17 March 2013

Excellent day – Sabkhat Al Fasl

The midweek trip to Sabkhat Al Fasl turned out to be a very good few hours birding. This is a good time in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia with many migrants passing through and this is a good site for attracting them. As already posted it was excellent for shrikes with Mauryan (Steppe) Grey Shrike, Turkestan Shrike and Daurian Shrike all present. A few Large White-headed Gulls were present but much reduced from the previous visit. A number of gulls were dead in the area they have been using and I am not sure if they had been shot or died of something else. This was presumably putting the birds off from using the area now and all that was left were 20+ Steppe Gulls. The only other birds here were a few Caspian Terns sitting around and flying about looking for food.
Steppe Gull
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Just behind this area a Savi’s Warbler was in full song at first light. Further along where a few bushes flank one of the concrete bunded areas lots of warblers were flitting about. They appeared to be all Common Chiffchaffs until I caught sight of a larger warbler in a low bush. After a bit of time trying to get some decent views of the bird it turned out to be an Eastern Orphean Warbler which is the first time I have seen this species at the location.
Eastern Orphean Warbler
A close inspection of the reed beds and the wet areas nearby produced three male White-spotted Bluethroats and more Common Chiffchaffs. Here there were plenty of Clamorous Reed Warblers and Graceful Prinia in full song as their breeding season is now well underway. Eurasian Hoopoe was also feeding along the wet edges in this area.
Graceful Prinia
Eurasian Hoopoe
The scrubby desert area behind the main reed beds also held plenty of birds including Siberian Stonechat, Tawny Pipit and Red-throated Pipit. Three Greater Spotted Eagles were seen in flight over the area as was a Collared Pratincole, which is the first one of these I have seen this spring. Barn Swallow was quite numerous hunting the insects here with a few Pallid Swifts to keep them company.
Siberian Stonechat
Red-throated Pipit
Travelling further around the site to the main wet area was very rewarding with a good number of both adult and juvenile Purple Swamphens showing well. At one point I was watching a Purple Swamphen wading across an open area of water when a movement in the nearby grass caught my attention. It turned out to be a Little Crake that had just jumped into the water and was following the Swamphen to a small clump of nearby reeds out in the water. It allowed me a chance to photograph this difficult to see species, which was a bonus.
Purple Swamphen
Purple Swamphen
Little Crake
Little Crake
The flooded sabkha area is still full of water with little to see there except for large numbers, maybe 3000, Greater Flamingo. Waders are thin on the ground here with just a couple of Common Greenshank and Common Redshanks and two curlew Sandpipers present. Water Pipits were present in small numbers now showing off their summer plumage and about ten Black-headed Yellow Wagtails were also feeding on the numerous insects. A few wheatears were there as well including Northern, Pied and Isabelline Wheatears.
Black-headed Wagtail
Water Pipit