24 Nov 2014

Red-tailed Wheatear and a few other passerines – Dhahran Hills

The Red-tailed Wheatear is still present on the boulders behind the pond and looks like it may remain for some time. I have still not managed to get any proper photographs of the bird as I always see it in the late evening after work and the light is already poor. As a result the photos below were taken with a high ISO and are not as good as they could have been. Hopefully this weekend I will be able to take some better photos in better light if I can find the bird again. Other passerines are not that common but a few Common Chiffchaffs, a Lesser Whitethroat and several Daurian Shrikes have been around. Other birds of note have been three Tawny Pipits in the spray fields that do an excellent job of hiding in the grass and keeping themselves well hidden and a few Eurasian Skylarks remain from the small flock I found a few days before. Other winter visitors seen include a few Water Pipits and several White Wagtails including some males still in full breeding plumage. Several Rose-ringed Parakeets have been seen in the late evening as whilst I have been watching the girls playing football in the main camp. These birds very rarely come to the Hills area so I do not often see them and have never managed to photograph the species in the camp even though they are common in the main camp, but this is not part of my ‘patch’ for birding. Also seen were two Western Marsh Harriers over the spray fields an adult male and a female.
Red-tailed Wheatear
Red-tailed Wheatear
Daurian Shrike
Western Marsh Harrier - female
Western Marsh Harrier - male

23 Nov 2014

Common Starlings & Eurasian Skylarks – Dhahran Hills

A couple of interesting groups of birds have been seen on the ‘patch’ in the last few days. The most interesting sighting was a group of 11 Common Starlings that were seen flying around the percolation pond getting ready to roost in the reed beds. This is only the second time I have seen the species on my local patch with the first some years ago when three birds were seen on a football field near my house. Common Starling is not an unusual visitor to the region in winter but rarely gets onto the camp. This is what having a real local ‘patch’ is all about, finding good birds on the area you bird regularly even if they are not rare, even locally. The other interesting group of birds was 13 Eurasian Skylarks in the edge of the spray fields. Again this species in not uncommon as a winter visitor but do not occur so often on the camp. They occur every autumn in small numbers and are almost always in the spray fields, but this was the first sighting of the winter. Other interesting birds included a Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 21 Little Stints, Curlew Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper and five Common Snipe. Duck numbers still continue to rise with an amazing 105 Common Pochards now present on the percolation pond with three Tufted Ducks, nine Ferruginous Ducks and 65 Northern Shovelers.
Common Starling
Eurasian Skylark

22 Nov 2014

Still plenty of duck on the percolation pond – Dhahran Hills

Birding the ‘patch’ the last week has been livened up by the number of duck on the percolation pond. Construction work in the area has prevented many people walking their dogs and driving their bikes around the area of the pond and as a result the number of duck has increased significantly. High counts include 45 Common Pochards, 110 Northern Shovelers, seven Mallards, three Gadwalls, four Tufted Ducks, ten Ferruginous Ducks and six Eurasian Teal. The Black-necked Grebe found the previous week was still present and five Little Egrets and forty Western Cattle Egrets were also using the pond to roost in. Numbers of Great Cormorants have also built up in recent days and now over twenty are using the pond in the evening. Other interesting birds around the pond have included Bluethroat, Water Pipits, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Indian Reed Warblers and Common Chiffchaff.
Common Pochard
Black-necked Grebe
Black-necked Grebe

21 Nov 2014

European Bee-eaters near Tabuk – Bird records by Viv Wilson

Viv has taken some photographs of European Bee-eaters from the main wetland near Tabuk that he has sent to me and kindly allowed me to use. They are a common passage migrant from mid-March to late May peaking in April and are slightly less numerous in autumn from August to early November peaking in August. Birds can be seen throughout Saudi Arabia and are often located by their liquid calls as they almost always travel in groups. This autumn birds have been seen commonly in Dhahran but the numbers, like most other migrants, are down compared to previous years.

20 Nov 2014

Birds still thin on the ground – Dhahran Hills

Birding the ‘patch’ the last week has been slightly more interesting than the previous weeks although birds still remain thin on the ground. There have been a few shrikes about with most being Daurian Shrikes but a Red-backed Shrike was also present. Most of these birds have been in the spray fields although a few have been in the recently cleared scrubby desert. Other birds seen in the spray fields have been the winter first Stonechats with three European Stonechats and one female Eastern Stonechat. An Isabelline Wheatear was also on one of the spray heads one evening. Waders have been plentiful and the settling pond has had a good number including two Marsh Sandpipers, eight Wood Sandpipers, three Green Sandpipers, ten Little Stints, one Common Redshank, one Common Sandpiper and two Dunlin. The wet ditch also has had a few waders with four Common Snipe, one Green Sandpiper and one Wood Sandpiper. A few Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters are still passing through and the Red-tailed Wheatear is still present on its favourite boulders.
Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Eastern Stonechat
Green Sandpiper
Common Snipe