After driving an hour from home, Waze took me to a roundabout off the Salwa Road about 60km from Doha. There are no signs to the lagoons and you must pass over a second roundabout then turn left onto an access road. The entrance is on your right which is an inlet road to the lagoons. Pass through the gate in the chain fence and you can see a strip of green ahead.

Wide expanses of water grass fringe the first lagoon. It is a disconcerting sight in the vast white blankness of the surrounding landscape. Despite a vague smell of petrol (these are former blackwater treatment ponds) you are soon presented with a sparkling vista of shimmering water surrounded on all sides by verdant green swaths of grass.

Field Notes

There is something perplexing about the scene. All around lies the arid and scorched earth, baked hard and flat. In front of you there’s a basin of dancing blue water and there are birds, lots of birds

The Lagoons are an exciting destination for birders in Qatar. There is no other landscape like it in the country, with the nearest equivalent the mangroves areas. This however is a fresh water environment.

Although there were a number of exciting birds to see on this first visit, I was pleased to note what I assumed was a thriving community of tree sparrows. The house sparrow is one of the most common birds in Qatar, and what initially took to be tree sparrows was a nice reminder of a familiar UK species.

On closer inspection I realised these were not tree sparrows at all, but Spanish sparrows. The Spanish sparrow is quite similar to the house sparrow but has a lovely chestnut crown whereas the house sparrow’s is grey. This feature is shared with the tree sparrow. Unlike the tree sparrow, though, the Spanish sparrow has a white stripe above the eye, which you can clearly see in the photo below.

Bird List January 18-1-20

Black-Winged Stilt, Marsh Harrier, Great Egret, Spanish Sparrow, Rock Pipit, Water Pipit.