18 June 2014

Late Western Cattle Egret – Sabkhat Al Fasl

The status of Western Cattle Egret has changed considerably over the years in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. In 1981 it was a rare visitor to the Gulf but by the end of the 1980’s it had become a migrant occurring from March through May and from August through November mainly in the coastal zone, but also inland especially at Abqaiq. Some birds over-summer and others overwinter. This had canged again by the end of the 1990’s to the species being a regular winter visitor with the maximum mid-winter roost being recorded at Dhahran percolation pond of 244 birds on 27 January 2008. Numbers are now in excess of 100 birds each winter in Dhahran. Numbers are lower at Sabkhat Al Fasl but up to ten can occasionally be seen. It was therefore a surprise to find an adult at the site on 13 June as over-summering birds are still scarce in the region. This was the first time I have seen the species in the summer at this location and shows going out, even in the worst conditions and time of year can still pay dividends with knowledge gained on status of the birds of the region.