My visit to Sebkhet al Fasl, Jubail on Thursday afternoon was a cool and windy one.
It was also wet in the sense that the water level was at least 50 cm higher than during my first visit a few months ago. The picture below is not the open sea. It is part of the sebkhet overrun with water. The sea is beyond the sand banks in the distance of the photograph. When I visited last time this was all dry sand or at best mud flats.
Most of the reed beds were knee deep or more in water. Some of the resident purple swamphen had taken to walking along the raised paths meant for people.
The common snipe had moved to positions a lot further inland.
The conditions weren’t really very good for birding. The only easy birding was seeing the large flocks of great cormorant making periodic movements and a dozen or so marsh harrier continually hawking over the waterlogged marsh.
There are three or four bunded areas by the side of the marsh land. One was occupied by many gulls including heuglins gull, steppe gull and black headed gull as well as a few hardy black winged stilt that hadn’t taken to cover.
Perhaps the strangest sight for me was a group of barn swallow which had almost certainly chosen to winter there struggled to keep to the area. Seconds after this photo all of them had landed.
Not many barn swallow winter in Saudi Arabia but those which do keep to the coast and usually this type of (rare) marsh land. Near this group I even saw a house martin.
One of the birds that had’nt taken to cover was Caspian tern. Several of these were seen fishing over water in the marsh.
I also saw a single greater spotted eagle flying low over the marsh in a manner similar to marsh harrier. This was unusual behaviour to me.
On the land, there were very large numbers of white wagtail and water pipit. I saw more water pipit on Thursday than all the last 5 years put together.
This coming weekend I hope to visit a cattle farm subject to permissions. I am sure the birding will be more clement. And cattle farms are known to have wide diversity of birds. I can’t wait.
List of birds seen on the east coast last Thursday:
Great crested grebe
Western reef heron
Greater spotted eagle
Lesser shot toed lark
Black winged stilt
Common black headed gull