Sunday, 5 January 2014

Khobar's south corniche

At Khobar on Friday I moved across the road from the lakes to the coast and starting walking south down the corniche. I was watching out to sea as well as looking in the trees along the landscaped walk way.

The sea viewing was much more rewarding than the land views. All I got from the trees were house sparrow and common myna.

flamingo off the south corniche, Khobar

Looking seaward was a different story. I headed down towards a group of flamingo in some shallows. There were a few Caspian gull and fewer Steppe gull in the sea near them.

Out to sea are a row of warning signs which socotra cormorant use as rests in summer. However this time there were displaced by great cormorant. Indeed I only saw two socotra cormorant all day.

great cormorant

All the time I was keeping an eye out for any flying terns especially my target of sandwich tern. However, on this stretch of the coast I saw no terns of any type! 

Further down the coast things got very interesting. I reached an inlet I knew from previous visits was a good sea birding spot. 

The sea was at low tide and much of the sheltered inlet was mudflats.

hundreds of black headed gull and other birds

In the shallow water of the inlet were literally hundreds of gulls. A big majority were black headed gull. A few were slender billed gull. One of these had already acquired a pink wash which they have in the early breeding season.

black headed gull in flight

I looked through all these gulls meticulously searching for other species.

Caspian tern

I found two types of tern in among them. These were Caspian tern and gull billed tern.

gull billed tern

However the mud flats also houses many tens of waders and it was among these that I got lucky.

One of the waders remained away from the water and was detached from the others much of the time (though a grey plover spent some time with it). The lonely wader turned out to be a Eurasian golden plover.

Eurasian golden plover

This is officially down as a vagrant in Saudi Arabia so I checked my identification on BirdForum and it was confirmed. As said on the forum, it is big bellied, short necked, short billed as well as having a long primary projection. All these factors point to Eurasian golden plover rather than any confusion species.

Eurasian golden plover on both legs

The species is down as rare in Bahrain, Kuwait and UAE but vagrant in Saudi Arabia. I believe this has more to do with under-reporting than reality. I could even see Bahrain over the water from the mudflats!  Why would the bird miss out the east coast area between all the other three countries?

Jem Babbington reported one from Jubail (on the same coast as Khobar) in November 2011. Brian James who birds out of Thuwal north of Jeddah has it on his list. The trip report from 2002 to the south west on the OSME website reports two in May that year.

Eurasian golden plover is the 317th bird on my Saudi list.

bar-tailed godwit

The inlet had mostly long legged and larger waders rather than short ones.

There were a small number of both bar-tailed godwit and black-tailed godwit.

black tailed godwit

There were fifteen greenshank which was the largest group I have seen at one place in Saudi Arabia.

retreating greenshank

A similar number of common redshank were present. When disturbed both the greenshank and common redshank preferred to just walk away rather than fly.  I took this as a sign they were very relaxed there.

retreating redshank

Among the black winged stilt were a few oystercatcher.

oystercatcher and black winged stilt

As almost anywhere along the coasts of Saudi Arabia there were western reef heron too.

dark morph western reef heron

After this successful visit to Khobar, I moved on up the coast to Dammam for the rest of the day where there were some different species including another tern and both curlew and whimbrel. I'll write about this next. I'll also include a species list for the whole trip.

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