21 Mar 2019

Pharaoh Eagle Owl - Jubail area

I saw and photographed a Pharaoh Eagle Owl recently in the desert in the Eastern Province. Records suggest it is an uncommon bird in the Saudi Arabian deserts, although it is probably more common than records suggest as they are secretive and well camouflaged. The Pharaoh Eagle Owl is distributed throughout much of North Africa and the Middle East, with two recognised subspecies. The subspecies Bubo ascalaphus ascalaphusoccupies the northern part of the species range, being found in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, northern Egypt and Israel east to western Iraq. By contrast, the smaller, paler and sandier coloured Bubo ascalaphus desertorumcan be found in the Sahara Desert south to Mauritania & Niger and from Western Sahara, east, to Sudan, as well as in Eritrea, Ethiopia and much of the Arabian Peninsula, as far south as northern Oman and as far east as southern Iraq. They are found in arid habitats, including open desert plains, rocky outcrops and broken escarpments and jabals, mountain cliffs and wadis. Most records from Saudi Arabia have been attributed to the pale B. a. desertorumas this bird appears to be, but there appear to be many birds resembling the sub-species B. a. ascalaphusalso in the Kingdom.
Pharaoh Eagle Owl

Pharaoh Eagle Owl

Pharaoh Eagle Owl

19 Mar 2019

Rush Veneer – Tabuk

Whilst birdwatching some large pivot fields near Tabuk I flushed a small moth that fortunately landed some distance away. I took a few photos of it and was able with the help of Phil Roberts identify it as a Rush Veneer Nomophila noctuella. They have a nearly cosmopolitan distribution across Europe, North Africa, Arabia, Central Asia, Pakistan and North America. They are regularly seen in alfalfa fields where they are known as pests, so the location of the sighting fits in with its distribution elsewhere. When at rest, this moth has a very elongated and narrow shape, which makes it easily recognisable.
Rush Vaneer Nomophila noctuella.

17 Mar 2019

Wheatears– Shedgum Escarpment

Whilst birdwatching at Shedgum Escarpment we saw a few interesting birds although the weather was not good so photos were average to poor. Winter birding at this location is always difficult with few species seen but it is an excellent place to see White-crowned Wheatear. We first went to the bottom of the Escarpment and looked around the base of the cliffs and found a up to five White-crowned Wheatears including young birds with black heads and no white caps. There were many Tawny Pipits feeding around in the newly grown plants that have popped up due to all the rain we have had recently. Other species seen included a couple of distant Desert Larks and several Desert Wheatears, Isabelline Wheatears and a single Eastern Mourning Wheatear. We then went to the top of the escarpment as Trumpeter Fiches have been seen breeding here at this time of year, many years ago, but we saw little except a Long-legged Buzzard and several House Sparrows. 
White-crowned Wheatear
White-crowned Wheatear
White-crowned Wheatear
White-crowned Wheatear
White-crowned Wheatear
White-crowned Wheatear
White-crowned Wheatear
White-crowned Wheatear
White-crowned Wheatear
White-crowned Wheatear
Eastern Mourning Wheatear
Eastern Mourning Wheatear
Desert Wheatear - female
Desert Wheatear - female


15 Mar 2019

Red-wattled Lapwing – Khafrah Marsh

Whilst birding the Khafrah Marsh area on 9 March I saw three adult Red-wattled Lapwing. The species is scarce in Saudi Arabia with records from Riyadh, the Empty Quarter and the Eastern Province. This species is a resident breeder at wetlands in eastern Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait, and is gradually colonizing westwards. It would be great to think that the birds breeding to the north and south of us are trying to join up their breeding ranges, but so far it has not yet been recorded to breed in Saudi Arabia. In the Eastern province it is regarded as a scarce passage migrant and winter visitor although records are becoming more common with over twenty birds seen together at Shaybah in recent years with others near Hofuf, Jubail and Dhahran. There have been a number of suspected breeding birds seen but no actual confirmation of the species breeding in the Kingdom. These three birds are in suitable habitat for breeding and are very flighty not allowing close approach so could potentially be thinking of breeding.
Red-wattled Lapwing

Red-wattled Lapwing

Red-wattled Lapwing

Red-wattled Lapwing


13 Mar 2019

Buntings & Larks – Jebal Hamrah

Whilst birding the Jebal Hamrah pivot irrigation fields recently with Phil Roberts, we came across a huge flock of Corn Buntings. The total seen was a minimum of one hundred birds and possibly many more. They were feeding in the grassy pivot fields but a couple of times all took to the air and landed on rough ground under the pivot irrigation equipment allowing reasonable views. In amongst the Corn Buntings were several small groups of Eurasian Skylarks and Greater Short-toed Larks. Corn Buntings are uncommon winter visitors to the region but this winter we have seen a few large flocks, like one in Tabuk and this one. Eurasian Skylarks are regular winter visitors in small numbers often seen in pivot irrigation fields. Greater Short-toed Larks are common passage migrants with flocks of several hundred often seen in suitable habitat.
Corn Bunting
Corn Bunting
Corn Bunting
Corn Bunting
Eurasian Skylark
Eurasian Skylark
Eurasian Skylark
Eurasian Skylark
Eurasian Skylark
Eurasian Skylark 
Eurasian Skylark
Eurasian Skylark
Greater Short-toed Lark
Greater Short-toed Lark