15 December 2023

Fifteen Common Pochard – Dhahran Waste Water Pond

On 9 December I saw fifteen Common Pochard Aythya ferina on the Waste water Pond in Dhahran. This is one of the more unusual species of duck for the camp. They were associating with a large number of Northern Shoveler and were very timid and flew almost as soon as I had seen them, although I did manage to get a few flight photos as they were moving off. 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.