South Africa (ZA)   A big day at Al Abraq  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 08:33:50 am

Week 46 - 15 November 2008, Al Abraq

Some good birds were seen earlier this week at Al Abraq, so it was a natural choice to visit on Saturday. Images by Mike Pope

Birding is generally very quiet at 7am at the oasis, but I did find the small flock of Penduline Tits which have remained for a good few weeks

Penduline Tit

A bird that really looked out of place was this Cormorant in a flooded pool below the main reservoire


Whilst waiting for it to warm up a little, I drove to the eastern boundary of the farm and came across a Deser Wheatear sheltering from the cool wind

Desert Wheatear

Both Black and Common Redstarts were seen, the Common being a more obliging photographic subject

Common Redstart

There was a flock of 18+ Corn Buntings feeding in the newly created crop areas

Corn Bunting

The main reason for my visit today was to try and find the Redwing and Dark throated Thrush, I was successful seeing the Thrush, but had no luck photographing the bird. What I didnt expect to see was a Ring Ouzel which made a quick appearance for a drink and then disappeared. Not a great image as I didnt have a chance to up the ISO speed for shooting into the shade

Ring Ouzel

An even more unexpeceted surprise was the 6th record of Oriental Turtle Dove coming in for a drink where I had seen the Ring Ouzel. The bird was first seen by Abdulrahman on 1 November 08 and subsequently seen by Rashed and Pekka. More amazing is that it has survived this long without being shot, as Turtle Doves are one of the main target birds of Kuwaiti and other Mediterranean hunters during migration. Again not a great image shooting into the shade

Oriental Turtle Dove

Oriental Turtle Dove


South Africa (ZA)   A gluttony of Gulls on the Gulf  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 01:47:03 pm

Week 45 - 06 November 2008, Arabian Gulf

I had an hour available whilst my son was at a birthday party and found a large mixed flock of roosting gulls at low tide near the northern end of Gulf Road. Images by Mike Pope

Armenian Gull - round headed, short blunt tipped bill and dark iris

Armenian Gull

Caspian Gull with pale upperparts

Caspian Gull

Lesser black backed Gull (Heuglin) with dark blue grey upperparts

Heuglin Gull

Lesser black backed Gull (Heuglin) with dark blue grey upperparts shown in flight

Heuglin Gull - female?

We think this may be a pale Steppe (barabesis) type Gull

Taimyrensis type Gull

The following show gulls together for comparison - Lesser black backed and Caspian Gull

Lesser black backed and Caspian Gull

Lesser black backed and possible Steppe Gull

Lesser black backed and Steppe Gull

The following show gulls together for comparison - Lesser black backed and we think a pale eyed Armenian Gull

Lesser black backed and Taimyrensis type Gull

Lesser black backed and unidentified Gull

Lesser black backed and another?

Lesser black backed and Armenian Gull

Lesser black backed and Armenian Gull

A single Oystercatcher was present amongst the gulls


A dark phase Western Reef Heron on a fly by

Western Reef Heron

A pale phase Western Reef Heron also put in an appearance

Western Reef Heron


South Africa (ZA)   First day out with EOS 50D  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 10:38:13 am

Week 44 - 01 November 2008, Al Abraq

Earlier this week I had received the Canon EOS 50D, replacing my trusted EOS 20D so was itching to try it out. Al Abraq was a natural choice, as Rick and Pekka had found Penduline Tit and Dead Sea Sparrow a few days before. Images by Mike Pope

Al Abraq is a private oasis farm almost on the western boundary of Kuwait. Once you turn off into the desert, the farm slowly appears in the distance

Al Abraq

Just before the farm, I came across a lone herder which was a timeless photographic opportunity


Once at the farm, I headed straight to the patch of elephant grass (we think that is what it is) and found the enigmatic Dead Sea Sparrows fairly quickly. I lifted my new baby to take the first pics and the camera had frozen - nothing! Panic ensured momentarily, I swapped the batteries around in the grip and it has been fine since. There were 3 in the flock and are really smart little birds

Male Dead Sea Sparrow

Male and Female Dead Sea Sparrow

A female Spanish Sparrow flew in to feed with the 3 Dead Sea Sparrows and the size difference was immediately noticeable

Female Spanish Sparrow

I couldnt relocate the Penduline Tits (perhaps it was still too early), so walked around the farm and found that Red breasted Flycatchers were still present, at least 5 birds were seen

Red breasted Flycatchers

Stonechats were still present


A dark phase Steppe Buzzard flew over scattering many birds below

Steppe Buzzard

Water Pipits had arrived in numbers were seen feeding in some of the crop patches

Water Pipit

Before I left later in the morning with it having warmed up, I went back to the elephant grass patch and found Abdulrahman with his awesome kit at the sparrow spot, only to discover that the Tits were feeding in the patch

Abdulrahman al Sirhan

There was a mixed group of 5 Penduline Tits (nothing like those we have in South Africa). However they proved to be in tricky lighting conditions - small light bird in dark green surrounds and bright sunlight. The camera handled the conditions well, in my opinion.

Male Penduline Tit

Male Penduline Tit

Juvenile/Feale Penduline Tit

South Africa (ZA)   Quiet day at Al Abraq  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 07:57:27 am

Week 42 - 18 October 2008, Al Abraq and Jahra Farm

I decided to head out west today to check what may have stopped over from the previous day. Images by Mike Pope

Early winter mornings are not the most productive at this oasis farm, but you do tend to find raptors that roosted for the night. This pale phase Booted Eagle was one of the raptors I saw on this visit.

Booted Eagle

All 3 of the Sparrowhawks I saw were juvenile/1st winter birds


Early winter brings in Red breasted Flycatchers and this morning I had up to 5 different birds around the farm. They are challenging but rewarding photographic subjects.

Red breasted Flycatcher

Red breasted Flycatcher

This Stonechat followed the workers as they were harvesting some of the crops



A few Tree Pipits were seen feeding in some of the crop patches

Tree Pipit

Yellow Wagtail numbers have decreased dramatically at the tail end of migration

Yellow Wagtail

The Yellows have now been replaced by White Wagtails that over winter in Kuwait

White Wagtail

On my way across the desert, I came across this small, but very fast Snake like Lizard

Snake like Lizard

Next stop was Jahra Farm, no sign of the Indian Roller but I did see this Squacco Heron pounce onto this large cricket

Squacco Heron

At Sulaibikhat, the tide was too far out for any birding. I was entertained watching Mud Skippers have territorial battles over their little pactch of mud

Mud Skippers


South Africa (ZA)   Al Abraq Rarity  -  Categories: Rarities  -  @ 06:56:04 pm

Week 40 - 03 October 2008, Al Abraq

Rick was out at Al Abraq and got onto a Kuwait rarity. Images by Rick Saval

Rick found a photographed a Yellow browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus) which is now considered a full species. Thanks to Tero Toivanen, Brian Foster and George Gregory for pointing out the correct ID of this bird, which was initially thought to be a Two barred Greenish Warbler.

Yellow browed Warbler

South Africa (ZA)   Raptors in Autumn  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 06:49:04 pm

Week 40 - 02 October 2008, Pivot Fields and Al Abraq

I had a chance to get to Pivot Fields for an hour, whilst Iain was at Al Abraq earlier in the week. Images by Mike Pope and Iain Laver

Raptors are still abundant at Pivot Fields with many variants of Common/Steppe Buzzard

Common Buzzard

This was the only Greater Spotted Eagle that I saw amongst the Steppe Eagles

Greater Spotted Eagle

Iain was out at Al Abraq and managed to get pretty close to photograph this European Hobby


South Africa (ZA)   A Day with Charlie Moores  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 06:33:20 pm

Week 39 - 27 September 2008, Jahra, Pivot Fields, Sulaibikhat and SAANR

I had the privelege of finallly meeting and hosting Charlie Moores for a days birding on his quick BA stopover in Kuwait. For those that dont know, Charlie is one of the 3 contributors to www.10000birds.com/ a site that promotes and celebrates birding the world over and Charlie is also on a quest to see as many birds as possible during 2008. Images by Mike Pope

Before Charlie arrived, I did a quick recce to JEO and was dismayed to see that the relentless and unabated slaughter of migratory birds during Ramadan was at is peak with many cars full of shooters blasting at everything that passed within range. This was not a place to expose a well travelled international birder and conservationist to - or maybe I should have to show the darker side of birding in Kuwait. Aside from hunting, JEO suffers badly from habitat destruction through reed cutting and overgrazing. These herders appear oblivious to their contribution to loss of habitat at what should be a prime birding site and a protected jewel, by Kuwait authorities


On the way to our meeting point, I stopped at the green intersection of the 7th Ring Road and the 80 and photographed a moulting Great Reed Warbler

Great Reed Warbler

A backlit and unidentified Warbler at the same location


I met Charlie at Starbucks straight off his flight and our first stop was Pivot Fields which provided privacy, solitude and NO Hunters. Raptors were still in evidence and today was a day of variety in which we saw 9 Raptor species. 1st year Harriers are challenging, so if I have got any of these wrong, please let me know. This is a first year Montagu Harrier

Montagu Harrier

An Osprey put in an unexpected appearance over the Croc pool


There were a number of Steppe Eagles roosting on the irrigation systems and telephone poles

Steppe Eagle

We watched an interesting interaction between a Marsh Harrier and a Short toed Eagle, with the Harrier appearing to get the upper hand, so to speak

Short toed Eagle and Marsh Harrier

The Spotted Redshank was still around, but not very obliging

Spotted Redshank

All too soon we had to leave, as we had a full day. Next stop was Doha Spur and Sulaibikhat Bay for Gulls and Waders. We had large numbers of Crab Plovers which Charlie was delighted to see

Crab Plover

There were large numbers of Curlew present in the shallows


We managed to find two Broad billed Sandpipers in amongst the other small caldrids

Broad billed Sandpiper

Many Terek Sandpipers were seen on the mud flats

Terek Sandpiper

Last stop of the day was SAANR where we spent quite a bit of time, first bird on Charlies list to see was Bar tailed Lark, which we found rather quickly - but was a bird I hadnt seen in the reserve for quite some time

Bar tailed Lark

This was followed by a lone Hoopoe Lark, also on Charlies must see list

Hoopoe Lark

At Tuhla we were challenged by a 1st year Harrier that we thought might be Hen, but after discussions and debates with local birders have agreed this is a 1st year Pallid Harrier

Pallid Harrier

Pallid Harrier

The day was ended with a great sighting of this sub adult Bonelli's Eagle with a crop so full it looked like it had swallowed a tennis ball

Bonelli's Eagle

Bonelli's Eagle

We had a great day together, with much in common and plenty to talk about and share. Here is Charlie at the wadi in SAANR as the day was drawing to an end and a number of birds added to his growing year list. You can read Charlies account of his birding day in Kuwait at http://10000birds.com/birding-kuwait-in-september.htm, but browse the site and look at the other initiatives that he is involved in - the most heart warming being the project to save Sharpes Longclaw in Nairobi, Kenya.

Charlie Moores

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