Sunday 7 October 2012

Waders and the moorhen family, Jubail

The visit to the eastern province started on Thursday with an all-day visit to Sabkhat al Fasl just north west of Jubail.

The word Sabkhat doesn't translate exactly into English but it is the Arabic for flatland which is occasionally filled with water due to rain or coastal flooding. It is usually semi-saline. Sabkhat al Fasl appears to be different because the processed waste water from the city is directed into part of the Sabkhat. The result is a large "fresh" water based eco-system grading into saline coastal flats. The non-saline landscape is dominated by vast reed beds and shallow lakes. Its size and varied habitat makes it almost unique in Saudi Arabia.

Purple swamphen

It is probably the best place in Saudi Arabia to see purple swamphen. Although this is a well-known bird to me, Thursday was the first time I had seen it in the kingdom. It looks very common there too.


Moorhen are extremely common. Lou Regensmorter and I must have seen a hundred. 


Coot are also fairly common and easily seen too.

common snipe

There were several waders types who tolerate fresher water and in one or two places you can see them very easily. One clearing in particular was a wonderful place to see many waders. There were so many common snipe there that it was easy to pick them out and watch them for a prolonged time.

In the same place we saw green sandpiper, wood sandpiper, little ringed plover, ringed plover, little stint and kentish plover as well as purple swamphen and moorhen.

wood sandpiper

Black winged stilt was very common.

Black winged stilt

However it was a pleasure to see its cousin, pied avocet in the area where the fresh water met the semi-saline.

pied avocet and a flamingo

This was another bird I saw in Saudi Arabia for the first time and it was an experience to see a flock of about 45 birds, some of which are shown above.

There was much more to Sabkhat al Fasl than waders. The next blog looks at the rest of the story.


  1. Wonderful, unfortunately I did't visiting this place, I did not know a way to it, where i focused on two other places, but next time I will not miss a visit it.

  2. Mansur, we must exchange notes on where we went. For example I wonder where you found your swamphen. It must mean there are other wetlands around.

  3. Of course later I will tell you the details , maybe go together next time, my trip was exciting, although I missed some species.