fish. Nevertheless, this was a fantastic opportunity to see a fish this size up close and personal, whithout having to put on some tanks.

Whale Shark


05/01/11

South Africa (ZA)   The bliss of no Shooters  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 06:43:29 pm

Week 17 - 29 April 2011, SAANR and Jahra Pools Reserve

This is a belated post my last weekend out in April where I opted to avoid sites where there may be shooting (not burying my head in the sand), but rather to enjoy spring migration the way it should be enjoyed. Images by Mike Pope


I left home very early and explored some sabkha in Sulaibikhat hoping for Stone Curlew, but no luck. I arrived at the Tuhla pond very early and was rewarded with a roosting Steppe Eagle

Steppe Eagle

as well as a Spotted Eagle

Spotted Eagle

a single European Bee-eater had also roosted overnight

European Bee-eater

sitting quietly at the pan does produce birds as they slowly get used to your presence, a Black-crowned Night Heron was a surprise

Black-crowned Night Heron

on the pool itself, a single Squacco Heron was patiently hunting

Squacco Heron

together with Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

and Marsh Sandpiper

Marsh Sandpiper

a male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush came down for a drink

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush

an alarm call in the bush on the center island finally alerted me to two Basra Reed Warblers, great to have them back again!

Basra Reed Warbler

Basra Reed Warbler

Basra Reed Warbler

I explored the habitat away from the pool finding Common Nightingale resting in the shade of a tree

Common Nightingale

a female Common Redstart (there are a lot of these birds around at the moment)

Common Redstart

a Common Whitethroat

Common Whitethroat

and a Barred Warbler

Barred Warbler

on the way to the Wadi Pan, I found a Desert Monitor which are a lot less common than Spiny-tailed Lizard. This one trying all flattened out trying to remain unseen and then making a get away across the desert - probably feeling a little vulnerable

Desert Monitor

Desert Monitor

no sign of the Bimaculated Lark seen earlier in the week, despite an intensive search. But I did get the 13th record of Black Stork on the far side of the wadi pan (too distant for a photograph across the heat haze). In the pan, there was Ruff

Ruff

a few Curlew Sandpipers

Curlew Sandpiper

and some Little Stints coming into breeding plumage

Little Stint

around the edges of the pan, I found a Lesser Short-toed Lark singing its heart out

Lesser Short-toed Lark

as well as two Short-toed Larks

Short-toed Lark

I headed to the small pool on the ridge of the reserve, getting my first Red-backed Shrike of this spring

Red-backed Shrike

On the ridge, I opened all the windows, put the cammo net in front of my camera and sat quietly for an hour enjoying the silence and birds as they came in to drink. Northern Wheatear was first up

Northern Wheatear

followed by a Common Redstart

Common Redstart

Red-throated Pipit

Red-throated Pipit

a couple of Yellow Wagtails, one thunbergi

Yellow Wagtail

another entertaining Barred Warbler - this one eating the yellow flowers off the stems

Barred Warbler

Barred Warbler

a single Ortolan Bunting

Ortolan Bunting

and finally two Pale Rockfinches

Pale Rockfinch

after an hour I drove to the nearby Jahra Pools Reserve, where water levels were still healthy and enjoyed by a variety of waders although all still outnumbered by the huge numbers of Red-necked Phalaropes doing their spinning numbers

Red-necked Phalarope

Red-necked Phalarope

Red-necked Phalarope

I had Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover

almost side-by-side with a Ringed Plover for comparison

Ringed Plover

a drive around the perimeter of the reserve, produced Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher

A singing Graceful Prinia which I havent seen for some time

Graceful Prinia

More Red-backed Shrike in breeding regalia. Isnt it amazing that when the first is seen, others of the same species arrive en mass!

Red-backed Shrike

Red-backed Shrike

And a cracking male Winchat

Winchat

By now the heat had increased and it was time to head home. Fortunately, the gate was locked as the guards had gone to Friday prayer, so I headed back to the large Phalarope flock and immediately found a group of 3 Common Redshank in breeding plumage that werent there earlier

Common Redshank

Common Redshank

Further careful scanning produced a single Broad-billed Sandpiper in amongst the Little Stints

Broad-billed Sandpiper

And a distant Temminck’s Stint - so all in all a very productive spring morning

Temminck’s Stint

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