04 December 2011

Heavy Rainfall - Sabkhat Al Fasl

The large amount of rain we have had in the last two weeks has made Sabkhat Al Fasl very wet with all the sabkhat completely submerged in water. Driving around the site was difficult even with a four-wheel drive vehicle as the tracks had become huge puddles of mud. The number of Purple Swamphens at this site makes it hard to believe it is one of only two breeding sites for the species in Saudi Arabia (the other site known as Kahrah Marsh was only discovered earlier this year 25 kilometres south of Jubail) and the bird is rare in almost all Arabian Peninsula countries. Due to the wet nature of the ground passerines were few and far between today with the only real numbers being Water Pipits, although six European Stonechat and four Bluethroat were also seen along the reed edges. The water level was too high on the main shallow water area for any waders although a couple of Little Grebes and two Eurasian Coots were enjoying it. A single European Kingfisher was busy catching small fish as were 23 Western Great Egrets, 28 Little Egret, 50+ Indian Reef Herons and two Squacco Heron.  Great Spotted Eagles were again seen in good numbers with seven birds located including four (three 1st cy and a sub adult) seen together resting on the sabkhat. Unfortunately these birds are very wary and rarely allow close approach and are also out on the soft salt marsh and cannot be approached with the car due to very high risk of becoming stuck. A Western Osprey was also seen in the same area along with 11 Western Marsh Harrier. Waders were plentiful on the newly flooded sabkhat and included a massive flock (for Saudi Arabia) of 357 Pied Avocet. Little Stint where the commonest wader with well over 700 seen. Terns were also present with 10 Caspian Terns and 16 Whiskered Terns which is the highest number I have seen at Sabkhat Al Fasl. What would have been a new Saudi Arabian species for me, Gadwall, was found dead unfortunately, presumably shot as quite a few hunters were about again.

 Little Stint
 Purple Swamphen
 Eurasian Coot
 Little Grebe
 Caspian Tern
 Caspian Tern
 Greater Spotted Eagle
 Little Egret
 European Stonechat (male)
 European Stonechat (female)