Wednesday 28 January 2015

Al Braq Oasis farm

On Saturday I had a full dawn-until-dusk birding day in Kuwait thanks to Markus Craig who hosted me.

Markus is a Kuwait-based birder who drove me first to Al Braq. This is an oasis in the west of the country close to the Saudi border.

The surrounding countryside is arid and almost completely barren. We couldn't certainly say we saw any thing other that desert wheatear and house sparrow. 

That is even more reason the oasis itself is a magnet for birds. It is privately owned and has been landscaped into a reedy pool, woodland, an array of horticultural plots and some cattle sheds. Each component area has its own bird life.

corn bunting

We spent much of our time near the horticultural plots and for good reason. The highlight there was a grey-necked bunting which was associating with a group of eight corn bunting. Markus has some record shots but I sadly don't. It took us some time to identify it but I noticed on the ebird database that it had been seen the day before there by another observer. This species migrates from south east Turkey to India and back so it is a little surprising it is still a vagrant in Kuwait. The bird was also incredibly early for spring migration unless it decides to stay a while.


Also at the plots was a single brambling which has been around for much of the winter. This was one of several birds seen at the farm which are from the north and very rarely seen in other parts of the Gulf.

European stonechat

A European stonechat was observed in one of the fallow plots.

common redstart

Another sign of early migration was a common redstart. A black redstart was also seen near the cow sheds.

water pipit

I saw two types of pipit in the plots. There were both tree pipit and water pipit.

crested lark

Crested lark was pretty much expected at a location like this and it obliged.


Hoopoe were seen in the plots and on the edges of the woodland.

white wagtail

I think all parts of the gulf which aren't desert have white wagtail at the moment.

cattle egret

At least, three cattle egret have made the oasis their home this winter.

house sparrow

There was no sign of Spanish sparrow but house sparrow were in evidence near the workers accommodation and the cattle sheds.


The pool was not so productive on the day except for chiffchaff there and in the surrounding trees. These trees were the only place we had white-eared bulbul at the oasis.

The woods were very interesting though.

disappearing sparrowhawk

My one disappointment there was a sparrowhawk which flew off into the middle distance as we arrived.

mistle thrush

Otherwise the woods housed several species of northern winterers which are often difficult to see elsewhere. There were at least two mistle thrush, a song thrush and a male blackbird.

two mistle thrush

There was also a European robin

Given the farm is so close to the Saudi border it must give an indication of species that can be found in far northern Saudi Arabia in winter. I saw four birds in Al Braq not on my Saudi list.

As the birding was so good we stayed well in the afternoon before moving on. Our second stop was Jahra pools which also proved to be fascinating. I will blog about that next.


  1. Interesting stuff. I've seen Grey-headed (I knew it as Grey-necked) Bunting twice in the extreme east of Turkey, first near Hakkari and then at Dogubeyazit, very close to the Iranian border, about 20 years ago. I think Kuwait has had one or two before but it's not been seen in the UAE AFAIK. Al-Abraq is a great place but blighted by indiscriminate shooting of migratory birds - the family who own the farm either tolerate it or participate in it.

  2. Andrew, I will change the name to grey-necked. BTW Clements/ebird call it grey-hooded. As for the farm at least they allow birders entry. Kuwait has a big problem with shooters all over as you know Rob

  3. Grey-headed seems to be a legitimate alternative name.

  4. Yes, shooting is a huge problem. No other Gulf state seems to do this to the same degree. I've seen so many maimed birds just left to die - so heartless. What's more, the "people" who shoot are fiercely defensive of their right to do so. I read that UK birder Lee Evans had all four tyres shot out on his rental vehicle when he confronted some of the shooters. One memory of Al Abraq one spring day was picking up as many birds dead as seeing them alive. That's why I have mixed memories of the place.

  5. Hi Rob, Interesting Blog - Thanks for sharing. The photo of the disappearing Sparrowhawk looks rather like a Kestrel - dark wing-tips, warm brown upper-parts and long wings. Did you capture any other images? NPW

  6. Thanks for your interest in the blog. My memory isn't perfect. However I don't recall any kestrel. I didn't identify the sparrowhawk by its photo but by sight and with Markus Craig with me. Sometimes a poor photo is counter-productive.