Monday, 15 December 2014

Local Birding

12th - 15th Dec 2014

Getting used to winter birding and winter temperatures again is taking a while. The main motivation for a patch walk was getting a good walk in and a bit of much needed exercise, In Kuwait the locals bird by driving round reserves in a 4x4 and stopping every now again to poke a camera out of a window. On Friday the walk around Caldecote was unremarkable. There were a few Rewings and Fieldfares in the Anchor bushes but they were outnumbered by Blackbirds,which seem to be everywhere. The Anker flood meadows were flooded and held 40 or so Teal while a fox sauntering across the stubble put up a small flock of Skylarks.
On the Saturday I popped into Shustoke Res., a leisurely stroll round produced a Common Sandpiper, a Red crested Pochard and a 1st winter drake Scaup and a visit to Cliff pool Kingsbury produced a female Scaup. On a visit to both venues today I drew a blank at Shustoke with no sign of the ducks or the Sandpiper. At Cliff pool however the female Scaup was still present.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Kuwait - Dec. 2014 Part 4

4th,5th,6th Dec. 2014

We continued to tour likely habitats throughout Kuwait. At the Kuwait International Golf course we found a flighty Red wattled Lapwing and near Fahaheel Park we found 7 Great black headed Gulls, impressive birds even in winter plummage. Another visit to Al Abraq failed to produce a Shrika so we had to make do with a pair of Goldcrests and a pair of Ring Ouzel. Back at Jahra reserve again we had Little Crake and Osprey to add to our growing trip list while at Jahra East outfall we had good close views of Crab plover, a pair of Pied Kingfisher and Glossy Ibis.
On our final day we visited the Pivot fields area, unfortunately access is not permitted inside the fields but some views of the cultivated fields, much favoured by Raptors, is possible from the perimeter fence. We had views of Sparrowhawk, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Black shouldered Kite and Woodpigeon ! Later we visited a number of sites around Jahra bay. We searched tirelessly for a mythical Lesser Flamingo among the thousands of Greater Flamingoes scattered around the shallow waters of the bay. No Lesser Flamingo but we did see a Short eared Owl to complete our species list for the trip. Thanks go our leader Pekka Fagel and to Birdfinders for organising our Tour.

Crab Plover

Pied Kingfisher

Red wattled Lapwing

Water Pipit, very common and widespread

Little Crake

Little Crake

Gull billed Tern

Gull billed Tern

Short eared Owl

White throated Kingfisher

Desert Fox

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Kuwait - Part 3

3rd Dec. 2014
In my notebook it says 'strangely enjoyable day'. I think what I meant was, even though I didnt see any 'new' birds it was still a good days birding with some great birds. We were always on the lookout for Kuwait specialities in city parks, anywhere in the desert with a few trees and bushes or cultivated fields and rubbish tips We worked hard searching such places but for me there were no more ticks. We did get better views of some previously seen birds. 3 Greater Spotted Eagles circling at Jahra Reserve, some 60 Grey Hypocolius at Green Island and close views of Persian Wheatear, Menetries warbler and Namaqua Dove were all very memorable.

Persian Wheatear

Greater spotted Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle

Stonechat, Saxicola variegatus

Stonechat, Saxicola variegatus showing distinctive Wheatear-like tail pattern

Red vented Bulbul

Namaqua Dove

Namaqua Dove

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Kuwait, Dec 2014 - Part 2

1st - 2nd Dec 2014
After an early start we headed out of the city to some farm complexes out in the desert, quite near the border with Iraq. The irrigation systems at these farms with the crops and insects provided a magnet for birds both large and small. The crops and trees provided food and cover for a variety  of larks, pipits and wagtails and the irrigation rigs and pylons providing lookouts for Raptors, Shrikes and Kingfishers. The farms at Al Abraq and Abdaly had a good record for producing Western Palearctic rarities but despite extensive searching we were out of luck. There were good birds to be had though; Hume's Yellow browed warbler, Asian Desert warbler, Afghan Babbler but none of our target birds. There were a few familiar migrants: Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Ring Ouzel, Goldcrests and even Brambling but although these were rare birds for the Kuwait birders they were not what we had hoped to see.
In the afternoon our luck changed. We drove back, stopping first at Al Zoura ridge. The arid rocky ridge was good habitat for wintering Wheatears, and so it proved. One of my 'most wanted' WP birds a Persian Wheatear had been seen there recently and it wasnt too long before it was spotted quite high up on the ridge. Outstanding, but we weren't finished yet. After a visit to Jahra farms which was quiet except for Water pipits Alba wagtails and a couple of Isabelline Shrikes we moved on to Jahra East outfall. Boom, John spotted another on my 'most wanted' list. A Greater spotted Eagle was among some bushes beyond the Shoreline of the bay. We were to get get better views of this magestic Eagle, but the first one is always a bit special.
The road to Al Abraq
Al Abraq
The team at Al Abraq
Isabelline Shrike
Black Redstart
Afghan Babbler, Abdaly farms
Afghan Babbler
Traditional Ice cream after successfully locating Afghan Babbler
Asian Desert warbler
Greater spotted Eagle

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Kuwait, Dec.2014 - Part 1

Sat. 29th November 2014
Took a direct flight from Heathrow to Kuwait City, travelling with John Holtham. This was my second visit to Kuwait and the short taxi ride to our hotel in the city centre reminded me of the often chaotic traffic made worse by the massive construction projects throughout the city. We met up with the third member of our group and our Finnish guide early the next morning and drove out to Green island, a public park next to the Gulf. One of the 'winter' birds I'd missed on the spring trip was Grey Hypocolius and this was the most likely spot to see them. We didnt have to wait too long before we got our first tick but the other 'banker', Red-vented Bulbul proved more elusive.It was also a good site for Pallid Swift, Common and Bank Mynas. In the afternoon we went to Jahra Reserve, an area of shallow pools and reed beds. It was a place we would visit on several occasions and produced a good variety of species. On our first trip we saw a variety of ducks,waders, Purple Swamphen, Marsh Harrier and both Common and White throated Kingfishers. The nearby coastal mudflats contains huge numbers of waders including Broad billed and Terek Sandpipers with good numbers of Lesser and Greater Sandplovers. There was a plentiful supply of Mud Skippers which attracted large numbers of Grey and Western Reef Herons. Caspian, Lesser crested and Gull billed Terns were also seen.
Grey Hypocolius
Grey Hypocolius - female
Grey Hypocolius
Common Myna
Kuwait City from Green Island
Pallid Swift
Kuwait City from Jahra
Mud Skipper, awaiting its fate !
Western Reef Heron with Mud Skipper meal.
Purple Swamphen

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A quiet week

Wednesday 26th November 2014

A somewhat subdued period birdingwise at the moment. With work going on at home and the weather, time spent 'in the field' has been limited. Visits to Brandon Marsh, Coombe Abbey, Coton and Kingsbury Water Park and Middleton Lakes plus a couple of local walks have all been quite brief, but produced a few highlights. Good to see a big flock of Golden plovers estimated 700 on the Jubilee wetlands and the Stonechats were up to 7 birds: 6 in Staffs. and just the 1 in Warks. The numbers of Siskin at Brandon Marsh were building up nicely and a few Goosander are appearing here and there. The Tawny Owl at Coombe Abbey showed well but may well have to relocate with some of the mature trees it favoured being felled at the moment. No doubt to be replaced by some none indigenous species with little value to our native wildlife.
Stonechat - much photographed but at least its not on a post.


Stonechat, Ah, they do seem to like posts don't they.

Golden plover, part of the flock

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Draycote Water - Cause for concern ?

Tuesday 18th November 2014
Popped into Draycote Water today on the off chance. Beautiful morning so can't complain but not too many birds about. And sadly a good many of those that were, were on their last legs or already dead. Lesser black backed, Herring and Blacked headed gulls were suffering in numbers I'd never seen before. Gulls do pick up diseases and/or poisons from the tips they feed on. Bob Hazel who had been round the reservoir reported dead gulls everywhere and the wardens we spoke to had collected a large number of corpses already. A sad sight indeed.
Moribund Lesser Black backed Gull
Dead Lesser black backed Gull
Herring Gull
Black headed Gull
On a brighter note other healthy birds seen included : Goosander 9, Golden plover 30+, Tree sparrows 10, Redshank (heard), and Little Egret.

Little Egret
Little Egret
Little Egret