03 September 2012

Migration in progress - Sabkhat Al Fasl

Although Sabkhat Al Fasl was busy on Friday it produced a number of good birds as migration was much more evident here than in Dhahran. A few flocks of birds were seen with 23 Northern Shoveller & 21 Eurasian Wigeon flying over. Another group of about 20 duck was located out on the main sabkha in the only area of water, and after looking through the telescope some oddly plumaged birds were noted not really resembling any particular species but including bits of Eurasian Teal and Mallard. It was then I saw a hunter sitting behind some reeds and these were his duck decoys. I hope nothing flew in and joined them, and luckily the duck flocks I saw were at the other end of the site. Two large flocks of Purple Herons were seen with one in the reeds totaling 26 birds and a second group in flight in another area totaling 20 birds, which are the largest flocks I have seen of this species so far in Saudi Arabia. Another large flock of birds flying over was 125 Wood Sandpipers with many other birds seen including small flocks on the ground of up to 15 birds. Green Sandpiper numbers were also high with over fifty seen in the main scrape area. Barn Swallow and Sand Martin numbers were both over 100 birds and many were using the reeds as convenient resting places.

Sand Martins

Other migrants included three White-winged Terns and two Whiskered Terns with 50+ resident Caspian Terns still present along with a few Little / Saunder’s Terns and 10 White-cheeked Terns, which have decreased in numbers significantly over the last few weeks. Eurasian Hoopoes, which only occur here on migration, were seen in a number of locations as were Yellow Wagtails with well over 100 birds seen flying over calling and in the reeds. I found an area of water where spray from one of the main water inlet pipes to the area was producing small wet puddles which was favoured by five Yellow Wagtails including a male thumbergi and an Eastern Yellow Wagtail. These birds allowed close approach as they were concentrating on drinking and enjoying the cooling spray in the heat of the day, and as a result gave me some more much needed practice with my new big lens with the best photographs shown below.
Yellow Wagtail (thumbergi)

Eastern Yellow Wagtail
Sabkhat Al Fasl is normally a good site for shrikes and as I had found a Turkestan Shrike in Dhahran a couple of days before I was hoping for some good shrike action. A did see two nice adult male Red-backed Shrikes but no sign of any other species which was a bit disappointing. The last interesting migrants that I saw, on the way out of the site, was three Collared Pratincoles including two juveniles and an adult. If there had been fewer disturbances, I would have had a really good day but I did see some good birds even if not under the most enjoyable of circumstances with too many fishermen and hunters present. Thursday is a much better day to go as many of these people are still at work and only get Friday off.

Collared Pratincole - juvenile)