20 November 2013

Plenty of Waders and ducks – Sabkhat Al Fasl

Birding at Sabkhat Al Fasl was excellent on Saturday 16 November. I arrived early in the morning and the light was only just starting to allow birds to be seen. As nearly always in winter at this site the first bird I saw was a first calendar year Greater Spotted Eagle and over the day I saw a minimum for four birds. Plenty of Western Marsh Harriers were flying over the reeds and at least ten Squacco Herons were in the reed beds. Good numbers of Water Pipit and White wagtails were present as were plenty of Bluethroats, mainly female and immature birds. Terns were also seen in good numbers with 50+ Caspian Terns, ten Gull-billed Terns and two Whiskered Terns were also present.
Caspian Tern
Squacco Heron
Greater Spotted Eagle
Birds seen along the reed edge included three Daurian Shrikes and two Turkestan Shrikes as well as a male Caspian Stonechat showing off its tail nicely. A Pharaoh Eagle Owl was also seen very well near one of the water pumping stations and I will post details of this record in the next few days. This may have been the same bird as seen by Dave Kilminster two weeks before but was probably a different bird to the earlier individual, as my bird was in a different location, had a sick left eye and was in a much better and healthier overall condition. This could have happened in the two weeks between sightings but all three facts make it likely to be a different bird, particularly as a number of birders have been to the site and have failed to locate the first owl. As always a number of Purple Swamphens were present feeding along the reedy edge and at least three Common Snipe and a Jack Snipe were hiding in the wet reed margins and plenty of Clamorous Reed Warblers were calling from the reed beds. Large numbers, maybe as many as 700 Great Cormorants were flying around in a large flock and several small groups of Greater Flamingos were doing likewise, numbers of which should build up as winter progresses.

Greater Flamingo

The flooded sabkha area held a lot of waders, ducks and terns. Five Common Shelducks were the first ones of the winter and 23 Eurasian Widgeon, six Northern Pintails and five Pochards were also present. Waders were mainly made up of Dunlin, Little Stint and Common Ringed Plover but plenty of Common Redshank, Common Greenshank and Black-winged Stilts were also present. A large gathering of Pied Avocet was also located with 144 birds scattered over the sabkha. Another interesting bird seen here was a male Desert Wheatear, the first one I have seen for some time.
Common Ringed Plover
Black-winged Stilt
Desert Wheatear