South Africa (ZA)   Migration thinning out  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 01:49:08 pm

Week 17 - 21 April 2010, Green Island

I managed another quick walk around Green Island before work and found it really quiet today, the Bottlebrush trees have lost their flowers and as a result all the birds that were feeding from here. Images by Mike Pope

A dark phase Indian Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea) which is the sub-species that occurs in Kuwait was seen on the beach inside this man-made island

Indian Reef Heron

Small fish were being harassed by something bigger than them under the surface

Escaping Fish

Common Whitethroat is still seen in most locations, in this pose its name is obvious

Common Whitethroat

An inquisitive Great Reed Warbler

Great Reed Warbler

The resident Ruppells Weaver is still building new nests feverishly

Ruppells Weaver

Yellow Wagtails are the most prevalent passerines around, here a proper Yellow-headed Wagtail (Motacilla flava/taivana lutea) according to the latest OSME Kuwait checklist

Yellow-headed Wagtail

Sunset at low tide in the Free Trade Zone - Grey Plovers and Curlew Sandpipers

Waders at Sunset


South Africa (ZA)   Birds of the FTZ  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 02:38:43 pm

Week 17 - 19 April 2010, Kuwait Free Trade Zone

The Kuwait Free Trade Zone is north of Kuwait City and is primarily a commercial hub around the Kuwait Port, but does have some birds around buildings and the little habitat there is; aside from the coastal zone. Images by Mike Pope

On the 18th I had seen a Speckled Pigeon feeding with a big flock of Feral Pigeons which created some initial excitement as we pondered where it may have come from. I was able to relocate it again on the 19th. The status of this kind of bird can be questioned, but in this area there is also the possibility of a ship-assisted arrival. However, the ring on its leg tells us exactly what its status is

Speckled Pigeon (escaped)

The coastal zone had three Ringed Plovers foraging around a stagnant, polluted saline pond

Ringed Plover

A Squacco Heron with magnificent plumage at the same pond

Squacco Heron

A Common Whitethroat seen foraging along the coastal zone

Common Whitethroat

Willow Warblers are pretty abundant along the pavements and coastal zone

Willow Warbler

A Barred Warbler foraging outside my building

Barred Warbler

A Daurian Shrike in the late afternoon sun

Daurian Shrike


South Africa (ZA)   Kuwait Sandstorm  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 09:52:10 am

Week 16 - 17 April 2010, Khiran Pearl City Development

Not strictly birding related, but it certainly impacted all birds and any birding related activities in the short time it lasted when Kuwait went from day-night-day in the space of an hour. Images by Mike Pope

We had planned a morning on the pristine beaches of Khiran with friends and set-up all our paraphernalia in perfect weather around 7:15am. We noticed what appeared to be a weather front moving in from the north, but didnt pay too much attention. However, I noticed that the high clouds were moving too quickly for a normal storm front. Not 5-minutes later and like a scene from the movie "The Mummy" we had this thick dark bellowing cloud of dust and rain being pushed toward us by a strong wind at great speed. We had very little time to round up the kids and any other loose items and raced for refuge inside our cars. This was a weather phenomena that I had always wanted to see and for once I was in the right place at the right time and managed to snap off 3 images before getting engulfed myself. I will let the pictures speak for themselves

Kuwait Sandstorm

Kuwait Sandstorm

Kuwait Sandstorm

It passed over as quickly as it caught us unaware and this is the back end of the storm as it angrily heads further south. The wind settled, the sun came out and we enjoyed blue skies and no dust for the rest of the morning, like it never happened - quite bizarre!

Kuwait Sandstorm


South Africa (ZA)   Piracy at Sharq Harbour  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 02:58:22 pm

Week 16 - 14 April 2010, Sharq Harbour

While driving past Sharq Harbour on the way to work earlier in the week, I noted that Gull numbers had diminished, but Tern numbers had visibly increased - so, it was worth further investigation. Images by Mike Pope

I spent 20 rewarding minutes on the way to work and saw that the bulk of the birds were Sandwich Terns. However, many seemed to have some sort of deformity with the lower mandible and a new lower mandible seemed to be re-growing.

Sandwich Tern

Here an adult bird where the shorter lower mandible can clearly be seen

Sandwich Tern

It was interesting to watch the interaction between the feeding Terns and Slender-billed Gulls roosting on the water. The Terns would dive for small bait fish in the water and the Gulls would then shift into piracy mode and do what they could to get the Tern to drop its catch. No luck this time

Sandwich Tern

This time the Sandwich Tern losing its breakfast to it's stiff competition

Sandwich Tern

It is good to see the Lesser-crested Terns again; as they come back to Kuwait in preparation for breeding on the off-shore islands later in the summer. This one already showing breeing plumage

Lesser-crested Tern

Another with a way to go to its full headress

Lesser-crested Tern

The bigger Lesser-crested Terns were also challenged by the marauding Slender-bill Gulls - this time the Lesser-crested emerging the winner

Lesser-crested Tern

Here a Sandwich Tern unsuccessful in its attempt to steal from the Lesser-crested Tern

Lesser-crested Tern

Two Slender-bill Gulls fighting over the dropped spoils

Slender-billed Gull

Little Terns preferred to patrol up and down the coast rather than join the frey inside the harbour. We still check as many as we can for a possible Saunders

Little Tern

Little Tern

Little Tern

I heard a different call to the other Terns and saw two White-cheeked Terns coming in at speed, one chasing the other for its catch

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

After the chase they cruised around the harbour for awhile before disappearing back out to sea

White-cheeked Tern

As I was about to leave, 3 Swift Terns flew in from the sea to chech out the chaos and see if there were any free pickings. They didnt stay long before heading back out to sea

Swift Tern


South Africa (ZA)   Twitching Ashy Drongo  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 09:59:31 am

Week 15 - 10 April 2010, Jahra Farm

An Ashy Drongo (1st for Kuwait) was found by Hans Rudhe at Jahra Farms on 03 April 10. I got news from Brian Foster this morning that the bird had be re-located and was showing well. Unfortunately I was at Khiran in the south of Kuwait. I managed to get to Jahra Farm at 4pm and staked out the area it was seen. Images by Mike Pope

I had no luck after an hour, so checked the adjoining farm where it had also been seen. Green Toads were calling in one of the ponds and I found this one floating on a discarded piece of cardboard

Green Toad

A small flock of European Bee-eaters came in to roost for the night

European Bee-eater

Back to the first farm where I saw my first Spotted Flycatcher of the spring hanging out on a washing line

Spotted Flycatcher

Whilst staking out the original site, a Turkestan Shrike perched on a stump in the late afternoon lights

Turkestan Shrike

There was also a flock of around 20+ Bank Myna's feeding in one of the crop patches; their numbers have certainly grown since I arrived in Kuwait in 2006

Bank Myna

The small fields with crops had a variety of Yellow Wagtails races. This is Sykes Wagtail (beema) with a light grey head and white below the ear coverts

Sykes Wagtail

A Yellow-headed Wagtail (lutea/flavissima - considered as one sub-species by some authorities; these birds have variable head patterns, including olive crown and ear coverts and yellow forehead and supercilim).

Yellow-headed Wagtail

Another Sykes (beema; which also has variable head patterns with varying shades of grey, but generally they show some white under the ear coverts). Iberiae was considered, but it is not as likely in Kuwait and iberiae would have much darker ear coverts.

Blue-headed Wagtail

In the dying light of the day, I finally twitched the Ashy Drongo! But, no opportunity for a photograph as it disappeared into cover to its overnight roost. Very satisfying, but as a photographer almost disappointed that I wasnt able to capture it with my camera

South Africa (ZA)   Khiran Pearl City Development  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 09:37:26 am

Week 15 - 10 April 2010, Khiran Pearl City Development

I had not managed to get down to Khiran for a census this year, but was finally able to do so this weekend with my family. Images by Mike Pope

We explored the new phase that was opened in October 2009 and it looks fantastic. A few Kentish Plovers were seen on the beaches as well as two Little Terns that are now back. A Red-throated Pipit was seen with 'grub' at the launch site

Red-throated Pipit

A feeding Willow Warbler with distinctive flesh coloured legs

Willow Warbler

Island # 2 was the most productive in terms of passage migrants, as it had many flowering shrubs and trees which provided food for the birds passing through. First up, a female Common Redstart was seen

Common Redstart

Next up a Common Whitethroat

Common Whitethroat

Loads of Lesser Whitethroats

Lesser Whitethroat

Turkestan Shrikes seem to be more prevalant than Daurian

Turkestan Shrike

We checked the buoys near the breakwater, no Socotra's today although they have been seen as far north as Green Island already this month. We did get two White-cheeked Terns coming into breeding plumage

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern


South Africa (ZA)   A walk before work  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 12:13:26 pm

Week 15 - 07 April 2010, Green Island and Sharq Harbour

I managed a 20-minute walk around Green Island before work and having the place almost to yourself is a pleasure. I did bump into Thierry and Marianne Quelennec who had found the Ashy Drongo with Pekka a few days before. Images by Mike Pope

Many Collared Doves around, but caught this one flying in the early morning sun

Collared Dove

A small sprinkiling of migrants included a Common Redstart

Common Redstart

Two Tree Pipits, one showing more obvious streaks on the flanks than the other

Tree Pipit

Tree Pipit

The Bottle Brush tree is in flower and the Blackcaps are enjoying feeding on the nectar of the unusual flowers - here a male with it's face inside the flower

Male Blackcap

After action, yellow pollen around the base of the bill and face

Male Blackcap

A pensive female Blackcap

Female Blackcap

Of interest was a pair of Ruppell's Weavers that have taken up residence on the island and are well into the nest building cycle. The male is in full breeding regalia and doing the usual antics to attract the only female around to his nest. We will have to monitor their breeding for 2 seasons before they can be added to the KORC Kuwait Checklist (available as a download on this site) as a new Category C species

Male Ruppell's Weaver

The expectant female Ruppell's Weaver

Female Ruppell's Weaver

The completed Ruppell's Weaver nest

Ruppell's Weaver nest

With the male returning and displaying to entice the only female

Male Ruppell's Weaver

and then dropping off to try his luck elsewhere

Male Ruppell's Weaver

A quick stop at Sharq Harbour produced one remaining Heuglins Gull. Almost all of the large white-headed gulls have departed Kuwait together with the Black-headed Gulls. It is actually quite amazing, they appear to be here one day and then you suddenly notice that they are no longer around and appear to head north en masse

Heuglins Gull

The most prominant bird in the harbour was the small but busy flock of Sandwich Terns - here a study of them checking and diving for scraps and for small fish in the harbour

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern


South Africa (ZA)   Chasing Lifers  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 06:46:23 pm

Week 13 - 27 March 2010, Al Abraq and SAANR

An overdue posting of my birding outing from last weekend to the west and SAANR. Images by Mike Pope

A Black Bush Robin (3rd for Kuwait) had been found at Al Abraq last week and that's where I headed today, but did get distracted with these camels in the early morning light


Once at Al Abraq, I scoured the area for the Robin but sadly to no avail. However spring migrants seen included Blue cheeked Bee-eater

Blue cheeked Bee-eater

I did find this Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin in the same area that exibited odd behavior - skulking quitely through the undergrowth like a warbler/pipit and bobbing its tail like a wagtail, unlike others that always appear to cock their tails. Perhaps this is a different race to the nominate race (galactotes)

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

A female Stonechat was seen warming up in the sun


The smaller passerines seen were small numbers of Chiffchaff


Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat

Eastern Orphean Warbler

Eastern Orphean Warbler

and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

Exploring one of the more dense areas of the farm I found Common Redstart (Phoenicurus p. samamamiscus). This race seemingly more common than the nominate race at present.

Common Redstart

Shortly thereafter the first Semi-collared Flycatcher for the spring. I called Pekka to notify him and 15 minutes later he sent me a text to say he had also found one at Jahra Farms. So, they have arrived

Semi-collared Flycatcher

All Squacco Herons seen at Al Abraq are now scrutinised more carefully following discovery of Indian Pond Heron earlier this year

Squacco Heron

A Turkestan Shrike (Lanius i. phoenicuroides) on its hunting perch

Turkestan Shrike

Driving along the irrigated area I noted many feeding wagtails - first up was Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtail

Here a Blue-headed (flava - note the extensive dark ear coverts, thin supercilium, and yellow throat) and Black-headed (feldegg) Wagtail

Blue-headed and Black-headed Wagtail

And a Yellow-headed Wagtail (lutea)

Yellow-headed Wagtail

My first Red-throated Pipit dropped in looking a little exhausted to feed with the Wagtails

Red-throated Pipit

An unexpected Namaqua Dove (common at Pivot Fields) eyeing out the Wagtails below

Namaqua Dove

A last look near the resoirvoir produced another Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin in its typical posture

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

Before heading to SAANR and checking for Black Bush Robin again, a flock of 9 Hypocolius popped out of the depths of a tree


I headed out to SAANR and was granted access, the usual stop at the small pond on the top of the ridge gave a single Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe h. melanoleuca)

Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

But I was here for the cranes and headed to the new pan that has been created in a wadi and was rewarded with 27 distant Demoiselle Cranes at the waters edge and a lifer for me.

Demoiselle Crane

Just as I was settling down to enjoy them a large group of photographers arrived and flushed the birds when they got out of their cars to walk along the edge of the pan.

Demoiselle Crane

In the scrub around the fringes of the pan, there were loads of Red-throated Pipits

Red-throated Pipit

In amongst the scrub, these small plants with their pale purple flowers were in abundance

Desert Flowers

Many harriers were sitting at the edge of the pan, drinking and cooling off. This Montagu Harrier just passed by overhead, showing the barring on the secondaries

Hen Harrier

With all the visitors Tuhla was not an option, so I explored the edges of the pan where there was an abundance of waders and waterbirds. The pan is a new feature in the reserve that we did not have last year and has added a new dimension to birding in SAANR. It has already attracted some great birds as they have a safe place to rest and drink during migration and was a fantastic initiative by all involved. Here a Black-winged Stilt and Marsh Sandpiper feeding together

Black-winged Stilt

A lone Collared Pratincole

Collared Pratincole

Also seen were a pair of White-tailed Lapwings

White-tailed Lapwing

Waders in various numbers were represented by; Common Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

A single Ringed and here a Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover

Another Marsh Sandpiper

Marsh Sandpiper

Ruff's were the most numerous of the waders feeding in the shallows


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