28 March 2013

Another new Saudi Arabian Species - Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm (Fadhili)

Phil and I visited Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm at Fadhili and before entering the site we found a wetland area at the side of the road. We went to check this and found a Greater Hoopoe Lark at the side of the road. The bird sat on a dead stick and started to sing and once carried out its parachuting song flight. A smaller wetland area had Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and Wood Sandpiper as well as two Black-winged Stilts and a singing Clamorous Reed Warbler. After gaining permission from the manager of the farm we went in to do some birding. This site has excellent cover in the form of many large trees as well as several large pivot irrigation fields and some wetland areas making it a truly great birding site. You need permission to enter and have to pass through a locked and guarded gate to get in and out of the site. We checked a stubble field on arrival and found several Eastern Black-eared Wheatears and a Siberian Stonechat in the field. Pied Wheatears were common with about 75 birds seen throughout the morning. A few Northern Wheatears were also present and a single male Spanish Sparrow was seen in the area.
Greater Hoopoe Lark
Siberian Stonechat
Shrikes were plentiful with Daurian and Turkestan being the most common followed by Woodchat and then Mauryan (Steppe) Grey Shrike. The large wetland area had very few birds with a few Greater Cormorants but interestingly two summer plumaged Black-necked Grebes. A few Little Terns were also flying around this area and a Glossy Ibis and four Little Egrets were also present. The only birds of prey seen were two Eurasian Sparrowhawks and an Asian Desert Warbler was seen in the srubby desert. This site is proving to be the most reliable sites for seeing the species in the Eastern Province. A tree line along a track had Common Redstart and a female Semi-collared Flycatcher well hidden in the thick scrub which was a new bird for Saudi Arabia for me. This is an uncommon migrant to the Eastern Province with most birds seen being males and mid-March to April being the peak passage period.
Turkestan Shrike

The pivot irrigation fields further down had plenty of birds including Red-throated Pipits, Tawny Pipits, three Eastern Black-eared Wheatears of the form melanoleuca, Eurasian Skylarks and good numbers of Greater Short-toed Larks. A Common Quail was flushed from the cover and flew off, a Grey Wagtail was on a wet area in one corner of the field and up to 30 Pied Wheatears were also around. A Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin at the edge of the field was only the second one I have seen in Saudi Arabia this year.
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear
Pied Wheatear - male

A female Blue Rock Thrush was seen perched in a tree on the way to one of the pivot irrigation fields and gave reasonable views. This was a species we were not thinking of seeing at the site, but more amazingly we found a second bird, this time an adult male, in a tree on the way out of the site.
Blue Rock Thrush - male