Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Qatar: Desert Waters

From the Arakhiya Farm (see my previous entry) we turned back eastwards to the Abu Nahkla lagoon, an artificial settlement area for treated water that has become a local Mecca for migratory water birds.

The lagoon is actually a fair-sized lake bounded by a raised dike, lined with reedbeds on the landward side of the dike. At the entrance, seen above, are the remains of a tiny mosque.

Here I am, with Gord in the background, waiting for interesting birds to pop out of the reeds.

Here's a bird that did, though admittedly not at close range: a Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis), one of Qatar's smallest birds.

The open waters on the reedbed side of the dike attract Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus) and migrant waders such as Black-tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa). the big bird at the back is a Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea).

On the lake side, shoreline rocks provided perch sites for crowds of cormorants.

Most of them, like this one, were Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo).

A few, though, were an area specialty: the Socotra Cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis), endemic to the Persian Gulf and surrounding waters: notice the very thin-looking head and bill. Socotras often associate in large flocks, but they are much commoner on the coast than on this inland lagoon.

They're a bit far off in this photo, but here among the herons and cormorants you can see a flock of Greater Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber antiquorum).

This is one of a pair of Western Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus) that circled over the lagoon.

Our last stop was the seaside town of Al-Wakra, south of Doha. This has a fine beach (though a good part of it, including a stretch of mangroves, has been dug up to supply Qatar's insatiable construction industry).

The seaside, of course, is not just of interest to birders, and despite the peaceful blue of the sea itself the beach was swarming with people. This, of course, meant that it was not swarming with birds, though there were some terns and shorebirds about.

A few birds swam about the boats in the harbour, including this Slender-billed Gull (Chroiocephalus genei) and a few Socotra Cormorants.

And that was my Qatar birding trip -- with thanks and a final nod to Gord, for taking us out, and Birgith, for inviting me along!

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