South Africa (ZA)   350.org - International Day of Climate Change  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 11:27:07 pm

Week 43 - 24 October 2009, Pivot Fields, Jahra Pools Reserve and Sulaibikhat Bay

24 October 2009 was highlighted with an international call by 350.org to alert the people of the world and powers that be to the the ever increasing threat of global warming, primarily through greenhouse gas emission. 350ppm is the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and is the number we need to get back to from 387ppm to avoid runaway climate change. For more information, check out http://www.350.org/. Images by Mike Pope

South Africa contributed on the day with a campaign called 350-24-24 and their initiative was to encourage people to get out and photograph 350 different species of birds in 24 hours on the 24th (http://350.birdingafrica.com/) and this challenge was accepted and surpassed by the South African public. My contribution was to photograph birds in Kuwait on passage migration, that have been recorded in South Africa. My son and I headed to Pivot Fields before his golf lesson and were greeted with fog that took some time to get burnt off by the sun - this Pied Kingfisher was seen at the crocodile pond as the mist was rising

Pied Kingfisher

Blue cheeked Bee-eaters are still migrating through, but were grounded by the mist and were sitting on the overhead lines waiting for the sun to break through.

Blue cheeked Bee-eater

There were many raptors present and most were also grounded, however as the sun broke through we were able to get some images - numerous Greater Spotted Eagles were seen - truly a magnificent eagle and a national rarity in SA

Greater Spotted Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle

There were also good numbers of 1cy Imperial Eagles, which dont make it as far south as SA - but are impressive and formidable

Imperial Eagle

Imperial Eagle

After golf lessons we had a quick visit to Jahra Pools for migrating waders and hirundines. However, we had a good number of large raptors at this site to - a record shot of another Imperial Eagle across the heat haze - but showing its impressive wing span coming in to land

Imperial Eagle

The vast majority of waders have departed from Jahra Pools, but we did encounter some stragglers still bulking up for the journey south - Ruff were the most numerous


A Wood Sandpiper which is abundant in SA during the summer, but in its winter plumage

Wood Sandpiper

and a Marsh Sandpiper as it came by at eye level while I was in the viewing tower

Marsh Sandpiper

Whilst up in the tower I was able to capture feeding Barn Swallows from above, this image showing perfect symmetry of a bird that also spends its summer in SA

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

There is only one record of Citrine Wagtail in SA, so it is considered to be a national rarity

Citrine Wagtail

Other birds seen were this female Stonechat (maura)


and a few Teal


On the way to an early lunch we stopped for Black headed Gull at Sulaibikhat, another rarity in SA

Black headed Gull

feedng with a juvenile Gull billed Tern, also a SA rarity

Gull billed Tern

and a lone Whiskered Tern in its winter plumage

Whiskered Tern

Kuwait also made a contribution to 350.org with many activities on the day and through the coming week. This photograph 'borrowed' from the 350.org website where pictures of all other participating countries are featured

350 in Kuwait


South Africa (ZA)   Migrants and residents  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 10:48:01 pm

Week 43 - 23 October 2009, Sulaibikhat Bay

My son wanted a drive to the desert, so we headed out to Sulaibikhat Bay, where we could drive along the beach. This weekend we had some humidity coupled with cloudy conditions which is a welcome change. Images by Mike Pope

Caspian Terns are still patrolling the shallows in search of food for their not so small offspring

Caspian Tern

Slender bill Gulls are now competing for food with the Black headed Gulls that have arrived

Slender bill Gull

In the sabkha a little way in from the beach we found 1cy Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatear

and a little further an adult Southern Grey Shrike enjoying the slight breeze

Southern Grey Shrike


South Africa (ZA)   Good autumn birding  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 10:18:55 pm

Week 42 - 17 October 2009, Al Abraq and Jahra Pools

Normally we spread ourselves over the various locations when we are out birding, so that we can alert each other if any good birds are seen. Today however, Pekka Fagel, Brian Foster, Rick Saval, Andy and Nicola Hulett and I all congregated at Al Abraq in the west for a good mornings birding. Images by Mike Pope

Birding is generally slow at 7am at the oasis farm, but with patience we started finding birds - this White breasted Kingfisher looked stunning in the early morning light.

White breasted Kingfisher

A magnificent male Golden Oriole was sunning itself on the top of a tree

Golden Oriole

Whilst soaking up the Oriole, we heard the familiar "Tuk, Tuk" call of a warbler in a nearby tree. It took some time to get onto, but were eventually rewarded with in your face views of a Cetti's Warbler. It is told apart from Savi's Warbler by - the dark rufous upperparts, short primary projection, the lack of any streaking on throat and undertail covetts and pale eyering

Cetti's Warbler

Cetti's Warbler

There were still a good number of Red breasted Flycatchers present, all in their new winter plumage

Red breasted Flycatcher

A little later in the morning, Brian found a male Red breasted Flycatcher still resplendent in its full breeding regalia - a very different looking bird to those in winter plumage

Red breasted Flycatcher

As it warmed up, the few raptors present were seen flying and soaring around the farm, I managed to catch this female Sparrowhawk with an engorged crop as she zipped overhead. Shikra was also present, but too fleeting for a photograph


Earlier, Pekka and Brian had found a good Mountain Chiffchaff. I explored the same area a little later with Brian where we found the bird with a regular Chiffchaff, unfortunately I was only able to photograph the Chiffchaff


A lone Tree Pipit was seen as we were heading back to the car

Tree Pipit

Painted Ladies can be seen all over Kuwait and is the common butterfly together with Clouded Yellows

Painted Lady

We then made the trek to Jahra Pools, to make the most of the morning. Water levels are still good and there are still good numbers of waders and waterbirds present. Blue cheeked Bee-eaters were seen hawking around the pans

Blue cheeked Bee-eater

An Isabelline Shrike making use of the same perch after the Bee-eater had gone on a hunting foray

Isabelline Shrike

I only found 2 Red necked Phalaropes today

Red necked Phalarope

A lone female Shoveller


and one in flight


with a White tailed Plover on a nearby bank

Isabelline Shrike

The Garganeys seen the previous visit had now been replaced by sizeable flocks of Pintail


There were still good numbers of smaller waders present, I watched some interaction between a Broad billed Sandpiper and a Dunlin

Broad billed Sandpiper

An unusually buffy Dunlin


One Little Ringed Plover with its distinctive eye ring amongst the Dunlin and Stints

Little Ringed Plover

This juvenile Little Stint had a really distinctive white supercillium

Little Stint

I moved closer to the sheltered part of the pan that has a lot of reed cover, the maruading Marsh Harrier hadnt yet had breakfast and sent the birds scurrying for cover evertime it swooped low over the water - a juvenile Moorhen having to get airborne


Today I counted 4 Purple Gallinules which is really encouraging

Purple Gallinule

The 3 Little Grebes are still present

Little Grebe

All the Little Crakes have departed, bar one that I saw - but I did find 2 skulking Spotted Crakes inside the reeds

Spotted Crake


South Africa (ZA)   Tough birding in a strong NW wind  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 04:57:11 pm

Week 40 - 03 October 2009, Pivot Fields, Jahra Pools, SAANR, Jahra Farm and Sulaibikhat

There is nothing more frustrating than having bad weather on a birding day and today was one of those with a strong NW wind blowing across the country - it was however a good wind for birds travelling south! As it is flat and without trees, the wind comes with swirling dust; but as they say being out birding is still a good day. Images by Mike Pope

I decided to have short visits to 5 locations this morning, so first stop was Pivot Fields where I found a juvenile Purple Heron 'frozen' in the field hoping I would not notice it.

Purple Heron

I saw my first Northern Wheatear, although a few have already been seen in Kuwait a week or two back

Northern Wheatear

After an hour, I headed to Jahra Pools, where most birds were keeping low and out of the wind. The best approach was to sit quietly in the car and let the birds come to me - a feeding Dunlin was first up


soon followed by a juvenile Kentish Plover

Kentish Plover

And some juvinile Ringed Plovers

Ringed Plover

Both Marsh and Pallid Harriers were patrolling over the reeds and water and this male Pallid, put up most of the waders as it glided past looking for a not so easy meal

Pallid Harrier

Moving to the side of the pools with the reeds, I found the small group of Little Grebe

Little Grebe

And eventually the 3 Red necked Phalarope that have been at this location for sometime. They were surprisingly quite cryptic in the rippled water

Red necked Phalarope

Red necked Phalarope

Red necked Phalarope

After an hour, off to the next site finding my first Desert Wheatear of the autumn

Desert Wheatear

I hadnt been to SAANR for many weeks, but sadly with the strong wind it was quite unproductive. I found a few Crested Larks at the small flooded area next to the main pool

Crested Lark

A first year Pied Wheatear

Pied Wheatear

And my first White Wagtail for the autumn, who will now remain throughout the winter

White Wagtail

Tuhla is very flat and obviously exposed to the wind, so I didnt stay as long as I would have liked - last bird seen on the way out was a Southern Grey Shrike

Southern Grey Shrike

Jahra Farm was next up, where an Isabelline Shrike was the only co-operative bird

Isabelline Shrike

A dragonfly at the holding pond made a good photographic subject when I left


A 3m high tide just before midday meant that a stop at Sulaibikhat was compulsary - out on the spit I found many Gulls, this Steppe Gull (darker mantle, lots of black in primaries and eye situated in front part of head, as pointed out by a fellow birder in Israel) one let me approach closer than the others

Caspian Gull

I found the lone Spoonbill that has been seen on and off for the past few weeks in amongst the Western Reef Herons - this just a record shot


A Western Reef Heron flushed close to my car

Western Reef Heron

Quite a few Redshanks were seen in amongst the mixed flocks of waders


There were large numbers of waders, gulls, terns, herons, godwits, plovers and flamingos at Sulaibikhat Bay - this just a small part of the spectacle on the incoming tide

Ringed Plover

A few Lesser black backed Gulls were scattered in amongst the Caspian Gulls at the end of my mornings birding

Lesser black backed Gull


South Africa (ZA)   Eid Birding  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 10:13:50 am

Week 39 - 21 September 2009, Khiran Pearl City

Brian Foster, Pekka Fagel and I had a morning out on the water with Anand conducting a 2nd census for September. Images by Mike Pope

Khiran again didnt disappoint with great sightings of 6 Socotra Cormorants perched on the usual buouy in the surf zone outside Phase A1.

Socotra Cormorant

Eurasian Curlews are still present, but in singles unlike the bigger flocks we see in Sulaibikhat Bay


We added new waders to the Khiran list including some Dunlin as well as Ringed Plover, Grey Plover and Little Stint


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