03 November 2013

Pacific Golden Plover my 200th local ‘patch’ species – Dhahran Hills

An early morning trip to Sabkhat Al Fasl was cancelled due to the thick fog in Dhahran. It is dangerous enough driving on the roads of Saudi Arabia without the added problem of thick fog with ten-metre visibility. As a result I waited for it to become almost light and went to the ‘patch’. I visited a number of places including a wet field near the football field that has been attracting a few waders recently and where I also saw the female Northern Pintail once. I found an interesting small wader hiding in the grass front on, that turned out to be a Temminck’s Stint, and whilst watching it I heard a Pacific Golden Plover. On looking up the bird was high overhead and made a rapid decent to land on the field not too far in front of me. I had the camera with me and grabbed a few photographs before the bird again flew off calling showing off its dusky under-wing nicely. It only remained on the ground for about ten seconds but the plumage and call are diagnostic. This was a new local ‘patch’ species for me taking my total to 200 species. This is a good return for three years birding I would say, although I do go to the site almost every day, and amongst the 200 species are a number not previously recorded in the area before.

In Saudi Arabia as well as the Eastern Province it is a scarce passage migrant and rare winter visitor. It was previously regularly observed at the former Damman Marsh lagoons with at least four wintering there in 1980-81. Adults in summer plumage have been seen in May & June with a maximum count of up to 30 birds in April, September and October. Most of the records away from Dammam have been in the coastal zone from March to April and from September to October. Inland records have been noted at Abqaiq in September. The species appears to have become scarcer with the only recent records being one individual seen outside Dammam 6th April 1999, one at Sabkhat Al Fasl and one at Ash Shargiyah Development Company farm (Fadhili) 12th October 2012.