28 September 2015

Grey-headed Swamphens still present - Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm

The Grey-headed Swamphen is a common resident breeder at Sabkhat Al Fasl and has recently (August 2011) expanded its breeding range to Khafrah Marsh a wetland site 30 kilometres south-west of Sabkhat where six adults and a yound bird were found. The species favoured habitat is large Phragmites australis reed-beds with associated water which is available at all the sites the species has been seen at in Saudi Arabia. The range expansion appears to be quite quick as the first record for Saudi Arabia was on 8th August 2003 at Sabkhat Al Fasl core area 2 with breeding confirmed in 2007 and numbers increasing each year since this date. Other signs of the species expanding its range include a record from Dhahran percolation pond, 130 kilometres to the south of Sabkhat Al Fasl in October 2009 with two birds there in December 2014 and a sighting of one and possibly two birds at Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm, Fadhili 31st January 2013. Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm is located approximately 40 kilometres due west of Sabkhat Al Fasl and although in the desert has an area of Phragmites australis reed-beds in which the bird was located. The most recent records are three adult birds at the same site 4 September 2015 showing a very high likelihood of breeding here as well. It appears that the rapid population increase observed at Sabkhat al Fasl over the past five years has created pressures on territories and prompted some birds to move to alternative suitable habitats within the Eastern Province and thereby expand its range.