Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Birds of 2014 - Home and away

31st January 2014
2014 has been a pretty good year for me birding wise with good birds locally, nationally and on trips further afield. I've managed to capture a few on camera and have selected my Top ten images from my three 'lists' in 2014.
First my home County, Warwickshire. The easiest selection, chiefly  because there are not that so many rares to choose from. That gives the ones we do get extra excitement. This year I added two new birds to my County list : Red backed Shrike at Ladwalk N.R. and Humes Yellow browed Warbler a short distance away on the Ham's Hall distribution Park. Not the greatest pics but great local finds.
Hume's Yellow browed Warbler, Hams Hall, Warks.

Red backed Shrike, Ladywalk N.R.
The remaining selection are in no particular order, they represent something of the diversity of species to be found in Wawickshire.
Firecrest, Earlswood Lakes

Whinchat, Caldecote

Great White Egret, Fishers Mill, Middleton Lakes RSPB

Merlin, Wishaw

Great Skua, Draycote Water

Grey Partridge, Wishaw

Night Heron, Seeswood pool, Nuneaton

Garganey, Shustoke Reservoir

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Post Christmas Birding

Tuesday 30th December 2014
Winding down after the festivities or in my case non festivities of Christmas. A few gentle family walks, a mountain of pork products consumed but very little birding. Did have a stroll around Middleton Lakes to count Stonechats and visited the Shustoke 3 today but that's about it. I wish I could say I was storing up energy for a New years blast but I think a more sedate and dignified start to the years birding is called for. I'm going to do a 3 part Review of 2014 -  best birds/photos of Warks birds, UK birds and Western Palearctic birds. It's been an epic year's birding, with various trips and twitches and a couple of local finds thrown in.

1w drake Scaup, Shustoke Res.

Common Sandpiper

Red crested Pochard

Friday, 19 December 2014

Kuwait - appendix

Final few images from Kuwait including interesting image of Red whiskered Bulbul.

Red whiskered Bulbul, presumed escape but not listed as introduced species in Kuwait.

Fieldfare, great rarity in Kuwait, part of an influx of Northern European species

Ring Ouzel, another unusual visitor to Kuwait

Flamingos, a more familiar sight along the coast.

Black necked Grebe leads the way

Thursday, 18 December 2014

More stubble fields

Wednesday 17th December 2014
Stubble fields are well worth checking out at this time of the year for the
 variety of finches, pipits and Buntings which feed on them. The area around Wishaw, near Sutton Coldfield on the border of Warwickshire and the West Midlands has large expanses of stubble and can host a variety of species including plovers, partridges and raptors as well as those already mentioned. Viewing is often distant but the area is crossed by a number of lanes from which it is possible to see different areas. A brief visit produced small numbers of Reed Buntings, Yellowhammers and Meadow pipits plus a watchful male Merlin.

Merlin, Wishaw

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