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

 

Iraq border

Yesterday AbdulRahman accompanied us to Abdali Farms close to the Iraq border. We had two important target species there, Red-wattled Lapwing and Afghan babbler. Both were relatively easy to find, the Lapwing were hiding during the day, but reoccured in the afternoon in the field where they usually reside. Major bonus species was found too, a few days ago, local birder by name of Ouda Al-Bathali found an Indian Roller which we were also able to relocate.

Indian Roller
Indian Roller

After two days of pretty slow birding, and also just going for birds already found by other birders, we were today eager to bird more actively. We birded parks, and shores close to the city, collecting several easy species. It feels cocky to be able to write that e.g Masked Shrike is easy.

The shores were fantastic, the amount of wintering waders is massive, I know that Oman is supposed to be even better, but I have never before seen this amount of waders before. Thousands of Dunlins, several hundred Broad-billed Sandpipers and best of all, 85 Crab plovers. Finished off the afternoon scanning the flocks of Greater Flamingo, looking for that single Lesser. Apparently the last winters at least one, possibly the same individual, Lesser Flamingo has wintered among the large flocks of Greater Flamingo, and dang, we found it. Apparently it’s the 5th record for Kuwait.

Lesser Flamingo
Lesser Flamingo

This a proper WP rarity.

Lesser Flamingo in the sunset
Lesser Flamingo in the sunset

There is a friendly WhatsApp group that is being used by local birders, the last thing that happened this evening was that a local birder reported a flock of Rock Martins in Jahra Pool Reserve, but among those martins there was one individual that was different, a pale looking martin with gray/brown throat and no breast band – thus tomorrow morning we’ll go hunting for Grey-throated Martin!!!

Persian Wheatear at the Saudi border

Today, our second day birding the full year, we decided to do some primary birding close to the border of Saudi Arabia. The morning was spent in a farming village called Al-Wafra. Birding there was boring and slow, nothing out of the ordinary was found. All farms in the village are closed to the public, so you have to enter, find the proprietor and ask for access. Apart from the poor birding, that worked out nice, people in Kuwait are truly nice and forthcoming.

The afternoon, full focus was on Red-tailed Wheatear, a.k.a the much more exotic sounding name of Persian Wheatear. Finally we found the bird close to a village called  Al-Nuwaiseeb, close to the Saudi border.

Persian Wheatear
Persian Wheatear

Finished off the afternoon, by asking the Arab owner of a posh beach house if we could stand on his rocks and watch the sea. He more than smiled, and also sent his Bangladesh man servant to serve us tee as the sun settled over the gulf as the Pallas’s Gulls were sweeping by.

A tree full of Wagtails

First day, early start this morning with a tree full of White Wagtails roosting in the dark next to the highway, several hundred Wagtails sitting still in the dark. Not how we usually see this lovely species.

We have altogether 16 days of birding here, we will run short of hotspots. Today we decided to to bird an area north of the city, called Jahra.map_of_kuwait

Several nice birding spots there with best called Jahra Pool Reserve. It looks to me as if they let the cleaned water from the city of Al-Jahra just flow into a swamp before it reaches the Kuwait Bay, resulting in a fantastic wetland. This area is closed, but the amazing AbdulRahman Al-Sirhan Alenezi who works as a local bird guide, and runs the BirdsOfKuwait site gratiously stepped up and offered to guide us for free, and also arrange permits to all closed areas.

AbdulRahman
AbdulRahman

So, at dawn we entered together with AbdulRahman and a Belgian team with Joachim Bertrands. Top species in the Pool Reserve were White-Tailed Lapwing, Greater spotted eagle, the fulvescens morph.

Greater spotted eagle, fulvescens morph
Greater spotted eagle, fulvescens morph
White-Tailed Lapwing
White-Tailed Lapwing

Another species that made us jump, although expected there, was the Asian Desert Warbler.

Asian Desert Warbler
Asian Desert Warbler

As well as:

Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear
Little Grebe
Little Grebe

 

 

 

 

 

The afternoon was spent in an agricultural area close to the city of Jahra called Jahra farms. People grow vegetables there in a small scale. Here we found the top species of the day, Crested Honey Buzzard. A rarity, hopefully not the last! Hypocolius is nice too.

Hypocolius
Hypocolius

Altogether 79 species the first day, it might be that we never reach this number of new ticks ever during the remainder of the year. Tomorrow we go south to Al-Wafra, also an agricultural area, this one isolated in the desert. All ticks of today can be seen at our iGoTerra Page. Several good ones not mentioned here.

 

Moving the site

The integration with iGoTerra had some technicalities to it, in particular the integration provided by the iGoTerra team consisted of a <script> tag with inclusion of js code from their site. Beautiful. However, initially this site was hosted at wordpress.com, and they do not allow inclusion of custom JavaScript code for security reasons. Hence, I decided to host bigyearwp.com myself at my private VPS.  The move included DNS domain name transfer and whatnot, anyways we’re  up now and all good. Hopefully I was able to transfer all subscribers too.

 

iGoTerra integration

Finally the iGoTerra integration is finished.  I think it’ll work excellent for us. We’re already publishing this now, both for fun, but also to test the integration.
The checklist that can be seen now is our recent sitings in Stockholm, on Dec 31 the iGoTerra team will zero the list and the game is on.

Here is how it works.

  • We have an iGoTerra account assigned to the project, graciously provided free of charge by the iGoTerra team.
  • We’ll enter everything we see in their pocket app iGoTerra pocket while in the field. This is done offline with the country checklist previously downloaded in the app. This must be done with Internet access.
  • Once we have Internet access, we hit upload on our checklist.
  • Our totals will then automatically appear here live.

The link Follow our list will thus be automatically populated.

Tech details: The iGoTerra team developed a feature for us, whereby a team like ours can get access to the grand total. It’s ideal for e.g a big year. The integration at our end consists of a <div> and the inclusion of a JavaScript snippet from the iGoTerra site. Note: Some hosters do not allow the inclusion of JavaScript in hosted sites, notably wordpress.

 

iGoTerra

Good news, we shall have a very promising collaboration with the iGoTerra team. They have awesome software which specialises  in displaying observations, species, sub species maps, etc. They will help us with the integration between this WordPress site and the feed of observations that we’ll add to iGoTerra. Nice.

igoterra-logo-01-1

Mission statement

Big year in the Western Palearctic

roadrunners
Mårten Wikström, Claes (Klacke) Wikström, Erik Rask

A couple of years ago, the three of us did a birding trip to Texas, all of us had read the book Big Year and we had also thoroughly enjoyed the movie with Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Steve Martin.

When we arrived at High Island with the iconic water tank, the idea of doing a Big Year  in the Western Palearctic was first briefed.

highisland

The US birders have their area, called ABA and they do Big Years in that region. We europeans have a birding area, called WP – Western Palearctic and quite a few european birders maintain a WP list. I do. To our knowledge, no one has ever attempted a full Big Year in the WP region – that is what we’ll be doing in 2017.  New Year will be celebrated in Kuwait city, and on January 1, the hunt is on.

The goal is to see as many bird species as possible in WP during 2017.

What is WP? In short it is Europe extend, in the east it’s bordered by the Urals, ranging into western Kazakstan down to the Caspian sea,

western_palearctic

Northern Arabia, North Africa, all the Atlantic Islands as well as Europe proper.

We will follow the borders as defined by  “BWP” (Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palearctic)

Rules: We will follow the list maintained at http://www.netfugl.dk/wplist.php. As for twitches, we’ll maintain 4 lists. We’ll all have our individual list, however the pulic list here on this site will be the sightings that are shared between all of us.