13 March 2013

Great Black-headed Gulls – Sabkhat Al Fasl

Whilst birding at Sabkhat Al Fasl last weekend I found a small group of six Great Black-headed Gulls. One was a superb adult in full summer plumage, one was an adult in partial summer plumage and the other four were 2nd calendar year birds. This is the first time I have seen the species at Sabkhat Al Fasl and they were in amongst the large group of gulls that has been using the concrete bunded area for the winter to rest. Although views are good here through a telescope the birds are still some distance away and when you go around the other side the birds are directly into the sun although closer. Other Great Black-headed Gulls, all adults mostly in summer plumage, have been seen regularly on the crossing from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain on the Saudi Arabian side with the highest count being 17 individuals near to Al Khaobar. Other single birds have been seen along the coast in the Dhahran/Dammam/Al Khobar area in the last few weeks. Great Black-headed Gull is a fairly common winter visitor to the Arabian Gulf coast and occurs between December and March. Most records occur during March when birds are presumably on passage through the region, and at this time of year individual birds can sometimes be located inland on lakes and pools. Adults appear to be more common than younger birds, but this may be due to ease of identification of the striking adults. I am very interested in gulls and this species is one of my favourite gulls of the many varieties worldwide.