Sunday, March 10, 2019

Where in the World?

If I gave you 100 guesses, you would never guess where I am this week. Hints: they love the US military, it's really hot, and the language is Arabic. Answer: Kuwait. Yup. Kuwait. A random work trip popped up and after some careful thought, I said yes. Of course you know that I don't go anywhere without the binoculars and camera. In most places, I am pretty comfortable going birding on my own using eBird hotspots as my guide. Not when I am in a very different culture though. Lucky for me, my friend George knows a birder who lives in Kuwait so I hired him as my guide.

Linda and Mike
Mike is originally from South Africa but transferred to Kuwait for his real job and is now an expert in Kuwait birding. Check out his blog at http://kuwaitbirding.blogspot.com/ for more info. We started the day early and headed north of Kuwait city into the desert to begin our day. Let me tell you, there is NOTHING out there for miles and miles except rocky, sandy desert. And, giant electric power lines.

There are more power lines running through this desert than  I've ever seen in my life. This photo is only one row of them.  The other very interesting thing that fills the desert are huge camping areas. Apparently, the Kuwaitis love to camp on the weekends in winter. Not my idea of camping but . . . 

Camping Kuwaiti Style
Oh, and if your going to be in the middle east in the desert, you gotta make friends with the locals. All I had to do was hold my hand up and this big fella walked right over looking for a handout.

Linda and friend
Kuwait is experiencing a very interesting natural phenomena in the desert. Can you see all of the vegetation in the camel photo? The entire desert is "green" due to rain of biblical proportions in November. The middle east was flooded and the desert came to life with grasses and flowers and - butterflies. We saw a million Painted Lady butterflies - not an exaggeration. They were literally covering the desert on every flower and little tree.

Painted Lady
It was very windy and much colder that I thought it would be in the desert. Glad I had my jacket with me. We finally got to our first birding destination which is a "farm" in the middle of the desert. Mike says that the farm is out here due to a natural spring that allows the farmer to have animals like cows and exotic pets plus trees and vegetables. Our first bird of the day was actually a shorebird - Green Sandpiper which was hanging out at the little man-made pond.

Green Sandpiper
Other birds used the pond for catching dragonflies. Here are 2 different types of wagtails with dragonflies. First is Gray Wagtail.

Gray Wagtail
This one is White Wagtail on the platform that the farmer uses to shoot ducks.

White Wagtail
I know, I know. It gets worse. Here is a Eurasian Kestral dead in a tree. The red flag is used to tether the Kestral to train the other falcons to kill it. Once it is caught, the Kestral is left to die in the tree. This is the trade-off with birding in other cultures. You can't be offended by the property owner's traditions if you want access to the land. Maybe the culture will change in the future. 

Dead Kestral
On a brighter note, one of my target species to photograph is the Eurasian Hoopoe. What a cool bird. We saw about a dozen during the day. I was able to capture a few photos.

Hoopoe
We saw many other birds at the desert farm including a few species of shrikes but the photos are not that great. The birds were pretty far away. I did manage to catch a shot of this Tawny Pipit. Talk about camouflage. We would never have seen the bird if it wasn't perched on a bush at first. Once it hopped onto the ground, it almost disappeared. 

Tawny Pipit
We spent a few hours at the farm and then headed back towards the city to explore other birding spots.