28 Apr 2015

Hundreds of Bee-eaters - Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm

Whilst birding Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm recently we were surprised by the number of Bee-eaters present. We have seen European Bee-eaters before at the location in small numbers but this trip there were several hundred European Bee-eaters and well over ten Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. Good numbers of European Bee-eaters have been passing through a wide area of the Eastern Province in the last few weeks but these were the first Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters either Phil or I had seen. Apart from the Bee-eaters that were all migrants several other migrants were seen. One was a smart male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush on a stump by the side of the road but unfortunately it was always into the sun so the photo is not the best. Several other good birds were my first European Turtle Doves of the year when two were seen in a dead tree and two Ortolan Buntings in a spray field. Ne spray field had over 100 Greater Short-toed Larks and another plenty of Yellow Wagtails of several different races including lutea, beema and thunbergi. Another filed had eleven Lesser Kestrels sitting on the spray bars as well as flying over the field. Several other good birds were seen including good numbers of Spanish Sparrows, four Pied Wheatears, one Northern Wheatear, one Whinchat and two calling Common Quail. The pond had a Western Osprey plus several Little Terns and Barn Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins were flying over. Although there was nothing really good on the farm we saw plenty of interesting species and it is always a good place to bird. Now we have written permission to enter the location from the farm manager it is also a lot easier to access.
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater
European Turtle Dove
European Turtle Dove
Lesser Kestrel
Lesser Kestrel
Ortolan Bunting
Ortolan Bunting
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush
Yellow Wagtail - lutea
Yellow Wagtail - lutea

27 Apr 2015

Western Osprey & more at Sabkhat Al Fasl – Bird records by Phil Roberts

Phil Roberts was birding Sabkhta Al Fasl the other weekend when he came across a Western Osprey siting on the tarmac road near the power station. The bird flew before he could get too close but luckily flew around and came back right overhead before flying off. Western Osprey is uncommon at the location and is a regular passage migrant as well as resident breeding species in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Birds breed on islands and all coasts of the Kingdom where they are also a migrant sometimes occurring far inland. Birds of the Riyadh Region by Stagg 1994 mentions it is a passage migrant and winter visitor, in small numbers, that passes from March to April then again in September and October. Phil also saw eight European Bee-eaters, one White-throated Robin (his first record for the site), one Northern Wheatear, five Common Redstarts, one late Daurian Shrike, two Turkestan Shrikes, one Common Quail, 41 Tree Pipits, seven Red-throated Pipits, two Western Ospreys, four Common Snipes, 35 Little Terns, 14 White-winged Terns, one Whinchat, one Western Cattle Egret and an Arabian Red Fox a species that is not commonly seen at the location. Phil kindly sent me a few of his photos taken whilst there and has allowed me to use them on my website.
Western Osprey
Western Osprey
Western Osprey
Western Osprey
Western Osprey
Western Osprey
European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater
White-throated Robin
White-throated Robin
Red-throated Pipit
Red-throated Pipit
White Wagtail
White Wagtail
Little Grebe
Little Grebe

26 Apr 2015

A good catch on a windy day – Sabkhat Al Fasl

Ringing at the weekend provided a good catch of birds, particularly taking into account the relatively strong wind that was blowing. We set all our nets before first light and were rewarded for our persistence with 42 birds of 13 species caught that included the following:
1 Bluethroat L. s. magna
1 European Bee-eater
4 Indian (Clamorous) Reed Warblers
15 Caspian Reed Warblers
5 Sedge Warblers
1 Common Blackcap
4 Willow Warblers
1 Eurasian Wryneck
5 Tree Pipits
1 Barn Swallow
1 Turkestan Shrike
2 Great Reed Warblers
1 Common Redstart

Most birds, totaling 19, were caught on the first net round just after first light and showed the value of putting the nets up early. We then caught steadily until around lunchtime when the wind became too strong and we had to take all the nets down. We now have set places for our nets and are subsequently catching more birds each trip as we have, hopefully, identified the best locations for them. The weather has not been good for ringing this year with unusually strong winds preventing setting nets on quite a few days already this year. Soon the temperatures will be getting too hot to ring as well so ringing will stop for the summer by the end of next month.
Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow
Common Blackcap
Common Blackcap - male 
Great Reed Warbler
Great Reed Warbler 
Indian (Clamorous) Reed Warbler
Indian (Clamorous) Reed Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Turkestan Shrike
Turkestan Shrike
Turkestan Shrike
Turkestan Shrike
Willow Warbler
Willow Warbler

25 Apr 2015

Wolf Spider in Riyadh – Record by Mansur Al Fahad

Mansur Al Fahd a local birdwatcher who is very knowledgeable on all living things sent me a couple of his photographs of a Wolf Spider he found in his parking area a few weeks ago. Mansur has kindly allowed me to use the photographs on my website. He mentioned the spider was big at around ten centimeters in length, but exactly what type of Wolf Spider it is, is uncertain. Wolf spiders don’t spin webs and they were probably given their name because they stalk and hunt their prey, just like wolves do and have a Latin name Lycosidae which is Greek for ‘wolf’. Wolf Spiders are hairy, brown to gray in color with various markings or lines and are venomous but not typically aggressive. They are widespread in the Northern Hemisphere and hunt for their food on the ground as they do not build webs to catch their prey. They eat a wide variety of insects, including crickets, beetles, meal worms and cockroaches. Like other spiders, the Wolf spider has eight eyes but unlike many other spiders it has keen eyesight, relying on its vision and not on vibration to capture their prey. Their eyes comprise three rows; the first row has four small eyes; the second row has two larger eyes and the third row has two medium-sized eyes.
Wolf spider

Wolf spider

Wolf spider

24 Apr 2015

Male Montagu’s Harrier - Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm

The Montagu’s Harrier is a uncommon but regular passage migrant throughout Saudi Arabia, with the majority of birds seen being immatures or females. Whilst birding Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm last weekend Phil Roberts and I saw an adult male Monatgu’s Harrier over one of the spray fields. The bird flew off but we later saw it perched on the ground but before we could get in position to photograph it the bird flew, luckily right over us and then off. I managed to grab a few quick shots from the car that are shown below that was good as this was the first time I have seen an adult male in the Kingdom. Birds are uncommon passage migrants in the Eastern Province mainly from April to May and from September to October with a few birds apparently wintering and up to eight seen in a day at Haradh in September. Birds of the Riyadh Region by Stagg 1994, says they are a common passage migrant and increasingly frequent winter visitor that passes March and again late August to mid-October. Since 1988, winter visitors have taken up residence around alfalfa fields south of Riyadh during December and January. Other records have come from all areas from the southwest to the northeast of the Kingdom although the species is not common anywhere.
Montagu’s Harrier

Montagu’s Harrier

Montagu’s Harrier