15 November 2014

Residents, migrants and visitors

Week 44, 31 October 2014 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

The weather did not play ball today, with wind and rising dust. Normal people stay indoors, but as birders we know that blowing dust gets the birds on the deck; so you have to be out and worry about valeting your car once the dust has settled, so to speak.

I started at some reed habitat just as the late autumn sun was rising, where I found a 1st year Long-legged Buzzard that had roosted overnight

1st year Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus)

A few Common Chiffchaff's were feeding along the perimeter and there were at least two sub-species

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita abietinus)

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) - this could be fulvescens or menzbieri
A territorial Eurasian Reed Warbler made a brief appearance toward the intruders. This is the furtherest south that I have seen this species. No light and dark reeds; so I had to push the ISO

Eurasian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
A 1st year Red-spotted Bluethroat darted out and disappeared; I sat quietly for 5-minutes and it popped out again.

1st year Red-spotted Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)

A Daurian Shrike as atop some reeds enjoying the early morning rays.

Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
I inadvertently flushed a Squacco Heron who then proceeded to hunt stealthily along the edge of the surface water

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)

A couple of White Wagtails dropped in and their numbers will increase over the winter

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
A female Desert Wheatear made a brief appearance

Female Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)
Inside the project, a few other species were seen; 1cy Pied Wheatear

1cy Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)

and an Asian Desert Warbler, that stayed in the vicinity of the Pied

Asian Desert Warbler (Sylvia nana)
A female Mallard which was quite unexpected, this from the same habitat where I had seen a Garganey last month

Female Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
A brief excursion off shore had a few wintering gulls; this Steppe Gull was feeding on a dead Cuttlefish and it was a challenge in the big swells to stay on the bird

Steppe Gull (Larus f. barabensis)

Surprisingly a single Lesser Crested Tern was present on the buoy

Lesser Crested Tern (Sterna bengalensis)
As were 6 Socotra Cormorants that may over-winter as did a few last year

1st year Socotra Cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis)
Slender-billed Gulls are also more prevalent in the south than Common Black-headed Gulls

Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei)
Finally, I explored around Khiran village, finding Mauryan Grey Shrike on the telephone pole

Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)
and a distant Red-backed Shrike

1st year Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
In the desert area there were a number of Tawny Pipits

Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)
and a single Greater Short-toed Lark

Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla)
A few more Wheatear species were seen; here a female Pied Wheatear

Female Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
Another female and much darker Pied Wheatear

Female Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
as well as a good looking male Eastern Mourning Wheatear

Male Eastern Mourning Wheatear (Oenanthe lugens)
This rounded off a pretty productive morning's birding, despite the less than ideal weather which shouldn't keep you indoors!

I've still got the Blues

Week 42, 18 October 2014 - Green Island

We appeared to have a lull in migrants, so I went in search of butterflies, specifically the 'Blue's'

Green Island is a man-made island that juts into the Gulf and has some mature habitat that attracts both birds and butterflies.

After paying my KD 1/- at the gate I was alerted by some agitated alarm calls and found around 3 or 4 Lesser Whitethroat's in one of the bigger trees.

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)
It took some time, but they eventually did flush out the culprit, a 1st year Daurian Shrike that had caught an insect. With all the noise they were making, I thought it had reduced the Lesser Whitethroat population by 1.

1st year Daurian Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
Right, onto the butterflies. Late last year I discovered a new species for Kuwait in the south of the country; Western Pygmy Blue. Since then, wherever I have gone I have checked all the 'Blue's' to see if they occur elsewhere in the country - without success. That is, until today. At Green Island, I discovered a second 'isolated' population of this tiny butterflies which is pretty exciting news.

Western Pygmy Blue (Brephidium exilis)

Whilst creeping about, I also found another 'Blue' that I hadn't seen before and thanks again to Torben Larson for confirming the identity as Dark Grass Blue

Dark Grass Blue (Zizeeria karsandra)

So, a successful trip, but I am still looking for another Blue that may or may not occur in Kuwait, but will have to wait to Spring for the habitat to be in bloom

The Bird's and the Bee's

Week 41, 09 October 2014 - Sabah Al Ahmad Sea City

I was down in the south for what turned out to be a quiet morning's birding, despite an encouraging start.

I made a stop at some reed habitat on route and was rewarded with a 1st year Little Crake, that had me going initially - but the long primaries and ever so slight hint of red at the base of the bill clinched the id.

Juvenile Little Crake (Porzana parva)

There weren't many migrants about, a single Spotted Flycatcher

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
along with a female Red-backed Shrike

Female Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
and a few Mauryan Grey Shrikes

A wary Mauryan Grey Shrike (Lanius lahtora pallidirostris)
When I'm birding, I also keep an eye out for other insects; here a Darter sp.

Darter sp.
I think the Clouded Yellow's picked their migration time perfectly as most of the vociferous insect eaters have already departed. Here a male and female

Female Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus)

Male Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus)
The Mediterranean Pierrot is one of the small 'Blue's' and has a uniquely patterned underwing

Female Mediterranean Pierrot (Tarucus rosacea)

Male Mediterranean Pierrot (Tarucus rosacea)

Desert and Sea

Week 41, 07 October 2014 - Al Abraq and Sulaibkhat

I don't seem to get the time to get over the backlog hump and I'm still playing catch-up. This post is already 5-weeks old, but better late than never I guess, plus I did spend a stint in hospital in between.

I almost missed my alarm, so had to hustle to pick up Neil on time for the drive to the west and the Al Abraq Farm by sunrise. On route we had one Steppe Eagle that had spent the night roosting on the desert, but it didn't allow close approach - which is a good thing given the number of shooters still about at this time of year. 

Migrating Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
We could tell that there was still some migration happening, by the number of shooters acting like hooligans around the perimeter of the farm - it really does get on your nerves and spoils what should be a pleasant day out. As before we opted to first walk while it was still cool and explored an area with mixed habitat picking up some good birds; first up was a couple of Red-breasted Flycatchers, one of my favourites

Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva)

I then picked up a small flock of Common Rosefinch feeding in one of the trees

Common Rosefinch (Carpodacus erythrinus)
and finally a female Ménétriés’s Warbler 

Female Ménétriés’s Warbler (Sylvia mystacea)
amongst some Lesser and Common Whitethroat's - good start so far..

Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)
Around the agricultural area with some new crops, a Pale Rockfinch was a good addition

Pale Rockfinch (Carpospiza brachydactyla)
We picked up our first White Wagtail of the winter

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) intimidated by a large Bee
and the resident Crested Larks were also present.

Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
There were a good number of Accipters flying about, but were challenging as they were never out in the open long enough. I did get onto two of them; the first was a 1st year Asian Shikra

1st year Asian Shikra (Accipiter badius cenchroides)
and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Male Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
This was followed by a Long-legged Buzzard against the light..

Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus)
The shooters spooked a few juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons, but they escaped with their lives by staying high

Adult Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
By now, the temperature had risen, so we had good raptor passage - the predominant raptor being Steppe Eagle

Migrating Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)

Followed by a few Black-eared Kites which we now know winter in Kuwait.

Black-eared Kite (Milvus m. lineatus)

In the desert area, some movement on the ground caught my eye; a Schmidt's Fringed-toed Lizard.

Schmidt's Fringed-toed Lizard (Acanthodactylus schmidti)
A wounded Steppe Buzzard that was shot for fun, was just left by the shooters

Wounded Steppe Buzzard (Buteo b. vulpinus)
We didn't see much on the drive home and after dropping Neil off, I still had some free time, so made a quick stop at Sulaibikhat Bay. At the outfall, a few Caspian Gulls were roosting on the low tide

Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)

and the wintering Common Black-headed Gulls had arrived in numbers, I enjoyed their antics trying to pick up and eat whatever was being washed out of the 'grey' water outfall

Wintering Common Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)

Sychronised; Common Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) and Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)

There were also big numbers of winter plumaged Dunlin present

Part of the Dunlin (Calidris alpinaa) flock

Dunlin (Calidris alpina) and Little Stint (Calidris minuta)
Further up the coast I found numbers of Western Reef Heron, both forms.

Pale Form Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)
A pair of feeding Eurasian Spoonbills rounded the day off nicely, especially seeing one of them catching and eating a small fish

Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)

Feeding with purpose

Success for one