03 July 2011

Clamorous Reed Warbler

There are currently a number of Clamorous Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus) in the trees surrounding the percolation pond at Dhahran Hills as well as in the Phragmites reeds at the edge of the pond.  These birds were silent (or absent) whilst the water level was low but now the pond is again full of water (early June onwards) they are singing. There are at least eight singing birds present, although probably a couple more, which are probably breeding here as the habitat looks suitable.

Over the past three decades the species has colonized inland wetlands in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, reaching as far north is Jubail-from its original stronghold in the al-Hufuf area. The birds favour areas of open water and Phragmites and when they become overgrown with reeds, with little or no open water remaining, then the number of Clamorous Reed Warblers decreases and the number of Caspian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus (scirpaceus) fuscus) increases (B.S.Meadows, 2009). The reed beds in Dhahran camp have only just been cleared (2010) and are now starting to re-grow, which are ideal conditions for Clamorous Reed Warbler. It will be interesting to see if the number of Clamorous Reed Warblers decrease as these reed beds grow. The race breeding in both the coastal mangroves and inleand reed beds in Saudi Arabia (and the remaining Arabian peninsula) are (Acrocephalus stentoreus brunnescens)

The ABBA Atlas (Atlas of Breeding Birds in Arabia) says birds breed in various areas of Saudi Arabia, including in mangrove areas at Yanbu on the Red Sea coast but also in very similar habitat to that in Dhahran in the North-west at Tabuk, where the breeding site is a sewage settling lagoon inside a military base. Other inland sites where it breeds in reed beds are Harrat, Khaybar and northern Hijaz as well as other Eastern Province sites where singing males have been noted in good numbers at Jubail and Khafra Marsh. ABBA mentions there may be 800 pairs in the Eastern Province and a few hundred pairs at other inland sites in Saudi Arabia. The coastal and inland populations use different habitat, with those on the coast choosing Black Mangrove Avicenna marina and those inland using Phragmites reeds (Jennings 2010).

The photograph above was taken by Adrian Drummond-Hill (http://www.ajdrummong-hill.co.uk/gallery_214001.html) in a park by Lulu Supermarket, Al-Khobar, Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia in December 2008, which shows that the species is resident in this area. Adrian kindly gave me permission to use his excellent photograph on my website as this species is tricky to photograph well and I have not managed to get and decent shots yet. I would also like to thank Mike Jennings for kindly sending me details of Clamorous Reed Warbler from his recently published Atlas of Breeding Birds in Arabia (Jennings 2010).