08 March 2013

Greater Short-toed Larks – Dhahran Hills

A very windy day in Dhahran with plenty of dust in the air meant early morning birding was cancelled. I went out instead at the unusual hour for me of 14:00 hrs. As the wind was still strong I was not too confident of seeing much in the way of passerines but the windy weather always brings with it the hope of something being displaced. Vary little was seen on the way to the spray fields and not much could be seen there either with the exception of a Woodchat Shrike and several Red-rumped Swallows. As the spraying was less than the last few days I walked through the fields as best I could without drowning in the large pools and flushed a group of 11 birds that flew away from me at high speed in the wind. A brief call identified the birds as larks and the small size encouraged me to see if I could re-find them, as they appeared to be Greater Short-toed Larks. I quickly relocated them and confirmed my suspicions but the birds were very flighty. I went back to the car and then managed to get slightly closer and took a few pictures. Some of the birds were quite rufous in colour with others much paler suggesting two sub-species may be present in the little group. The trouble with Greater Short-toed Larks is that the geographical variation is clinal in nature becoming paler and greyer towards the east and more rufus and streaked above to the west. I would be interested to hear what sub-species are involved here if anyone knows? The birds appeared to be feeding well and may stay a little while as the wind is still extremely strong.