22 Apr 2018

Arta – Jubail


Whilst birding the Jubail area recently I came across an Arta Calligonum comosum. Thius plant is a virtually leafless perennial shrub up to 2.5m tall, stem much branched from thick woody rootstock. Main stems dark and rough often with peeling bark, older branches white with swollen nodes, less rough but angular and fragile and often dropping. Twigs slender, dark green looks from a distance like long trailing hairs. Leaves if present are minute, 3-5mm long, falling off quickly. Flowers are many, five white sepals with greenish central stripe, no petals, with bright red anthers, on short stalks from leaf nodes, sometimes clustered. Flowers from December to April. Fruit is showy, bristly nut covered with rusty red or white furry hairs, becoming dirty yellow in maturity. It prefers sand plains, dunes and roadsides where it is common and widespread. This species is an excellent desert sand binder, cultivated and used for windbreaks around desert plantations; used as firewood, as it burns smokelessly; dried leaves and stems are chewed to treat toothache, young shoots collected as salad greens or powdered to add to milk as a tonic or flavouring, fruits are edible.
Arta

Arta

Arta

Arta

Arta



20 Apr 2018

Wheatears and late winter visitors - Jubail


Birding the Jubail area continued turning up migrants and winter visitors with plenty of Great Cormorants staying in the area later this year than previously. They used to be seen rarely in the area but have now started winter in large numbers. Wheatears have been common with Pied Wheatears the commonest although a few Eastern Black-eared Wheatears of both forms seen. Waders are passing through with good numbers of both Little Ringed and Common Ringed Plovers, as well as the occasional Temminck’s Stint and Greater Sand Plover. Small numbers of both Common Swift and Pallid Swift have been passing through along with Barn Swallow and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. Many full breeding plumage Squacco Herons are around and several small flocks of various subspecies of Yellow Wagtails have been located with one supercilliaris amongst them.
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Eurasian Hoopoe
Eurasian Hoopoe
Great Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Little Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Pallid Swift
Pallid Swift
Pied Wheatear
Pied Wheatear
Pied Wheatear
Pied Wheatear
Squacco Heron
Squacco Heron
Temminck's Stint
Temminck's Stint 
Yellow Wagtail - supercilliaris
Yellow Wagtail - supercilliaris
  

18 Apr 2018

Red-veined Dropwing – Raydah Escarpment

One of Africa’s most common and widely distributed dragonflies, the male red-veined dropwing Trithemis arteriosa has a slender red abdomen and is named after the bright red veins running across its wings. It can also be found and across southern Europe and parts of the Middle East  including Saudi Arabia. The female and immature red-veined dropwing, have a yellowish-russet abdomen with a pale streak between the wings. As with other dropwing species, the wings are held downwards and forwards when at rest. Both the male and female red-veined dropwing have orange flecks at the base of the wings and large crimson eyes. The distinctive lower mouthparts are yellow with a central bronze stripe. Black splashes run along the sides of the abdomen, increasing in size up to the tip, which is entirely black. The flight period for adult red-veined dropwings is throughout the year, although they are more commonly seen during the summer months. Perching is thought to help the red-veined dropwing locate and catch prey and allows the male red-veined dropwing to lookout for female mates and intruders.
Red-veined Dropwing

16 Apr 2018

Steppe Buzzard - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently I came across a single Steppe Buzzard Buteo Buteo vulpinus. This is the first time I have seen the species in the area so was very pleased with the sighting. Steppe Buzzard is an uncommon passage migrant and winter visitor that pass in March and April and again in September and October, merging with the occasional and sparse winter visitors which may appear in any or all months between the autumn and spring movements. 
Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

14 Apr 2018

Pied Wheatear eating Mole Cricket – Deffi Park

Whilst birding Deffi Park recently I came across a Pied Wheatear eating a Mole Cricket. The insect is from the family Gryllotalpidae measuring 3-5 cm long and as it is nocturnal, so they are seldom seen. This one was found by the Wheatear in the very early morning on a grass field. The scientific name derives from the Latin 'gryllus' meaning cricket and 'talpa', mole, and refers to its similarity to a mole in both looks and subterranean habits. The body is brown in colour and covered with fine velvety hairs, and the forelegs are greatly modified for digging with hands like a mole. Adults and nymphs can be found throughout the year in extensive tunnel systems that may reach a depth of over one metre. They occur throughout Europe, except Norway and Finland, through the Middle East to western Asia and North Africa. Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka is a common spring migrant that is less common in autumn. Most years birds are recorded in spring between early February and Mid-May, peaking in March and in autumn from late August to mid-November commonest in second half of September. 
Pied Wheatear eating a Mole Cricket

Pied Wheatear eating a Mole Cricket

Pied Wheatear eating a Mole Cricket

Pied Wheatear eating a Mole Cricket