Back home

Back home for a couple of days until we head off for Morocco. There are a few rare birds around in Sweden. We went straight for the only (AFAWK) remaining Siberian Accentor. An individual that has been seen regularly in a garden in Lindesberg. The bird disappeared during the bad weather a week ago, but was seen again yesterday by the owner of the house with the garden. (Not a birder) We went there this morning an Mårten found the skulking bird after an hour or so.

Siberian Accentor
Siberian Accentor

In southern Sweden there is also Gyrfalcon and a Black Duck, we might pick those off during our stay home.

Until next time UK

It turned out to be the right move to go for a twitching tour in the UK. We were – with a lot of help from UK birders – able to locate all the rare UK visitors that we set out to tick, and then some.

All in all, 14 rare ones in the UK, with Bonapartes’s Gull, Pacific Loon and the Dusky Thrush at the top. Adding some long distance shots of some of the gems.

Golden Pheasant
Golden Pheasant

We were pretty close to the Lady Amherst’s Pheasant site, but we decided to not even attempt the bird. Apparently one male might still exists inside a fenced area, and it’s also supposedly really hard to get to see. Poor bird.

Dusky Thrush
Dusky Thrush

The thrush in Derbyshire has been around for quite some time. When we arrived at the village, there were some depressed birders there that hadn’t seen the bird during the entire day. Not good. Eventually we found it though, among all the Redwing Thrushes. Good thing we had the picture, the local birders didn’t really trust us.

Black Scooter
Black Scoter
Surf Scooter
Surf Scoter

Also – we have had a few questions on weather the Lesser Scaup we ticked wasn’t actually a Greater Scaup. We feel confident it’s a Lesser. I include here an additional picture from the lake which better shows the steeper forehead.

Lesser Scaup
Lesser Scaup

We have also noticed that there is smudge on the right side of our bird, which also shows well on “good” pictures from the lake of the Lesser Scaup there. Hence – the tick stands.

Furthermore, and I don’t think we have officially mentioned this earlier. We’re not following the Netfugl list as we originally stated. At the time, we though that was a good idea, but Björn Andersson from the iGoTerra team convinced us that the IOC is the proper list for us to follow. Quite a few UK birders wondered why we didn’t go for the Hudsonian Whimbrel that we just drove by. That bird is not on the IOC list, it might end up there, but even that seems unlikely, hence we skipped the bird. Same thing with Red Grouse.

Since we’re able to tick sub species in the iGoTerra app (and we do) it’ll be easy to translate our IOC based list to a Netfugl one if we should desire. I’m sure someone will do that. News today was that BOU adapts to the IOC list – so that is indeed good news. The mess with different countries running their own lists is unfortunate.

Twitching twitching

Yesterday was a bit of a disappointment, the Stonechat was rejected, and we couldn’t find the Lesser Yellowlegs at Lytchett Fields. Luckily we decided to spend the night in Poole and make a second attempt at connecting with Yellowlegs. After a few seconds of confusion with a Spotted Redshank, another wader flew into view and we had the Yellowlegs.

The Green-winged Teal was still there.

Went straight for the Bonaparte’s gull which was reported from “Johns Hide” at a marvellous area called Dawlish Warren close to Exeter. American Widgeon was twitched en route. Spent maybe an hour there until we found the bird among all the Black-headed Gulls. Easily spotted in flight with almost white under wings.

Bonaparte's Gull
Bonaparte’s Gull

This is a really good WP bird, one of the heavy targets for our UK twitch. Moved on towards a Lesser Scaup further west into Cornwall.

Lesser Scaup
Lesser Scaup

At this time we decided to call it a day and go look for a hotel in Penzance, however en route we decided to give a reported 2cy Ringed-billed Gull a chance at River Gannel and miraculosly we found that one too at sunset. What a spectacular twitch, six rare Yanks in the same day.

We’d like to thank Chris Batty who has sent us these well organised lists with tickable birds with exact geo coordinates making it possible for us to just move from one bird to another.

 

UK twitching tour

First day of crazy improvised UK twitching tour. There is a massive amount of rarities residing in the UK currently. We want them all, or more succinctly, need them.

Here is the short list as graciously provided to us by Cris Batty at Rare Birds Alert.

  • Pacific Diver    Penzance in Cornwall 50.1152, -5.5309 (can be elusive)
  • Hudsonian Whimbrel    Perranuthnoe in Cornwall    50.1136, -5.4511
  • Green-winged Teal    Hayle Estuary in Cornwall    50.1762, -5.4371
  • Lesser Scaup    Dozmary Pool in Cornwall 50.5443, -4.5498
  • Bonaparte’s Gull    Dawlish Warren in Devon    50.6146, -3.4248 (elusive)
  • Ring-necked Duck    Chew Valley Lake in Somerset 51.3395, -2.6048
  • Lesser Yellowlegs    park at 50.7364, -2.0417 then walk southwest along Slough Lane and follow signs to Sherford Pool or French’s Pools (also Green-winged Teal on same pools)
  • Ring-billed Gull    Blashford Lakes in Hampshire 50.8786, -1.7867 (late afternoon from Tern Hide)
  • Ring-necked Duck    Abberton Reservoir in Essex    51.8146, 0.8263
  • Pallas’s Warbler    Kessingland in Suffolk    52.4107, 1.7238
  • Golden Pheasant    Wolferton in Norfolk    52.8235, 0.4754 (dawn is best)
  • Lady Amherst’s Pheasant    Lidlington in Bedfordshire    52.0375, -0.5528 (very elusive)
  • Dusky Thrush    Beeley in Derbyshire 53.2063, -1.6037
  • Black Scoter    Goswick in Northumberland 55.7091, -1.8975 (hard when windy)
  • American Wigeon    Caerlaverock in Scotland    54.9771, -3.4821 (also Green-winged Teal on same pond)
  • Ring-billed Gull    Strathclyde Loch in Clyde, Scotland 55.7888, -4.0299 (comes to bread)
  • Hooded Merganser    Barr Loch, Lochwinnoch in Clyde, Scotland 55.7875, -4.6262
  • Surf Scoter    St Andrews in Fife, Scotland    56.3451, -2.8008 (also check off the beach north of here)
  • Ring-necked Duck    Pitlochry in Perthshire, Scotland    56.7081, -3.7385
  • On islands off the Scottish coast there are wintering Cackling Goose (Islay in Inner Hebrides), American Coot (North Uist in Outer Hebrides), Northern Harrier (North Ronaldsay in Orkney Isles), and Killdeer (Shetland Isles), but each will probably take multiple days travelling.
  • The only vagrant Snow Goose (in Lancashire) has gone missing right now, but you might count one at Tittesworth Reservoir in Staffordshire 53.1320, -2.0127 as Category C (it’s not probably not good enough though!)

So, quite a lot. One bird that’s not on the list, was the reported Stejnegers’s Stonechat, a recent IOC split. That’s the bird we went for first, found it. Dang!.

Not Steinegers's Stonechat
Not Stejnegers’s Stonechat

We were told on site that there has been DNA taken from the bird bla bla and it’s rock solid. Apparently the DNA guys had mixed up the samples and it’s just a regular Stonechat – we were told after the twitch. Win some loose some. We also spent a few hours at the Stonechat site (Dungeness) looking for a Ring-necked Duck to no avail.

Went west, towards Poole and tried to find a recently reported Lesser Yellowlegs – again to no avail. Will retry tomorrow morning, the Yellowlegs is too good a bird to leave behind. Same pool as the hiding Yellowlegs we did however connect with our first American tick for the year – a nice male Green-winged teal.

Two really nice birding sanctuaries visited today, lot’s of winter birds, Godwits, Chuffinches, Dunnocks etc.

Dunnock
Dunnock

Tomorrow, we’ll find those Yellowlegs, and then move on towards the Bonaparte’s gull at Exeter.

Goodbye Kuwait

We’re starting to run out of birds here in Kuwait, there is of course the possibility of finding new birds, but currently there is nothing here for us that we can go for. Thus we decided to make our Kuwait stay a bit shorter and go for a twitch tour in the UK, plenty of rarities there at the moment, in articular Dusky Thrush and Pacific Diver

Yesterday we spent all day in Wafra searching. We did find what we believe is the best farm there, Rosemary’s farm residing exactly on the border to KSA. We found an odd looking Yellow Wagtail that got us excited for a short while. yellow-wagtail

The stay here in Kuwait has been fantastic, and we’d like to thank all in the local birding community here for enthusiastic help.

In particular Abdulrahman Al-Sirhan Alenezi who has been invaluable. Check out Birds of Kuwait if you want to plan a trip here. Markus Craig has been fantastic, loads of help and energy, and Omar Alsaheen helped in his calm relaxed way. We’re already looking forward to the return trip here in April.

Crake Day

Today we decided to make an attempt at the crakes, in particular Little Crake should be possible, but also Baillon’s crake should in theory be possible. After less than an hour in the morning, we received an alarm in the WhatsApp group, Markus Craig had Buff-bellied Pipit at the Pivot fields where we yesterday found the Sociable Lapwings. Our first actual twitch was a go. Fast in the car, drive recklessly and arrive at the site – the bird had just been flushed by a Hen Harrier. The Pipits returned and we could tick the Japonicus. One more really good bird pocketed.

Drove back to continue the Crake search and we got fender bended by a Mercedes. Three hours, two police stations and paper trail completed, we returned at Jahra Pool Reserve to continue the Crake search. We decided to split up, and simultaneously search different spots. Erik had good views of a Little Crake at dusk, Mårten and I missed it. We cannot tick it, our rules say that all three must see or hear the bird. We’re going to have to work more on the elusive Crakes.

Also, we’ve decided to attempt photographs of all Snipes. There is always the remote possibility of a Pin-tailed Snipe and to id that safely, we surely need photographs. Lots of Common Snipe in Jahra Pool Reserve.

Common Snipe
Common Snipe

Searched and flushed a Jack snipe, good and semi-hard-to-find bird which we needed.

Jack Snipe
Jack Snipe

 

 

We are golden

Finally, tenaciousness pays off. Birded hard some areas today we knew other birders don’t visit that often. In the afternoon, we went to the famous Sulaibiya Pivot Fields. The area is closed for public access, apparently there were some arguments between the owner of the fields and birders some 5 years ago, and since, no one has access to one of the best birding sites in Kuwait. We decided to walk into the backside of the area and scope. It started out great with 2 Booted Eagles where we stopped the car.

Booted Eagle
Booted Eagle

Walked a gravel area for a few kilometers and Erik shouts PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER. It’s far away, we all scope and then some murmuring … uhh . it has an eyebrow. That’s bad – right. Until Erik again shouts – it’s not Golden Plover, it’s SOCIABLE LAPWING !!

It turns out Erik was right the first time as well, it was two Pacific Golden Plovers and two Sociable Lapwings walking together with a flock of Northern Lapwings. Possibly our best find so far on BYWP. Local birder Mike Pope says Sociable Lapwing is 9th record for Kuwait whereas Pacific Golden Plover is more common.  The pics we got aren’t that great – but with some luck, other birders will try to locate the birds in the next days and hopefully they will get better shots.

Sociable Lapwing flying
Sociable Lapwing flying together with one of the Pacific Golden Plovers
Sociable Lapwing and Pacific Golden Plover
Sociable Lapwing and Pacific Golden Plover

Our birds were clearly smudgy and not white on the underside of the wings during flight, the Oriental Birdclub shows it well. After raising the alarm on local WhatsApp, Omar Alsaheen and Marcus Craig immediately showed up :-) We than tried the south west side of the field, which is where birders usually go. There we found an additional 9 Sociable Lapwings. They are all probably wintering in the fields. Finished off with 4 Richard’s Pipits, a Pallid Harrier and an adult Eastern Imperial Eagle.

Richards Pipip
Richard’s Pipit

 

Where is the Shikra

The Shikra is silently sailing up as our most wanted bird. We have now spent two days searching for it. Yesterday, we spent the morning and more in Jahra Farms. A possible Shikra was reported there. We found a Sparrowhawk that made us excited for a short while. The possible one was also downgraded today to Sparrowhawk.

Today, we spent the afternoon together with Omar Alsaheen searching for two Shikras reported in Abdali Farms to no avail.

We’re confused regarding the id characteristics of Shikra, the coloration of the cheek, the book says blue cheek whereas pictures and Omar says it doesn’t have to be blue … hmmmm. No mature males here, they are easy. Nahh, it seems as the characteristics – “slightly rounded tail” and “thick legs” – are the only reliable ones. So, apart from the bird being rare, it is also disgustingly alike a Sparrowhawk. This will be difficult.

There were older reports of a Shikra in Mutlas Ranch and we think Marcus Craig was searching his local patch (Mutlas Ranch) looking for it today. We’re just going to have to find one ourselves. The only certain Shikras currently reported are the ones in Abdali that we searched for today, they were seen last week by Ouda Al-Bathali.

Al-Abraq

Westernmost point of Kuwait, small oasis by name of Al-Abraq. Again, a classical migrant trap that we will surely visit during our April trip. For quite some time, two Hume’s Warblers have been wintering there. A good bird for us, which with some bad luck we could have missed during the year.

Hume's Warbler
Hume’s Warbler

Together with Marcus Craig, and the Belgian/Danish team we drove straight out into the dessert. Completely barren and flat. Found 4 Temminck’s Lark and 9 Greater Hoopoe Larks. Both dessert species to drool over.

The trick was to look for camel turds or general garbage, that attracts the few birds residing in the barren desert. Beautiful.

Greater Hoopoe Lark
Greater Hoopoe Lark

Mutla Ranch

The very first thing we did this morning was to gather at the Jahla Pool Reserve to have a fresh look at the suspicious Martin found yesterday by Neil Tovey. A bunch of guys. Us three, the group with Belgian birder Joachim Bertrands,  Omar Ashaheen, and Marcus Craig. Omar managed to get good shots with his monster camera, and it unfortunately turned out to be a regular Sand Martin – close but no cigar.

Went to Kabd Reserve, a research station with restricted access. AbdulRahman had arranged the permits. Serious business. Desert shrub area, with a stable population of Black-crowned Finchlark that were easy to find. Joachim Bertrands group found a Finch Wheatear for us, apart from that it was pretty empty there.

North of Kuwait City there is a ranch called Mutla Ranch, it’s situated in the middle of the desert and looks like a crazy good migration trap. It also attracts some wintering birds. Together with Joachim Bertrands and team, we searched the ranch for a couple of hours. Not much activity, but when we return here in April it’ll probably be teeming with migrating warblers. The type of birding where you slowly walk through thickets and search for that rarity is loved by everyone. Mårten Wikström found the gem. Dream species, a roosting Pallid Scops Owl.

Pallid Scops Owl - Dream species
Pallid Scops Owl – Dream species