17 September 2013

Hundreds of Greater Short-toed Larks & Yellow Wagtails - Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm (Fadhili)

A very early morning start to Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm at Fadhili inland from Jubail was undertaken at the weekend to see if migration had really started or not. The journey to the site was hampered slightly by some very thick patches of dense fog with visibility down to about ten metres and speed to about ten kilometres an hour. Luckily they were only around areas of water like Kafrah Marsh and we arrived at the farm before 06:00 hrs. Once inside it was obvious quite a few migrants were about with lots of birds around the pivot irrigation fields. One field had a minimum of 30 Greater Short-toed larks feeding along the edge with a few Crested Larks and a single male Spanish Sparrow. Other spray fields had more Greater Short-toed Larks with 30 more in another field and 40 in a third making a total of 100 birds.
Greater Short-toed Lark
Greater Short-toed Larks were not the only migrants seen in good numbers with well over 500 birds seen during the day. They were of various different subspecies and came in all sorts of different plumage types. At one point about 100 birds were just sitting getting a shower under an irrigation spray beam. A single Whinchat was seen along a track into one field that was the first one I have seen this autumn. Other tracks had several Black-crowned Sparrow Larks with both males and females seen and a single Tree Pipit was also present.
Yellow Wagtail
Black-crowned Sparrow Lark - male
Black-crowned Sparrow Lark - female
The spray apparatus had plenty of birds sitting on them including two Brown-necked Ravens, tens of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, several Turkestan and Daurian Shrikes and hundreds of House Sparrows. The wet areas created by the spraying attracted an immature Squacco Heron that was happily feeding around in the plant growth.
Squacco Heron
The farm has plenty of different habitats apart from the spray fields and has a lot of mature trees, several wetland areas and huge expanses of scrubby desert. The main water site is just inside the main gate and normally has a lot of birds on it but this time was very poor on the first early morning visit. There were 50+ Little Grebes, several Black-winged Stilts and a Grey Heron. On the way out of the site we had a female Pallid Harrier and a Black Kite flying over, both firsts for the autumn for me. The only other bird of prey we saw was a Western Marsh Harrier over one of the pivot irrigation fields. Three Cattle Egrets were also on the edge of the lake with four Ringed Plover and a Ruff.
Western Marsh Harrier
The trees along the roads had plenty of Wheatears with two Black-eared Wheatears, one of each form, six Pied Wheatears, four Northern Wheatears and five Isabelline Wheatears. Shrikes were also seen in good numbers here with six Masked Shrikes, five Daurian Shrikes, five Turkestan Shrikes, four Red-backed Shrikes and a Lesser Grey Shrike. A female Blue Rock Thrush was flushed for a well-vegetated edge of a road and a European Roller was seen in a tree eating a beetle. Four Common Whitethroats and a Barred Warbler were in the trees with ten Spotted Flycatchers showing a good number of migrants were present at the site. One bird shown below had quite a lot of white feathers on it making it look a little unusual.
Spotted Flycatcher