Kuwait - Day 6, 10 April 2011, Green Island, Jahra Farms, Doha Spit, Sulaibikhat and Jahra Pools

The last day of the tour and time to visit the one remaining site we'd not yet been to - Green Island. Brian's visiting friend Andy joined us for the morning as Brian was at work. Upon arrival we were greeted by the all too familiar unhelpfulness of Kuwaiti gate security who insisted we could enter until 08.00. To kill an hour or so we decided to check the nearby seafront area and were glad we did because a splendid male Cinereous Bunting was found along the promenade with an Ortolan plus a pale throated Black-eared Wheatear and the usual Common Mynas. Eventually we we granted access and quickly located our main target species - Red-vented Bulbul with its much commoner cousin White-cheeked Bulbul. Several migrants were found, mainly around the bottlebrush trees near the entrance which were alive with c30 Lesser Whitethroats from which we managed to find 1-2 Eastern Orphean Warblers, 1 Barred Warbler and several Blackcaps. Around the island were also a Hoopoe, 2 Redstarts, Tree and Red-throated Pipits, Masked Shrike, Woodchat Shrike and a couple of Pied Wheatears. Of great interest were also a nesting pair of Ruppell's Weavers which are now in their 2nd year and hopefully destined for category C! The numbers of Grey Hypocolious passing through were hugely impressive with the group notching up 39 individuals.

Cinereous Bunting, near Green Island

Cinereous Bunting, near Green Island

Common Mynas, Green Island

Eastern Orphean Warbler, Green Island

Laughing Dove, near Green Island

Ortolan, near Green Island

Redstart, Green Island

Ruppell's Weaver, Green Island

Ruppell's Weaver, Green Island

Ruppell's Weaver, Green Island

White-cheeked Bulbul, Green Island

With migrants around we opted for a check of Jahra Farms next. Amongst the usual pipits and wagtails were c8 Redstarts, a male Semi-collared Flycatcher (presumably the same as on 5th as it was in the exact same spot), singles of Masked Shrike, Grey Hypocolious, Grey Wagtail, White-breasted Kingfisher and best of all a lovely 1st summer male Rock Thrush. As usual Bank Mynas, Cattle Egrets and Squacco Herons were also in evidence.

Cattle Egret, Jahra Farms

Grey Wagtail, Jahra Farms

Rock Thrush, Jahra Farms

Next up was a return visit to Doha Spit for another gawp at the waders. The species were the same as the previous day but it was interesting to note that the numbers of Lesser Sandplovers had dropped to about 200 whereas Curlew Sandpiper numbers were significantly up. Osprey was seen once again as was a single Asian Desert Warbler , a dark throated Black-eared Wheatear and a couple of Lesser Crested Terns.

The group had not visited the little local nature reserve at Sulaibikhat yet so we made a very quick stop here as we passed. A male Menetries's Warbler was a very welcome new bird for Andy who also had a White-throated Robin. Also seen were Graceful Prinias and the only Common Whitethroat of the week (race icterops).

As our final port of call for the whole tour we all agreed on Jahra Pools once more. We were greeted by a newly arrived Turtle Dove along the entrance track whilst waders included c8 Red-necked Phalaropes, c5 Wood Sandpipers, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank and 2 Marsh Sandpipers. Baillon's and Spotted Crakes were seen once again whilst 3 Glossy Ibis circled in and at least 2 Grey-headed Swamphens strode around between the reeds. Passerines included a female Bluethroat, Siberian Stonechat, a singing Moustached Warbler, Southern, Daurian and Turkestan Shrikes and to end a memorable tour a Penduline Tit picked out by the German guys in the fading light. 

Grey-headed Swamphen, Jahra Pools

Siberian Stonechat, Jahra Pools

Turtle Dove, Jahra Pools
Our HUGE thanks to all our 2011 tour members and our friends in Kuwait for making it another highly successful and enjoyable trip.

Click here for a great selection of photos by Austrian birder Seppi Ringert 

Kuwait - Day 5, 9 April 2011, Al Abraq, Doha Spit, and Jahra Pools

With migration conditions looking good we headed out west to Al Abraq once again. En-route numerous shrikes in roadside bushes hinted of things being on the move. A flock of 18 Grey Hypocolious was a great sight on the edge of the desert whilst other migrants included a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, 1 'magna' Bluethroat, 2 Rufous Bush Robins, 1 Masked and 2 Woodchat Shrikes, c4 Redstarts (incl 1 samamisicus), Grey and Yellow Wagtails, Water, Tree and Red-throated Pipits and our only Spotted Flycatcher of the tour. Chiffchaffs were exceptionally numerous and included several Willow Warblers, a single Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and another good candidate for Mountain Chiffchaff which unfortunately didn't show well enough to be nailed. 24 Squacco Herons circled overhead every now and again and up to 3 Sparrowhawks had us checking carefully for Shikra.

Grey Hypocolious, Al Abraq

Grey Hypocolious, Al Abraq

Hoopoe, Al Abraq

Red-throated Pipit, Al Abraq

Sparrowhawk, Al Abraq

Willow Warbler, Al Abraq

Squacco Herons, Al Abraq

At Albraq (copyright Reija Heinonen) 

After the long drive back we decided to call in at Doha Spit on the west side of Kuwait Bay. This was a new site to our tour participants and for the wader enthusiast is very entertaining indeed. The variety and number of waders here is always impressive but today the place really excelled itself. Well over 1000 Lesser Sandplovers harboured c50 Greater Sandplovers with smaller numbers of Kentish and Grey Plovers. Dunlin, Turnstone and Little Stints were also numerous and with diligent scanning several Whimbrel and Curlew Sandpipers, c5 Sanderling and c6 Broad-billed Sandpipers were picked out. Very impressive to European birders were the numerous Terek Sandpipers which are always impressive. Greater Flamingoes, c30 Caspian Terns and singles of Caspian Gull, Western Reef Heron and Osprey were also very welcome. Passerines are never numerous here due to the habitat but 2 lovely Asian Desert Warblers were watched well after being found by Henrik as well as 2+ Desert Wheatears. 

Asian Desert Warbler, Doha Spit

As a fitting end to the day we opted once again for Jahra Pools. Water levels were up on our previous visit but despite fewer waders there was still plenty to keep us all amused until sundown. All 3 crakes again plus 3 Glossy Ibis, both Marsh and Montagu's Harrier, 1 Marsh Sandpiper amongst several Wood Sandpipers and our only Red-rumped Swallows of the week picked out from the numerous Sand Martins. 2 Ortolans showed very nicely by the path whilst a Sedge Warbler showed followed by a singing Moustached Warbler that didn't! A surprise Grey Hypocolious was picked out in the reeds and both Daurian and Turkestan Shrikes, Garganey and Little Grebes completed the list. 

Daurian Shrike, Jahra Pools

Ortolan, Jahra Pools

Pied Wheatear, Jahra Pools

Red-rumped Swallow, Jahra Pools


Kuwait - Day 4, 8 April 2011, Jahra East Outfall, Pivot Fields, Fahaheel & Zour Port

We began day 4 back at JEO where things were a little more lively in the early morning sun. Best was a female Citrine Wagtail along the dyke but we also added 6 Bluethroats (of 3 different races!), Cetti's Warbler, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, 3 Spotted Crakes, 6 Lesser Kestrels passing through, Steppe Grey Shrike and a 'maura' Siberian Stonechat.

Bluethroat, Jahra East Outfall

Bluethroat, Jahra East Outfall

It was a return visit to Pivot Fields next as this site only allows visits in the mornings. Upon arrival we bumped into Brian Foster and his visiting mate Andy and while chatting a splendid male Rock Thrush popped up on a pylon. We then went on to enjoy a bit of a raptor fest with a Greater Spotted Eagle perched on a distant pivot and 3 or 4 each of Pallid and Montagu's Harriers, a single Hen Harrier, 2 Black Kites, 3-4 Steppe Buzzards and when driving round the site a little later an Eastern Imperial Eagle and several Lesser Kestrels. The latter obviously on the move through Kuwait. Back at the pond a Wryneck popped out onto the ground whilst Great Reed Warbler, Spanish Sparrow, 2 Little Crakes, 7 Glossy Ibis, 6 Night Herons, a Little Bittern, 5 Squacco Herons, several Cattle Egrets, Little Egret and the Pygmy Cormorants were all seen. On a slow drive around the site we clocked up 1 White-throated Robin, 3 Hoopoes, a Bluethroat, Rufous Bush Robin, loads of Crested Larks, Tawny Pipits, Pied and Northern Wheatears. A flock of 45 Collared Pratincoles on an open area of dry ground allowed us to drive the car really close for some photographs!

Collared Pratincole, Pivot Fields

Pallid Harrier, Pivot Fields

Southern Grey Shrike, Pivot Fields

Squacco Heron, Pivot Fields 

Tawny Pipit, Pivot Fields

As we'd arranged another stab at Zour Port later in the afternoon we started to make our way south and made a brief stop at Fahaheel once more. This time we were greeted by a pathetic excuse for a security guard who tried to prevent us entering the public shopping mall because we were carrying cameras, scopes etc. Despite much discussion he wouldn't budge so we simply walked around to another entrance and strolled in! And it proved to be well worth it because perched on the same rig as we had Swift Tern last time round were 2 marvellous adult White-cheeked Terns. c15 Lesser Crested Terns, 2 Sandwich Terns and an Arctic Skua completed the picture before we grabbed a quick coffee and made sure we passed the security guard on the way out. His face was a picture!

Reija and Jouko, ejected from a shopping mall!

Upon arrival at Zour Port we were once again met by Austin and started with a slow drive and walk around some spots within the complex in search of migrants. This paid off with a great find of a male Cinereous Bunting (race semenowi) alongside an Ortolan on waste ground at out first stop. c5 Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, c20 European Bee-eaters, Red-backed Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Turkestan Shrike and 2 Pale Rock Sparrows were also picked up before we headed to the coastal strip. Once we were at the point a pale cormorant flew past us very close inshore and Ernst called it as a Socotra Cormorant. Despite not looking right it then ditched onto the sea  about 100 meters offshore and with prolonged views we all agreed it was indeed a juvenile Socotra Cormorant. Nice one Ernst! Later on we went on to see 3 more of this much wanted WP species flying together offshore. 4 Night Herons headed high north and this time terns were much more in evidence, at least 50 Bridled Terns gradually streamed past north in a steady flow , another White-cheeked Tern and several Sandwich Terns were amongst the numerous Slender-billed Gulls. What a difference 2 days makes! To round off the day we drove round again in search of Desert Finches but to no avail. Instead we managed Terek Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper and 2 Red-necked Phalaropes on pools by the golf course.

The whole gang, Zour Port (copyright Seppi Ringert) 


Kuwait, Day 3 - 7 April 2011, Abdali Farms, Maghasil, Jahra East Outfall & Jahra Pools

Day 3 and another early start. This time we awoke to clear skies which would thankfully be with us for the remainder of the trip.

First up was an early morning drive north towards the Iraq border and the expansive area of farms known collectively as Abdali Farms. Our main target for the morning was to locate the only Afghan (Common) Babblers in the WP. With sightings this year few and far between and the birds seeming to have wandered we weren't too hopeful but all spread out and walked the date palm fields with ears and eyes open. And the tactic worked! A call from the left hand end of the line and within a few minutes a delighted group were ticking off this much sought after bird as we watched 5 adult birds. Soon they moved through a fence and melted away though so we had been very fortunate. Sadly we weren't so lucky with the other target species here, despite much searching of a large area we couldn't find any Red-wattled Lapwings. Other species were few and far between but we did manage Rufous Bush Robin, Graceful Prinias, Isabelline Wheatear, 2 Hoopoes and as we were leaving a female Namaqua Dove on wires by the road. Most noticable was a raptor passage consisting of 9 Booted Eagles (exceptional numbers for Kuwait) consisting of 6 pale, 2 dark and 1 rufous bird, c4 Sparrowhawks, several Kestrels, 1 Lesser Kestrel and then a lovely Long-legged Buzzard as we proceeded to out next site.

Namaqua Dove, Abdali Farms

On the way back to the Jahra area we called into a site at Maghasil which affords some good views across towards Bubiyan Island. Here we were treated to some nice close views of 3 Swift Terns, 1 Lesser Crested Tern, 4 Little Terns, 5 Western Reef Herons, 8 Curlew and several Yellow Wagtails.

Jahra East Outfall was next on the agenda and boy how this site has changed in the last couple of years. Access is now tricky and involves negotiating a building site as the developers edge closer to the reedbed. Once there we were faced with poor viewing conditions due to a lack of grazing meaning reeds have grown up cloaking the productive stream. We did manage to clock up 2 Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Chiffchaffs, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Water Pipit, 2 Red-throated Pipits and several Yellow Wagtails. Very sadly a sickly Steppe Buzzard on the saltmarsh which was unable to fly had to be put out of its misery. It was time to move on...

Steppe Buzzard, Jahra East Outfall

To finish the day on an upbeat note we ventured to the nearby Jahra Pools which proved to be the perfect antidote, there we birds everywhere! Greeted by an amazing flock of 35 Purple Herons we moved the cars into position overlooking a flooded creek in the reeds and to the delight of my German passengers were soon feasting our eyes on 1 Baillon's Crake, 5 Little Crakes and 2 Spotted Crakes all within a few meters of each other. Around the other side of the reserve the water levels were good for waders and we had 6 Wood Sandpipers, 2 Marsh Sandpipers, Greenshank, Ruff, Little Stints, c20 Red-necked Phalaropes and c15 Black-winged Stilts together with c5 Garganey, c6 Little Grebes and 2 Grey-headed Swamphens. Passerines were represented by single Reed and Savis Warblers, a male Bluethroat (race magma), 1 Water Pipit and the commoner pipits and wagtails. 3 more Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, 3 Night Herons, 2 Glossy Ibis and c15 Collared Pratincoles swooping over our heads as dusk fell made sure we finished the day in good spirits before braving the evening traffic chaos on the way back to our hotel!

Baillon's Crake, Jahra Pools

Baillon's Crake, Jahra Pools

Red-necked Phalarope, Jahra Pools

Spotted Crake, Jahra Pools

Yellow Wagtail (feldegg), Jahra Pools 

Kuwait, Day 2 - 6 April 2011, Al Abraq, Fahaheel & Zour Port

Having caught up on some sleep day 2 dawned with us all feeling a bit more refreshed for our 06.00 start. Our first aim for the day was to visit the isolated area of farms out in the western desert at Al Abraq. Being surrounded by mile upon mile of hot a featureless desert getting there can be a tricky undertaking if you don't know it. Even then it involves a drive of the last few miles over open sandy desert making a 4-wheel drive vehicle essential.
We arrived after finding the area rather windblown but quickly settled into a thorough working of the area for migrants.  Things took a while but with work we winkled out some great birds - both male and female Menetries's Warblers and Upcher's Warbler were the highlights but 5 Grey Hypocolious, Wryneck, 3 Hoopoes, c3 Redstarts, Rufous Bush Robin, several Tree and Red-throated Pipits, Yellow Wagtails (feldegg, beema and lutea), Song Thrush, c35 Short-toed Larks, 2 Ortolans, Spanish Sparrow, Daurian and Masked Shrike vied for attention. A call from the Austrians had us hot footing it to the edge of southern fields where a grey eastern race Grasshopper Warbler eventually showed superbly. Non passerines included Crag Martin, Green Sandpiper, Collared Pratincole, Squacco Heron, Steppe Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, 2 Montagu's Harriers and a Sparrowhawk. 

European Bee-eater, Al Abraq

Grasshopper Warbler (race straminea), Al Abraq

Grey Hypocolious, Al Abraq

Marsh Harrier, Al Abraq

Menetries's Warbler, Al Abraq

Birding at Al Abraq

Upcher's Warbler, Al Abraq

Upcher's Warbler, Al Abraq

After leaving the farms and getting back onto the tarmac we spotted a Steppe Grey Shrike beside the road and were amazed that in flight alongside our moving car the bird flew at c70 kph!

Our main aim for the afternoon was to undertake the long drive south to Zour Port, a Chevron owned oil installation. En-route however we stopped at the coastal town of Fahaheel which provides a good view of the sea and some offshore concrete reefs. A white morph Western Reef Heron showed very closely on the edge of the marina but this was eclipsed by great views of a single Swift Tern on a offshore platform alongside 3 Lesser Crested Terns allowing easy comparison.

Western Reef Heron, Fahaheel

Western Reef Heron, Fahaheel

Further south at Zour Port we met our friend Austin Baird who kindly arranged access and escorted us around the best sites within the complex. Sadly our target species Socotra Cormorant, Bridled and White-cheeked Terns were nowhere to be seen but we did manage 35 Crab Plover flying north, Red-necked Phalarope, Greater Sandplover, 1 Ortolan, 7 Pale Rock Sparrows, 2 Desert Wheatears, 2 Isabelline Wheatears, c10 Pied Wheatears, Crag Martin, 40+ Chiffchaffs, Southern Grey Shrike and arguably best of all a 1st year Great Black-headed Gull on the beach at the point itself.

Desert Wheatear, Zour Port

Pale Rock Sparrows, Zour Port

Tour Group, Zour Port

White-cheeked Bulbul, Zour Port