28 Nov 2014

Birds from Buraidah – Bird records by Ragu Shanbhogue

Ragu Shanbhogue has been sending me a few photographs he has taken in Buraidah in the north north of the Kingdom in recent weeks with the photos below some of the best ones. He has been seeing a number of good migrants in his area some of which are struggling to make it to the Eastern Province n numbers this year in particular Spanish Sparrow and Masked Shrike. Like the Eastern Province some of the main wintering species such as White Wagtail are starting to appear in good numbers in Ragu’s area as well with these numbers building up over the net couple of months.
Masked Shrike - juvenile
Barn Swallow - juvenile
Common Chiffchaff
Eurasian Blackcap
Spanish Sparrow

27 Nov 2014

Common Kingfishers at Sabkhat Al Fasl – Bird records by Phil Roberts

Phil Roberts was birding at Sabkhat Al Fasl in early November and mentioned he had seen plenty of Common Kingfishers and said he had taken a photo of one eating a fish. Phil sent me a couple of the photos and has kindly allowed me to use them on my website. He has captured the Kingfisher throwing the fish up to get it in a better position to eat in one of the photos. The bird eating the fish is a female as it has a red base to the bill whilst the bird with the completely black bill is a male. Sabkhat Al Fasl is an excellent place to see Common Kingfishers but they are not easy to photograph so Phil has done very well to obtain these photos of the species particularly when you take the action into account.

26 Nov 2014

Finsch’s Wheatear - Jabal Nayriyyah

On Phil and my November trip to the north of the Province on 21 November, we stopped at Jabal Nayriyyah to see if we could see Desert Larks and Eastern Morning Wheatear that are regularly see there. We did not see either species but I did find a Finsch’s Wheatear below one of the Jebals. It was very flighty and would not allow close approach but following it about for some time and careful study showed it to be this species, with the white down the back and the ‘T’ like tail pattern diagnostic. This was only the second time I have seen the species in Saudi Arabia and it was a new bird for Phil so we were very happy with the stop. Very little else was seen here apart from an Asian Desert Warbler and an Isabelline Wheatear along with a Red-tailed Wheatear. I have only seen Red-tailed Wheatear in one site before in Saudi Arabia and this was my local ‘patch’. Finsch’s Wheatear is a rare to uncommon winter visitor to the Northern Hejaz, Tabuk, Northern Deserts, Summan Plateau and the northern part of the Eastern Province.

25 Nov 2014

Hypocolius - Al Khafah

Whilst birding the area near Jebal Nayriyyah at a small settlement called Al Khafah that has a number of date palm trees nearby, we found a Hypocolius. It was a female sitting quietly in a small tree and was located due to the flock of Spanish Sparrows that were nearby. This area is north of Hanidh and is only the second time I have seen the species in Saudi Arabia as they are unobtrusive and easily overlooked, frequenting thick palm scrub in oasis and cultivated areas often near settlements such as this location. Hypocolius is a regular but local winter visitor from November to April. In the Eastern Province it has been noted at widely scattered locations from Hanidh in the north to Haradh in the south. The highest counts have been 85-120 at Salasil in December 1983. Migrants have been seen in November and April, with odd males at Haradh and Al Kharj away from the normal palms suggesting migration during those months. In Saudi Arabia as a whole they are an uncommon, but may be a locally common winter visitor to Central Arabia, Northern Hejaz, Hejaz and Northern Red Sea. Flocks of over 100 birds have been recorded in Riyadh each winter.

24 Nov 2014

Red-tailed Wheatear and a few other passerines – Dhahran Hills

The Red-tailed Wheatear is still present on the boulders behind the pond and looks like it may remain for some time. I have still not managed to get any proper photographs of the bird as I always see it in the late evening after work and the light is already poor. As a result the photos below were taken with a high ISO and are not as good as they could have been. Hopefully this weekend I will be able to take some better photos in better light if I can find the bird again. Other passerines are not that common but a few Common Chiffchaffs, a Lesser Whitethroat and several Daurian Shrikes have been around. Other birds of note have been three Tawny Pipits in the spray fields that do an excellent job of hiding in the grass and keeping themselves well hidden and a few Eurasian Skylarks remain from the small flock I found a few days before. Other winter visitors seen include a few Water Pipits and several White Wagtails including some males still in full breeding plumage. Several Rose-ringed Parakeets have been seen in the late evening as whilst I have been watching the girls playing football in the main camp. These birds very rarely come to the Hills area so I do not often see them and have never managed to photograph the species in the camp even though they are common in the main camp, but this is not part of my ‘patch’ for birding. Also seen were two Western Marsh Harriers over the spray fields an adult male and a female.
Red-tailed Wheatear
Red-tailed Wheatear
Daurian Shrike
Western Marsh Harrier - female
Western Marsh Harrier - male