Saturday, 24 November 2012

Waste water treatment lake and wetlands, Tabuk

Lou Regensmorter and I spent the morning of Friday 16th with Viv Wilson, a local birder based in Tabuk.

Viv guided us round his local patch which is the treated water lake and wetlands. This is another part of the birding jigsaw that makes the Tabuk area so interesting.

Viv is an excellent photographer and managed to take photos sometimes when I failed. He has kindly let me use some of these. I apologise to him for abusing this offer slightly by heavily cropping some when he managed to get a distant shot and me nothing at all.

squacco heron cropped from a photo by Viv Wilson

For a fresh water lake, the heron/egret count was surprisingly low. We saw three squacco heron and briefly three white egrets which we couldn't identify properly. Viv told us that in summer there are very large numbers of squacco heron. Other heron/egrets can be frequently seen too but we didn't have an in-depth enough conversation about what and when.

Spur winged lapwing, heavily cropped from a photo by Viv Wilson

One of the noisiest and most obvious resident is spur winged lapwing. However, Jem Babbington on his blog, Birds of Saudi Arabia, has published one of Viv's best findings at this venue. Viv frequently (and all year round) sees a pair of white tailed lapwing. Unfortunately for us they weren't present last Friday morning!

terrain with moustached warbler

A sighting that compensated for this loss was a moustached warbler in the spot photographed above. Lou and I have been searching for it near Riyadh for months and quite frankly can't believe it is there contrary to the map in the main regional guide. In contrast we picked it up within half an hour of birding at Tabuk. It is also well known at two sites at Jubail in eastern province. Ironically these places aren't on the map in the regional guide. Having visited many places in Saudi Arabia I am now getting the confidence to question these things!

At the same spot as the moustached warbler but in in the higher reeds we heard the sound of a type of reed warbler. It is unlikely to be Eurasian reed warbler as it is a migrator. This is worth more investigation.


Chiffchaff and graceful prinia were plentiful.

common snipe, cropped from a photo by Viv Wilson

The birds were very jumpy and Viv told us hunters are quite common here. Even staying in the car, birds in the more open terrain such as Green sandpiper and common snipe would fly off within 20 metres of our approcch.  Flocks of ducks would briefly fly up from some water which must be in the middle of the reeds but unseen. Mallard were identified but again there were probably other species present too.

distant view of a bluethroat

One similarity with the treatment water wetlands in central Arabia, bluethroat and white wagtail were fairly numerous although the bluethroat were difficult to see.

white wagtail by Viv Wilson

Viv guide us to a second part of the water complex which we would never have found without him. This was a wetland with low lying vegetation but unfortunately too soggy to approach without losing the car or your shoes. Midway between the lake and this wetland, an unusually pale long legged buzzard was resting.

long legged buzzard

It was only when it flew off a short distance and we could see its underparts that we were sure about its identity.

long legged buzzard by Viv Wilson

In the wetlands we were reduced to long distance views through a spotting scope. However common ringed plover and little stint were definitely there.

Ringed plover heavily cropped from a photo by Viv Wilson

Three marsh terns gave us much identification grief from a distance.

whiskered tern

There were two different species present. In the end we concluded (mostly by head pattern) two were whiskered tern and one was white winged tern.

white winged tern

The white winged tern must be a migration straggler as they move south for winter.

hoopoe lark

One final bird seen in the area was hoopoe lark as we drove back towards the main lake (and then out) from the wetlands.

Thanks again to Viv for his help and hopefully we will be back up there soon.

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