20 January 2013

Some good birds – Sabkhat Al Fasl

The cold weather has now been about for almost a week and the temperature at Sabkhat Al Fasl at 06:00 hrs was only 4 degrees Celsius, which is the coolest I have seen in my two years in Saudi Arabia. Even by 08:00 hrs the temperature had only reached 6 degrees Celsius. I thought this cold weather may bring in some good birds, but my birding in the last few days had shown that many birds had moved out and only a few new arrivals had occurred. I arrived at the site at first light and soon found a flock of about 50 White Wagtails. A close look through the flock revealed a nice Citrine Wagtail amongst them, which is a scare bird in the Eastern Province although one I have seen quite regularly since I have been in the country and is probably really an uncommon visitor. They are always nice to see and this one was in quite good plumage as well. After seeing the Citrine Wagtail I went to the concrete bunded area where I had seen a 2nd Calendar Year Common Gull two weeks before in amongst a large group of Common black-headed Gulls and Large White-headed Gulls (LWHG). A large flock of similar gulls was present and after looking through them carefully a few times, as they were very flighty and constantly being disturbed by the local Marsh Harriers, I found the 2nd Calendar Year Common Gull, and amazingly found another one of the same age nearby. These are only the eighth and ninth records for the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Egrets seemed to be quite common with 68 Western Great Egrets, 50+ Indian Reef Herons and 15 Squacco Herons. Terns are thin on the ground in mid winter but Gull-billed Terns are still seen occasionally as was the case today with at least three birds seen. Purple Swamphens are now being seen more regularly with at least seven birds seen. This may be due to restricted number of people at the site at present as the building work on the water pumping station has finished and it is too cold for the fishermen and hunters. Talking of hunters, only two duck were seen and these were both Eurasian Teal. Western Marsh Harriers were present in good numbers as normal with at least 11 seen including one immature male. Five Greater Spotted Eagles were also seen all of which were 2nd Calendar Year birds with the exception of one Adult. Waders included plenty of Dunlins, Common Ringed Plovers and Little Stints with lesser numbers of Common Greenshank, Common Redshank and Greater Sandplover and over 300 Pied Avocets was a reasonable count for the site. Passerines were few and far between with two Daurian Shrikes, eight Tawny Pipits, 50+ Water Pipits, of the race coutelli, five Eurasian Skylarks and three Siberian Stonechats.
Citrine Wagtail
Squacco Heron
Gull-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Greater Spotted Eagle
Purple Swamphen
Tawny Pipit
Siberian Stonechat
Water Pipit