12 April 2013

Four new site species – Sabkhat Al Fasl

Phil Roberts and I set off early for a trip to look for migrants at Sabkhat Al Fasl a trip that proved very worthwhile and on which I saw four species at the site that I had not seen there before. The visit started well with Turkestan Shrike, Lesser Whitethroat and Common Redstart all seen in the first few minutes of arrival. As normal at the site one of the first birds seen was a Greater Spotted Eagle with a minimum of an adult and two second calendar year birds seen. Although not late for second calendar year birds April is quite late for adults as they should be on their breeding grounds now or in a short time. The first new bird for the site for me was a European Turtle Dove in a tree on the way in. We eventually saw four different birds including two together, which gave very good views.
European Turtle Dove
European Bee-eaters were about in small numbers as were Yellow Wagtails of the races thunbergi and beema, some of which were in very nice plumage. A few late White Wagtails were also present which will shortly be off to their breeding grounds.
European Bee-eater
Yellow Wagtail - beema
White Wagtail
The concrete bunded area and surrounding scrub added the second new bird for the site as we located a Barred Warbler giving good views. We had already seen one on the way into the site but only briefly perched and in flight. We also saw the first of at least ten Rufous-tailed Scrub Robins here one of which was in full song. A couple of European Hoopoes were also in this area. The water here held ten Gull-billed Terns, several Caspian Terns and three Little Terns. Squacco Herons were seen in good numbers in the reed beds and a few Tree and Red-throated Pipits were also located.
Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin 
Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin
Driving along the reed bed edge added Whinchat and several more Common Redstarts and added the next new species for me at the site a Common Cuckoo which was only the second time I have seen the species in Saudi Arabia, although it was soon followed by a second bird seen further around the location. Several waders were seen including Common Snipe, Wood Sandpipers, 20 summer plumaged broad-billed Sandpipers, Dunlin, Common Ringed Plovers, Kentish Plovers, Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers.
Common Snipe
Wood Sandpiper
A Spotted Crake was seen on a small pool and Phil probably had two birds here and several Common Redstart were in the same area along with a Western Marsh Harrier. The fourth new species for me at the site was a very late Song Thrush which was a real surprise. More than 20 Purple Swamphens were seen during the day and a realy smart Siberian Stonechat was also a nice addition. A Greater Spotted Eagle and a Western Osprey were perched on the new overhead power-lines.
Spotted Crake
Common Redstart
Siberian Stonechat
The flooded Sabkha had over a thousand Greater Flamingos and several Little Stint along with a Common Redshank and a Willow Warbler in the reeds.