13 April 2014

Plenty of waders – Sabya Waste Water Lagoons

In the morning of 4 April Phil and I went to the Sabya Waste Water Lagoons east of Sabya (17 10.513N, 42 48.129E). We arrived before first light as our flight from Dammam arrived in Jizan at 02:00 hrs and we drove straight there. This waste water facility has three large pools that are all easily worked and the birds are relatively confident as the road is used by trucks to dump the wastewater so the birds are used to traffic. Just as it was getting light we could see large amounts of birds on the pools and I located a Black Stork in the first light but unfortunately it flew off before it was properly light so no photographs were taken. This is an uncommon bird in the southwest of the country but much commoner here than in the Eastern Province where it is a vagrant. There were a lot of waders around with the most obvious and noisiest being Spur-winged Lapwing with a minimum of ten birds present. Smaller waders included three Temminck’s Stints, seven Pied Avocet, Little Stint, Common Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Green Sandpiper and Common Greenshank. A nice Black-tailed Godwit was also present but was quite flighty, flying from one side of the main pool to the other. Mike Jennings found a number of Greater Painted Snipe here in July 2010, a new species for Saudi Arabia, and speculated these birds may be breeding here which was confirmed in March 2013 by Lou Regenmorter and Rob Tovey. We saw the Greater Painted Snipe in July 2014 and also again this trip, and although we did not see young the behavior of the birds suggested that they had bred again this year.
Spur-winged Lapwing
Black-tailed Godwit
There were a lot of marsh Terns over the main pool with 15+ Whiskered Terns and two White-winged Terns and other water birds included Common Moorhen, Little Grebe, Grey Heron, Western Cattle Egret and 100+ Glossy Ibis. A large number of Ruppell’s Weaver nests were found and many were active with males and females seen in good numbers. A few doves were seen in the bushes and trees including Laughing Dove, Namaqua Dove and African Collared Dove, but unfortunately not Red-eyed Dove a species I have yet to see in Saudi Arabia despite three trips to the south-west. Another good bird seen in the trees surrounding the ponds was a Gaber Goshawk with a few Green Bee-eaters, White-spectacled Bulbuls and several African Palm Swifts in the same area. This area of waste water, that is fed by tankers dumping water throughout the day and night is one of the best birding sites in the region and there are always a lot of birds here, many more than the similar but more disturbed Abu Arish Waste Water Treatment Ponds.
Whiskered Tern
White-winged Tern
African Collared Dove
Laughing Dove
Green Bee-eater
Ruppell's Weaver