30 April 2013

An amazing number of birds – Sabkhat Al Fasl

My weekly trip to Sabkhat Al Fasl proved to be a really amazing birding spectacle with migrant birds everywhere. Signs that is was going to be good was the sighting of eight Red-backed Shrikes along the track you drive in to get the first real birding area. Often I do not see anything down here and certainly not the number of birds I saw on Thursday. Other birds that were seen down the track included Barred Warbler, two Common Redstarts, Common Whitethroat and two Little Ringed Plovers.
Red-backed Shrike - adult male
Red-backed Shrike - adult male

Once at the concrete bunded area and surrounding scrub it became apparent that there were literally thousands of migrant birds around. Here we saw our first three Whinchats of well over 25 seen during the day and plenty of European Bee-eaters were seen flying about. We found a small bush with 29 European Bee-eaters in it and a few more flying about overhead and more birds were seen in various places throughout the site. Whilst birding this area it became apparent that the largest numbers of birds were Red-throated Pipits and Yellow Wagtails of various sub-species. The majority of birds were beema (Blue headed) and thunbergi (Grey headed) although a few feldegg (Black headed) were also seen. A minimum of 250 birds of both Red-throated Pipit and Yellow Wagtail were seen but these are certainly underestimates of what was about. An Eastern Olivaceous Warbler was a new species for the site for me in the scrubby area at the end of the track around the concrete bunded area.
European Bee-eater
Yellow Wagtail - beema
Yellow Wagtail - thunbergi
Due to the number of birds seen it took a long time to move from one place to another in the site, but on the way around it became clear there were also a good number of Tree Pipits associated with the Red-throated Pipits. The Tree Pipits behaved quite well allowing good photographs to be taken but the Red-throated Pipits were continually on the move or hiding behind objects making it difficult to photograph them.
Red-throated Pipit
Tree Pipit 
Tree Pipit
The wet scrape area had a good selection of birds and a stop just before this in the area where I had seen Spotted Crake the previous two weeks provided a Corncrake and presumably the same Spotted Crake, this time feeding out in the open and allowing better photos to be taken than the last two trips. A Little Ringed Plover flew over and scared the crake, and it was amazing to see how fast the bird could run. The scrape had a few waders including Little Stint and Wood Sandpiper and a badly injured Collared Praincole that looked like it had been shot, although there were no hunters apparent at the site. The bird could still fly but had lost one of its eyes. Why someone would want to shoot such a beautiful bird is beyond me. A Great Reed Warbler and an Upcher’s Warbler were in the reeds with the Great Reed Warbler being the first bird of that species I have seen this spring.
Spotted Crake 
Wood Sandpiper
Shrikes were everywhere with a minimum of 30 Red-backed Shrikes, 10+Turkestan Shrikes, five Daurian Shrikes and two Lesser Grey Shrikes seen. A single White-spotted Bluethroat was seen and several Rufous-tailed Scrub Robins. Several Blue-cheeked bee-eaters were present and two Western Marsh Harriers were late staying winter birds. The fooded Sabkha area had 200 Greater Flamingos, several Little Terns, a Caspian Tern and a few White-winged Terns. There was a group of ten interesting looking Pratincoles that I need to look into further and will post details about at a later date.
White-winged Tern