19 April 2012

First Spring Whinchats - Dhahran Hills

I went birding to the ‘patch’ with a special guest. Abdulla, part of the ringing team in Bahrain, was over in Saudi Arabia and came to see what my local area was like for birding. I picked him up and we went to see what was about. Whilst driving through the scrubby desert area we found two female Eastern Black-eared Wheatears and saw a few European Bee-eaters flying around. We went to the percolation pond but things were very quiet there with the only real good bird being an adult male Little Bittern sitting in the open, but frustratingly always behind reeds from where we were. Seven Great Cormorants were still present which is getting late for them and they will all depart in the next week or so. The acacia trees along one side of the pond held three Eastern Olivaceous Warblers and a Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin. Two male Common Redstarts were darting between the acacia trees and the wire fence surrounding the pond. Small numbers of Common Swift were still on the move through the camp. The Black-winged Kite was still present sitting on its favourite trees next to the pond, so now Abdulla is the only person in the world to have seen Black-winged Kite in Bahrain (where he and Brendan found the first for the country earlier in the year) and in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, where this bird was a first record also.
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (female)

Common Redstart (male)

Next we went to the spray fields were a few Red-throated Pipits were flying around calling with their distinct calls. Five Turkestan Shrikes and six Daurian Shrikes were present including one very interesting looking Turkestan Shrike, which I will post details off later. Two Barred Warblers were in the trees around the edge of the spray fields and a group of six Ortolan Buntings were feeding on the grass seed heads allowing good views. A striking male and less striking female Whinchat were seen perched on the tall grass in the spray fields with these being the first returning migrants of this species I have seen on the camp this year. 
Daurian Shrike (female)

Ortolan Bunting

Whinchat (male)

Lastly we looked around the trees and wet areas on the outside of the pond fence and saw a couple more male Common Redstarts, two Daurian Shrikes and the same male Masked Shrike as I had seen the day before. Here again we saw two more Barred Warblers and another Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin.
Masked Shrike