Monday, 29 December 2014

A visit to the seaside.

Dammam in the rain!

We decided early in the week to head to the coast for the day and started off at 4.30am to go to Dammam.  The final objective for this trip was the Al Kobar Corniche which provided us with some great birding in the past.  However, it turned out to be a little bit of a damp squib as shortly after our arrival there was a thunder storm and heavy rain followed by a lull and then another prolonged one.  However, not to be put off I soldiered on and did get some good birding for my troubles.

white wagtail (Motacilla alba)
On the way there we stopped off at a petrol station and this little guy was just sitting there looking at us.  In the background was about a dozen House Sparrow and a small roost of maybe 25 Feral Pigeons and the odd Bulbul;

white-eared bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis)
These petrol stations act as mini oasis for birds in the middle of the desert and as Rob Tovey and I noted on many occasions the more untidy the station is the more the birds seem to like it.  The super clean clinical ones that you find closer to Riyadh are almost not worth stopping at from a birding perspective.

western reef heron (Egretta gularis)
On arrival at the Corniche I set off on foot to the little manmade lake but immediately notices that the scrub area is now completely cleaned off and about 30% of the lake has been filled.  It looks like they are preparing the area for development.  However, this Western Reef Heron patiently posed in a bush while I sorted out my camera before flying off down the lake.  The Western Reef Heron is a polymorphic species having light, intermediate and dark morphs co-existing in broadly the same habitats, this is one of the dark morph;

western reef heron (Egretta gularis) dark morph
This guy was in the middle of a fight with three other slightly smaller birds for a space by the puddle in the foreground.  Not sure what they saw in that particular spot but he was pretty keen to get it and they to defend.
A short distance further along the lake I came across a small flock of 25 Greater Flamingo who were all busily feeding in the lake. 
greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
The adults were in their pink and white plumage and congregated in a loose group together.
greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) Juvenile.

While the juveniles, (5 in total) all congregated about 25 meters away.  I have noticed this pattern on several occasions before where the younger birds stick together some distance from the adult group.

Standing by the shore, apparently completely unfazed by the throng of people walking about very close by was this Grey Plover which very kindly stood while I got some nice pictures.  Unfortunately it had started clouding over very heavily at that point so lighting was not great but I do like this picture.
grey plover (Pluvialis squatarola)

I don't suppose anyone wants to hear my stories about how the Plover family was one of my first projects as a lad at school, I was the princely age of 13 I think!!  No?  Ok, being honest I don't remember much about it anyhow.

Standing close by this lovely Plover was a Common Redshank which also was happy for me to get quite close for some photos.

redshank (Tringa totanus)

A little further along the Corniche was a Grey Heron which happily let me get quite close too.  Of course it had started to rain heavily at that point so I guess I did not want to move unless it absolutely had to.  I got my photo and left it in peace.
grey heron (Ardea cinerea)
On either side of the Corniche there were small groups of 2 or 3 Black Winged Stilt feeding among the debris and bits of foliage. 

black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
And along the side of the lake were a collection of a dozen or so Eurasian Collared Dove a native species from Turkey to Asia which, in recent times has become invasive spreading to as far north as Norway and across the US having been released in Bahamas in the 1970's.   As with most members of the dove / pigeon family they thrive near humans so I suppose where we go they do too.
eurasian collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
As ever the seagulls were out in force ;-). This small group of XXX being found swimming around the Flamingos 

black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)

While these guys moved out into the bay once the rain started.

slender-billed gull (Chroicocephalus genei)

Another fairly common sight is the Kentish Plover which can be found all over the area,  It had just started to rain when I took this photo and he was hunching down to brave out the weather, he would have run off long before I got close under normal circumstances.

kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)

Amoung the gulls were this pair of Caspian Tern, the one facing me was being very vocal about something, perhaps the gulls off to the right a little were getting too close or something.  The light had all but gone at this point so the photo is a little dark.

Caspian tern (Hydroprogne caspia, formerly Sterna caspia)
Ringed Plover were about in small numbers sporting their winter plumage
ringed plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
Another Ringed Plover with a couple of Dunlin I think keeping him company;

On every available perch were small congregations of Cormorants preening and drying themselves.  I'm not so sure how clever some of these perches were in a lightening storm though.  Pity the light was so poor.
great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)


A nice days birding even if I got soaked twice in the process and pictures did not turn out great in many cases. 


resting on a pole.

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