South Africa (ZA)   Coastal Birding  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 08:19:47 pm

Week 31 - 30 July 2011, Sulaibikhat and the Jahra area

I decided to spend the morning birding along the coast north of Kuwait City. Images by Mike Pope

Driving along the coast at Sulaibikhat, I came across two Short-toed Larks

Short-toed Lark

I sat in the heat and humidity for 2-hours staking out the warbler site in the reedbed at Jahra East Outfall. I got a brief glimpse of the Savi's Warbler seen earlier in the week, no Basra Reeds but many Reed Warblers in various stages of moult (or is it Caspian Reed?) - I dont have the skill to tell them apart

Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler

A single Indian Reed Warbler was seen

Indian Reed Warbler

Indian Reed Warbler

As well as a Graceful Prinia

Graceful Prinia

As this is a sewage outfall, I'm not sure what this skulking Moorhen was eating, but it looks revolting


The 3.6m high tide was a little disappointing today as it didnt have an on-shore wind assisting it - a couple of waders were seen; Little Stint

Little Stint

A Greater Sand Plover already in non-breeding plumage

Greater Sand Plover

A very scraggly and gawky, but nimble young Kentish Plover with the adult not too far away

Kentish Plover

Kentish Plover

I hadnt been to my old place of work in the Free Trade Zone for sometime, so decided to check it out - finding a big mixed flock of waders consisting mostly of Curlew Sandpipers and some Lesser Sand Plovers, to add a bit of colour

Lesser Sand Plover

A single Terek Sandpiper

Terek Sandpiper

and then a smallish, very busy calidris type wader with a rufous reddish head and lack of a white throat that I was hesitant to identify initially. After consultation with some birders with more experience, we suspected it may be Red-necked Stint, but further input from other experienced birders put out that notion of a possible first for Kuwait by correctly identifying it as a post breeding Sanderling - sadly! ID pointers given were as follows: The size, compared to the Curlew Sandpiper, is much more in tune with this species compared to Little/Red-necked Stint. It also has a fair amount of streaking within the redness of the head (on the ear-coverts and breast). Normally, Red-necked Stints would be more orange/red as opposed to faded brick red in late July, and their neck would be bordered by a few black speckles on a clean white background.

A few more pointers in separating Sanderling and Red-necked Stint have been shared with me - the best characters are in the structure: sanderling is a large bird (usually a bit larger/plumber that dunlin) while RN stint is a stint: same size as Little. With lone birds the size can be hard to judge but the bill is the key: Sanderling has quite long bill while RN has a very short bill. Sanderling is longer-billed than little Stint while RN is shorter billed. If you can check for the hind toe: absent in Sanderling (present in all other Calidris).




South Africa (ZA)   Another hot summer's day  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 08:01:19 pm

Week 30 - 23 July 2011, Al Abraq and Pivot Fields

I thought I would check the oasis farm Al Abraq in the west, unfortunately it was a long drive with very little reward. Images by Mike Pope

No photographic opportunities at all at Al Abraq, but I did see Upchers Warbler, Whitethroat, Hoopoe, Roller, Isabelline Wheatear and both Red-backed and Turkestan Shrike. I cut my losses and headed back east to Pivot Fields as the mercury creeped up toward 50 degrees. Pretty much the same birds as last week, although the flock of Black-crowned Sparrow Larks seemed larger

Male Black-crowned Sparrow Lark

Female Black-crowned Sparrow Lark

A flock of 4 Short-toed Larks

Short-toed Lark

Collared Pratincoles are still present and these were almost too listless to fly

Collared Pratincole

I found a flock of 11 Ruff feeding under one of the pivots, before I too called it a day



South Africa (ZA)   Signs of Autumn migration  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 11:13:25 pm

Week 29 - 16 July 2011, Pivot Fields, Jahra Pools, Jahra Farm and Jahra East Outfall

My binoculars felt particulary heavy around my neck this morning after a late night social. Nevertheless, there were birds to go and look for - even in the heat of summer. Images by Mike Pope

My first stop was the Pivot Fields where I hadnt been for some time, first up was a Steppe Buzzard - one of 3 seen at this location. I also saw an Oriole, but it disappeared before I could get a photograph

Steppe Buzzard

Driving around the farm, many juvenile (1st year) Collared Pratincoles were seen

Collared Pratincole

Around one of the operational pivots, many Barn Swallows and Sand Martins (mixed adults and 1st year birds) were hawking alongside the spray

Barn Swallow and Sand Martin

Sand Martin

An odd looking Lark caught my attention, one closer inspection it was a Short-toed Lark with a deformed top bill that made it look quite comical, almost as if it had just returned from a Masked Ball

Short-toed Lark

Yellow Wagtails had arrived in numbers - many 1st year birds and the odd tatty looking feldegg

Yellow Wagtail

I found a few Black-crowned Sparrow Larks in the usual area of the farm

Black-crowned Sparrow Lark

Next stop was Jahra Pools, which was a little disappointing as the water levels had dropped significantly - unfortunately the farms in the north of Kuwait take precedence in the summer in terms of water priority. Also the reeds have really thickened up everywhere and really need to be cut back in places. When I peered throught the reeds I flushed a flock of 12 Mallard



In terms of migrants, I saw a distant Roller and this Little Ringed Plover being buffeted in the wind

Little Ringed Plover

A stop at Jahra Farm only produced White-throated Kingfisher and Bank Myna, so I headed to Jahra East Outfall to be in place before the 3.6m high tide peaked and to let the birds get used to my car. My timing was good, but the light at noon was not flattering - it is sometimes hard to have all the elements work together. Nevetheless, there was a good spread of medium and large waders - Curlew Sandpipers in various plumage stages

Curlew Sandpiper

The same applied to the many Ruff


Whimbrel and Eurasian Curlew side-by-side for comparison


Today I had breeding and non-breedng plumage Bar-tailed Godwits, again side-by-side for comparison

Bar and Black-tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed taking flight

Bar-tailed Godwit

Terns were well represented with Little, White-winged and many Caspian

Caspian Tern

Some 1st year Gull-billed Terns

Gull-billed Tern

Together with a number of Whiskered Terns

Whiskered Tern

A few pairs of Kentish Plovers still had young juveniles sprinting all over the beach

Kentish Plover

However, the main reason for coming back again today was to try and relocate the male Golden Plover and after quite a bit of searching I did find the bird and this time managed to get a little closer and admire the golden hues on its dark back in the overhead light.

A few more pointers on the id: This bird gives off a bulky first impression. Looking at the tibia, it seems pretty short with not too much 'leg' visible above the knee joint (a pro-Euro feature of course). It's a very worn individual, particularly on the wing feathers - therefore, given the lack of tertials, it's not possible to do much here. On a Pacific GP you would expect more of a white bulge on the breast sides as the uniform width of the white line bordering the breast, again is a pro-Euro feature

Golden Plover

After this great highlight, it was time to get out of the heat and buffeting wind and enjoy a well deserved siesta

Golden Plover


South Africa (ZA)   A summer rarity  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 10:40:50 pm

Week 29 - 15 July 2011, Jahra East Outfall

There was a 3.6m high tide at 11am today, so I decided to check out Sulaibikhat and Jahra East Outfall to check for possibility of Black Tern, but did miss the peak high tide. Images by Mike Pope

The light was not the best after noon, nevertheless I did find quite a few Greater Sand Plovers at most stops

Greater Sand Plover

At the Sulaibikhat a few Whiskered Terns were feeding over the outfall

Whiskered Tern

At Jahra East, there were quite a few Ruff, this male starting to look tatty as his breeding plumage falls off after serving it's purpose


The highlight however, was what I thought to be a single Pacific Golden Plover in breeding plumage. However, subsequent discussions with experienced western Palearctic birders (Pierre-Andre Crochet and Richard Bonser) have confirmed that this is indeed a male northern race Golden Plover in worn plumage - which as single birds are very tricky to identify. This is still a great record for Kuwait, as this is the first summer record for this species, as all other records have been recored inland and in winter.

Some of the id features pointed out are: Pacific should have : less narrow white area on the breast (broader black band between face and underparts), much larger golden spots above (feathers yellow with black instead of black with narrow yellow spots), much white on the wing coverts and a different structure (longer legs, longer and stronger bill).

Golden Plover

Golden Plover

It was very hot again today, around 53 degrees C at 1:30pm. In fact, Kuwait was the 4th hottest country in the world today (ok, 1st, 2nd and 3rd were Libya). On the way home, I found a public temperature gauge that wasnt constrained to not exceed 50 and at 3:30pm the temp had only just dropped to 51 degrees C

Hot in Kuwait


South Africa (ZA)   Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 08:12:43 pm

Week 28 - 09 July 2011, Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

I had arranged to conduct the July census with Anand, the marine biologist at Sea City (formerly known as Khiran Pearl City). Unfortunately, the high summer temps did not provide ideal weather, so we had dust and gusting wind out on the boat. Images by Mike Pope

We headed out to sea to check Phase A2 before the sea got too rough. We stopped at the last buoy and counted 21 juvenile Socotra Cormorants, this is the 2nd highest daily count which is really encouraging.

Socotra Cormorant

Part of the group of 21 birds on the buoy.

Socotra Cormorant

Socotra Cormorant

I didnt expect to see much else in this poor weather, plus the majority of the Terns were all still breeding on Kubbar. I did find a single Little and Lesser-crested Tern as well as a late Collared Pratincle. On the way to the new site office, we stopped at a water seep and found a single Hoopoe Lark

Hoopoe Lark

As well as a mixed flock of 13 adult and juvenile Cream-coloured Coursers

Cream-coloured Coursers

South Africa (ZA)   Breeding Terns  -  Categories: Photographs  -  @ 07:55:31 pm

Week 26 - 24 June 2011, Kubbar Island

A belated post, but we had the opportunity to visit Kubbar Island at the start of the summer holidays. Unfortunately we only arrived around noon and found that the island was inundated with people who had come over for a Jet Ski competition, on what should be a protected island at this critical time of year. Images by Mike Pope

There were a mixture of birds still on eggs and others with ravenous and demanding young birds. They were surely stressed with all the people continuously putting them to flight, so hopefully there were no fatalaties. Almost all of the Bridled Terns were still eggs and doing their usual antics with wetting their belly feathers to assist with egg temperature regulation. I caught this one returning to it's nest

Bridled Tern

The majority of White-cheeked Terns had young of various ages, with just a few still on eggs that would be hatching imminently. Those with young were on the beach, I'm guessing that is cooler than where their nests were. Here an adult looking for it's young in amongst those on the beach

White-cheeked Tern

Stop teasing Mom and give me my food!

White-cheeked Tern

Watching over the young

White-cheeked Tern

I walked to the Eastern side of the island to check the Lesser-crested Tern colony and had this bird show it's displeasure when I was still a long way off

Lesser-crested Tern

On the sharp side of a Lesser-crested Tern at speed

Lesser-crested Tern

About 70% of the colony were still on eggs

Lesser-crested Tern

This one with a fish at the ready, as soon as the chick asks for it

Lesser-crested Tern

Lesser-crested are still one of the 'coolest' Terns

Lesser-crested Tern

Last year 2 pairs of Swift Terns nested for the first time in 23-years, so I was delighted and encouranged to see 5-pairs in this colony. I'm not sure how many were in the other 2 colonies that I didnt have time to check

Swift Tern

It is interesting to note that both Swift and Lesser-crested share the same breeding area without aggravating each other

Swift Tern

An adult Swift Tern coming in to incubate it's eggs

Swift Tern

On the way back to the mainland, we found this expired Dragonfly on the boat - not sure yet which species this is


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