6 May 2016

Land birds around Jubail

This spring has been a very good one for Common Redstart with hundreds of birds seen throughout the region including many very smartly plumaged males. My last visit to Jubail provided more than 50 sightings of this species roughly divided 50/50 between males and females. Another couple of migrants that have occurred in good numbers this spring were Red-throated Pipit and Tree Pipit with tens of each of these species seen. The last few Daurian Shrikes were seen amongst a larger number of Turkestan Shrikes, with two male Red-backed Shrikes and a couple of hybrid type birds also seen. A good ‘fall’ of Willow Warblers had occurred as birds were seen everywhere including many in the reeds themselves instead of their favourite tamarisk as these were already full of birds.
Common Redstart
Common Redstart
Common Redstart
Common Redstart
Red-throated Pipit
Red-throated Pipit
Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Pallid Swift
Pallid Swift
Willow Warbler
Willow Warbler
Tree Pipit
Tree Pipit

5 May 2016

Kerelini type hybrid shrike? – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area I found an interesting looking ‘kerelini’ type shrike. Unfortunately once I saw it I grabbed two photos and then it flew off and although I saw wher it landed I could not relocate it despite extensive searching. The problem with my below photos is that the lighting is very strong from one side (the right), which is burning out the underparts to some extent while the upperparts are in shadow, which suppresses the true colours. Alan Dean who’s opinion was sought on this bird mentioned “While the images have a rather ‘karelini’ look at first sight I have some reservations that this might be a photographic artefact. There is quite a rich pinky-peach hue on the less brightly illuminated rear flanks. This does not match a classic karelini but, also, I wonder whether this colour may in fact have extended further across the underparts but has been ‘burnt out’ by the bright light. A further concern is the level of black apparently displayed in the tail. Again, to what extent this is real or a result of heavy shadow supressing rufous/russet, is difficult to judge. Finally, there is virtually no supercilium at all. Some of these features tend to raise thoughts of hybrid influence from collurio and there is something about the appearance of the originals that somehow ‘ghosts’ this species to my mind. Overall, however, I find it impossible to decide what is ‘real’ and what is photographic artefact, so I wouldn’t put a firm diagnosis on this individual. My gut instinct is towards a hybrid but that’s very tentative”. Brian Small who also helped with the identification said “Alan has summed up the salient features of the first bird nicely and the possibilities, but I would fall on the side of it being a karelini”. The shirkes we get in Saudi Arabia are variable in plumage and contain many hybid type birds making conclusive identification of many unwise.


4 May 2016

Black-tailed Godwits flying in formation - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently Phil Roberts saw two Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa and managed to take the below amazing photo of the two flying together in what looks like formation. The photo is made more amazing as the species is a scarce migrant and winter visitor to all areas of Saudi Arabia. Birds of the Riyadh Region (Stagg 1994) says the species is an autumn passage migrant and winter visitor in variable numbers that passes from late August through to April. Winter birds are present between late December and early March. Birds od the Eastern Province (Bundy 1989) says the species is a winter visitor to the Eastern Province that is scarce and irregular away from Dammam. Birds have been seen in all months but mainly between August to June with most recently being seen in Tarout Bay. Birds of the Tihamah coastal plains in the southwest of the Kingdom says the species is locally abundant where it is seen both inland and on the coast. I thank Phil for allowing me to use his photograph, which is reproduced with permission below.

3 May 2016

Water birds around Jubail

Whilst birding Jubail recently I came across a nice selection of water birds some of which I have not seen so often this year. Terns are always common in Jubail and Caspian Tern has been seen in numbers up to 100 birds in some visits. It is a local breeding species and can often be seen trying to catch fish from the flooded areas of sabkha. Whiskered Tern also uses the same habitat and they can often be seen fishing together when the massive size if Caspian Tern becomes more apparent. A bird I have seen few of this year compared to most is Garganey, although I saw two males together last visit. Grey-headed Swamphen is now spreading its range in Saudi Arabia bit the Jubail area is its stronghold and I saw one very confiding bird along the side of a wet ditch. Little Egret on the other hand is normally an uncommon winter visitor to the Jubail area although this year numbers have ben high with plenty seen last visit including a number that have moved well inland from their normal haunts. Other water birds seen included both Spotted Crake with three birds seen and a single Little Crake all of which were too fast for me to take any photographs. Little Grebes are now in full breeding plumage and passage waders are still passing with photographs of Wood Sandpiper and Ruff taken.
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Whiskered Tern
Whiskered Tern 
Garganey
Garganey
Grey-headed Swamphen
Grey-headed Swamphen
Wood Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Ruff
Ruff
Little Grebe
Little Grebe
Little Egret
Little Egret

2 May 2016

Female Turkestan Shrike - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area last weekend I found a number of interesting shrikes. The one below was a difficult bird to identify for me so I sent it to Brian Small and Alan Dean for help and confirmation. The opinion from the experts on this one is it is a female Turkestan Shrike phoenicuroides. Although there is possibly a very slight wash on the cheeks, the upperparts colour and tone, with dark centres to the tertials hint at Turkestan. Close examination looks like there are some slight crescnetal markings on the breast sides and the longest tertial is also of a different age to the other two (white, narrow fringe). I thank Brian and Alan for help with a number of my difficult shrikes over the years and again for help with this one.
Turkestan Shrike