Sunday 27 November 2011

Flashback to summer - the herons

A couple of days ago I asked Abdullah Amrou if he would send me some pictures of the birds of the Al Hayer area in June and July this year. I am very pleased to say that he obliged.

I was interested to see if he could shed any new light on breeding birds in the area. 

Tonight I want to share with you some of his pictures on the heron family. 

purple heron

Abdullah has pictures of purple heron, squacco heron and little bittern in breeding plumage.

squacco heron in breeding plumage

Squacco heron, black crowned night heron, and purple heron are reported in a Sandgrouse article by Michael Jennings in 2004 called "The breeding birds of Central Arabia 1978-2003" as sharing a breeding colony in the Al Hayer area.  Little bittern is also a known local breeder. The Helms guide "Birds of the Middle East" reports the same four heron family breeders in the area. 

Incidentally both sources have a question mark over whether cattle egret breed in the area.

little bittern

For me, the most intriguing set of pictures by Abdullah are of little egret at Al Hayer during these months. This is because neither the Helms guide or the Sandgrouse article suggests it breeds there.

little egret in summer at Al Hayer

Tom Tarrant made good records in the early 1990s.  He notes that little egret  are common throughout the year but he stopped short of claiming they breed there.  

Abdullah pictures of little egret at Al Hayer during the summer months add weight to Tom Tarrant's circumstantial evidence that it may breed there.

The numbers of cattle egret in the Al Hayer area have grown from small flocks in Tom's day to large ones today. Abdullah and I believe there may be up to 400 present at this moment in November.  There is still no concrete proof that they breed there. However, the reeds are so dense, wide and long that a cattle egret colony could easily go unnoticed.

Finally Abdullah Amrou hasn't sent me any pictures of grey heron in the summer months supporting the Helms guide and the Sandgrouse article's position on its non breeding status.

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