08 May 2012

Eurasian Spoonbill – Sabkhat Al Fasl

A very early start to get to Sabkhat Al Fasl for first light was rewarded with a sighting of an adult Greater Spotted Eagle. It is now getting quite late for Great Spotted Eagles as the breeding birds have all left for their breeding grounds to the north-east. Last year there was still a 2nd calendar year bird present in July & August indicating summering and it will be interesting to see if birds are seen again this summer. Birding was not very pleasant at Sabkhat as the temperature was 42 degrees Celsius and there were thousands of Horse Flies about that find it easy to bite through tee-shirts and thin trousers. This meant I spent much of the time locked in the car out of the heat and away from the flies but meant I will probably have missed a few birds. The main flooded sabkha area had a few waders including 50+ Ruff, 500+ Little Stint, 500+ Curlew Sandpipers, 100+ Dunlin and a few Black-winged Stilts and ten Kentish Plovers. Six Caspian Terns were resting in the heat of the day out on the sand banks and Saunder’S Little Terns were feeding up and down the water’s edge. The best birds seen along the edge of the flooded sabkha were three Collared Pratincoles, one of which looked slightly paler and smaller than the other two, with a very poorly marked underwing (white-traileing edge to the wing was very thin and hardly noticable) but otherwise appeared to be a Collared Pratincole - see photogrpahs below. These are the first birds I have seen for a month or more when I saw a large flock at the same site.
Collared Pratincole

Collared Pratincole - underwing
Kentish Plover - male

Migrants were thin on the ground but a nice adult male Red-backed Shrike was seen in the bushes on the way into the site and a female Northern Wheatear was catching the flies by one of the main water inlet pumps. A few Willow Warblers were jumping around the bushes but not much else was visible. The main lake of the site still had 22 juvenile Greater Flamingoes, two adult White-winged Terns and an adult Whiskered Tern. Common Moorhen numbers were in the 500+ range with hundreds of newly fledged youngsters with their parents. There were a few waders present including a summer plumaged Spotted Redshank, three Wood Sandpipers, two Temminck’s Stints and a Little Ringed Plover. The best bird seen along this stretch of the site was an adult Eurasian Spoonbill. These birds were recorded as scarce visitors to the Eastern Province in Bundy et al Birds of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia (1989) with only fourteen records. I have now seen at least 14 birds myself so I assume the status of the species has changed from a rare to scarce visitor.

Eurasian Spoonbill - adult

Spotted Redshank in summer plumage (right) & Wood Sandpiper (left)