I visited Deffi Park, Jubail for the first time on Thursday. It is a large city- based public park two kilometres inland from the Persian gulf.
It is one of the best places apparently for migrant Eurasian thrushes and finches to be pushed down in mid winter.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t see one blackbird or chaffinch or other Eurasian migrant and I inspected the sparrow and bulbul flocks very carefully for any cousins.
In fact most of my birding action didn’t come from the trees and their under-stories as I had hoped but on the grass in the middle.
Superficially the park birds were collared dove, laughing dove, pigeon and common myna along with house sparrow and white eared bulbul.
However a closer look at the grass showed it was crawling with tens of white wagtail. And among the white wagtail were a smaller number of pipits.
To my surprise all the pipits were water pipit. There were no meadow pipit as one might expect for this far north east and no tawny pipit that we get in the Riyadh area.
One of the water pipit had some characteristics of buff bellied pipit. This is shown in pictures. It was more streaked than the norm. The supercilium was weaker and the white eye ring was stronger too. There was also a black patch in the neck where the streaks had run together.
However its legs were dark, the streaking was not crisp and there was no dark patch directly below the eye. I thought it was more likely to be a water pipit. Correspondence yesterday with Tommy Pederson an expert from the UAE where they have more a higher density of birders and a track record at identifying buff bellied pipit confirmed it was a water pipit.
I am sure there are plenty of buff bellied pipit in KSA too but we haven’t had the man-hours of birding applied to pick many of them up.
There was also a flock of larks on the main grassed area which is a first for me in KSA in a city-based park. These were lesser short toed lark. Note how variable their colours can be. The one at the front is a much sandier brown. This variation is quite typical.
I can’t help wondering if I was just two or three days early to visit Deffi Park. The maximum temperature on Friday was 19C in Jubail. The day before it had been 25C and on Saturday and the next two days after it was projected to be just 14C. The cold spell which might bring down those thrushes and finches is happening now.