Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Kuwait - Part 2

Despite being woken by the call to prayer at 4am (our hotel was right opposite a busy mosque), I still managed to get a decent night's sleep and was fresh and bright when the group assembled at 5.30am in the hotel reception. The previous day we had been joined by WP lister and Parisian native Daniel Mauras, this morning was the start of the tour proper and our ranks were swelled by Danish birders Anders Hammergart, Paul Nilsson and Jim Christensen, British birder Gordon Cox and Belgian Marc Lucas. With me at the wheel about to take on Kuwait City traffic for the first time, the others piled into the cars and we set off once again for Jahra Farms.
We had an enjoyable pre-breakfast jaunt around Jahra with Grasshopper Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Barn Swallow, White-throated Kingfisher and excellent views of this obliging Semi-collared Flycatcher.

Semi-collared Flycatcher - Jahra Farms, Kuwait - April 2019
Nick and I also picked up this delightful Isabelline (Daurian) Shrike on a wire fence, I had only ever seen one of these before (a first winter bird in Ireland on the Old Head of Kinsale in 2006). I had long wanted to see a proper adult and this one didn't disappoint!

Isabelline (Daurian) Shrike - Jahra Farms, Kuwait - April 2019
As there had been a bit of a cock-up on the breakfast front (I'm not sure whose fault that was!), but in any case we needed to find a greasy spoon or equivalent somewhere. We toured around the town of Jahra and stumbled upon what turned out to be a rather smashing little cafe that served us up one of the best breakfasts I can remember that didn't include black pudding, bacon or Hick's sausages!

The full Kuwaiti!
Our rather less than economical 5 litre Toyota Landcruiser parked outside the cafe - fuel is cheaper than water in Kuwait
After breakfast we visited Mutla'a Ranch where we had further Semi-collared Flycatchers including a striking male plus another Masked Shrike, Pied Wheatear, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Namaqua Dove and plenty of Blackcaps.
Driving back out of Mutla'a ranch through dry desert habitat we had Bar-tailed and Desert Lark, Wryneck (an odd place to see one), Kestrel and Hoopoe Lark.
Next stop was Liyah Reserve, a desert reserve that has a small pool where we saw Wood and Common Sandpiper, a superb male Feldegg Yellow Wagtail plus a group of 21 Pale Rock Sparrows. Before lunch we birded around the acacias where we had plenty of Willows and Chiffs, male and female Pied Wheatears, Common Redstarts, Lesser Whitethroat and a White-throated Robin that did its best to elude having its picture taken. This male Pied Wheatear behaved itself a little more!

Male Pied Wheatear - Liyah Reserve, Kuwait - April 2019
I really enjoyed this spot, we visited several times during our tour and it was always buzzing with migrants.
We left Liyah mid-afternoon, stopping briefly to watch an Isabelline Wheatear from the comfort of our air-conditioned Landcruiser before heading across to Doha Spit for some evening wader watching.

Waders were a bit distant at Doha but present in both quantity and quality
Caspian, Lesser Crested, Little and Common Tern, Green Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Kentish Plover, Greater and Lesser Sandplover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Bar 'wits, Turnstone, Ringed Plover and  Whimbrel were all present but the highlight for me were the large flocks of Terek Sandpipers - my favourite wader maybe??
We switched around to another spot a were fortunate to pick out a single Crab Plover plus Night Heron, Squacco Heron and Whiskered Tern.
We finished the day at a Grey Hypocolius roost - but no Hypocolius! Once the sun had set, we piled back into the car and I drove back into the city through surely the most insane traffic I have ever encountered! It may have had something to do with a big football match that was on that night - I think it was an Egyptian league match - the cafes were mobbed!

Nick captures the sunset at the end of a long and enjoyable day of birding

Monday, 16 September 2019

Kuwait - Part 1

It seems a very long time ago now, but in April this year Nick and I took a week long trip to the gulf state of Kuwait. We joined Abdrulrahman Al Sirhan's spring tour in the company of several other birders from Denmark, Belgium, France and the UK.
For me personnally, the trip took place against a back-drop of an enormously hectic and pressurised period of time in work and there were moments leading up to the trip that I really thought I wouldn't get there! In the end I managed to get away and on 11th April Nick and I flew direct overnight from Heathrow to Kuwait City with BA. Landing early on a Friday morning, we were met by Abdulrahman and transferred straight away to our hotel more or less in the centre of Kuwait City.

My first sighting of Kuwait as our BA flight descends into Kuwait City on Friday morning

Our hotel for the week - more than comfortable despite there being no bar :-(
We had 20 minutes or so to check-in, shower and change before heading out for a day's birding. 
We made our way across the city to Al-Shaheed Park, a perfectly manicured public park set against a back-drop of high-rise financial buildings, not the sort of place I expected to see migrant birds but first impressions can be all wrong.
I was quite pleasantly surprised not to see heavy traffic that first morning in Kuwait City but I was to later find out that Friday is a weekend and everyone was enjoying a lie-in. I was to get quite a shock later when the full horror of Kuwait City traffic was revealed to me - more on that later!!!

A civilised sort of rush hour - 8.42am on a Friday morning in Kuwait City - little did I know!!

Friday morning at Al-Shaheed Park and one tired birder - I had 2 minutes sleep on the red-eye from Heathrow
Our highlights on that first morning included Masked Shrike, Turkestan Shrike, White-throated Robin, Pallid Swift, Hoopoe and Pallid or Montagu's Harrier. In addition to that there were the ubiquitous Laughing Doves and White-eared Bulbuls plus Indian Silverbill.

Turkestan Shrike against a city back-drop - Al-Shaheed Park, Kuwait City

The plan in my mind had been to return to the hotel for the rest of the day and catch up on some sleep however, Abdulrahman had packed us a lunch and instead we scoffed that and continued on to Jahra farms for the afternoon. The birding there was relatively slow but we did have Wryneck, Semi-collared Flycatcher, White-throated Kingfisher, Common Redstart plus Common and Bank Myna. However, the lack of sleep finally caught up with me and I crashed out under this palm tree using my camera as a pillow!

That night we picked up the rental cars at the airport and I shamelessly let Nick draw the short straw and drive back to the hotel through the by now much more scary looking evening traffic.