21 March 2012

Birds of Prey – Dhahran Hills

There was another big dust storm in Dhahran over two days ago and this time it closed all the local schools for two days. The winds were strong (50 km/hr) and blew all day from the north-west and the temperature dropped from 36 degrees Celsius on Friday to 16 degrees Celsius on Sunday. I went out on Monday evening with some hope of good birds being grounded in the Dhahran area but was disappointed to see very few birds on the way to the spray fields. As I approached the percolation pond I saw a large bird of prey in the air, circling in amongst a large flock of Red-rumped Swallows, Barn Swallows and House Martins. This bird looked like a Greater Spotted Eagle but had warm under-wing coverts and breast indicating it was a fluvescens type bird, which is the first time I have seen a bird like this in Saudi Arabia. As soon as this bird had drifted off I located a Western Marsh Harrier quartering the reed beds of the pond and disturbing the few birds that were on the pond.
Western Marsh Harrier

The Western Great Egret was still on the pond looking for food and a single adult male Little Crake showed well in the very thin reeds by one of the fences. A single Spotted Crake and three Common Moorhen were in the only pool left outside the pond and were joined by a Common Snipe and a Grey Wagtail, which are being seen almost daily now. The only other bird of interest whilst walking around the pond was a male samamisicus Common Redstart. I then started walking towards the spray fields and a male Pallid Harrier flew over and towards the field, which is the first one I have seen this year in Dhahran although I saw two birds at Alba Marsh in Bahrain last weekend.
Pallid Harrier (adult male)

Pallid Harrier (adult male)

The Pallid Harrier was soon followed by a female Common Kestrel and it was beginning to look like a few birds of prey may be on the move. This was confirmed when two Eurasian Sparrowhawks and a Eurasian Hobby flew over and late in the evening another Common Kestrel and Eurasian Sparrowhawk were seen at the jebals. Unfortunately there were few other birds associated with the birds of prey, but there is always tomorrow for more things to turn up as the weather has improved though it is still a bit cool.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (adult male)