18 Feb 2018

Ringing White-eared Bulbul – Sabkhat Al Fasl

Whilst ringing at Sabkhat Al Fasl recently I ringed a White-eared Bulbul. This was a new ringing species for me and was a bit of a surprise when I found it in the net. This species is common in the Eastern Province but has only been seen recently at this location in the last few months. Birds appear to be of the subspecies mesopotamia found in Iraq and Kuwait as they have very yellow eye rings and a bigger white ear patch. The subspecies that occurs elsewhere in Saudi Arabia including Riyadh, Tabuk, Wadi Dawasir, Sakaka and other areas in central and central western Saudi Arabia appear to be the Indian subspecies leucotis as birds are believed to have been introduced in these places. The species is widespread through much of the country although does not occur in the southwest around Jizan where the similar White-spectacled Bulbul is common. They are mainly a common resident breeding species where they occur.
White-eared Bulbul

White-eared Bulbul

17 Feb 2018

Sociable Lapwing – Haradh

Whilst birding the pivot irrigation fields of Haradh on 26 January 2018 we came across a minimum of two Sociable Lapwings Vanellus gregarius. The birds were associating with large numbers of Northern Lapwings and Spur-winged Plovers. The Sociable Lapwing is globally threatened and categorised as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red-list of threatened species. It is a migratory species breeding in the central steppes of Kazakhstan, with small numbers in southern Russian. The majority of the population migrate through south-west Russia, into Turkey, through the Middle East region including Saudi Arabia, before spending the winter in north-east Africa (mainly Sudan) and the Arabian Peninsula. There is an additional flyway where birds migrate south-east through central Asia into Pakistan and north-west India. The birds that winter in the Arabian Peninsula do so mainly in Oman with others in the United Arab Emirates. A few winter in Saudi Arabia with birds mainly in the northwest of the Kingdom around Tabuk. The birds we have seen in the Eastern Province in the last three winters constitute a new wintering area for the species. They frequent large pivot irrigation fields where they favour newly ploughed areas. This type of habitat is becoming more frequent in the Kingdom and probably explains the increasing numbers of birds wintering in Saudi Arabia.
Sociable Lapwing
Sociable Lapwing
Northern Lapwing
Northern Lapwing 
Northern Lapwing
Northern Lapwing
Northern Lapwing

16 Feb 2018

Eurasian Siskin near Buraidah – Bird records by Ragu Shanbogue

Whilst birding the Buraidah area this winter Ragu Shanbogue found and photographed a Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus. He has kindly allowed me to use his photos on my website of which two are shown below. They are seen regularly in the north of the Kingdom including Harrat al Harrah Reserve where they are a winter visitor but have also been seen from April to June. They appear to be more common if the weather is colder to the north of the Kingdom. In the Riyadh & Central Arabia area the Birds of Thumamah 1988-1994 mentioned them as a scarce winter visitor. A small influx from 16 November to 16 December 1990 with a maximum of 12 birds near the village and 11 on the dairy farm. A second influx occurred in November 1993 with 30-40 birds on 11 November. Also seen spring 1994 with 15 in new pivot field 9 March and six there 30 March. Birds of the Riyadh Region (Stagg 1994) mentioned they were an occasional winter visitor. Sporadically appears between November and March, mainly in years when harsh conditions prevail in northern climates. Sometimes ones and twos only, other times flocks of up to 20.
Eurasian Siskin

Eurasian Siskin



15 Feb 2018

Larks and Pipits – Jubail Farm

Whilst birding a set of pivot irrigation fields near Jubail I came across quite a good number of Eurasian Skylark. They were all using the wet pivot fields for feeding and occasionally flying out into the dry edges before going back into the grass. Other birds seen in good numbers in these fields included both Water Pipit and Tawny Pipit. A few harriers were present over the fields, including both Western Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers
Eurasian Skylark
Eurasian Skylark 
Tawny Pipit
Tawny Pipit 
Tawny Pipit
Tawny Pipit
Water Pipit
Water Pipit

14 Feb 2018

Winter Birding - Haradh

Phil Roberts and I went for our normal winter visit to Haradh. We saw a good number of winter visitors at the site including a large flock of 150 plus Kentish Plover feeding on the edge of a pivot irrigation field. We have seen the species here before but not in such a large flock. We always see good numbers of Desert and Isabelline Wheatears at this location and this visit was no different. An unusual sight was a Short-toed Snake Eagle, particularly as they are rare winter visitors, although more regular in the main migration season. Last year we saw a flock of over 60 Mallard in a spray field and had a similar sized flock in a similar location this year. Other birds seen included Tawny Pipit and Namaqua Dove.
Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear 
Kentish Plover
Kentish Plover
Mallard
Mallard
Namaqua Dove
Namaqua Dove
Short-toed Snake Eagle
Short-toed Snake Eagle
Tawny Pipit
Tawny Pipit