13 Feb 2015

The first Common Shelduck of the winter – Sabkhat Al Fasl

The Common Shelduck is an irregular winter visitor to all coastal areas from October to April. In the Eastern Province it was regarded as an uncommon winter visitor in the 1980’s but large winter gatherings of over 100 birds occurred at Sabkhat Al Fasl every year from1994 to 2004 with a maximum 2535 in winter 2003. Since this date numbers have decreased but birds occur at this site every winter in numbers of up to 100 and 357 were on the flooded sabkhat at Sabkhat Al Fasl on 5 January 2012. In the southwest of Saudi Arabia birds occur on the Red Sea coast from December to February with 50 seen well inland at Malaki Dam Lake 8-9 February 1992. This location is the southern limit of their wintering range. In the Riyadh area birds are winter visitor in variable numbers, occurring between November and early April with 50 plus recorded in one flock. On 6 February I saw two small flocks at Sabkhat Al Fasl totalling 80 birds. These were the first sightings of the winter at this location and unusually they were reasonably close inshore. This may be due to the fact hunting is being stopped at this site by the SWA and the birds are thus less disturbed. As a result of the birds being relatively close I managed to get a few photos of the species for the first time in the kingdom. At one point a Greater Spotted Eagle flew over and disturbed the flock of 54 birds and I thus also managed a couple of flight photos as well.
Common Shelduck

Common Shelduck

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