27 June 2013

Increasing numbers of waders - Sabkhat Al Fasl

My weekly early morning trip to Sabkhat Al Fasl meant picking Phil up at 04:45 hrs for the early drive to the site. Going early means less traffic, which is a bonus as driving in Saudi Arabia is very dangerous, and good light for photography when we arrive at the location. The problem with the summer is that few bids are about. The drive into the site, which produced a good number of birds in the spring had nothing and it was not until we got to the concrete bunded area that we saw the first good birds. Here a single Pallid Swift was flying about, which is an unusual summer record although birds do nest in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia occasionally. A second calendar year Black-headed Gull in worn winter type plumage was also seen in this area. Very little else was seen here except for a couple of adult Purple Swamphens and an unusual summer record of a female/immature Western Marsh Harrier. Western Marsh Harrier is an uncommon passage migrant and winter visitor to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia but good numbers are seen at Sabkhat Al Fasl in the winter period with 15+ regularly seen. Summer records are rare making this a very unusual sighting.
Purple Swamphen
Moving around the site, little was noted except a good number of Clamorous Reed Warblers and European Reed Warblers singing from the reed beds. At least ten Barn Swallow and five Sand Martins were hawking insects over the reeds and a few Little Grebes including relatively well-grown young were seen.
Clamorous Reed Warbler
Little Grebe - juvenile
Waders had increased significantly from the previous weekend and plenty of Kentish Plovers and Black-winged stilts were still around including young of both species. Other less usual waders for this time of year included one adult Dunlin, 25 Curlew Sandpipers, one Ruddy Turnstone, 25 Terek Sandpipers and seven Greater Sand Plovers.
Black-winged Stilt
Black-winged Stilt - juvenile
Dunlin - adult
Curlew Sandpiper
The only other birds of note were the terns, herons and Flamingos with plenty of White-cheeked Terns and Little Terns including juveniles of the latter species. Seven Gull-billed Terns and two White-winged terns in full summer plumage were also seen. Herons comprised 20+ Squacco Herons, which surely must breed at this site? And 20+ Indian Reef Herons of both colour morphs. The white colour morph probably outnumbers the grey morph by about ten to one. The over-summering flock of Greater Flamingos still remained with well over 300 birds present, comprising about half adults and half juveniles.
White-winged Tern - adult summer
Indian Reef Herons
Indian Reef Heron
Greater Flamingos