1 Apr 2015

Various species from Buraydah – Bird records by Ragu Shanbhogue

Ragu a birdwatcher from Buraydah has been sending me quite a few photographs of birds seen in his area in recent weeks. Some of these are from the winter months and others are from the spring migration. Interestingly he appears to have wintering Masked Shrikes in his area of northern Saudi Arabia just as we have a small number in the Eastern Province each winter. This species is meant to be a passage migrant but its status appears to have changed recently to an uncommon passage migrant and scarce winter visitor to the northern half of the Kingdom at least. Other birds seen in the winter were Little Egrets. Birds seen during the start of migration (or possibly wintering birds) were Common Chiffchaffs and Common Sandpiper with migrants including Eurasian Blackcap and Woodchat Shrike. I have not seen Eurasian Blackcap yet this year in the Eastern Province but Woodchat Shrikes have been seen on a few occasions.
Masked Shrike
Masked Shrike
Little Egrets
Little Egrets
Common Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Common Chiffchaff
Common Chiffchaff
Woodchat Shrike
Woodchat Shrike

31 Mar 2015

Common Grasshopper Warbler trapped & ringed – Sabkhat Al Fasl

Whilst ringing at Sabkhat Al Fasl 27 March 2015 we trapped and ringed a Common Grasshopper Warbler a species that is a rare passage migrant to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia where they occur on passage from early March to April and again in September. Common Grasshopper Warbler was not mentioned by Symens & Suhaibani 1996 in their list of birds seen at this location and appears to be a first record for the site. The subspecies we trapped was one of the western races, either nominate Locustella naevia naevia or Locustella naevia obscurior due to the wing length of 64 with eastern birds having wing lengths of less than 60. It was also a very well marked bird with plenty of obvious streaks down the flank making it superficially look a little like a Lanceolate Warbler. Common Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia naevia breeds in Europe from southern Scandinavia and southern Finland south to Britain and Ireland, northwest Iberia, east to western European Russia and Ukraine and winters in west Africa whilst Locustella naevia obscurior breeds Caucasus mountains south to northeast Turkey and Armenia with non-breeding birds moving to northeast Africa. These birds have a darker colour than eastern birds that have a distinctly paler and more olive-grey ground-colour with L. n. obscurior differing from nominate naevia by being slightly more olive with heavier, blacker, and more contrasting spots on upperparts; feather-fringes more olive, less brown, sandy-grey rather than olive-brown when worn; flank more tinged rusty-cream. Birds are difficult to positively assign to race due to individual variation. This is only the third time I have seen the species in Saudi Arabia with the first a bird on my local patch at Dhahran on 1 April 2012 and the second one in a pivot irrigation field near Nayriyyah 14 March 2013.
Common Grasshopper Warbler

Common Grasshopper Warbler

Common Grasshopper Warbler

Common Grasshopper Warbler

30 Mar 2015

Some more interesting birds from Dhahran – bird records by Mats Ris

There has been hundreds of European Bee-eaters passing over Dhahran the last few days with many of them trying to find places to roost in the trees in the early evening. They have been widespread in the area from KFUPM campus all through Dhahran camp. Mats Ris has noticed them too with his first on Wednesday 25 March. Mats also mentioned he had seen a Common Kestrel a species he does not see too often as well as three Barn Swallow, five, Pallid Swift and a few herons on the golf course pond including the long staying Western Great Egret, a Squacco Heron for its third weekend, two Indian Reef Heron, Grey Heron, Common Kingfisher and a juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron. Mats also mentioned it was his first weekend without seeing any Western Cattle Egrets which have presumably returned bak to their breeding areas. Mats kindly sent me a few of his photos of the birds he has been seeing which are shown below.
Black-crowned Night Heron - juvenile
Black-crowned Night Heron - juvenile
Squacco Heron
Squacco Heron
Western Great Egret
Western Great Egret

29 Mar 2015

Little Tern a new ringing species – Sabkhat Al Fasl

Whilst ringing at Sabkhat Al Fasl we caught a new ringing species for Saudi Arabia for our site as well as for me. The bird was caught in a mist net place in a relatively open area inform of a small reed bed and over a small area of water made larger by the overnight rain. To say it was a surprise would be an understatement as catching terns in mist nets is not common. The bird was identified as a Little tern by the white area above the eye extending behind the eye, saunder’s Tern stops in front of the eye. The grey rump of Saunder’s Tern is quite extensive, and this bird had an almost white rump again indicating Little Tern. The outer two primaries were dark another Little Tern feature with Saunders have three outer primaries dark. Both these species are seen in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia but most birds seen at Sabkhat Al Fasl by me at least are Little Terns with this one fitting the pattern nicely. Little Tern was the 29 species trapped and ringed at Sabkhat Al Fasl since we started ringing at the location in February 2014. This total does not include Siberian Chiffchaff and White-spotted Bluethroat two birds that are sometimes treated as species but more commonly as subspecies of Common Chiffchaff and Red-spotted Bluethroat respectively.
Little Tern

Little Tern

Little Tern

Little Tern

Little Tern

28 Mar 2015

More Turkestan and Daurian Shrike trapped & ringed again – Sabkhat Al Fasl

As mentioned 13 March we caught and ringed a number of Turkestan and Daurian Shrikes. The same happened the following weekend when we caught two Turkestan Shrikes including a male and a single Daurina Shrike. This made six birds, three Turkestan and three Daurian in two weeks which equaled the total amount caught at nearby Alba Marsh in Bahrain where we ringed for three years prior to gaining permission to ring in Saudi Arabia. Although great birds to see in the hand they are troublesome to remove from the nets as try to bite any piece of skin that they see so the fingers are fair game and invariably get bitten and regularly they draw blood. As a result there is a mixture of happiness and trepidation when you see a shrike in the net. Daurian Shrikes will be moving out in the next week or so but Turkestan Shrikes continue to be seen for another month and they are soon joined by a big wave of Red-backed Shrikes. I was fairly certain with the identification of the birds but asked Tim Worfolk for help with confirmation of which he kindly provided me with his identification that agreed with my original thoughts. I am very grateful to Tim for his help. The shrikes we caught appeared to be a straightforward Turkestan with nice contrast between the darkish upperparts and whitish underparts, with the dark scalloping on throat and breast appearing to be dark. The second bird was slightly more problematic; appearing to be a similar tone on the upperparts, but slightly greyer to the first bird but was much more buffy coloured on the supercilium, throat and breast so is probably a well-marked Daurian.
Turkestan Shrike
Turkestan Shrike
Turkestan Shrike
Turkestan Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Turkestan Shrike - male
Turkestan Shrike - male
Turkestan Shrike - male
Turkestan Shrike - male