Winter is generally not thought of as a good time for birds and birding, but Kuwait does definitely have 4 distinct seasons for birds.
During December, almost all of the autumn migrants have departed for their southern wintering grounds and the summer of the southern hemisphere – but they are replaced by a number of species that choose to winter in Kuwait. One of the first birds to arrive is White Wagtail and these charismatic black and white birds can be found all over Kuwait. Often they are seen feeding on the grass in parks and on grass verges next to the road.
Around the same time as the White Wagtail’s are seen, Water Pipits also start arriving in numbers, these are more common along the coast and as their name suggests in areas where there is water like agricultural land and wetlands.
Of course, if you check along the coast you will notice many all black birds, these are the Great Cormorants which arrive in Kuwait in large numbers and are often found on the sea fishing collectively in large flocks. In flight, they fly in a V-formation sometimes quite low over the sea.
In wetland areas, skulking species like Water Rail can be found in the early morning or late in the afternoon before sunset – these are not easily seen and can often be overlooked. Whilst in searching reed bed habitat, especially if the phragmite reeds have full heads of feathers, look out for the diminutive but distinctive Eurasian Penduline Tit’s that are normally found in small flocks.
Gull numbers increase dramatically in winter along the coast with the predominant species being the Common Black-headed Gull and similar in size to our resident Slender-billed Gulls. In any Gull flock, the larger white-headed Gulls will stand out – there are a number of these large Gull species found in Kuwait including; Great Black-headed, Caspian, Baltic, Heuglin’s, Steppe and Armenian Gulls. During the winter, they complete their moult in time for their return to the northern breeding grounds at the start of Spring.
A number of large Raptors are also found in Kuwait during the winter months from the impressive Imperial Eagle to the smaller and equally impressive Greater Spotted Eagle.
In the desert areas, you will find Daurian Shrikes, Asian Desert Warbler along with Desert and Eastern Mourning Wheatears.
Of course, winter and cold fronts can also push a few vagrants and rarities ahead of the front as they look for warmer weather and December was not an exception to this phenomena. One of the treats was a Fieldfare that remained at one site for almost 2-weeks delighting all of the local birders.