Sunday, 16 June 2013

Duba: mangroves, coast and journey

On Friday, I drove from Tabuk to Duba which is 200 kilometres south west on the Red Sea coast. Local birder, Viv Wilson didn't accompany me on this trip and this was my first time in this area. Without local birding knowledge, the birding was necessarily quite speculative.

The route from Tabuk cuts through semi desert uplands until arriving in a narrow coastal strip.

Without any real predetermined preference, I decided to bird the coastline from the northern edge of Duba town towards Duba sea port.

The coast immediately north of the corniche is quite barren and I hardly saw a bird at all. Then, just as I was beginning to regret heading north out of Duba, I arrived at the southern side of Wadi Al Gal and I came across a sea inlet which was surrounded by mangroves.

Mangrove reed warbler

This proved a good site for birds. It is well protected and seemingly natural and in good environmental condition. A grey heron flew out of cover just as I arrived. 

However it was within the mangroves themselves that I had the best find. As soon as I started walking by them, I could hear the sound of reed warblers and being mangroves I knew they were mangrove reed warbler.   I have never found them as shy as European reed warbler and once again I got good views and photographs.

As far as I know this is a new find and it is certainly much further north than the sites shown on the distribution map in the regional guide. My suspicion is that this is furthest north that mangrove reed warbler can be found on the east side of the Red Sea.

Mangroves at Wadi al Gal

The only wader I observed at the inlet was a solitary non-breeding common redshank.

common redshank

Collared dove, laughing dove and collared dove were easily seen in the taller bushes. Yellow vented bulbul was also present.

laughing dove

After leaving the mangroves, I continued along the coast northward. I soon spotted several white-eyed gull.  In general white-eyed gull is more numerous in the northern Red Sea while the closely related sooty gull becomes increasingly more numerous the further south. However there is much overlap. This time I saw no sooty gull.

white-eyed gull

Near-by were several lesser crested tern and a single Caspian tern.

Caspian tern with lesser crested tern

Like in the mangroves there was a solitary wader left behind on migration for whatever reason. This one was a marsh sandpiper.

Marsh sandpiper

The coastal strip was uneventful for land birds except it is noticeable that the bulbul here is yellow vented bulbul whereas on the other side of the hills in Tabuk it is white eared bulbul.

yellow vented bulbul

The route back had its fair share of desert lark, crested lark and white crowned wheatear.  Unlike in the higher locations (away from the road) where the raven is fan tailed, here brown necked raven was common.

brown necked raven

One Asian grey shrike in poor condition was also seen when I stopped for a break.

Asian grey shrike (aucheri)

I was bit disappointed not to see any birds of prey en route to and from Tabuk. Sometimes Viv has reported some special birds travelling to the coast and back. However travelling through these desolate areas can be hit and miss.

Lake on Duba road, Tabuk 

Just before the Duba road reaches Tabuk there is a lake. I stopped off there in the early evening before heading off to the airport.

Black winged stilt and spur winged plover gave me a noisy welcome (note though that the photo below is of a spur winged plover seen at my hotel).

spur winged lapwing

The lake was the only place I saw moorhen at the weekend.

flock of house sparrow at the lake

There were two marsh tern fishing over the lake. They were non-breeding and so quite difficult to identify but I believe they were whiskered tern.

non breeding whiskered tern

This was an interesting addition at the end of the trip.

In the next blog, I will return to what was seen on the top of Jebel Lawz on Thursday. I have now researched the identity of a couple of the birds and I am in a better position to report back. What can tell you now is that it confirmed that several of the birds were much further south than their normally recognised summer distribution.

The next blog will also have a full list of birds seen over the weekend and where.


  1. Nice stuff - are MGR's only found in Mangrove habitat? That would certainly limit the distribution, how different is the song?

    Laurie -

  2. Laurie, yes only found in mangroves and I personally cant tell the difference in song from a "normal" reed warbler! Unlike European reed warblers they are resident too Rob