06 March 2012

Crakes, Crakes & more Crakes - Dhahran Hills

Birding the percolation pond and flooded surrounding trees was very productive on 4th March. The weather had been very poor with strong winds, cold temperatures and large amounts of dust in the air for a week previously. On Friday the weather cleared and wind dropped, but I was ringing in Bahrain for most of the day and only managed to get to the pond briefly but saw two Little Crakes with a third crake (unidentified) flying across whilst I was watching the first two. The next day was again very windy but the 4th of March although still a little windy was clear. The hope was the poor weather had caused a few migrants to be grounded in the Dhahran Hills area and I was not to be disappointed. The pond itself held few birds of note with the exception of a group of 87 Western Cattle Egrets and a single Western Great Egret. A Western Marsh Harrier flew over and disturbed what birds were present on the pond.
Western Marsh Harrier

I then went to explore the bushes to see what may have arrived.and as soon as I got to a wet corner I saw a Little Crake run across and into the bushes. I then met Phil and we both went to have a look for the bird which was soon relocated in a small opening. The bird was a female, and it kept disappearing from view and then all of a sudden there was a smart male Little Crake in the place of the drabber looking female. Plenty of Common Chiffchaffs were jumping around the small bushes and a couple of Bluethroats were seen and heard in the same area. A minimum of 50 Red-rumped Swallows & 50 Pallid Swift were flying around with a single Common House Martin and single Barn Swallow amongst them. It looked like the poor weather may have grounded a few migrants. Phil had just come from the spray fields and reported a Woodchat Shrike and a few Tawny Pipits in the area, so we continued around the pond to see what else was present. As we got to the other side where there are more wet flooded areas we saw two more Little Crakes feeding together with a third small crake flying across the water at the same time. A Common Quail was flushed from the track and a Grey Wagtail was also seen. Whilst looking at the Little Crakes a Spotted Crake walked out of cover and around the back of the area and whilst trying to get better views of this Spotted Crake a second Spotted Crake was seen much closer underneath a Tamerisk bush making four Little Crakes, two Spotted Crakes and an unidentified small crake all in a single evening. So much time was spent looking at the birds that it was almost dark but there was still time to see a Little Bittern fly into the reeds to roost. Whilst walking back to the car I flushed an Egyptian Nightjar from the bushes and two Eurasian Teal and two Northern Shoveller flew into the pond.