24 May 2013

Red-necked Phalarope – Sabkhat Al Fasl

Whilst birding at Sabkhat Al Fasl yesterday I found two Red-necked Phalaropes feeding on a smallish flooded area by the water pumping station. This is only the second time I have seen the species in Saudi Arabia and the first time in the spring. The previous record was a single bird seen on 5 August 2011 at Al Khobar on a small roadside pool by the Dammam / Al Khobar Wader Roost South. Bundy’s ‘Birds of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia’ published in October 1989 states that they are regular in varying numbers on marshy pools in spring but very scarce and irregular in autumn. It seems likely that a large number that winter in the Arabian Gulf and northern Indian Ocean area overfly the region with a record of 10,000 birds 40 kilometres west of Bahrain and close to the Saudi Arabia coast 27 March 1980. Records are regular in Kuwait to the north but from the Eastern Province are limited with one record from March, scare in April and regular in May with the peak inland count being 150 birds at Abqaiq in May 1976.

The two birds I saw were behaving in a typical Phalarope manner turning around in circles on the water in search of food and picking insects off the waters surface in a fast and active manner. This is a new species for me at Sabkhat Al Fasl although I know Phil has had at least one sighting here in the past.