23 Aug 2016

Migrants appearing in Al Hassa – Records by Arnold Uy

Whilst birdwatching in the Al Hassa area Arnold Uy saw a few good birds including a number of migrants. The Egyptian Nightjars that Arnold saw a few weeks ago are still present with at least five birds seen. This site, like the one in Jubail, seems to hold Egyptian Nightjars throughout the summer now indicating birds may be breeding somewhere nearby. Migrants also included the first Lesser Grey Shrikes of the autumn as well as Isabelline Wheatears. An Eastern Olivaceous Warbler may have been a migrant or possibly a still present breeding bird. I thank Arnold for sending me the details of his trip and for allowing me to use his photos on my website.
Egyptian Nightjar
Egyptian Nightjar
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler
Lesser Grey Shrike
Lesser Grey Shrike
Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear

22 Aug 2016

Doubleday’s Acraea – Raydah Escarpment

Whilst birdwatching at the bottom of the Raydah escarpment in the southwest of the Kingdom I came across a very bright butterfly with orange-red upperwings but much paler underwings and a distinctive white abdomen. This butterfly turned out to be a Doubleday’s Acraea Acraea doubledayi a butterfly in the Nymphalidae family that are the largest family of butterflies with about 6,000 species distributed throughout most of the world. Many hold their colourful wings flat when resting and are also called brush-footed butterflies or four-footed butterflies, this is because they are known to stand on only four legs which often have a brush-like set of hairs. Many species are brightly colored and include the emperors, Monarch butterfly, admirals, tortoiseshells, and fritillaries. However, the underwings are in contrast often dull or much paler, producing a cryptic effect that helps the butterfly disappear into its surroundings. The larvae feed on Adenia species a genus of flowering plants in the passionflower family distributed in the Old World tropics and subtropics. The genus name Adenia comes from the Greek aden "gland", and is inspired by the prominent leaf glands of most species. It is found in Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen with the subspecies azvaki found only in southwest Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

21 Aug 2016

Ringing terns - Al Jarrim Island south (Bahrain)

On Friday 15 July I set off at 02:45 hrs to go to Bahrain to ring terns. I met up with Phil, Nicole, Brendan, Ali, Mahmood, Ahmed and Abdulqader to go out to the island at 04:00 to ring tern chicks. We went a few weeks later than normal due to Ramadan so the terns were larger than we normally handle but we had no problems with this. This is one of the best days ringing of the year for me and it is amazing to be on an island full of breeding terns. We arrived at the island at 06:00 hrs and set about first ringing Bridled Tern chicks. They nest under cover of the vegetation and are incredibly well camouflaged and sit tight so good eyesight and a lot of help are required. We do these first as it is extremely hard work and want to do it in the coolest part of the day before temperatures rise into the 40’s Celsius. There were four ringers and we ringed well over a hundred Bridled Tern chicks that was slightly less than normal.  After this we set up our corral to catch Lesser Crested Tern Chicks that are all gathered together in large crèches of baby terns with hundreds of adults looking after them. As they are all in large groups we walk the birds down into our corral and transfer them to large baskets for processing. We catch lots of birds in a short time and process them as quickly as possible so they can return to their normal activities. We keep the birds in covered baskets with a wet towel on top to keep them cool. We ringed 1000 Lesser Crested Tern chicks and ran out of rings, this being the biggest number of birds we have ringed in a single day since we started going to the islands. We finished earlier than normal due to the good number of ringers present and were back in Bahrain by 14:00 hrs. There were quite a few dead terns on the island with many young and some adults of both Bridled and Lesser Crested Terns. This indicates that the breeding season has not been as good as normal and although there were several hundred Bridled Terns and four to five thousand Lesser Crested Terns the numbers were down on previous years. We are uncertain as to why there were so many dead birds.
Bridled Tern
Bridled Tern
Bridled Tern
Bridled Tern
Lesser Crested Tern
Lesser Crested Tern
Lesser Crested Tern
Lesser Crested Tern
Lesser Crested Tern
Lesser Crested Tern
Lesser Crested Tern

20 Aug 2016

Crimson-speckled Footman near Zulfi - Record by Mansur Al Fahad

Mansur Al Fahad kindly sent me a photo of a Crimson-speckled Footman Utetheisa pulchella taken by him near Zulfi. The Crimson-speckled Footman is a small, day flying moth measuring approximately 30-40mm in length. They are mostly white, speckled with black and crimson and have characteristic black eyes. The legs are white in colour and the antennae are black. The moth is found from Africa to southern Europe, throughout the Middle East, central & southern Asia and Australia. They are migratory moths but I assume the ones I have been seeing in the last few days are residents? They are seen every year in Dhahran in February and March and are not very easy to see until you flush one from its resting place and it flies to its new location. They very rarely, if ever, land with their wings spread and almost always end up in a position similar to that in the photograph above.

19 Aug 2016

Birding the Abha Area

Whilst birding the Abha area recently we went to Azeeza to look for Blandford’s Short-toed Larks as birds had been seen here by us in previous years. The area has had some building and construction work done in the last couple of years and despite quite extensive searching we failed to find any birds. Very little occurs in this relatively barren and stony area, with Long-billed Pipit and Common Kestrel the only birds of note seen. Luckily we found a new site for Blandford’s Lark (see earlier post) so were not so disappointed with our failure. After this we went to look for Olive Pigeon in a step sided valley where birds had been seen some years previously by local birders but again our luck was out. We did see some good birds here including Arabian Woodpecker and Arabian Serin. Other good birds included Dusky Turtle Dove and adult and Juvenile Red-rumped Swallow that clearly breed nearby.
Common Kestrel
Arabian Woodpeckers
Arabian Serin
Red-rumped Swallow - juvenile
Red-rumped Swallow - adult