15 Feb 2019

Lapwings of various species – Haradh

Haradh is a well known wintering location for Northern Lapwing, with flocks of several hundreds seen in recent winters. This trip we located many birds scattered around the fields, but no large flocks and probably saw more than 100 Northern Lapwings in total. The species is an uncommon winter visitor to the northern areas of the Kingdom where they favour the large pivot irrigation fields. Interspersed amongst them were a few Spur-winged Lapwings. This species was a vagrant to the Eastern Province of the Kingdom until a few years ago but is now established as a resident at Haradh where birds probably breed. In the west of the Kingdom Spur-winged Lapwing is a common resident breeder. The last Lapwing we saw were 14 Sociable Lapwings, a critically endangered species worldwide and a rare winter visitor to Tabuk (in the north-west of the Kingdom) and now Haradh. This is the fourth winter in succession we have found wintering birds at this location making it an extremely important location for its continued survival.
Northern Lapwing
Northern Lapwing
Sociable Lapwing
Sociable Lapwing
Spur-winged Lapwing
Spur-winged Lapwing


13 Feb 2019

Seven-striped Darkling? – Haradh

Whilst birding the Tabuk area I came across a number of darkling beetles resembling Pitted Beetle feeding around the edge of some large pivot irrigation fields. They were not this species and looked like a Seven-striped Darkling although this is mainly nocturnal? This was a medium sized beetle, with the head and thorax almost the same width. 
darkling beetle

darkling beetle

11 Feb 2019

Eastern Imperial Eagle - Haradh

Whilst birding at Haradh recently I saw and photographed an Eastern Imperial Eagle. This site is a regular wintering location for one or two birds that spend much of their time in and around the pivot irrigation fields. They are seldom approachable and normally seen in flight so this bird that flew over and landed in a filed nearby was a chance to get some photos on the ground. The harsh light made getting good photos difficult with my best efforts shown below. The species is an uncommon winter visitor to Saudi Arabia with most records coming from the north of the country where they are generally seen inland rather than near the coast. The species breeds from Eastern Europe across Asia to China and winters in the Middle East, east Africa south to Tanzania, the Arabian Peninsula, India, and from Thailand to Korea. Currently Eastern Imperial Eagle is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List as it has a small global population and is likely to be undergoing continuing declines, primarily as a result of habitat loss and degradation, persecution and prey depletion.
Eastern Imperial Eagle

Eastern Imperial Eagle

Eastern Imperial Eagle

Eastern Imperial Eagle


9 Feb 2019

Steppe Eagle - Tabuk

Whilst in Tabuk recently we saw a Steppe Eagle perched on an earth bank the side of the road. The bird allowed very close approach before it flew off after twenty minutes and gave some good flight views. The species is a common passage migrant down the western side of the Kingdom with October the peak month for migrating Steppe Eagles in Saudi Arabia. Many Steppe Eagles also winter in Saudi Arabia with the Asir mountains and the Tabuk and Rabigh areas good locations to see them. Saudi Arabia is an important wintering location for the species which has undergone extremely rapid population declines within all its range and is currently classed as ‘Endangered’ in the 2015 IUCN Red List assessment.
Steppe Eagle

Steppe Eagle

Steppe Eagle

Steppe Eagle

Steppe Eagle

Steppe Eagle

Steppe Eagle


7 Feb 2019

Fourteen Wintering Sociable Lapwing - Haradh

On 25 January 2019, Phil Roberts and I set out from Dhahran at 3:00am to drive the 300km south to Haradh for a day’s bird watching with our primary objective to see if we could once again find any Sociable Lapwings. In addition to desert, Haradh has large areas of modified habitat created by pivot irrigation fields, growing primarily fodder crops.  In the winters of 2016, 2017 & 2018 Phil and I found wintering Sociable Lapwings in this area an amazing discovery as previous to us finding the birds in 2016 there had only been a single record of a single bird in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom. That bird was also at Haradh. On previous visits we have driven straight to a set of large pivot fields along the road to Al Kharj and birded these on foot for a number of hours, but this time we went straight to the area where have seen Sociable Lapwings in previous winters. We could not enter the normal location where we had seen birds before in the early morning as the gates were locked, but after looking at some nearby pivot irrigation fields and seeing some good birds, we returned to the best area and found the gate open. We know that recently ploughed fields hold a great attraction to the Sociable Lapwings, but checked the grassy fields as well. We soon located a few Northern Lapwings, several Spur-winged Lapwings and then a single Sociable Lapwing. Moving on towards some ploughed fields nearby, we located a flock of ten Sociable Lapwings blending in extremely well with the soil and keeping partially hidden down the furrows. After a while, the birds flew off towards some more ploughed and grassy fields and we went to look for them again. Whilst searching we came across four more birds in a field with Northern Lapwing, a field situated well before the area where the ten had flown to making a total of 14 birds. As the birds were very flighty and not allowing close approach, we left them in peace. We managed to get a few photos of the birds on the ground and in flight but the light, heat haze and distance caused problems with getting good photos. My best ones are shown below. This is now the fourth successive year that we have found Sociable Lapwings in this location, showing Haradh has become an established new wintering location for this Critically Endangered species.
Sociable Lapwing

Sociable Lapwing

Sociable Lapwing