1-10/04/2008, sightings by Mark O. Chichester.
Observer: Mark O. Chichester
1-10 April 2008
- (N-W) Nuwaiseeb-Wafra Road
- (WOF) Wafra Oil Field – including the Joint Operations Administrative Camp GPS for Wafra Administration Camp N28 degr 38.438′ E48 degr 56.043′
- (WPR) – Water Plant Reeds – the discharge area adjacent to the MoE (water & electricity) facility west of the intersection of King Fahad Expwy (Hwy 40) and the Rd.270/Nuwaiseeb-Wafra junction. GPS for WPR N28 degr 44.279′ E48 degr 16.035′
- (PPR) – Power Plant Reeds is a dumping area near Zour Village and the South Zour Power Plant with a small reedbed intermittently fed with waste water GPS for PPR N28 degr 43.641′ E48 degr 21.352′
- (Z) Al-Zour area includes Ras Al-Zour area, Saudi Arabian Chevron Mina Saud compound, adjacent village and nearshore waters include a sandspit and patch reef. GPS for SAC Camp Main Gate N28 degr 44.342′ E48 degr 22.375′
1 April, Susan and I hosted Dirk Colin’s group of three from Belgium on their second visit to Zour this week to look for Socotra. Hazy conditions limited the views of the offshore towers and tides were high. 16:00-17:30h
6 April Susan and I hosted a large group to Zour to search for Socotra. 14 birders from the UK, Finland and Austria spent 1600-1800. It was an overcast day with some showers and dust. The tides were favorable with a good sandbar showing – low tide of 0.5m at 17:34.
8 April The family and I hosted another group to Zour to look for Socotra Cormorant. Pekka Fagel and his group of seven from Finland and four Brits. The day was terribly dusty, windy with a few sprinkles. Poor visibility hampered views of the north towers so we walked the bunch-grass portion of the golf course before scoping the sandspit.
10 April The family and I hosted the Brits (Chris Lansdell, Justin Lansdell, Lee Gregory & Andy Wilkinson) for a final search for the Socotra Cormorants. We were joined by Brian Foster. For the first day in several, the visibility was quite good and we had east breezes at 5-10 mph. We birded 1600-18:45 dusk. Tides were falling from a 2.2m high at 13:49 to a low 0.0m at 20:52.
- Inland lows 25-28C and highs 36-42C.
- Coastal lows 25-28 and highs 32-36 C
- 1 April Sunrise: 05:37 Sunset: 18:06
FOS = First of Spring
FOF = First of Fall
Common Quail: One at Z on 8 April. One at Z on 10 April.
Great Cormorant: 15 at Z on 1 April. 11 at Z on 6 April. Four at Z on 10 April.
Socotra Cormorant: One smallish looking bird was among a half-dozen cormorants roosting on one of the north reef towers off Z on 1 April. One 6 April, the same (?) smallish bird was on the same tower. One 10 April we had our best FOS for this species at Z. A single Great Cormrant was on the top of one of the north shore towers and a diminutive (Socotra) was directly below it. Lee Gregory photographed the direct size comparison and it was clearly 2/3 the size. It was an immature (pale breasted) bird. A clinching view under scope view at the great distance was the bird bending its neck to pick at its toes. The long-slim neck profile was devoid of any “bull-neck” or kinked look. The neck was slim and uniform in thickness.
Lesser Frigatebird: Birding magic struck Ras Al-Zour at about 17:15 as the group was enjoying watching the migrating and feeding terns far offshore. Justin Lansdell glanced to the right towards the point and east shore and coming into view was a bird he quickly called “skua”. I was on the bird quickly and thought “heron” – seeing the long wings, long tail and bulgy neck. Immediately, Justin correctly called “frigatebird and the Lesser Frigatebird. Everyone soon had the bird as it flew in front of us as close as 150m. The bird coursed the entire area, at time far offshore and out of site to the west for much of the next hour and fifteen minutes. We were hoping the bird would roost on the sandspit as it was exposed with the falling tide – nope. The bird harassed several terns over the observation period (successfully) on at least three Lesser Crested Terns. It was staggeringly efficient in flight. When it chose to pursue a tern, it merely flapped steadily and slowly to close rapidly on a fast flying tern with little effort. The maneuverability in its descent to catch the food falling from the tern was amazing for a bird with a nearly seven-foot wingspan. The birds markings were black and white below. Above, the bird was blackish with a pale (light brown?) bar on the inner half of the upper wing (median coverts?). The throat, breast and a wedge of the axillaries were white. The head and face were brownish – sub-adult bird. Reviewing the images in Harrison’s Seabirds book, the white extended out a bit farther than the plate of the subadult females. Lee Gregory imaged the bird and even had a short video clip. According to the local blogs, the bird was tentatively placed as of the Fregata ariel iredalei subspecies as this subspecies breeds in Mascarene Islands east of Madagascar and disperses to coasts of India and Somalia. The other two subspecies recognized, namely ariel and trinitatis are unlikely. The birds long forked tail and long-hooked thin bill were very striking and gave me reason to think grey heron at my first glance. This record is a Kuwait FIRST and the 4th Western Palearctic record and the first away from Israel (birds at Eilat on 1st December 1997, 6th May 1999 and 16th April 2005. My previous experience with the species is in the Seychelle Islands, specifically the hundred of frigates on La Digue Island.
Squacco Heron: Seven on the Zour golf course beach standing at the high tide line looked like exhausted migrants on 1 April.
Western Reef Egret: One blue phase bird at Z on 10 April was unusual and white birds are more often seen here.
Grey Heron: 2 at Z on 6 April. 12 at Z on 10 April roosted from the 9th.
Purple Heron: One at Z on 10 April roosted from the 9th.
Black Kite: One at Z on 10 April.
Pallid Harrier: Two migrants came ashore from over the sea on 1 April at Z.
Eurasian Hobby: One at Z on 6 April. One at Z on 10 April.
Kentish Snowy Plover: Two at Z on 1 April. Three at Z on 6 April.
Grey Plover: One at Z on 6 April. One at Z on 10 April.
Sanderling: Nine at Z on 1 April. Nine at Z on 6 April. Five at Z on 8 April. Five at Z on 10 April.
Whimbrel: 85 in a high-flying migrating flock ove Ras Al-Zour at 17:30hr on 6 April. Another flock of 30 moved over Z in the same manner on 8 April.
Common Sandpiper: Seven at Z on 1 April. Five at Z on 6 April. Two at Z on 8 April. Five at Z on 10 April.
Arctic Skua: One fide Dirk Colin at Z on 1 April.
Black-headed Gull: Three at Z on 6 April.
Slender-billed Gull: 40 at Z on 1 April. 60 at Z on 10 April.
Greater Crested Tern: One at Z on 1 April.
Lesser Crested Tern: 30 at Z on 1 April. 15 at Z on 6 April. 18 at Z on 8 April. 50 at Z on 10 April.
Sandwich Tern: Six at Z on 6 April.
White-cheeked Tern: Two at Z on 1 April FOS. Four at Z on 6 April. 15 at Z on 8 April. Four at Z on 10 April.
Bridled Tern: About 100 were amongst a mixed kettle of feeding birds scoped far off Ras Al-Zour on 10 April. A couple birds came to the sandspit to roost on the falling tide at dusk – the closest ashore I’ve ever seen this species at Zour.
Little Tern: Four at Z on 6 April. Two at Z on 10 April.
Eurasian Collared Dove: One at Z on 1 April.
Laughing Dove: 10 at Z on 1 April. Eight at Z on 6 April. Four at Z on 8 April. 15 at Z on 10 April.
Common Swift: Three passage migrants over WOF on 2 April.
European Bee-eater: 15 at Z on 1 April. Five at Z on 6 April. Many at Z on 7 April. 200 at Z on 8 April. 75 at Z on 10 April.
European Roller: One seen at dawn at Z on 10 April was my FOS.
Eurasian Hoopoe: Two at Z on 1 April. One at Z on 6 April. Two at Z on 8 April. Two at Z on 10 April.
Crested Lark: One at on 6 April. Four at Z on 8 April.
Barn Swallow: Two at Z on 6 April. Noted at Z on 7 April. 18 at Z on 8 April. 10 at Z on 10 April.
Red-rumped Swallow: Three at Z on 1 April.
Tree Pipit: 4 at Z on 8 April.
Red-throated Pipit: 10 at Z on 1 April. Eight at Z on 6 April. Noted at Z on 7 April. 16 at Z on 8 April. Four at Z on 10 April.
Yellow Wagtail: Nine at Z on 1 April. 20 at Z on 6 April. Noted at Z on 7 April. Five at Z on 8 April. 12 birds at Z on 10 April included 2 male lutea.
White Wagtail: One at WOF on 2 April. Two at Z on 6 April.
White-eared Bulbul: Five at Z on 1 April. Five at Z on 10 April.
Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin: One at Z on 1 April.
Common Redstart: One at Z on 1 April. One at Z on 6 April. Five at Z on 8 April. 2 at Z on 10 April.
Whinchat: One at Z on 1 April. Two at Z on 8 April. One at Z on 10 April.
Common Stonechat: One at Z on 1 April.
Isabelline Wheatear: One at Z on 7 April.
Northern Wheatear: One at Z on 1 April.
Pied Wheatear: Four at Z on 1 April. Five at Z on 6 April. 18 at Z on 8 April. Two at Z on 10 April.
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush: One at Z on 1 April. One at Z on 6 April. One at Z on 8 April.
Blackcap: Many feeding in the blooming bottlebrush plants at the Z Admin. Bldg. on 7 April. Four at Z on 10 April.
Lesser Whitethroat: One at Z on 10 April.
Common Chiffchaff: Five at Z on 1 April.
Willow Warbler: Two at Z on 1 April FOS.
Spotted Flycatcher: One at Z on 10 April FOS.
Isabelline Shrike: One at Z on 1 April. Two at Z on 10 April.
House Sparrow: Noted at Z and WOF on 1 April. Noted at Z on 6 April. Noted at Z on 7 April. Noted at Z on 10 April.
Pale Rockfinch: Two fide Pekka Fagel at Z on 8 April.
Cinereous Bunting: One fide Pekka Fagel at Z on 8 April.
Ortolan Bunting: Three at Z on 8 April.