Sunday 20 April 2014

Jubail on an April morning

Bernard Bracken and I made the very long day trip to Sebkhet Al Fasl near Jubail on Friday.

This place is one of the best birding sites in the kingdom. It is the result of the treated waste water from the north of city emptying out into a salt pan next to the coast. The are roughly divides into two: the saline filled salt pan and the fresh water wetland with huge reed beds and other vegetation. There is also an intermediate zone.

Bernard and I birded the salty lagoon with its mud flats in the morning.

little tern (with a little stint)

It was an abnormally hot day for April reaching 37C. Birding was tough. 

We started out by walking as far out into the mudflats as we could to observe the several hundred waders and other water birds.

Among the other birds were many tern: Caspian tern, little tern and in the intermediate salinity areas, white winged black tern.  I hadn't seen any little tern on any of my winter visits but they were the most numerous tern on Friday.

curlew sandpiper and little tern

There were hundreds of little stint and several tens of dunlin. Plumage varied from full winter to almost full breeding. There were a small number of curlew sandpiper which are much easier to separate from dunlin in their summer plumage.

mixed waders

The group above comprises two little stint, one dunlin, a ringed plover and a sleeping curlew sandpiper.

common redshank

Other waders included a few common redshank, wood sandpiper and common sandpiper.

wood sandpiper

In the deeper water were several surprisingly tame black winged stilt.

black winged stilt

In winter there are several thousand flamingo in the lagoon but none remain. In the distance we could see several reef heron who are here all year round. 


We moved on from the lagoon towards the fresh water wetland towards noon. On a wire was one of only two birds of prey seen all day. It was an osprey.

purple swamphen

The wetland is the domain of many purple swamphen. It didn't take us more than five minutes to see the first one.

slender billed gull

Both on the edge of the lagoon and in a couple of pools near the wetland, several slender billed gull were seen. Many immature slender billed gull over stay in the summer. They are the only gull usually seen seen  from mid April to mid August.

After noon we spent most of our time in the wetland where the birding was better than in the salty areas. 

I will blog about this next. 

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