29 March 2013

A thin scattering of good birds - Dhahran Hills

Birding the ‘patch’ over the last few days has produced a few reasonable birds even though the number of migrants seen has remained fairly low. A walk through the spray fields on 25th March produced nice flight views of Jack Snipe, an uncommon species but I am sure one that is overlooked due to its secretive nature and their linking for damp well-vegetated areas. I saw one in a similar spot a month ago so this may have been the same bird?  Although it is equally as likely to be another bird passing through on passage. A few Red-throated Pipits were flushed from the long grass along with a single Tree Pipit. An Ortolan Bunting on the edge of the spray fields was the first record for me of the species this spring and is quite early for our area where they normally occur in early April. A female Black-eared Wheatear was also seen, making this spring a very good year for the species in the Eastern Province. A single Daurian Shrike, one Turkestan Shrike and at least five Woodchat Shrikes were also in the fields and a Western Marsh Harrier was over the fields and the nearby percolation pond.
Turkestan Shrike
Western Marsh Harrier
The pond had 19 Garganey late in the evening, which is a large count for the area and also four Squacco Herons which was also a good count. Nineteen Western Cattle Egrets remain and a single Little Egret was sitting on one of the floating platforms. A Savis Warbler was reeling in the late evening and a couple of Water Rail were also calling. This year appears to have been exceptional for Savis Warbler in our area with a minimum of four birds in Dhahran and three others at least at Sabkhat Al Fasl. The scrubby desert area held a female Pied Wheatear, two Woodchat Shrikes and a Northern Wheatear. Tawny Pipits are still around in small numbers and a male and female Siberian Stonechat were also present. A few Eurasian Hoopoe are now passing through adding to the birds that are resident in Dhahran and a Common Sandpiper, one Green Sandpiper and two Kentish plover were on the settling pond.
Woodchat Shrike
Northern Wheatear