Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Nature Visit to Kuwait in late September

Kuwait City from the Port Area, note that most of these buildings have been created after the war; plus 16 kilometers of the shoreline is accessible on a coastal corniche with many opportunities to see beach wildlife.

September 2012

Mid and late September is actually a good time to visit Kuwait to see nature - who could have imagined??? Temperatures had dropped a little - and the humidity was very low compared to others GCC states further south. And the bird migration is in full swing- hundreds of buzzards, hawks, harriers, eagles on some days. Other days are birdless- but worthy of exploration. We visited, and spent some time in nature here. You need to get up really early to go out into the desert - but it pays off. Aris and I celebrated our new book release with Nancy, Mike and Graham. Local birders and conservationists were so hospitable: Mohammad Al-Kanderi showed us some real Kuwaiti hospitality out on the hummock dunes near Jahra. Ali Alhafez and friends helped us explore the "inner city". The experts at the Kuwait Aquarium and at Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research took us behind the scenes. KEPS staff and volunteers met with us and took us to their facilities. Ichthyologist extraordinaire Dr. Jim Bishop guided us on the mudflats of Kuwait Bay. Another friend took us out to sea. Pekka Fagal took us up to the Iraqi Border to see Babblers......With other friends we met to talk about environmental education, marine issues and how to help stop shooting and poaching. Again, we feel so much gratitude to the Kuwaitis and expats who treated us as friends.

Aris Vidalis and Mohammad enjoying Arabic coffee and dates on the mini-dunes, just an hour's drive outside the city.
These footprints at Jahra Pool Reserve are from poachers looking to catch birds they have shot on morning forays.

With friend from the Environmental Protection Authority being guided out to Jahra Pool Reserve. 
Jahra Pool Reserve - more water means more reeds, not always perfect habitat. So habitat management is really something very important here. We talked about this a lot.
Aris doing some fantastic work out on the very muddy mudflats. You could easily find dozens of mud skippers of at least two species. It was a highlight of our fish-watching experience in Kuwait.
Dr. Bishop helping a Greek naturalist out to the mud at Kuwait Bay mudflats. This place was swarming with mud skippers and birds. 
Jahra East Outfall. An amazing wetland area that is largely slated for development. These are tidal creeks full of fish and birds - many waders coming in to roost here at high tide.
Expert bird-guide Pekka showing us around the Northeast corner of the country. Local birders know how and where to find birds and they know the problems birds are facing here in fine detail.
Mutla Ranch way to the northwest of Jahra. One of the little-known oases that are great for migrant birds some days. 

A dead sparrow. Shot for "target-practice" by locals who drive by in huge SUVs and target anything accessible in the air.
This is a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater: We found it exactly like this - shot and  impaled in a tree within a  farm's wind-break, somewhere north of Kuwait Bay.
Steppe Buzzards found in one of the farms. Kuwait is one of the few countries in the Middle East were the slaughter of migrants is so commonplace still. Here in Greece we still recall when buzzards were rare because of this kind of senseless shooting.
Close-up of the Steppe Buzzard - in the early autumn thousands of these birds pass through the country flying southward.
Confiscated decoys found by the EPA manager of Jahra Pool Reserve. You don't easily see ducks so close-up in Kuwait!!! Same problem was endemic in Greece a few years back.
We visited the Aquarium - the manager and curator and his team are wonderful people. They had a bunch of sea turtles that had been entrapped in power-stations and fishing gear. They will soon be released out to sea again. 
Divers ready to clean the big tank - no fear of the Sharks.
Sand Tiger from South Africa - a rather BIG idividual. The Aquarium at the Kuwait Scientific Center is on of the largest in the region - it needs to be supported and promoted as a treasure of Kuwait!
Dates. The ones on the right are freshly picked and are the tastiest. Sorry I didn't buy any - have to go back in Autumn again.
Protection of the vegetation as Sabah Al-Ahmad Reserve. The effects of the fence are obvious. Good work Kuwait!
Desert landscape near Jahra. Very interesting low rock formations.  This place on the coast near Jahra is unprotected  - it is called Quaisat Villas - I particularly liked the combination of hummock dunes, abundant camels, tiny water puddles and the grand Kuwait Bay mudflats nearby...
A Bedouin's camp out there, somewhere. The tree is "overgrazed" by the camels.
This is what camel overgrazing looks like on the hummock dunes outside Jahra somewhere. The  numbers of camels has increased in the last decade.
Landscape change comes in many forms. This is one problem in Kuwait, lots and lots of power-lines on gigantic pylons. Is it a necessity or a monstrosity?
Look at the fantastic beachfront habitat with fabulous mudflat near the Port of Kuwait. Rapidly developing Kuwait is very close at becoming a very beautiful city - it needs a little-more nature/humans interface. Plenty of opportunities we think.
Sometimes, some people care about birds and are aware of the bird shooting problem. This is in Khiran, near  the southeastern part of Kuwait.
All I need is a snorkel, flippers and a tropical sea - I think. However without the good friends and friendly locals you cannot easily do this in the northern Arabian Gulf. 
Happy times on the Sea. The Arabian Gulf is like paradise backed by ta flaming dry desert and a largely industrialized coastline.  
Visibility was about 4 m. at Khiran. This is low-visibility conditions during this time perhaps due to the sediments of the Delta Plume or from the shrimp trawling disturbance of the depths. 
Ok, this may be "wonderful fun" but sometimes the young men on the technology can be a  nuisance.
Here we see one of the young men on a Jet Ski swerving at lightning speed near a family with children - for fun!
Friends Anand and Aris at one of our most interesting snorkeling spots at our outing at Khiran. I counted about 14 fish species in a few minutes in this area - the water had less then 2 m. visibility with there was a strong tidal current. But lots of fish....
The Environmental Education Center for Students in Kuwait City.  A new initiative that may help inspire awareness.

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