On 13 January Phil Roberts and I travelled to Haradh an area of extensive pivot irrigation fields three hours drive from Dhahran. We were primarily looking to see if we could prove Sociable Lapwing wintered in the area as we had seen birds here in February 2016 but were uncertain if these were wintering birds or very early migrants. We left at 03:30 hrs to allow us to be at the site at first light.
We tried a set of fields off the main road some distance and eventually found some access to some very good looking fields in various stages of growth from ploughed to fallow to newly growing. We eventually came across a newly ploughed field that had over 100 Northern Lapwing in it, a habitat and species that were used by associated with by lasy years Sociable Lapwings . After a couple of minutes I saw two Sociable Lapwings in flight in the flock that flew around and landed in the ploughed field. We drove around to the area where the access track was to the pivot irrigation bars and moved down this into the middle of the field.
Here we scanned through the Northern Lapwings we could see and eventually found three Sociable Lapwings. The three Sociable Lapwings eventually flew off and we went looking for further birds. Another filed that was in the process of being ploughed also held several hundred Northern Lapwings and four Sociable Lapwings making a total of seven birds. The birds never came close enough for good photos and were very timid when we were on foot so the below poor photos are all that I obtained.
These birds are only the third time the species has been recorded in the Eastern Province after an adult at Haradh farm on 25 February 1982 and our 16 at Haradh on 5 February 2016. These birds seen on 13 January are much too early to be passage migrants and show that Haradh is a new wintering location for the species. This is not the first place for the species to winter in Saudi Arabia as other winter in the northwest of the Kingdom at Tabuk and others still in the southwest near Jizan.
Jem Babbington is a keen birder and amateur photographer located in Dhahran, Eastern Saudi Arabia where he goes birding every day. Jem was born in England and is a serious local patch and local area birder who has been birding for almost forty years and has birded in more than fifty countries. Jem is learning to ring birds in Bahrain as a perfect way to learn more about the birds of the area. Saudi Arabia is a very much under-watched and under-recorded country.
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