14 Feb 2016

Anderson's Rock Agama – Tanoumah

The Anderson's Rock Agama Acanthocercus adramitanus is endemic to the Arabian Peninsula, where it is found in west and south Arabia, from Taif in Saudi Arabia southwards through Yemen to Dhofar in Oman. It is a common reptile and is the most common species of Agama in Yemen. It is a rock dwelling lizard mainly present in mountainous areas and is found to around 2,000 metres above sea level but the one photographed below was at 2200 metres above sea level at Tanumah Park in south-west Saudi Arabia. Populations can be found on vertical rocks, rock steps and amongst boulders often in the vicinity of water. They can occur in precipitous wadis surrounded by dense vegetation, with the animals usually seen on the top of boulders. They do not however require water, obtaining moisture from their insect prey.
Anderson's Rock Agama

13 Feb 2016

Spanish Sparrow breeding and much more – Haradh

Whilst birding the area of Haradh recently where we concentrated on looking in the pivot irrigation fields we also saw a few other good birds around the filed edges and surrounding areas. The first good birds we saw were just outside the main entrance to the huge HADEC farm complex where a nesting colony of Spanish Sparrows were found with at least 200 birds. Plenty of old nests were also in evidence but whether they were breeding at the time I could not confirm. Also amongst the Spanish Sparrows were several House Sparrows. Around the edge of the spray fields we saw a number of Steppe Grey Shrikes and Daurian Shrikes as well as a few Isabelline and Desert Wheatears as well as a single Red-tailed Whatear on some rocks on a bank. Only a couple of Barn Swallows were flying around and Eurasian Skylarks were thin on the ground with only five seen all day. The lack of Eurasian Skylarks was partially made up for by the hundreds of Greater Short-toed Larks with well over 300 birds seen in various flocks. One of the better birds seen were a few Black-crowned Sparrow Larks. Although not an uncommon species they are always nice to see and some of the birds gave excellent views in good light, allowing some good photos to be taken, a rare situation for this species. I would like to thank Yoav Perlman for correcting some misidentifications by me recently including the lark which is in fact a Crested Lark and not a Greater Short-toed Lark as I originally posted.
Spanish Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow
House Sparrow
House Sparrow
Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear
Greater Short-toed Lark
Crested Lark
Black-crowned Sparrow Lark
Black-crowned Sparrow Lark
Black-crowned Sparrow Lark
Black-crowned Sparrow Lark
Black-crowned Sparrow Lark
Black-crowned Sparrow Lark

12 Feb 2016

Spur-winged Lapwing – Haradh

Whilst biding the Haradh area on 5 February 2015 Phil Roberts and I found a Spur-winged Lapwing in a pivot irrigation field next to the NADEC dairy farm. The species is still scarce in the Eastern Province with all records shown below:
Haradh 24th October 1986
Dhahran 22nd November 1986
Sabkhat Al Fasl 30th October & 6th November 2009
An adult Dhahran Saudi Aramco Camp, percolation pond 12th & 13th May 2011
An adult Dhahran Saudi Aramco Camp, percolation pond 8th August 2012
Dhahran Saudi Aramco Camp, percolation pond 27th September to 2nd October 2012
An adult Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm (Fadhili) 12th October 2012
Two adult were at Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm, Fadhili 31 January 2013
15 birds were at NADEC dairy farm in Haradh 7 February 2013 showing the species is expanding its range eastwards into the Eastern Province

In Saudi Arabia as a whole the Spur-winged Lapwing is a common breeder in the southwest from Yemen boarder up the Red Sea coast to near Jeddah as well as the extreme northwest and the area around Riyadh.
Spur-winged Lapwing

11 Feb 2016

At least five Pied Kingfishers wintering - Jubail

The weekend of 29 January Phil and I saw five Pied Kingfishers perched together in the reed-beds. There were two groups of two and another single, with all five birds being females. These birds appear to be wintering at the site as they are presumably part of the influx that happened late last year. Initially a female Pied Kingfisher was found by me on 23 October 2015 with numbers increasing to twelve by 5 December 2015, the largest gathering of the species ever recorded in the Kingdom. At least four staying until the year end with five seen 29 January 2016. These birds were part of a significant influx of Pied Kingfishers into the eastern part of Arabia in late October and early November 2015 with birds seen in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait as well as Saudi Arabia where other birds have been seen at Al Hair, near Riyadh.
Pied Kingfishers

Pied Kingfishers

Pied Kingfishers

10 Feb 2016

Saudi Arabia largest flock of Northern Lapwings - Haradh

As mentioned in a previous post Phil Roberts and I travelled to Haradh an area of extensive pivot irrigation fields three hours drive from Dhahran and found some access to some very good looking fields in various stages of growth from ploughed to fallow to newly growing. We eventually came across two very damp newly ploughed fields that had a single Northern Lapwing in it, but as we got closer more and more birds flew out. The birds turned into a flock of over two hundred and at one stage we saw an even bigger flock in flight over the second field making a total count of at least 425 birds. This is the largest flock ever in the Kingdom and is probably due to the exceptionally cold weather we have had recently with temperatures at 4 degrees Celsius the day we were at Haradh and even colder in the Hail area where it was minus three degrees Celsius. The Birds of the Eastern Province 1989 mentioned they were a scarce and somewhat irregular visitor with records from November to early April but chiefly from November through January.  In 1979-71 up to 15 wintered in Dhahran but this proved to be exceptional, showing how large this flock was. Elsewhere in Saudi Arabia high counts have been at Al Safi Dairy farm, Central province, where at least 111 individuals were seen 25 January 2001. Birds of Thumamah 1988-1994 said maximum numbers were 100 in the winter 1992/1993. It status in the Kingdom is as an uncommon winter visitor to all areas north of a line from Hofuf, through Riyadh to Hail.
Northern Lapwing

Northern Lapwing