22 Mar 2013

Lesser Short-toed Larks – Dibdibah near Qaryat Al Ulya


Whilst looking for migrants at the weekend Phil and I drove off-road looking for Bar-tailed Desert Lark or anything else we could find. Birding the Dibdibah, which are large expanses of gravel/stone sandy areas is hard work with very few birds seen. If you do see something, though, it is often a good quality bird. We found a small group of larks that kept us busy trying to identify them and it turned out that they were mostly Lesser Short-toed Larks with two Greater Short-toed Larks in amongst them. Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizards are common in this habitat and an Arabian Toad-headed Agama was also seen. The only other birds of note seen in the Diddibah were an adult male Lesser Kestrel and a few Pied Wheatears. 
Lesser Short-toed Lark
Lesser Short-toed Lark
Lesser Short-toed Lark
Lesser Short-toed Lark
Greater Short-toed Lark
Greater Short-toed Lark
Whilst driving over the stony desert we came across a very large set of pivot irrigation fields where I noticed what appeared to be a large flock of Plover in flight that quickly landed. Views were poor due to distance but we decided to go and check them and the field they landed in out for birds. Any large plover in the Eastern Province is a good bird, but unfortunately the birds turned out not to be plovers but a group of 20+ Ruff. A wet pool in the field and others along the road produced ten species of waders which is very good for a desert area many kilometres from the nearest coast. Waders seen included ten Black-winged Stilts, two Common Ringed Plovers, 30 Ruff, eight Kentish Plovers, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, six Common Redshanks, two Common Greenshanks, two Marsh Sandpipers and ten Little Stints. The pivot field held numerous species of birds many in good numbers including 100+ Black-headed Wagtails, 10+ Red-throated Pipits and 100+ Eurasian Skylarks. Some larger and bulkier larks also flew over in small groups of up to ten and these birds turned out to be my first records of Bimaculated Lark for Saudi Arabia. We saw a minimum of 40 birds in total. A small group of eight Spanish Sparrows were my first ones of the year and whilst walking out of the field Phil and I flushed a Grasshopper Warbler. This acted like a typical Grasshopper Warbler in only flying a short distance and ditching down in the cover. We walked to where it had landed but I knew they ran fast on the ground and it would be some way off and likely running through the cover. We luckily found the bird again doing as I had suspected before losing it in the greenery. This is a good bird for Saudi Arabia and one Phil had not seen before, but which I had fortunately seen in Dhahran in March 2012. They are presumably reasonably regular in the region just very difficult to see. On the way home we stopped at Jebal Nayriyyah produced Desert Lark, Pied Wheatear and Desert Warbler. We ended up seeing 55 species of birds on our trip, in 15 hours in the field, and had an excellent days birding.
Tawny Pipit
Asian Desert Warbler





1 comment: