31 May 2011

Spur-winged Lapwing

I found a Spur-winged Lapwing in the late evening of 12th May on the edge of the percolation pond. The bird was still present in the early morning of the next day but flew off over the military base at 05:30hrs. I met the only other dedicated birder in Dhahran (Phil Roberts) by the spray fields in the evening of 13th May and told him I had seen the bird that morning but it had flown off. We went back to the percolation pond and fortunately the bird was back in the same area again. We left it there but it was not seen subsequently.
Phil had seen an unidentified Sociable / White-tailed Plover type at the spray fields a week before but we could not find it again. This Spur-winged Lapwing may possibly have been the same bird although if it was, it was not seen for a week even though I was out every morning and evening during that period.

Spur-winged Lapwing is rare in Dhahran and the Eastern Province, with only one previous record in Dhahran a far as I know. The Birds of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia by Bundy, Connor & Harrison (published in August 1989) only has two records and only a couple of other sightings are known to me for this area.

Black Stork - 4th May 2011

I found an immature Black Stork on the edge of the percolation pond duirng a dust storm on May 4th 2011. The bird was distrubed by dog walkers and flew off towards the coast after about ten minutes but I did manage to get a couple of poor shots due to all the dust in the air.

Black Stork is a rare bird in Saudia Arabia with The Birds of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia by Bundy, Connor & Harrison (published in August 1989) only having five records of six birds. There is at least one more record for the Eastern Province which occurred in the same place as this record, a couple of years ago (spring 2009?). This is an example of how dust storms can bring down migrants in the most unlikely places.

30 May 2011

Black-winged Stilts

29/05/2011 – Dhahran Hills
The water level in the percolation pond is rising again after the inflow pipe was opened today.

The number of Black-winged Stilts increased significantly today to the highest total of the year with 30 birds present. These include 8 large juvenile birds which have been raised elsewhere plus the two small young which are growing rapidly.
 The nest with eggs has hatched but I did not see any young as they were probably hiding in the reed fringes. Breeding by Black-winged Stilts on the percolation pond or elsewhere in Dhahran is apparently not a common occurrence although it has happened in a few previous years.
The only other bird of note was a Little Tern flying over. These have been the most regular terns seen this spring but have only been seen on four occasions all being singles with the exception of two on one occasion.

Spring Migration Ending?

28/05/2011 – Dhahran Hills

The spring migration season is coming to an end with very few birds about now. Migrants seen included singles of the following species:-
Lesser Kestrel
Steppe Buzzard
Yellow Wagtail (race - beema)

Rufous Bush Robin (3)
Red-backed Shrike (1st year)
Spotted Flycatcher
European Turtle Dove
Namaqua Dove (3)
A late single Cattle Egret has been in the spray field area for a week.

The water level in the percolation pond is dropping rapidly but still has two breeding pairs of Little Grebe, Common Coot and Black-winged Stilt. One pair of Black-winged Stilt with two small young were first seen on 18th May and a second pair are sitting on eggs. This pair is having a bit of trouble from a Ruppell's Fox (Vulpes rueppellii) which likes to use the area where the nest is to have a sand bath. Many of the Black-winged Stilts using the pond team up with the breading pair to help mob the Fox and rive it away and to date the nest and eggs have not been found and remain intact.
Other birds on or over the percolation pond include:-
Common Moorhen (8)
Squacco Heron (1)
Wood Sandpiper (2)
Kentish Plover (12)
Sand Martin (6)
Barn Swallow (3)
Collared Pratincole (3)

29 May 2011

Unusual Hirundines

A few unusual looking hirundines have been seen over the spray fields and percolation pond in the last week or so. They do not fit any species well and Russ Haselden on Surfbirds forum suggested they could be oiled Sand Martins which fit them very nicely. These birds superficially look like Brown-Throated (Plain) Martin (Riparia paludicola), which is a rare vagrant to the area, and could easily be misidentified as one if only poor views are obtained. Similar looking birds have also been seen in Kuwait and they may be quite a regular sight in the Middle East due to the large oil refineries etc here.
I apologise for the poor photographs, which were taken in late evening light. They do, however, show what the birds look like.