01 April 2014

A flock of Lesser Kestrels – Hanidh

Phil and I went on a trip ‘up north’ last weekend to look at the large pivot irrigation fields and other habitat that is present. We normally go up to Jubail and on to Nayriyyah but this time went the other way via Hanidh. This turned out to be a good move when we spotted a Kestrel sitting on a wore fence whilst driving just after first light. We did not identify the species so I turned the car around and we drove back to where we had seen the bird. On arrival it became apparent there were a number of Kestrels in the area and they all turned out to be Lesser Kestrels . This is an uncommon migrant to all areas of the Kingdom with birds generally occurring from late February until mid- April and again from late September until mid-November. Lesser Kestrels tend to migrate in small flocks and this group was no exception with a total of 10 – 15 birds present. As it was very early morning it was difficult to get in a position to photograph the birds but eventually three flew and landed on the telegraph wires on the side of the road away from the rising sun allowing some photos to be taken.
Lesser Kestrel - male
Lesser Kestrel - male
Lesser Kestrel - female

Soon after this we found a couple of large pivot irrigation fields and saw 10+ Turkestan Shrike, and three Pied Wheatears along the fence line. After getting out of the car we walked around one field and had a number of good birds including a Corn Bunting that was singing at one point. There were a few Lesser Short-toed Larks present singing along one scrubby desert edge of the field and many Tree Pipits were there along with at least one Red-throated Pipit. A small flock of House Sparrows had at least one really smartly plumage Spanish Sparrow and a Common Chiffchaff was nearby feeding along the edge of a track where the pivot irrigation wheel had driven.  After spending some time in the field we drove to Nayriyyah and on the way found a single Black Kite migrating very fast along the road. This is my first record this spring of this species, which is an uncommon passage migrant through the areas I bird in the Eastern Province.

Corn Bunting
Lesser Shrot-toed Lark
Black Kite