3 Dec 2016

Caspian Reed Warblers trapped and ringed - Jubail

Whilst ringing at Jubail in mid to late November we trapped and ringed two Caspian (Eurasian) Reed Warbler A. s. fuscus. This species is a common passage migrant and uncommon breeding species seen from early February to May and late July to early November in Saudi Arabia. The species has been proposed as being resident in the Eastern Province but this is not borne out by our ringing data, where we only caught birds during migration and the summer months. Birds were first seen at the site on 31 January when six singing birds were seen and numbers increased over the next three months. All birds trapped and ringed were Caspian Reed Warbler A. s. fuscus with DNA samples confirming the identification. Small reed warblers with wing lengths as small as 61mm have been noted in Israel and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia as well as Bahrain. These birds have in the past been confused for Blyth’s Reed Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum due to their short wing length. We have also caught Reed Warblers with short wing lengths of 61mm on 2 May 2014 and one with a wing length of 60 mm on 10 April 2015 and it would be interesting to find out where these birds originate from as presumably they are not Caspian Reed Warblers but a different subspecies?
Caspian (Eurasian) Reed Warbler

Caspian (Eurasian) Reed Warbler

Caspian (Eurasian) Reed Warbler

2 Dec 2016

First Indian Reed Warbler trapped in Jubil re-caught - Jubail

During our ringing sessions at Sabkhat Al Fasl we catch good numbers of Indian Reed Warblers some of which are retraps. Some of these birds have been retrapped soon after their original capture but others have been caught after a prolonged period. Whilst ringing on 13 November 2016 we retrapped the very first Indian Reed Warbler (or any bird) we ringed at the site. This bird was also trapped on 16 October 2015. This is a total of making it a total of 1012 days from original capture to retrap.  The weekend previously we recaught a bird ringed on the first days ringing at the site after 610 days. Indian Reed Warblers are meant to be resident but the large number caught at our site combined with the small retrap rate of these birds makes a strong case for birds passing through our location at least during some periods of the year. Obviously the long period between retraps of some of the birds do show they are resident in the trapping area with this bird retrapped three times in exactly the same net. As can be seen from the photos below the bird has freshly moulted flight and tail feathers showing Indian Reed Warblers moult in September and October after the breeding season.
Indian Reed Warbler

Indian Reed Warbler

1 Dec 2016

Two good Owl species near Zulfi – Records by Mansur Al Fahad

Mansur was back in his native Zulfi area mid-November and managed to see some very good birds including two species of Owl of which one would be new for me if I saw one. The first was a Short-eared Owl that is a scarce winter visitor to all areas north of Jeddah, Riyadh and Hofuf. This species is seldom seen in the Eastern Province and I have not managed to locate one myself yet. The second was a Pharaoh Eagle Owl a scarce but widespread breeding resident from Abqaiq, Hofuf, northern Hejaz, Tabuk, Hail and Riyadh, nortwards. Not yet confirmed from Hejaz, Asir and Tihamah. This species is much more regularly seen than Short-eared Owl but are still great birds to see and make a good days birding when one is located. I thank Mansur for sending me his beautiful photographs and for allowing me to use them on my website, two of which are shown below.
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Pharaoh Eagle Owl
Pharaoh Eagle Owl

30 Nov 2016

Short-toed Snake Eagle Al Asfar Lake – Records by Arnold Uy

Whilst Arnold Uy was birding the Al Asfar Lake area of Al Hassa he saw a Short-toed Snake Eagle. The bird was seen hovering and later perched on some power lines. This is a good record as in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia the species is a scarce migrant and winter visitor and has only been recorded since 1979 although birds have been seen in all months of the year except July and August. Most records have occurred in March and October & November suggesting most birds just pass through the area although single records in December to February show some birds may winter here. Birds have been seen from the Dibdibah, Nariya and Manifa in the north to Haradh and Jawb on the edge of the Rub’ al-Khali in the south. I have seen a few birds whilst being in Saudi Arabia in the Eastern Province including a second calendar year, Dhahran Hills, 31st March 2011, two juveniles, Dhahran Hills, 22nd October 2011, a second calendar year, Dhahran Hills, 11th February 2012 and a second calendar year, Dhahran Hills, 26th March 2013 and one Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm, near Jubail on 11 September 2015. I thank Arnold for allowing me to use his photographs shown below on my website.
Short-toed Snake Eagle

Short-toed Snake Eagle

29 Nov 2016

Ringing Grey-headed Swamphen - Jubail

Whilst ringing in Jubail we caught a Grey-headed Swamphen in a mist net. This is quite a feat as they are large and heavy birds that seldom fly. It had managed to fly into the net and was caught in the bottom shelf but as we place these shelves well above the water to stop and incidences of heavy birds getting wet when caught in the bottom shelf all was well. This is the third Grey-headed Swamphen we have trapped and ringed at the site and they are always good to handle. The splitting of Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio into five species means that Grey-headed Swamphen P. poliocephalus is by far the main species in the Region, comprising the nominate, caspius and seistanicus, though the validity of the last two is still debated. Swamphens from Saudi Arabia now comprise both breeding Grey-headed Swamphens in the Eastern Province and African Swamphen P. madagascariensis which is a vagrant with two records. A record of an adult at KAUST near Jeddah in September 2013 remained for at least three weeks before being killed by a car and two together at Dhahran percolation pond in December 2014 for several days.
Grey-headed Swamphen