Mohammed Al Mohatresh an excellent birder from the Zulfi region of the Kingdom saw and photographed a Pallid Scops Owl in wadi south of Zulfi in late December 2016. This is not the first time Mohammed and Masur Al Fahad have seen this species of owl in the winter around Zulfi where it is probably an uncommon winter visitor. The Pallid Scops Owl is a rare or scarce winter visitor to most areas of Saudi Arabia with the majority of records coming from the northern areas of the country with this bird fitting in nicely with the other records of the species in the Kingdom. I would like to Thank Mansur for sending me the record and photo of the species and Mohammed for allowing me to use his excellent photo on my website.
19 Jan 2017
17 Jan 2017
Phil Roberts and I found a juvenile White-crowned Wheatears Oenanthe leucopyga at Haradh on 13 January 2017. The bird was seen along a roadside with scattered rocks as well as fences to keep people away from the pivot irrigation fields. This species had not been recorded in this area previously according to Mike Jennings, but is one of the most common wheatears in the Kingdom having been seen in more areas than any other. White-crowned Wheatear is an uncommon resident in areas where it is found, normally associated with granite and sandstone jebals and other rocky areas although it status in the southern part of the Kingdom is unclear. Birds of the Riyadh Region (1984) said they were locally common breeding resident with some movement within the region post-breeding and during the winter months. Jennings Birds of Saudi Arabia (1981) said they were a locally common breeding resident in dry rocky areas. Occurs Hejaz north from Taif, Northern Hejaz, Asir south of Soudah and Najran, Tuwaiq escarpment and locally in the Gulf. Also Jauf, Hail and Dawadimi. In my area of the Eastern Province they are only commonly seen in the Shedgum Escarpment so the bird at Haradh was a good but unexpected find.
15 Jan 2017
On 13 January Phil Roberts and I travelled to Haradh an area of extensive pivot irrigation fields three hours drive from Dhahran. We were primarily looking to see if we could prove Sociable Lapwing wintered in the area as we had seen birds here in February 2016 but were uncertain if these were wintering birds or very early migrants. We left at 03:30 hrs to allow us to be at the site at first light. We tried a set of fields off the main road some distance and eventually found some access to some very good looking fields in various stages of growth from ploughed to fallow to newly growing. We eventually came across a newly ploughed field that had over 100 Northern Lapwing in it, a habitat and species that were used by associated with by lasy years Sociable Lapwings . After a couple of minutes I saw two Sociable Lapwings in flight in the flock that flew around and landed in the ploughed field. We drove around to the area where the access track was to the pivot irrigation bars and moved down this into the middle of the field. Here we scanned through the Northern Lapwings we could see and eventually found three Sociable Lapwings. The three Sociable Lapwings eventually flew off and we went looking for further birds. Another filed that was in the process of being ploughed also held several hundred Northern Lapwings and four Sociable Lapwings making a total of seven birds. The birds never came close enough for good photos and were very timid when we were on foot so the below poor photos are all that I obtained. These birds are only the third time the species has been recorded in the Eastern Province after an adult at Haradh farm on 25 February 1982 and our 16 at Haradh on 5 February 2016. These birds seen on 13 January are much too early to be passage migrants and show that Haradh is a new wintering location for the species. This is not the first place for the species to winter in Saudi Arabia as other winter in the northwest of the Kingdom at Tabuk and others still in the southwest near Jizan.
13 Jan 2017
Chris Boland a birdwatcher who lives in Dhahran saw a Scops Owl at very close range in his garden on the evening of 6 November and sent me a message the next day saying he would look for it again that evening and let me know if it was still present. I got a text at 18:45 saying the bird was still present in the trees and shrubs of his garden and was using the satellite dish to sit on. I went around with my camera and flash gun to see if I could relocate it and saw it almost immediately sitting on the grass but it flew and landed in a tree very near to me. My first views gave me the impression it was a Pallid Scops Owl but they are not so easy to tell apart from grey phase Eurasian Scops Owls. After a couple of brief views Chris came out with a torch and saw the bird again sitting on the grass. This time it flew only a short distance and landed in a palm tree where I was able to take a few photographs of it. It move around a little before eventually flying over to another garden. We have two Scops Owls in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabian, Eurasian Scops Owl and Pallid Scops Owl. Both are seldom seen with Eurasian Scops Owl being an uncommon passage migrant and Pallid Scops Owl being a scarce passage migrant and winter visitor. I have only seen one Eurasian Scops Owl in Saudi Arabia on 26 August 2015 when I found one in my garden in Dhahran Hills. I was unable to photograph that bird so the shots I got of this one made up for things. This bird although not straight forward to identify was a Eurasian Scops Owl of the subspecies O. s. turanicus that occurs in Iraq, western and northern Iran and southwest Turkmenistan east to northwest Pakistan. Winters south of the Sahara from south Mauritania eastwards to Eritrea, south to southern Cameroon, Kenya and Somalia. This subspecies is mainly a long-distance migrant, leaving the breeding grounds from August onwards; most reach Afrotropical savanna regions in winter; return migration occurs from late March. I would like to thank Chris for letting me know about the bird and texting me to let me know it was still present the next day and various birders including Oscar Campbell, Mark Smiles, Yoav Perlman and Hadoram Shirahai for help with the identification.
11 Jan 2017
The Arabian Green Bee-eater is usually treated as conspecific with M. viridissimus and M. orientalis, but differs from both in its very short stub-ended central tail feathers; bright blue forehead, supercilium and throat, and bluer lower belly; broader, smudgier black breast-bar; marginally larger size and clearly longer tail (minus the tail extensions) than the other taxa. The new species has two proposed subspecies M. c. cyanophrys occurring from southern Israel to western Jordan and west and south Arabian coasts of Saudi Arabia and M. c. muscatensis occurring from central Arabian plateau and east Arabia (E Yemen to Oman and United Arab Emirates). The race najdanus (from Central Arabian plateau) now included within muscatensis. This proposed new species is not difficult to see and can be seen away from the main endemic rich area of the southwest mountains, although it does not reach as far as the Eastern Province stopping around the Riyadh area in central Saudi Arabia.