Saturday 20 April 2013

The Jubail area

I visited the Jubail area in eastern province on Thursday. My plan was to find some farms and bird those. I had an idea I might see some different land-based migrants from those which go through central Arabia.

Using google earth, I had found several farms on the Kuwait road out of Dammam. There were also a couple of lakes or marshes marked there too. These were all clustered about 25 kilometres inland from Jubail.

common snipe and common sandpiper at Sebkhet al Fasl, Jubail

Actually I found these farms a bit disappointing. They were mostly market gardening such as tomato growing although there was some maize. Either way they didn't produce many interesting land birds. Graceful prinia (resident)  and common whitethroat (passage) were the most obvious in the farms. Much of the near-by land was flooded following overnight rain too.

Given everything, after a while I resorted to travelling to the coast and spent an hour or too at Sebkhet al Fasl which is a much better known birding area and away from my more speculative areas.

I'll report a little on the speculative farming area inland first though.

little stint and kentish plover

The temporary flooded areas had attracted some birds which are more normally seen on the coast such as little stint. By the way the little stint in the photo was being very aggravated by a small tick just below its eye (which you may be able to see in the picture). Just after it was taken he raised his leg to scratch it off his face. 

This water had many grey heron and little egret too.

moorhen, black winged stilt and common sandpiper

As said before, there were a couple of permanent water bodies as well with reeds and other cover. The moorhen, black winged stilt and common sandpiper were in one of these. Interestingly there were no sounds of reed warbler though graceful prinia could be heard loudly.

little tern

On one of the temporary bodies I came across several tern. These were all little tern. I managed to separate them from the similar Saunders's tern in two easy ways. First, Saunders's tern is rarely found inland- even 25 kilometres inland. Second, the white on the forehead on these birds went right to the back of the eye.

willow warbler

Migrant sightings (excluding common whitethroat already mentioned) were restricted to willow warbler and chiffchaff among the warblers.

female yellow wagtail

Other land bird migrants included yellow wagtail, Turkestan shrike and common redstart.

Turkestan shrike

After a while at the inland farming area, I moved on to Sebkhet al Fasl. This was not my first choice for the day. However,it was guaranteed to be productive albeit more so with coastal birds than necessarily with land birds. 

Unfortunately time was a little short and birding was a little hurried.

curlew sandpiper

On arrival at Sebkhet al Fasl, one of my first sightings was a curlew sandpiper heading towards breeding plumage along with 20 or little stint.


Like the area inland, there were many additional fooded plains. One contained over 200 flamingo.

common snipe

By the side of a large pool with hundreds of barn swallow (at least one house martin) flying over was a single common snipe which gave good views in the open for several minutes.

some resting barn swallow

There wasn't time to do a full audit of the waders present at the various pools but they included common sandpiper, Terek sandpiper and ruff.

Ruff and a Terek sandpiper (on the right)

The site had both little tern and Saunders's tern although it was only by analysing my photos afterward that I have reached this conclusion.

Saunders's tern

The bird above has a slightly more restricted white forehead and darker legs. I make this a Saunders's tern. Coming from the Riyadh area, I haven't had much experience with these two!

northern wheatear

Sebkhet al Fasl does of course have some land birds as well. For example,  there were a couple of both migrant northern wheatear and whinchat seen. The reeds were also very noisy with the sound of European reed warbler- a sound noticeably lacking from the inland marshes visited earlier in the day.

purple swamphen

Finally you can't write about Sebkhet al fasl without mentioning purple swamphen. There may be plenty of moorhen and coot but the purple swamphen are everywhere!

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