I didnt think any birding in Saudi Arabia could beat my experience near Abha two weeks ago but this probably did.
Once again seven new birds were added to my Saudi list which now totals 295. However this time all of them were lifers and some of them haven't featured in many reports before.
We had to work hard it was very hot and humid but we were rewarded.
It all started at Sabya waste water lakes early on Thursday morning.
Before we even reached the lakes we came across our first pied cuckoo of the weekend (there were more later). This bird is the only Africa to India migrant. It arrives in India just ahead of the monsoons and is closely associated with that weather over there. It parasites babblers and bulbuls. The main regional guide suggests a few of them don't go all the way to India but stop in a small part of Yemen.
Given that the monsoons start in late May in parts of India our timing was very good to be able to see them on passage.
a family of greater painted snipe
On arriving at the lakes, we soon saw our main target species: greater painted snipe. The regional guide says it is a vagrant to the Arabian peninsula and doesn't offer a map! However Mike Jennings reported it at Sabya about 3 years ago.
I am not sure anyone has ever proved it breeds here (though it is clearly surmised) but we saw a family.
second picture of greater painted snipe
Unusually, the male bird is the duller of the two adults.
Incidentally I saw another at Lake Maliki the next day (30 kilometres way) and this supports Brain James's finding there a couple of months ago.
cattle egret colony
There was a wide diversity of birds at this site. One of the most noticeable features was the large colonies of cattle egret on a couple of islands.
black winged stilt
Black winged stilt buzzed us if we came close to their young.
Other waders included non-breeding black-tailed godwit and ringed plover (breeding status unknown).
There were also ruff and kentish plover present.
ringed plover and ruff
The two obvious water birds were moorhen (surprisingly tame) and little grebe.
Two types of tern were seen in great numbers. Bother were in breeding plumage. These were white winged black tern and whiskered tern.
A small flock of chestnut bellied sand grouse arrived but were scared off (sadly accidentally probably by us). There were heading for the cleanest of the four lakes furthest away from the water inlet area.
As well as cattle egret there were also squacco heron and grey heron. The squacco heron were also nesting there.
There were several interesting more land-based birds too.
spur winged lapwing
I was surprised to see three lingering yellow wagtail (feldegg).
Rueppells weaver breeds in the coastal areas in winter but also breeds a second time at the moment. The Jizan area only gets reasonably rain in April and early May and it looks like the weavers take advantage of that.
African collared dove
There were a lot more African collared dove in the Jizan area since the last time I visited. This concurs with reports that although some stay the winter, many migrant a short distance to east Africa. They are back.
white browed coucal
The Sabya area has white browed coucal all the year round.
This was great start to the weekend but more was to come. Three more lifers were had before the morning was out. I'll report on them in the next blog.