22 Aug 2014

Glossy Ibis - Dhahran Hills

Back on the ‘patch’ on 20 August resulted in few birds but a couple of good ones with the best being a Glossy Ibis on the percolation pond. This is only the second time I have seen the species on the ‘patch’ and although distant stayed around until late evening when if flew off over the spray fields and out of the camp. Other good birds seen on the pond included a female Garganey and plenty of waders including ten Little Ringed Plovers, ten plus Wood Sandpipers, four Little Stints, several Kentish Plovers and 20+ Black-winged Stilts. A Yellow Wagtail and an Isabelline Wheatear were two other migrants seen on the muddy edge of the pond and a Clamorous Reed Warbler without a tail made a slightly unusual sight. The trees around the pond had a single European Turtle Dove and one European Bee-eater. The settling pond held very little with the exception of eight Little Grebes and spray fields likewise had little but did have a excellent adult male Red-backed Shrike an unusual sight at this time of year.
Glossy Ibis
Red-backed Shrike - adult male
European Turtle Dove & European Bee-eater

21 Aug 2014

Bridled Terns – Al Jarrim Island South (Bahrain)

The Bridled Tern Sterna anaethetus is a common summer breeding visitor to offshore islands in the Gulf and Red Sea. Brian Meadows (Bull B.O.C 2003) mentioned 175 pairs breeding on islets north of Yanbu al-Bahr 18 June 1993. Summer visitor to all coasts nesting on islands occasionally. In 1988 Jennings visited the Farasan Islands and found the species to be a very common breeding tern and a survey of summer breeding seabirds by SF Newton in 1994 in the Saudi Arabian Red Sea found they were the most abundant and widespread breeding seabird. The aerial count total of just under 20,000 is likely to be a gross underestimate. Most nests were under bushes but a few small colonies on Farasan use rock overhangs on cliffs in the absence of vegetation. Both the al Wajh and Farasan Archipelagoes hold large populations and the species is abundant on the well vegetated outer islands of the Farasan Bank where it co-occurs with Brown Noddy. Clutches were always of a single egg and hatching commenced in mid June. In the Gulf large numbers breed on the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian offshore islands with eggs hatching in early to Mid-June. 
Karan (27°44’N, 49°50’E) is the largest of the six coral islands measuring 128 hectares in size (2025m x 625m). This island has the largest breeding population of Lesser Crested terns in Saudi Arabia as well as good numbers of Bridled Terns and White-cheeked terns and a small number of Swift Terns.
Jana (27°22’N, 49°54’E) is the second largest island being 33 hectares in size (1105m x 300m). Large numbers of Bridled tern and small numbers of Lesser Crested Terns and Swift Terns nest here.
Juraid (27°11’N, 49°52’E) is the third largest coral island measuring 20 hectares in size (732 x 282m) and holds the largest breeding population of Bridled Terns in Saudi Arabia, with good numbers of breeding Lesser Crested Terns and White-cheeked Terns.
Kurain (27°39’N, 49°50’E) is the second smallest island with a size of 8 hectares (312m x 251m). Large numbers of Lesser Crested Terns along with good numbers of Bridled Terns and White-cheeked Terns nest on this island.

20 Aug 2014

Arabian Wall Brown - Tanoumah

Whilst birding the southwest of Saudi Arabia in July 2014 we saw a number of Arabian Wall Brown Lasiommata felix a butterfly in the Nymphalidae family. It is found in southwestern Saudi Arabia and Yemen where it inhabits the western escarpment of the Arabian Peninsula. It can be found all the way north to Taif in Saudi Arabia but always in the mountains. The one photographed here was at Tanumah north of Abha in the Asir Mountains although we also saw then on the Raydah escarpment and elsewhere. They appear to be a common butterfly of the southwest mountains.

19 Aug 2014

Basra Reed Warbler? – Dhahran Hills

On 14 May 2014 I found an odd looking warbler in the reeds at the percolation pond at Dhahran Hills. This is a good location for seeing Indian (Clamorous) Reed Warblers but this bird looked a little different and gave me the impression it may be a Basra Reed Warbler. The bird was not a classic Basra Reed Warbler so I tried to photograph it and managed to get a single photograph before it moved on. Despite searching the area over the next few weeks I never saw the bird again. I sent the photo to Mike Pope in Kuwait as they see the birds occasionally there and he replied “Not easy this one, but I think the choice is between Basra and Indian Reed – Indian Reed is resident and Basra also present in summer months. Primary projection may be too long for Basra, but is not short enough for Indian Reed. Indian Reed also has slender bill like Basra (it is difficult to make out the base colour of the bill), but has a shorter super that doesn’t go past the eye…It is probably closer to Basra than Indian.” These were my thoughts as I thought the bill looked too long and thin for Indian Reed Warbler but it may be a trick of the angle of photo. The tail looked quite long but I am not sure how this appears in the field. In the hand the tail is much shorter on Basra Reed Warbler than in Indian Reed Warbler. The problem was that Indian Reed Warbler is very common in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia whereas Basra Reed Warbler is a scarce passage migrant. May is, however, the best month for locating them. Other comments received mentioned “Body structure being heavy more towards European Reed Warbler or Indian Reed Warbler. But judging the length of tail compared to primaries, I think it is an Indian Reed Warbler the bill fits this species rather than Great Reed Warbler”. Peter Kennerley mentioned, “The relatively slim bill and what appears to be a proportionately long primary projection suggest Basra Reed. I would not expect brunnescens Clamorous (Indian Reed Warbler) to share this structure. The overall cold tone to the plumage also favours Basra over brunnescens, but I recognise that plumages will fade and bleach so this could be misleading. If pushed I would go for Basra Reed”. All in all this was a very interesting bird that I am leaving as unidentified. Like me most people think it may be a Basra Reed Warbler but unless I relocate the bird I will not be able to say for sure.

18 Aug 2014

Churchyard Beetle – Sabkhat Al Fasl

Whilst birding at Sabkhat Al Fasl Phil found a beetle that appears to be a Churchyard Beetle Blaps kolari. This is a medium to large beetle measuring up to 40mm in length with an elongated body. The thorax is oval in shape and it has long legs and short antennae. The adult has an opening in the vicinity of the anal projection from which they can discharge a jet of foul-smelling liquid to defend themselves. They are widespread throughout the Arabian Peninsula and are mainly active during the cooler months of the year from September to April. The beetle feeds on plant materials and often store food in burrows of rodents and other insects. If anyone thinks I have made a mistake with the identification please let me know as I know very little about beetles.