17 December 2013

Western Great Egret – Sabkhat Al Fasl

Whilst birding at Sabkhat Al Fasl I found a Western Great Egret Ardea alba. The bird was feeding in a small wet area along the side of the reed beds and was very confiding for a bird of this species. This often leads me to wonder if the bird was injured in some way as hunters frequent this area and herons are one of their favourite quarries. The bird may have had a damaged left wing although it could fly as when a maintenance van passed too close it took off, flew around and landed back where it had originally been. The bird was happily feeding on the numerous small fish that live in these shallow pools and allowed me to take a number of good photographs of it, that are the best photographs I have taken of the species in Saudi Arabia. Trying to get the light right on a white bird against a dark background is difficult and this was no exception with this bird. The Western Great Egret is an uncommon passage migrant and winter visitor to the Eastern Province, although flocks of more than 50 birds are sometimes seen at Sabkhat Al Fasl with smaller numbers in Tarut Bay. In the rest of Saudi Arabia it is scarce inland although recorded regularly in the Riyadh area and Malaki Dam near Jizan in the south-west and is uncommon on the Red Sea coast.