27 November 2011

European Golden Plover - Sabkhat Al Fasl

At Sabkhat Al Fasl on Thursday 24th November at the end of our mornings birding we could not get to the end of our normal track due to the very high water levels. This meant we had to stop about two thirds of the way down the track as the path was soft and full of water and we did not want to get the car stuck in the mud. I had a quick scan of the waders that where gathered on the water's edge and saw a Golden Plover type. Pacific Golden Plover is the most common Golden Plover to occur in Saudi Arabia, but even that is scarce with very few recent records, so I got my telescope out to have a look as it was quite distant. Eventually we decided to walk down the track to see if we could get better views of the bird and if possible take some photographs. As luck would have it we got close and got a few reasonable pictures and from close range and also in flight it became apparent the bird was a European Golden Plover. The white auxiliaries are obvious from a couple of the photographs. The only records of European Golden Plover in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia are three birds said to be this species at Dhahran Airport present from November through to February 1973-74. One in partial summer plumage in Al Khobar on 29th April 1978 and one at Qatif 17th November 1981. I also saw an adult in summer plumage at Saihat on 29th July 2011 and am yet to see a Pacific Golden Plover although Phil has seen one in the spring in summer plumage at Sabkhat Al Fasl a couple of years ago. The species is rare throughout the Arabian Peninsula with the following records noted. It is interesting to see that Qatar had their first records the day before we saw our bird (Qatar is +/- 500 hundred kilometres south of Jubail).
Qatar - Two birds on 23rd November 2011
Bahrain - Rare visitor December to March
Oman - Rare migrant & winter visitor
UAE - Former vagrant, now considered rare winter visitor late September to April
Kuwait - Vagrant (8 records - all since 2007)