Monday 9 June 2014

Beach and mangroves on Farasan

Friday afternoon's birding on Farasan kabir was split into two distinct halves. In the first I headed south along the coast from the hotel in the fierce heat. In the second, Bernard Bracken and I visited the mangrove area near the port towards dusk.

The second session provided the better birding including prolonged views of a second goliath heron

Goliath heron towards dusk in mangroves

However the afternoon started with the walk south down the coast starting with beach. In this area sooty gull were numerous but in among the was one large black headed gull which turned out to be an over-summering Baltic gull.

Baltic gull

Over summering is not uncommon among immature gulls and this is a second calendar year.

Baltic gull takes off

Further south along the coast the sandy beach turned to a muddy area which had more potential for waders and so it proved.

common redshank

Crab plover was expected but summering common redshank was less so.

crab plover

Ruddy turnstone is one of the most widespread birds in the world.

ruddy turnstone

Kentish plover was the most common wader on this stretch.

Kentish plover

In contrast there was sole grey plover in non-breeding plumage.

grey plover

Over the weekend, Bernard and I found osprey to be ridiculous common.

two osprey

As the temperatures rose, all the land bird activity stopped. Even this hoopoe lark was seen under the shade of a rocky outcrop before moving on.

hoopoe lark

Indeed it got so hot, I needed a 3 hour break from birding, two cold showers, lots of water and rest before I ventured out again with Bernard in the relative cool of the late afternoon.

We chose to visit the extensive mangroves next to the main harbour. This proved to be a good choice.

goliath heron

We almost immediately saw another goliath heron which was actually still in the same place when we doubled back to finish our walk an hour and a half later.

second view of goliath heron

In the meantime, we first heard and then saw several mangrove reed warbler.

African collared dove

I had wondered whether African collared dove were on the islands. It soon became apparent that they were common in and around the mangroves.

young Egyptian vulture

In the distance Bernard spotted four birds of prey which turned out to be Egyptian vulture. The Farasans are a known stronghold of this species. Two of them slowly got closer and closer to us.

While we were watching them I was suddenly aware that flying with them were two sooty falcon. This was a lifer for me and the third addition to my Saudi list over the weekend. They were travelling at such great speed and with frequent changes in direction I only got a poor photograph. 

Nevertheless we saw more sooty falcon the next day and I'll post a picture in the next blog which reports on Saturday.

Almost at sunset, a single young Egyptian vulture came very close to us seeming looking for roost.

Egyptian vulture in flight

In the end we had to leave it for our lift home.

On Saturday we took a four hour boat trip around some of the smaller islands to the west of the main island. This resulted in the fourth and final Saudi list addition and much more.


  1. Nice stuff, i'm envious - like the Heron, a big bugger - i remember them from Kenya along with the Fish Eagles.....

    Laurie -

  2. Laurie, this was up in the top five of my birding weekends in Saudi Arabia. The heron was huge and the sea birds so different from my normal birding. Rob