22 February 2014

Migration slowly picking up – Dhahran Hills

The migration season starts very early in Saudi Arabia compared to my home country of England. In KSA the first migrants seen are in January with the most obvious being Pallid Swift. House Martins, Barn Swallows and occasionally in February Red-rumped Swallows all join the large flocks of swifts. The first passerines are difficult to tell as some birds of the early movers also winter here such as Daurian Shrike and Common Chiffchaff but numbers of these birds build up slowly throughout February with plenty of Common chiffchaff now on the ‘patch’. I have also see two Lesser Whitethroats but again I am not certain these are really migrants. Three birds that have wintered here and also occur, as migrants are the Crested Honey Buzzards that have been seen over the golf course and were seen again last weekend. I also saw an adult male in the trees of the percolation pond 19 February that was new to the area. The pond itself held a few new birds with the first Eurasian Coot returning for the first time since the pond was drained many months ago. Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe have also both returned to the pond, which is encouraging but there are no calls or song of Indian (Clamorous) Reed Warblers yet even though this is the peak time for hearing song. A bird that was certainly a migrant was a Pied Wheatear that I saw in close proximity to the wintering Red-tailed Wheatear, until they decided they did not like each other and the Red-tailed Wheatear drove the Pied Wheatear off. Other spring migrants I have seen recently were two Yellow Wagtails, one a male Black-headed Wagtail and a Little Crake at Sabkhat Al Fasl. Large numbers of gulls are again using the pond for washing mainly Black-headed Gulls although plenty of Large White-headed Gulls have also been arriving in the last week. These are mainly Steppe Gulls with a few Caspian Gulls and one or two Hueglin’s Gulls but they normally remain in the middle of the pond and not easy to photograph.
Pallid Swift
Pallid Swift
Daurian Shrike
Eurasian Coot
Pied Wheatear
Red-tailed Wheatear
Steppe Gull