South Africa (ZA)   Passerines and Seabirds  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 11:10:40 am

Week 48 - 26 November 2010, Green Island and Sharq

I decided to give Green Island another try for Thrushes on passage and then check the seabirds at Sharq. Images by Mike Pope

I could see Hypocolius flying in walking to the entrance, but avoided the temptation to photograph them this time. A White-chested Kingfisher flying in from the sea has been present at this location for the past few visits

White-chested Kingfisher

A pale morph Indian Reef Heron looking very elegant in the early morning light

Indian Reef Heron

I was surprised to see a small flock of 5 Mallards fly in from the sea


The Ruppells Weaver in non-breeding plumage is still at this site and is now guardian over at least 4 nests - no sign of the female though

Ruppells Weaver

A Red-vented Bulbul was cooperative in the coolness of the morning

Red-vented Bulbul

Red-vented Bulbul

The numbers of Gulls and Terns at Sharq have increased over the past week as the weather has cooled down. Sandwich Terns were hunting and diving at the harbour entrance

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

Both Black-headed Gull and

Black-headed Gull

and Slender-billed Gulls were present

Slender-billed Gull

There were many large white-headed Gulls present in various stages of moult and ages, but I will let those who know more than me advise on the identity of these. My thanks to Yoav for providing his opinion on the identify of the Gulls below. This Gull is clearly a heuglini - huge, massive, large bill, dark grey upperparts, much black on wingtip (all the way to P1) and note that P7 to P10 are unmoulted


A fishing boat dumped part of its catch on the way out and a feeding frenzy ensued - this gull was successful. This and the next Gull have ended their moults, rather pale upperparts, black to P4 - possibly barabensis.


Coming in to pluck some free food from the sea


This Gull caught quartering above the small baitfish floating on the surface. It has almost finished moulting (P10 almost fully grown), much black on wingtip, black band on bill - looks like a good candidate for armenicus. This is typical armenicus moult for this time of year. A Caspian is much paler above and with much more white and less black on wingtip.


This Gull was a little too late, but identity is unknown. It has dark on underwing secondaries which is a good sign for heuglini but this moult is too advanced for heuglini. I have no knowledge about taimyrensis moult though, which may be a consideration


Another Armenian Gull



South Africa (ZA)   Hypocolius Heaven  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 08:52:56 am

Week 48 - 23 November 2010, Green Island

Following the news from Mohamad Korshed of Dark-throated Thrush and Redwing at Jahra Farm yesterday, I decided to check Green Island before work, but had no sign of any Thrushes this morning. Images by Mike Pope

Green Island IS THE place to see enigmatic Hypocolius in Kuwait in winter - this morning they were everywhere and I estimated 40+ birds. Here are a few images of a male in the early morning winter light




A pair of White-eared Bulbuls getting all cosy

White-eared Bulbul

I was surprised to find that 2 Blue-cheeked Bee Eaters were still present this late in the season. They are masters of catching insects of all sizes in-flight, a large dragonfly did not escape the speed and agility of the Bee Eater. Here the bird has just returned with its catch, a quick beating on the branch to kill it properly and then down the hatch - which could not have been easy, as it is a large brittle and inflexible insect

Blue-cheeked Bee Eater

Blue-cheeked Bee Eater

Blue-cheeked Bee Eater

Blue-cheeked Bee Eater


South Africa (ZA)   Last day of Eid break  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 04:18:28 pm

Week 47 - 20 November 2010, Al Abraq and SAANR

I needed to get out to Al Abraq today on the off chance that some of the good birds seen earlier in the week were still around and to see if anything new had arrived in what had been a fantastic weeks birding in Kuwait by all accounts. Reading up on some of the other Blogs today, it seems that Yoav in Israel and Howard in Bahrain also had a fantastic last week with good birds being seen all over the region. Images by Mike Pope

It was around 12 degrees when I arrived at the oasis farm at Al Abraq just after 7am. A slow cruise around the farm in my car was productive and I relocated and saw briefly the Arabian Golden Sparrow as well as the Mistle Thrush - but neither provided photo opportunities. A Pallid Harrier came flying in against the light scattering some of the ground birds

Pallid Harrier

This Kestrel must have roosted here overnight

Common Kestrel

I am still amazed every time I see a Robin here in the desert in the winter, it really does seem out of place, especially when it is singing it's heart out


Once it had warmed a little I walked around the farm hoping to flush the Redwing. An unfamiliar call alerted me to a small bird gleening its way quickly through some trees, but was chased away by this Chiffchaff


I managed to relocate it again and saw that it had wingbars, although it was calling I was unfamiliar with the call. I managed to get some images and when Brian Foster, Pekka Fagel and Rainer Ertel arrived and clinched the id as Hume's Leaf Warbler (a rare passage migrant and winter visitor and 3rd record for Kuwait if accepted by KORC) after hearing it's distinctive call. This was my second sighting of this species, having seen the 2nd record in December 2008

Hume's Leaf Warbler

Hume's Leaf Warbler

Before leaving we were able to relocate the Penduline Tit, still in the same area as last week

Penduline Tit

Pekka had seen a Macqueens Bustard (my bogey bird) yesterday, so I decided to head to SAANR on the off chance that I might bump into it there. Up on the ridge I found a resting Griffon Vulture

Griffon Vulture

Whilst there, I checked the wadi for Red-tailed Wheatear but only saw this Arabian Red Fox, which is probably the same one I saw a month or so back

Arabian Red Fox

Driving on a different road to Tuhla, I had this adult Steppe Eagle soar overhead

Steppe Eagle

At Tuhla, I managed to relocate the Eversmanns Redstart, but this time it was not quite as cooperative flying in between the trees. Its mate the Red-breasted Flycatcher seems to have departed

Eversmanns Redstart

Today a few Blackbirds were present foraging under the trees, this a juvenile


On the way out I noted that the temperature was up near 30 again - pretty acceptable for early winter. I flushed a Hoopoe Lark and managed one flight picture, still not the image I am after, but at least showing the impressive white wings which are only seen in flight

Hoopoe Lark

South Africa (ZA)   Father and son bonding  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 03:45:51 pm

Week 47 - 18 November 2010, Jahra Pools Reserve and Jahra Farm

Jaden and I took the opportunity to go to the desert while Mom was at the hairdresser. Images by Mike Pope

We decided to head to Jahra Pool reserve, but sadly water levels in the main pool have pretty much dried up just when we need it filled for wintering waterfowl. We did have a Spotted Eagle on the way in, followed shortly by a hunting Marsh Harrier

Hunting Marsh Harrier

The Marsh Harrier flushed a small flock of Wigeon


A Daurian Shrike on top of the reeds

Daurian Shrike

White Wagtail numbers seem to have reduced a little

White Wagtail

A drive around the western boundary where there was a little water produced a few Water Pipits

Water Pipit

We came across this very pale Stonechat with a white rump extending onto the top of the tail, which I believe is Caspian Stonechat (Saxicola m. variegatus)

Female Caspian Stonechat

I was pretty impressed by this image of the Caspian Stonechat taken by Jaden (7) with my older Canon 20D and 100-400mm lens

Female Caspian Stonechat

We then decided to have a walk around Jahra Farm where first bird up was a juvenile Sparrowhawk passing overhead.


One of the many Song Thrushes about, but not much else

Song Thrush

South Africa (ZA)   Golf lessons at Sahara Golf Club  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 03:25:12 pm

Week 47 - 17 November 2010, Sahara Golf Club

My son Jaden was having his golf lesson at Sahara and today was 5-holes out on the course. I took my big camera to get some action shots of his swing. Images by Mike Pope

While waiting for Jaden to play his 3rd shot at the 18th hole, I was alerted by a large number of Water Pipits taking evasive action as this juvenile Sparrowhawk came in low over the 18th green and then the waterhole in it's unsuccessful attempt to catch some breakfast. I was amazed at how quick this ambush style attack was and using the club house as cover. So, today my camera had more than one use

Hunting Sparrowhawk

Hunting Sparrowhawk

Hunting Sparrowhawk

Hunting Sparrowhawk

Hunting Sparrowhawk

South Africa (ZA)   A mega at Tuhla  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 02:48:02 pm

Week 47 - 15 November 2010, Tuhla, SAANR

I was out with my family enjoying a walk on the Corniche on the first day of Eid when I got a text message from Brian Foster and Pekka Fagel saying they had found a winter male Eversmanns Redstart, the 7th record for Kuwait at Tuhla in the SAANR. This is a bird we have been searching for every winter since I arrived in Kuwait in 2006 and finally we had success. Images by Mike Pope

I arrived at Tuhla around 2pm and found Mohammad Khorshed and Humoud Alshayji sitting patiently at the tree it was in. They told me to bring a chair as it would be a long wait before the bird showed. A long wait it was and as the bird was mostly in the shade, Humoud kindly lent me his flash. After 40-minutes, this magnificent bird appeared for literally 10-seconds and then disappeared again into the thicket. I managed to fire off a salvo of images and was very happy to both see and photograph this national rarity

Male Eversmanns Redstart

Male Eversmanns Redstart

Male Eversmanns Redstart

South Africa (ZA)   Pre-Eid Birding  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 02:31:42 pm

Week 47 - 14 November 2010, Green Island

Following reports from Brian Foster and Pekka Fagel of Arabian Golden Sparrow (origin yet to be determined), Mistle Thrush and 2nd record of Dusky Warbler from Al Abraq yesterday, I stopped at Green Island on the way to work for a brisk walk around the island before the start of the Eid holidays and wasnt disappointed. Later I got the message that a Redwing had been seen at Al Abraq today, by birders chasing the Sparrow. Images by Mike Pope

Walking into the complex a Thrush flew overhead and alighted at the very top of a Eucalyptus Tree before flying off again - a Song Thrush, but female Dark-throated Thrush has been considered

Song Thrush

Song Thrush

Following the female, a male Black-throated suddenly appeared overhead and disappeared across the island - this one appearing to have an all black head and throat, which is unusual

Male Dark-throated Thrush

This morning there were Hypocolius all over the island


When they depart, it is at 45 degrees and climbing before they circle overhead and drop back into the trees


A smart looking Slender-billed Gull

Slender-billed Gull

Just before leaving I was entertained by an Osprey that successfully caught a fish and was pursued and harrassed by the local gulls. It did not give up its morning breakfast and eventually flew off to enjoy the meal in peace. Unfortunately, the images were all taken against the light





South Africa (ZA)   Early winter birding  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 08:47:59 am

Week 45 - 06 November 2010, Pivot Fields, SAANR and Jahra East Outfall

Brian Foster and I were out together this morning hoping to find something special while Pekka was away enjoying the cultural delights of Istanbul. Images by Mike Pope

We started off at Pivot Fields before 7am and the temp was a rather cool 13 degrees, despite a lot of searching no sign of the Stock Dove or any Richard's Pipits, but we did have other good birds like Pied Wheatear

Pied Wheater

We relocated the Shrike that has had some debate on internet forums for a possible Brown Shrike. General opinion is that this is a Red-backed Shrike, long primary projections and overall structure of the bird being the main factors

Red-backed Shrike

We had our first Skylarks of the this season


Pivot Fields are fantastic for raptors at this time of year and again this morning we had - Eastern Imperial Eagle

Eastern Imperial Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle

A dark phased Booted Eagle drifted overhead

Booted Eagle

A good looking male Marsh Harrier

Marsh Harrier

The Long-legged Buzzard seen was not obliging at all, but a few Steppe Buzzards are still around

Steppe Buzzard

A really pale Common Kestrel going in for the kill

Common Kestrel

Common Kestrel

The flock of White Storks have now been present at this site for some weeks

White Stork

A Squacco Heron on the way out had us looking very carefully at all the features

Squacco Heron

News of a Black Vulture seen 2-days ago at SAANR had us heading over to the reserve on the outside chance that it may still be there. On the way up the ridge, we encountered a flock of 30+ Steppe Eagles migrating south using the thermal updraught from the ridge to gain height

Steppe Eagle

A stop at Tuhla produced a possible Mountain Chiffchaff, but it flitted back into cover before I could get a closer look. Graham Whitehead who had arrived earlier had another possible Crested Honey Buzzard - so this autumn we have had unprecedented sightings of this raptor

Mountain Chiffchaff?

We checked out the wadi pan for raptors and the vulture but no luck at all. We did find a new butterfly for us that has been recorded before in Kuwait, but frequency of sightings is uncertain. This is Salmon Arab (Colotis fausta) and a migratory species. An interesting account of the Salmon Arab can be read on http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/197505/the.salmon.arab.htm

Salmon Arab

Salmon Arab

On the way out we stopped at the wadi on the ridge and saw the White-crowned Wheatear chase out the Red-tailed Wheatear, a new arrival to the wadi and invading the White-crowned's territory. We decided to detour past Jahra East Outfall and found a distant winter plumage Oystercatcher showing a white flash on the cheek


At Jahra East itself, not much about other than this female Stonechat



South Africa (ZA)   Winter visitors  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 02:16:29 pm

Week 45 - 04 November 2010, Green Island

I managed a 30-minute walk around Green Island before work to check if the enigmatic Hypocolius are back at this site. Images by Mike Pope

The temperatures have dropped quite significantly in the last week and this is evident early in the morning. There were really large numbers of White-eared Bulbuls this morning and they were all pretty vocal. I was lucky however to capture the less common Red-vented Bulbuls together with their more abundant mates

Red-vented and White-eared Bulbuls

A few small warblers were seen, one of the few Chiffchaffs that are still left


and one that still remains unidentified


My first Song Thrush of the winter

Song Thrush

I saw a flock of around 30+ Hypocolius drop out of the sky straight into cover and they proved very elusive. On the way out, I photographed this Red-backed Shrike

Red-backed Shrike

A pose by one of the numerous White-eared Bulbuls present

White-eared Bulbul

as I left, I was finally rewarded with a brief view and photographic opportunity of two Hypocolius in one of their favourite trees at the entrance - job done!


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