Monday, 24 February 2014

North of Tarout island

Bernard Bracken and I visited the east coast again last weekend. On Friday we spent the morning on the northern part of Tarout island, just east of Qatif, which I had seen from google earth looked a good prospect as a new birding venue.

There are well preserved mangroves through which a wide stream out of a waste water treatment plant flows into the sea creating a sort of pseudo-estuary.

The birding was extremely good. Unfortunately we soon discovered this was a restricted area. Nevertheless through talks with the coastguard we were kindly allowed some time there but not as long as we would have wanted. 

The restricted nature of the place (and so quiet) as well as the habitat contribute to the excellence of the area for birding.

common shelduck. photo courtesy of Bernard Bracken

On the coast in front of the mangroves, there were many hundreds of birds especially waders. Given our shortage of time there we concentrated on viewing the larger birds.

It was only the second place in Saudi Arabia I have seen common shelduck and previous views have been at great distance but all birds here were tamer than usual. The common shelduck were asleep. Next to them were tens of common greenshank.

oystercatcher and bar tailed godwit

Near by were a large group of oystercatcher with an even larger group of bar-tailed godwit. A few ruddy turnstone were there too.

 common redshank, black tailed godwit, black headed gull & whimbrel

A few metres further away were over 100 common redshank with a few black-tailed godwit in among them. Gulls were both slender-billed gull and lesser black headed gull with a small number of steppe gull. There were Caspian tern there as well.


In among the 20 or so whimbrel were two Eurasian curlew.

Off shore were tens of flamingo and a few Caspian gull and steppe gull.

great cormorant, reef heron, little egret

The heron family was well represented too. At least 15 western reef heron were on the sea front with a couple of little egret among them. Several grey heron were on show and larger numbers of great cormorant, some of which were in breeding plumage. All these birds were very approachable.

great cormorant in breeding plumage

Time on the sea front was short but we also had some time inland at the inland side of the mangroves. 

great cormorant

Here the numbers of birds was much less though still interesting.

dark morph western reef heron (eastern) in the mangroves

It was here we saw a great white egret, the first I had seen this winter.

great white egret

Moorhen were an obvious find.


At least two marsh harrier were patrolling over the mangroves.

marsh harrier

Other more land oriented birds included white eared bulbul.

white eared bulbul

There were two warblers observed. These were graceful prinia and clamorous reed warbler.

graceful prinia

I come across Daurian shrike in eastern province in winter in a wide variety of habitat including one on the edge of the mangroves.

Daurian shrike

Laughing dove were common. 

laughing dove

Few waders were seen away from the coast though two redshank and a green sandpiper were in a pool on the edge of the mangroves.  

common redshank and green sandpiper

The only other waders seen away from the coastal strip were several Kentish plover on some flat sands and next to them twenty five common ringed plover which were absolutely exhausted and presumably recent arrivals on passage.

a tired flock of ringed plover

We surely missed several species. I have absolutely no doubt this is one of the best coastal sites in eastern Saudi Arabia but also one of the least accessible. 

It would be good to get permission for a longer visit.

Birds seen at north Tarout based  on a list prepared by Bernard Bracken

Grey Plover
Green Sandpiper
Common Shelduck
Terek’s Sandpiper
Marsh Harrier
Eurasian Curlew
Little Egret
Bar Tailed Godwit
Great Egret
Black tailed Godwit
Little Bittern
Western Reef Heron
Black Winged Stilt
Grey Heron
Collared Dove
Great Cormorant
Laughing Dove
Lesser Black Headed Gull
Pallid Swift
Slender Billed Gull
Caspian Tern
Clamorous Reed Warbler
Graceful Prinia
Daurian Shrike
Ruddy Turnstone
Crested Lark
Ring Plover
Water pipit
Kentish Plover
House Sparrow

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