23 Jun 2018

Summertime birding - Jubail

Birding the Jubail area in June gave a few surprising migrants including Whinchat, European Bee-eater, Red-backed Shrike, Barn Swallow and Sand Martin. A Western Cattle Egret was also a surprise as they are a winter species that has normally departed by this time of year. A few summer plumage Squacco Herons were also present showing for the fifth year that they probably breed at the site, although no proof of this has been found yet. White-cheeked and Little Terns are back in large numbers for the breeding season and will remain around until September. Resident Gull-billed and Caspian Terns were also present in much smaller numbers to the previous two tern species. Over 2000 Greater Flamingo remain on one of the large sabkha areas where the first breeding in Saudi Arabia was noted a couple of years ago. Large numbers of singing Caspian Reed Warblers were present in the reed beds singing in competition with Indian (Clamorous) Reed Warblers. Little Bitterns were seen in flight several times as were a group of twelve Grey Herons.
Little Bittern
Little Bittern
Little Bittern
Little Bittern
Little Tern
Little Tern 
Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike
Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher
Squacco Heron
Squacco Heron 
Western Cattle Egret
Western Cattle Egret

21 Jun 2018

Indian Reef Heron - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently we came across a good number of Indian Reef Heron Egretta gularis. The species is a common, mostly resident coastal breeder that can be seen in good numbers. Most birds seen are white morph birds but about 10% are of the grey or black morph. They occur on all coasts of the Kingdom but are seldom recorded inland. I have seen nests on offshore islands in the Arabian Gulf where birds breed in the summer months. They often occur with other egrets, mainly Little Egrets and Great Egrets and normally stay close to shore to fish.
Indian Reef Heron - Egretta gularis

Indian Reef Heron - Egretta gularis

Indian Reef Heron - Egretta gularis

19 Jun 2018

Lesser Emperor - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently we came across a Lesser Emperor Anax Parthenope sitting still on a large reed stem. The dragonfly allowed close photos to be take the best of which is shown below. Lesser Emperor has a length of approximately 71mm and has a bright blue ‘saddle’ that is very noticeable. The rest of the abdomen is brownish, as is the thorax. The eyes are green. It is a wide-range Palearctic and Indomalayan species that is not threatened on a global scale, although local declines may occur due to habitat destruction and water pollution. Occurs in much of southern and central Europe including most Mediterranean islands, across Asia to Japan including parts of Arabia, Korean Peninsula and China, and North Africa. In the south of its range it can be on the wing in March but is most commonly seen from June to September. They are most often seen patrolling around ponds, lakes and other still water. 
Lesser Emperor - Anax Parthenope

Lesser Emperor - Anax Parthenope


17 Jun 2018

Asir mountains in May

Whilst birding the Asir mountains in May I saw a lot of good birds. This included six endemic bird species including Yemen Thrush, Yemen Warbler, Arabian Wheatear, Yemen Serin, Arabian Serin and Phiby’s Partridge. I also saw Asir (Arabian) Magpie that is now being considered an endemic species as well. Several other good specialities of the southwest were seen including Shikra, African Pipit, African Stonechat, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting and White-spectacled Bulbul. Violet-backed Starling and Gambaga Flycatcher are summer visitors from Africa and were common and another African summer visitor Grey-headed Kingfisher was seen in a couple of places. Laughing Dove was common and there were also plenty of Dusky Turtle Doves a much less common species restricted in range in Saudi Arabia to the southwest. 
Gambaga Flycatcher

African Stonechat

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting

Palestine Sunbird

15 Jun 2018

Asir (Arabian) Magpie – Tanoumah and An Namas

Whilst in the southwest on the Kingdom in May I saw at least five Asir (Arabian) Magpie at two different locations. Old nests were discovered near Tanoumah and near An Namas with adults and at least one juvenile seen near the nests. These birds remain very difficult to photograph and are constantly on the move looking for food. The taxonomic position of Asir (Arabian) Magpie Pica asirensisis uncertain with some authorities regarding it as a full species such as HBW and others not. Two new papers: Deep Phylogeographic Breaks in Magpie Pica picaAcross the Holarctic: Concordance with Bioacoustics and Phenotypes by Alexey P. Kryukov et aland Complete taxon sampling of the avian genus Pica (magpies) reveals ancient relictual populations and synchronous Late-Pleistocene demographic expansion across the Northern Hemisphere by Gang Song et alboth indicated the birds are a separate species to Eurasian Magpie Pica Pica. Arabian Magpies are sedentary and localised and occur in upland valleys and wadis, of the Asir highlands between 1850–3000 m asl. P. asirensisisis a taxon with a very restricted range, confined to a small region within Saudi Arabia where numbers are decreasing probably because of heavy disturbance by tourism and perhaps changes in climate.
Asir (Arabian) Magpie - Pica asirensisis

Asir (Arabian) Magpie - Pica asirensisis

Asir (Arabian) Magpie - Pica asirensisis

Asir (Arabian) Magpie - Pica asirensisis

Asir (Arabian) Magpie - Pica asirensisis

Asir (Arabian) Magpie - Pica asirensisis

Asir (Arabian) Magpie - Pica asirensisis