18 January 2013

Pallid Swifts – Dhahran Hills

A trip to the ‘patch’ in the hope of something new in after the cold weather of the last few days produced a surprise in the shape of a flock of 50 plus Pallid Swifts. Although a local breeding species mainly in the desert where they frequent rocky outcrops, caves and fissures, the species is generally absent after this period in the area. In recent years birds have taken to nesting on buildings using ledges to nest against as is the case at KFUPM in Dhahran. Very little is known about their movements after the breeding season, although large numbers are sometimes seen inland over evaporation lagoons. Numbers are scarce in the coastal zones of the Eastern Province with the best counts coming from Abqaiq lagoons and Dhahran percolation pond where small groups are occasionally seen occasionally up to fifty birds. Passage birds are seen in good numbers in March and September. A careful check of the group was made ensuring no Alpine Swifts were present. Trying to photograph the fast moving swifts is difficult and trying to combine this with getting the exposure correct is almost impossible. I have a few shots below showing how difficult it is to correctly judge the exposure of the birds, even if you can get them in the picture. I thought a few duck may have arrived on the percolation pond, particularly as the water levels are so high, but all I could find was the five Gadwall that have been present for the last two weeks. The cold weather and strong north-westerly wind kept most other birds low, with only one Daurian Shrike and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk with its freshly killed Crested Lark prey of note in the spray fields.