20 October 2021

Sociable Lapwing – Al Sikak Farms

I went birding to the Salwa area 9 October in the hope of finding a few migrants. I set off at 2:30 am and arrived just as the sun was rising at 05:15 hrs. I went to the farms at Al Sikak and spent over six hours walking the paths and field edges. It was hard work as the temperatures were high at 39 Celsius, as was the humidity. Bird numbers were not high, however, but there were a few migrants and it felt as if there could be a good bird lurking somewhere. My efforts were rewarded with a few migrants including a nice Jack Snipe in a wet area in an irrigated allotment as well as a few Ortolan Bunting, Lesser Whitethroat, Eurasian Hoopoe, Turkestan Shrike, Daurian Shrike, Great Grey Shrike (Arabian), Sand Martin, one Eurasian Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Willow Warbler, one Barred Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, Isabelline Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, one Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, Western Yellow Wagtail and one Corn Bunting. The best bird however was a Sociable Lapwing in a small set of allotments. Initially it was hiding in the crops and all I could see was it head, where it gave the impression, on a very quick view, that it may be a Eurasian Dotterel. I moved closer and the bird came out of the crops and turned out to be a Sociable Lapwing. This is the earliest autumn date for Sociable Lapwing in Saudi Arabia with the previous earliest one being the 16 October 2020. It appeared very tired as I was able to move quite close, hidden by the trees along the allotment edge. A farmer was working in the fields and the bird remained feeding for over 15 minutes, relatively close to where he was working. Eventually the farm worker moved too close, and the bird flew a short distance, circled around, and tried to come back and land in the field. Unfortunately, the farm worker again unsettled it before it landed and it flew a short distance and landed in the desert, where a small pool had formed due to a water pipe discharging water. It remained here until I left 30 minutes later. Sociable Lapwing had only a single record in the Eastern Province prior to a few years ago when Phil Roberts and I found wintering birds at Haradh that have wintered every year since. We have also seen them in pivot fields near Jebal Nariyah. The species is normally wary and keeps well away from people, normally in ploughed fields but this bird allowed relatively close approach and thus I managed to get the best photos I have taken of Sociable Lapwing in Saudi Arabia, so was very happy with my long trip.