07 January 2014

The usual suspects - Sabkhat Al Fasl

I went to Sabkhat Al Fasl on 4 January 2014 for my first visit of the year. This is a relatively quiet period in Saudi Arabia and the weather is very winter like with morning temperatures just reaching ten degrees Celsius. It was a relatively slow mornings birding but some interesting birds were seen. Up to six Daurian Shrikes were seen and a singe Turkestan Shrike which is similar to the species wintering status with Daurian Shrike being much commoner than Turkestan Shrike. Hundreds of Great Cormorants were flying over and fishing in the large wet areas with thousands of Large White-headed Gulls, mainly Steppe and Caspian Gulls. Quite a few Common Chiffchaffs were seen in the reed beds and plenty of Clamorous Reed Warblers and Graceful Prinia’s were seen in the reeds as well with several Bluethroats skulking around in the bottom of the reeds. At least fifty Water Pipits were on the sandy areas and tracks through the scrubby desert areas.
Daurian Shrike
Great Cormorant
Graceful Prinia

As always Purple Swamphens were seen in good numbers with both Grey-headed and Purple Headed varieties in about equal numbers. One Western Great Egret, hundreds of Indian Reef Herons and three Little Egrets were seen along with about ten Squacco Herons. Birds of prey included five Greater Spotted Eagles, two Western Ospreys, twenty Western Marsh Harriers and a single Eurasian Sparrowhawk. Three Common Kingfishers were seen flying around but there was no sign of last weeks White-throated Kingfisher.
Purple Swamphen
Indian Reef Heron
Greater Spotted Eagle

A bird that is relatively common at Sabkhat Al Fasl in winter but is difficult to see and photograph is the Common Starling. They form small flocks at the site but are normally only seen flying over of perched in the reed beds at great distance. Today I managed to find one below the power lines and when it flew and landed on the main pylons I took a few photographs of it, the first ones I have managed of the species since I have been in Saudi Arabia.
Common Starling

Waders were on the flooded sabkha area in reasonable numbers with most being Little Stints, Dunlin, Black-winged Stilts, Common Redshank and Common Greenshanks. Other waders seen included a single Grey Plover and one Marsh Sandpiper. Eleven Common Shelducks and about a thousand Greater Flamingo were out on the Flooded Sabkha with three Gadwall and five Eurasian Teal. Only two species of tern were seen, Caspian Tern and Gull-billed Tern and several hundred Slender-billed Gulls were also present.
Caspian Tern