01 May 2012

Spotting Spotted Crakes – Dhahran Hills

The number of crakes seen this year in Dhahran has been very high compared to last year with a large influx of Little Crakes in March, where more were seen in a day than in the previous five years. There has also been a steady stream of Spotted Crakes from March but yesterday I saw 12 different birds including seven on a small flooded area outside the fence of the percolation pond, all of which were feeding out in the open (well some were hiding under some bushes but visible) at the same time. I suspect the higher number of crakes seen this year is due to the fact the reed beds have been cut down last winter and there are less places to hide, combined with the flooded areas outside the main pond making viewing easier also. Anyway, no matter what the reason the number of crakes has been impressive and they are always, in my opinion, good birds to see.
Spotted Crake

The percolation pond remains quiet with only a pair of Little Bitterns and two Squacco Herons of any note. Eurasian Coot and Common Moorhen both have chicks now so have bred successfully again on the pond this year. The last Great Cormorant appears to have left Dhahran now and they will not return to late autumn. There are at least 20 Little Grebes on the pond but no sign yet of nest building unless they have done this out of sight in the reeds? The reeds are holding at least three pairs of Clamorous Reed Warblers this year despite the fact they were completely destroyed late last year and singing males can be heard continually at the pond.
Squacco Heron
 The bushes and trees around the pond had quite a lot of migrants including two Upcher’s Warblers which were the first birds I have seen this year. Two Barred Warblers and four Eastern Olivaceous Warblers were also in the area along with a Common Whitethroat and three Common Redstarts. A single White-Throated Robin and two Rufous-tailed Scrub Robins were in the trees along one edge of the pond and five Spotted Flycatchers were in the same area. European Bee-eaters are still using the pond fence to sit on and allow very close approach and Red-throated Pipits and Yellow Wagtails are still about in small numbers. Shrike numbers have dropped significantly over the last couple of days with one Masked Shrike, one Lesser Grey Shrike, two Daurian Shrikes and two Turkestan Shrikes all that is left. Lastly a Thrush Nightingale was seen under one of the large trees trying to hide itself but eventually gave good views confirming identification as this species rather than Eastern Nightingale.
Red-throated Pipit

European Bee-eater