28 November 2022

Five Common Pochard – Dhahran Hills

On 23 November I saw five Common Pochard Aythya ferina on the Wastewater Pond in Dhahran. This is one of the more unusual species of duck for the camp. It was associating with a single Ferruginous Duck, single female Northern Pintail and was close to seven Northern Shoveler. I manage to walk, remaining well hidden in the vegetation, to a large bush and sat down to see if the birds would come closer. They did move closer but unfortunately were flushed by a person walking on the other side of the lake and flew off. They circled around a few times thinking about landing again but eventually flew off for good, although I did manage to take a few photos of them in flight as they came right overhead as they did not realise I was there. This pond is a good location for duck as it is inside a protected Saudi Aramco compound where hunting is completely prohibited and very few people visit. Common Pochard was once a common winter visitor to the Eastern Province but is now an uncommon winter visitor occurring from mid-October to mid-March normally as singles or in small groups of up to five birds. Previously it was regular at Abqaiq until the late 1980’s but prior to 1981 it was regular at Dhahran and in February of that year a maximum of 155 were recorded. Previously it was also regular at Hofuf lakes where a maximum count of 500 was made where they occurred from October to March but were also seen in April to early June and in August and September. Away from the Eastern Province it is also an uncommon winter visitor mainly to the Riyadh area and southwest near Jizan. The status at present in Saudi Arabia is a scarce passage migrant & erratic winter visitor. This bird is widespread throughout Saudi Arabia as a passage migrant (February to April and September to October) with migration across a broad front. They prefer open freshwater sites, such as lakes, wastewater lagoons and sheltered coastal lagoons where they feed on aquatic vegetable matter as well as molluscs and crustaceans.