1 Feb 2012

Steppe Gull (adult winter) - Dhahran Hills

Yesterday when driving towards the percolation pond I noticed a number of large white-headed gulls flying over and saw a couple sitting on the mud at the edge of the pond. As I was driving towards these birds to get better views a single bird flew over the car and landed in the scrubby desert a few hundred metres away. I drove close to the bird and managed to take a few decent photogrpahs of it before it flew off and landed again further into the desert area where I left it in peace. The bird is quite a dark individual and has a very pale eye, which is uncommon for Steppe Gull (Larus barabensis), but not rare. It also has a full black band and four coloured bill reminisant of Armenian Gull but the bill size, shape and non blunt ended tip as well as the wing pattern all point to Steppe Gull. Steppe Gull is generally treated as part of the Lesser Balck-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) complex. For more information on the Large White-headed Gulls that occur in Saudi Arabia click the link Large White-headed Gulls ID
 Steppe Gull (adult winter)
 Steppe Gull (adult winter)
  Steppe Gull (adult winter)
Steppe Gull (adult winter)
Steppe Gull (adult winter)

Other gulls apart from this individual included 350+ Black-headed Gulls, six Heuglin's Gulls & 15 Steppe Gulls on the percolation pond. I spent a good while looking at all these gulls trying to pick out anything different but failed to do so. The site has potential for finding a good gull as plenty of birds use the pond and with a telescope views are good. The only other birds of interest seen on a breif walk around included two Tawny Pipits, six Common Chiffchaffs, 36 White Wagtails, four Eurasian Coots, one Common Moorhen and 1500+ Great Cormorants. The flock of Pallid Swifts has built up to 250+ birds and included amongst them was seven Common House Martins and a single Red-rumped Swallow, which is the first one I have seen since last autumn and is presumably an early returning migrant. To finish off an enjoyable evenings birding a single Eurasin Hobby was seen chasing small birds in the late evening light.

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