04 February 2014

A better days birding – Sabkhat Al Fasl

The winter has been very poor in Saudi Arabia for birds so far with my last few visits to Sabkhat Al Fasl producing very little. The trip Phil and I made last weekend was a better days birding, although we failed to find anything significant. We had six Greater Spotted Eagles which although a low number for recent winters is the highest number I have seen at the site this winter. Most birds were distant but one bird flew right overhead giving good views. Other birds of prey included two Eurasian Sparrowhawks and 10+ Western Marsh Harriers including a fine adult male.
Greater Spotted Eagle
Greater Spotted Eagle
Clamorous Reed Warblers were singing loudly at every patch of reeds we passed and must have a very high breeding density here. Plenty of Common Chiffchaffs were seen and heard in the reeds and a male Daurian Shrike was also hunting from the tall reed stems. A few terns were flying over the reed beds with most Caspian Terns but one Gull-billed Tern was also seen.
Clamorous Reed Warbler
Clamorous Reed Warbler
Common Chiffchaff
Daurian Shrike
Down by the scrape area we had a couple of Song Thrushes one of which stayed long enough for a distant photo. This is the first time I have photographed the species at this location as although I have seen them there before they are shy and retiring birds. In this same area a couple of European Stonechats and two North Caspian Taxon Stonechats were seen and hundreds of Water Pipits were also present. About four Bluethroats were seen with one being a fine Red-spotted male and all were seen above ground level in the red beds.
Song Thrush
North Caspian Taxon Stonechat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Water Pipit - coutelli

Other birds seen included a large number of Western Great Egrets (20+), two Common Kingfishers, four Common Snipe, twenty Squacco Herons, 14 Western Cattle Egrets, 20+ Little Egrets, one Kentish Plover, one Green Sandpiper and a couple of Little Grebes. Approximately 5000 Greater Flamingos were present on the flooded sabkha which is still at a very high level after all the winter rain. The Flamingos, as can be seen from the photograph below, are wading in the water up to their bellies which is an unusual sight.
Greater Flamingo