28 May 2018

Sacred Scarab – Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm (Fadhili)

Whilst birding the Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm (Fadhili) with Phil Roberts we came across a Sacred Scarab Scarabaeus sacer. The Sacred Scarab is a dung beetle that is common in Saudi Arabia where swarms often follow herds of camels and sheep in the desert. They pounce on any fresh droppings, make them into balls and then roll them into a hole made in soft ground. The female will then lay and egg in the ball which is large enough for food throughout the young beetle’s development. Some of these beetles have become nocturnal to prevent birds of prey and shrikes eating them. The Sacred Scarab we saw was jumping on Sand Swimmer beetle’s Zophosis complanate and rolling them backwards between its legs to a hole and dropping them down the hole. No Sand Swimmer that went down the ole came back up again. Dung beetles are usually round with short wing covers (elytra) that expose the end of the abdomen. They vary in size from 5 to 30 mm and are usually dark in colour, although some have a metallic lustre. In many species, there is a long, curved horn on the top of the male’s head. Dung beetles can eat more than their own weight in 24 hours and are considered helpful to humans because they speed up the process of converting manure to substances usable by other organisms.
Sacred Scarab

Sacred Scarab

Sacred Scarab

Sacred Scarab

Sacred Scarab

26 May 2018

Spring birding - Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm, Fadhili

A spring trip in early May to Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm, Fadhili failed to produce much of interest. The best birds seen included Spur-winged Lapwing and Ruddy Turnstone. Spur-winged Lapwing may well be breeding at the site now as birds have been around all winter and most of last year. It was the first time I had seen Ruddy Turnstone at the location as it is more than 30 kilometres from the sea. There were good numbers of migrant Red-backed Shrikes and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters present, with a few Willow Warblers and a single male Whinchat but very little else of interest. The location is normally excellent so it was a bit of a disappointing visit.
Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike
Whinchat
Whinchat

24 May 2018

Sand Swimmer – Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm (Fadhili)

Whilst birding the Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm (Fadhili) with Phil Roberts we found a large number of Sand Swimmer Zophosis complanate. Sand Swimmer is a darkling beetle that is normally found in sand dunes. They prefer soil with some clay in them and the ones we found were near a wet sabkha area and reeds with the sand having at least some clay content. Their exterior is smooth allowing them to swim through sand often just below the surface. The beetles we saw were being predated by a Sacred Scarab Scarabaeus sacer which I do not know if it common or not but the Sand Swimmers did not appear concerned about the Scarab Beetle at all.
Sand Swimmer

22 May 2018

Native Honeybee – Abha area

I saw a single honeybee Apis sppwhen in Abha recently but am not sure what Honey Bee it is but Apis mellifera jemeniticahas been used in apiculture throughout the Arabian Peninsula since at least 2000 BC. Existing literature demonstrates that these populations are well adapted for the harsh extremes of the region with populations of A. m. jemenitica native to Saudi Arabia far more heat tolerant than the standard races from Europe. The indigenous race of Saudi Arabia differs from other subspecies in the region in some morphological, biological, and behavioural characteristics. Further taxonomic investigation, as well as molecular studies, is needed in order to confirm whether the Saudi indigenous bee populations represent a race distinct from A. m. jemenitica, or merely an ecotype of this subspecies.
honeybee

20 May 2018

Red-backed Shrikes – Jubail

Early May is always a good time to see Red-backed Shrike in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom and this year is no exception. A trip to the coastal areas of Jubail produced more than 30 birds in a single morning with five Turkestan Shrikes and a single adult male Daurian Shrike. Other migrants seen included plenty of Willow Warblers, Whinchat, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and several Yellow Wagtails. Waders included Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Little Stint, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper. All the Western Marsh Harriers and Greater Spotted Eagles appear to have left for the summer now as none where seen. At least two Spotted Crakes were located and many Grey-headed Swamphens including young were present. 
Red-backed Shrike