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Kuwait Bird Watchers soar to new heights on Global Big Day

156 species of birds sighted in Kuwait in one day

KUWAIT: eBird is jointly coordinated by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and National Audubon Society and is a real-time, online checklist program that has revolutionized the way the international birding community reports and accesses information about birds.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology arranges two Global Bird Days each year to coincide with spring (May) and autumn (October) migration. Tens of thousands of bird watchers around the world use eBird to log the birds they see, where and when they are birding.

The objective of the Global Big Day is to concentrate and condense the birding efforts of bird watchers around the world into 24-hours. In October 2018, birders globally racked up an incredible 6,331 species on a single October day, this out of an estimated total of 10,000 species worldwide.

On 19th October this year, a small, dedicated and hardy group of local and ex-pat birders decided to put Kuwait firmly on the birding map for this Big Day. Why? Kuwait is important to both local and international birdwatchers, with an impressive list of 413 species found here. It is part of the South Western corner of the Western Palearctic and is also on one of the major South West/North East migration flyways.

Annually, many birders visit Kuwait to observe some of our special birds – birds that are traditionally more difficult to see elsewhere in the region – and are often guided by local birdwatchers.

For October Big Day 2019, a coordinated plan to cover all the known and accessible birding sites in Kuwait was put in place (sadly one of the more important sites, Sabah Al Ahmad Natural Reserve (SAANR)), is not accessible to birders for reasons unknown, but we had contingency plans for this.

Most of us were at our sites before sunrise and the race against time was on. We kept in touch with each other with our sightings through WhatsApp and worked each site hard, before moving to the next one. At times, visiting a specific site for just one species, like House Crow in the Free Trade Zone.

Some of our team covered just one key site, for a short while, or for several hours, while a few pushed through from sunrise to sunset, covering multiple locations. By the end of the day, the dedicated and combined efforts resulted in the highest total ever for a single days’ birding in Kuwait – 156 species. In the end, the results and global ranking for the participating GCC countries are as follows, with Kuwait emphatically in first place; Kuwait (156 total species recorded; 38 worldwide), UAE (133 species; 49 worldwide), Saudi Arabia (44 species; 115 worldwide), Oman (33 species; 129 worldwide), Qatar (12 species; 136 worldwide), and Bahrain (10 species; 140 worldwide).
We managed to record 37 percent of Kuwait’s total species in just a single day, an impressive feat!

Kuwait has an impressive list of birds that they can and should be proud of and of which should be better protected, especially during migration. Kuwait should see themselves as custodians by giving them safe passage when they stop to rest and refuel before continuing their arduous migration journeys twice a year, every year.

By Mike Pope

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