09 November 2012

Greater Spotted Eagles – Sabkhat Al Fasl

An early morning trip to Sabkhat Al Fasl at the weekend allowed me to see good numbers of Greater Spotted Eagles as numbers are building up for the winter with November the best month for seeing birds of prey in the Eastern Province, either on passage or wintering in the region. Sabkhat Al Fasl is the best place in the Eastern Province for seeing Greater Spotted Eagle and early morning is also the best time. Birds are present in the early morning as some of them appear to spend the night at the site, although more fly in in the early morning from their roost sites elsewhere. As soon as I arrived I saw a single bird sitting on a tree at the edge of the location and another flew over the car as I was making a turn to get to the site. Birds were then seen in numerous places around the location with a minimum of eleven birds seen. In the early morning the birds often rest but normally are very wary and do not allow close approach, but last Thursday was a lucky day for me in being able to approach birds and get photographs. I do not know if this was because it was quite cold (17 degrees Celsius) and the birds were reluctant to fly off or for some other reason. Most birds, as normal, appeared to be first calendar year birds, although at least one adult and a fourth year type were seen. The species is on the IUCN Red List and is classified as vulnerable but many birds winter in the Arabian Peninsula with most records from the better watched areas of the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Winter numbers appear to be increasing throughout Arabia, which is certainly the case in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia with most wintering birds arriving in September and departing by April or early May.