16 March 2012

Crakes still around – Dhahran Hills

The last couple of evenings down the ‘patch’ have produced a few good birds. There are still a lot of crakes around the wet areas and on the percolation pond itself. Yesterday I saw four Spotted Crakes feeding together out in the open as well as at least two other birds, one on the pond and another at a different wet area on the other side of the pond. Three Little Crakes were also seen with two being females and one a male, one on the pond and two together in a wet area. I have no idea as to how many birds are involved but there is a minimum of five Spotted Crakes and five Little Crakes. This has been an exceptional year for crakes in Dhahran as can be told by the fact an active birder who has lived and bird-watched in the area for more than 20 years had not seen one until this year. The scrubby desert area has a few wheatears including two Northern Wheatears, four Isabelline Wheatears and a single Pied Wheatear. Tawny Pipits have become more obvious so I am assuming that the resident wintering birds have been joined by a number of migrants?
Spotted Crake
Tawny Pipit

A drainage ditch on the way to the pond had a Common Snipe and a Grey Wagtail, numbers of which are both increasing slowly. Other Pipits seen included a small group of six Red-throated Pipits some in full breeding plumage, which look fantastic. They are not so easy to photograph as they are always very flighty, but give their distinctive call when disturbed, which is always nice to hear. A single Grey-headed Wagtail thunbergi was present in one weed rich corner feeding alongside a single Greater Short-toed Lark. I have not seen either of these types of bird in the camp this spring showing birds are still slowly moving through.
 Grey Wagtail
Red-throated Pipit

Shrikes are still around in good numbers with Woodchat shrike being seen in much larger numbers than last year withthe two photogrpahs below of two different birds. I saw a minimum of five birds as well as a single Turkestan Shrike and two Daurian Shrikes. Most of these birds were seen in the bushes and trees around the spray fields which were full of Common Chiffchaffs with well over 100 birds seen each day. The number of Swifts and Swallows has decreased significantly over the week with only 15 Common Swift and 31 Red-rumped Swallows still left, mainly over the spray fields.
 Daurian Shrike
 Woodchat Shrike
Woodshat Shrike

The pond itself is still fairly quiet, although the Western Great Egret has returned. The Great Crested Grebe and Squacco Heron are both still present, along with six Black-winged Stilts but few other birds of note are present. Although Black-winged Stilts have been passing through the area for the last two weeks these are the first birds I have seen this spring in the camp. Two Clamorous Reed Warblers were seen well in the reeds at the edge of the pond and a couple of Caspian Reed Warblers were also calling from the reeds along with a Bluethroats which have increased in numbers. A single male White-spotted Bluethroat showed well out in the open at the edge of the Spray fields and a group of 29 Northern Shoveller flew over and circled around a couple of times but did not land.