22 Oct 2014

Duck numbers increasing – Dhahran Hills

Although migration is slow this autumn the number of ducks have increased over the last few weeks. Common Pochard is scarce on the ‘patch’ with one being present for the last week. On 19 October there were seven with three males and four females. Northern Shoveler numbers have increased to 27 with a mixture of males and females along with six Garganey. Other migrants seen were mainly wheatears with both Pied Wheatear and Isabelline Wheatear present with most Pied Wheatears being first year males. A few Barn Swallows were new in with ten plus over the spray fields and percolation pond in the evening. There was a small group of waders present on the settling pond including two Marsh Sandpipers, two Little Stints, Common Redshank, Wood Sandpiper and Temminck’s Stint. Otherwise the only other interesting birds were a single Grey Heron and 21 Western Cattle Egrets.
Northern Shoveller
Pied Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear

21 Oct 2014

Adult male Montagu’s Harrier near Tabuk – Bird records by Viv Wilson

Viv Wilson sent me some nice photos of an adult male Montagu’s Harrier near Tabuk taken in early October 2014 that he has kindly allowed me to use. This is a scarce passage migrant to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia where they are seen in April, September and October with up to eight seen in a day at Haradh in September. The only birds I have seen on my local ‘patch’ were a second calendar year female and second calendar year male over the spray fields on 22 April 2103. In the Riyadh area they are scarce but regular passage migrant that passes in March and again in late August to mid-October that since 1988 have taken up residence around alfalfa fields south of Riyadh during December and January. In the north where this bird was photographed they have been seen at Harrat al Harrah Reserve where they are a passage migrant mainly in April and September but have also been seen in December. The species has been recorded rarely throughout the rest of Saudi Arabia all the way down to the Yemen boarder near Jizan.

20 Oct 2014

A few more birds – Dhahran Hills

There have been a few more birds around recently but things are still very quiet. An immature Greater Spotted Eagle has been seen around the spray fields ad percolation pond often perched in the large trees. Duck numbers have increased on the pond with 21 Northern Shovellers, 12 Ferruginous Ducks, three Garganey and the Common Pochard is still present. The pond also had an adult Grey Heron and a single Little Egret, a species that is not seen very often on the ‘patch’ as well as 20+ Western Cattle Egrets. A small fall of Pied Wheateras occurred on one day with seven birds, mainly first year males present in the scrubby desert area. The spray fields had a single Turkestan Shrike, one Red-backed Shrike perched on one of the spray heads and a single White Wagtail was still around the settling pond.
Pied Wheatear - first year male
Red-backed Shrike
Common Pochard

19 Oct 2014

Common Redshank but not much else – Dhahran Hills

The evenings birding produced the same Common Redshank as seen a couple of days ago in the wet ditch. It has become a bit more tolerant of disturbance in the last few days so I was able to get quite close to take photos. Also on the ditch was a single Black-winged Stilt but not much else. The settling pond and spray fields only had a single White Wagtail, the first for the winter for me. Numbers of this species should build up considerably over the next two months as additional wintering birds arrive. A female Pied Wheatear was in the spray fields but nothing else of note. The percolation pond had a Marsh Sandpiper, 16 Ferruginous Ducks, one Common Pochard was still present, three Northern Shovellers and two Garganey otherwise it was very quiet.

18 Oct 2014

Camel Spider near Tabuk – Record by Viv Wilson

This young? Camel Spider was photographed by Viv Wilson in the desert near Tabuk and he has kindly allowed me to use the photos on my website. The Camel Spider is not a spider but belongs to the class Arachnida, but while all spiders are arachnids, not all arachnids are spiders. Another common name is wind scorpion, but it’s not a scorpion, either. The camel spider is of the Solifugae order, which is Latin for “those who flee from the sun”. and are primarily nocturnal. Solifugae live in dry desert climates; have powerful fangs, and a segmented abdomen. Though camel spiders appear to have ten legs, they actually have eight. The two extra leg-like appendages are sensory organs. Camel Spiders can reach up to 15 cm in length and weigh about 55 grams. They have powerful jaws, which they use to catch prey and which can be up to one third of their body length, but are non-venomous. They are most commonly found in Middle Eastern deserts and are carnivores that eat other insects, lizards, small birds and rodents. There are hundreds of species of Camel Spider in the world.