Finally the oppressive summer heat is starting to relent and it is becoming a little more bearable to be out throughout the day. It still boggle’s the mind that so many sea and shorebirds choose to breed in Kuwait during the hottest months of the year, but now for these species, the breeding season is over and many of them are preparing to or have already dispersed to their wintering grounds. However along the coast in the south, a few Lesser Crested Terns are still to be found – but the bulk have now left.
Nature is amazing; a couple of weeks after the summer breeders have dispersed, so the migrant birds to the north and west of Kuwait begin to prepare for their mammoth and hazardous journeys to the wintering grounds in the southern hemisphere. Many of these will stop over in Kuwait to rest, replenish and refuel before continuing.
Generally the shorebirds are the first to arrive and these can be found on shorelines and inter-tidal zones along the coast and mudflats of Kuwait. Shorebirds are generally found in mixed flocks foraging and roosting together from the smallest Little Stint up to the larger Whimbrels and Eurasian Curlew with their obscenely long decurved bills. But, there are often Herons, Godwits and the distinctive black and white Oystercatchers amongst the flock.
There are occasionally Gulls and Terns together with the mixed wader flocks, but at this time of year this are predominantly the resident Slender-billed Gulls and the large Caspian Terns together with the mid-sized Gull-billed Terns.
Hot on the wings of the waders, so to speak; the passerines also start arriving – in singles and small flocks with diversity and abundance increasing over the month of September. Eurasian Hoopoes and Western Yellow Wagtails are among the first to arrive and these can often be seen feeding in urban areas and on the grass verges along Gulf Road. The rest then start arriving on-mass – Bee-eaters, Barn Swallows, Wheatears, Shrikes, Flycatchers, Larks, Whitethroats and by mid to late September the eagerly anticipated Raptors start passing through.
The predominant raptor in autumn is the Steppe Buzzard and in amongst these soaring flocks you will find European and Oriental Honey Buzzard, Long-legged Buzzard, an array of Harriers, both medium sized (Booted, Bonelli’s) and large Eagles (Steppe and Imperial) as well as a good numbers of Egyptian Vulture this season. Of course there are also Shikra and Sparrowhawk in the mix to keep the ID skills sharp.
This is truly and exciting time to be in Kuwait if you are either a birder, photographer or both.