19 September 2013

Western White Stork new 'Patch' species – Dhahran Hills

On 17 September I found a Western White Stork ciconia ciconia ciconia feeding on a grassy football field at the bottom on Dhahran School near the scrubby desert area. The bird was quite happy feeding on the insects on the grass until a runner came by and flushed it up the field. Then another runner flushed it again this time onto a tall floodlight pole where it stayed until I left after about an hour. On the way back home a quick check of the area failed to locate the bird. Phil mentioned this was the first record of Western White Stork for Dhahran since the early 1990's and was a new 'Patch' as well as Saudi Arabia tick for both Phil and myself. The last record for the Eastern Province that I know of was a single bird at Sabkhat Al Fasl 25 May 2012 foud by Sander Willems.

The Western White Stork is an uncommon migrant to all areas of Saudi Arabia mostly in autumn. They are usually seen singly or in small numbers but once a group of 70 occurred in Riyadh. Winter records are rare but a single bird wintered at Tabuk one year. In the Eastern Province they are a scarce and irregular migrant. Most records have been in the autumn from August to mid-October with a well marked peak in late August. The latest record was one 15 kilometres north of Haradh 2 November 1965. The largest flock was 71 which came to roost at Abqaiq 9 October 1982. Most birds move on quickly although a group at Haradh stayed for a week from 28 September 1894. Spring records are very scarce with birds seen in late April and early May. In 1986 when conditions were exceptionally favourable small numbers overwintered at an inundated area to the west of Dammam Second Industril City during January to March. Birds are thought to pass over the area unnoticed which is borne out by a paper on electrocution and collision of birds with power lines in Saudi Arabia by Mohammed Shobrak (2012) where he recorded 242 dead birds in 2008 with 150 dead birds found on 29 August 2008 alone. The power line surveyed was 100 kilometres south of Jeddah on the west coast of Saudi Arabia.