Phil Roberts saw and photographed a Spotted Crake on a wet area in Jubail last weekend and has kindly sent me his photo and allowed me to use it on my website. It has been a good year for Spotted Crakes this spring with quite a few scattered sightings in the Eastern and Central provinces of the Kingdom. Spotted Crake is an uncommon passage migrant with a few birds overwintering in some years. It is probably an overlooked species, due to its skulking nature with birds in spring from late February to mid-May and in autumn occurring from September to December but mainly in October and November. The Birds of the Riyadh Region (Stagg 1994) says they are a spring and autumn passage migrant. Passes late February to mid May with main movement occurring in April. Return passage extends from late August to early November, peaking in October. Sightings have considerably increased with wetland expansion in the region. Up to 30 in a day have been seen in April along the Riyadh watercourse.
31 May 2016
30 May 2016
Lorna Mackenzie found a Death’s Head Hawkmoth Acherontia styx in her garden in KFUPM. Lorna photographed the moth and kindly sent me details and pictures which she has allowed me to use on my website. This is one of the three species of Death's-head Hawkmoth, also known as the Bee Robber. It is very fond of honey and can mimic the scent of bees so that they can enter a hive unharmed to get honey. Their tongue, which is stout and very strong, enables them to pierce the wax cells of the beehive and suck the honey out. This species is similar to the European A. atropos but differs in having two medial bands on the underside of the forewing, instead of one, and usually no dark bands across the ventral surface of the abdomen. The skull-like marking is darker and there is a faint blue tornal dot enclosed by a black submarginal band on the hindwing upperside. The forewing discal spot (stigma) is orange; in A. atropos it is usually white. There are two described subspecies, A. s. styx, and A. s. medusa but they intergrade widely, and authorities presently consider that A. s. medusa is just a wet zone/season form, and not taxonomically distinct. The variant referred to as A. styx medusa occurs throughout eastern continental Asia, from northeastern China (to where it is a migrant) and Japan, south through eastern China and Vietnam to Peninsular Malaysia and peninsular Thailand. Also found throughout the islands of the Malay Archipelago. A. s. styx occurs from north-central and western China westward across northern Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Iran to Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
29 May 2016
Jess Crumpton photographed a Black-necked Grebe that came up on the Half Moon Bay beach at the weekend. She had never seen one there before in five years of visiting the area. The Black-necked Grebe is an uncommon but regular visitor to the Eastern Province from late August through March but becomes scarce in April and May and rare in the summer. It is usually local in coastal waters but counts of over 40 are not unusual in Half Moon Bay. Small numbers occur inland and elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, away from the Eastern Province, birds have occurred in Riyadh, Tabuk and the Red Sea, as well as in the Jizan region. This record was a good one as it is late for the species and it was an adult in full summer plumage a sight I have not seen myself in the Kingdom. I thank Jess for sending me the details and for allowing me to use her photos on my website that are reproduced below.
28 May 2016
Viv Wilson recently sent me some photos of a Starred Agama from near Tabuk. The starred Agama Laudakia stellio, also known as Rough-tailed Agama, is a large with a flattened, spiny body, a wide, triangular head, long legs and a long tail. The neck is particularly spiny, and rows of spines run across the body, flanks and tail. They are generally light or dark brown to grey or charcoal-coloured with a series of yellowish, diamond-shaped markings along the back. However, the Starred Agama is quite variable in appearance across its range and has a length of up to 30 centimetres. Like many other members of the Agamidae family, the starred agama is capable of quite rapid colour changes, with individuals typically becoming lighter when warm and darker when cold. They are usually active during the day and often hides in holes and crevices. The starred agama ranges from Greece and Cyprus in south-eastern Europe, through Turkey, Syria and Iraq, and into the Middle East, northern Saudi Arabia and northern Egypt. It is found in a variety of arid and semi-arid habitats, including rocky hillsides, scrubland, grassland, and cultivated areas.
27 May 2016
The last couple of weeks at KFUPM there has been a splendid show of Red-backed Shrike, numbers probably peaked about a week ago, and there were lots, it seemed like they were everywhere. There were a good few Lesser Grey Shrike among them as well, and one beautiful male Masked Shrike that is rarely seen here. Just as the shrikes were at their most numerous Lorna started to hear and see Golden Orioles and their numbers seem to have been pretty good as well although probably not quite so many as a couple of years ago. Lorna mentioned they were tricky to see when they're feeding on the figs and they seem to have a peculiar trick of invisibility among the leaves, even the brightest males virtually disappear into them. As far as other birds go it has been pretty quiet otherwise, a few small warblers still around but most of them seem to have moved on.
26 May 2016
Mansur Al Fahad took a photograph of a Desert White Butterfly at Heet village south of Riyadh in early May. The area has some farms and semi-desert land and these butterflies are plentiful this year, as the good rains have helped the emergence of good vegetarian cover for them to feed on. It is relatively common from early March to early December in a multitude of overlapping broods that differ from area to area depending on the rains. The Desert White is variable especially with regard to the amount of ‘green’ pigmentation on the underside that can be very heavy to almost absent. This variability can be large and can even occur between generations. I thank Mansur for sending me the details, identification and permission to use them on my website.
25 May 2016
Viv has taken some photographs of Black-crowned Night Heron from the main wetland near Tabuk that he has sent to me and kindly allowed me to use. Black-crowned Night Heron is an uncommon migrant to most areas of Saudi Arabia but in the Riyadh area is a common spring and autumn passage migrant passing early February to early June and again from late July to early November and rarely as late as December with birds now regularly breeding in the area. In the Eastern Province it is an uncommon migrant noted more often in autumn than spring. Juveniles occur from September through November and sometimes into February. Spring occurrences are irregular from April to May. They are uncommon in the Tabuk area in the northwest of the country although appear to be coming more common.
24 May 2016
Mansur Al Fahad took a few macro photographs of some Mediterranean Blue Butterflies at Heet village south of Riyadh in early May. Identification was confirmed by looking at the uppersides of the butterflies. The area has some farms and semi-desert land and these butterflies are plentiful this year, as the good rains have helped the emergence of good vegetarian cover. I thank Mansur for sending me the details, identification and permission to use them on my website.
23 May 2016
White-crowned Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga is a locally common breeding resident in dry rocky areas that occurs Kingdom wide from the Hejaz north from Taif, Northern Hejaz, Asir south of Soudah and Najran, Tuwaiq escarpment and locally in the Eastern Province along the Shedgum Escarpment. At Shedgum Escarpment it is a locally uncommon breeding resident with birds often seen at the base of the escarpment where they favour scree slopes with sparse vegetation. Occasionally birds can be seen elsewhere in the Eastern Province on rocky areas with one seen in Dhahran Hills in 2004. As the Shedgum Escarpment is the closest place to where I live to see the species I went there recently to see if I could see and photograph any. Photographing the species is not very easy as the dark plumage makes it difficult but I did manage a couple of reasonable photos, but certainly not good. I saw about four birds in total in the stony area at the base of the escarpment with some birds flying up to the top of the escarpment and back down feeding all the time.
22 May 2016
Mansur Al Fahad took a few macro photographs of some Dark Grass Blue Zizeeria karsandra. They were photographed at Heet village south of Riyadh in May. The area has some farms and semi-desert land and these butterflies are plentiful this year, as the good rains have helped the emergence of good vegetarian cover. Dark Grass Blue is a small butterfly found in the Southern Mediterranean, in a broad band to India, Sri Lanka, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, New Guinea and northern and eastern Australia. It belongs to the Lycaenids or Blues family. As the common name suggests, this species is found in open grassy habitats but can occur anywhere where grasses occur such as the area where Mansur photographed it. I thank Mansur for sending me the details, identification and permission to use them on my website.
21 May 2016
Viv Wilson a birder from Tabuk in the north west of Saudi Arabia sent me a few of his photographs of Sinai Rosefinch and has given me permission to use them on my website. This species has its entire Saudi Arabian range restricted to the north-west of the country. The birds seen in north-west Saudi Arabia are nominate synoicus who’s range is Sinai, north-west Arabia, Israel, and Jordan. They are small with the upper-part ground colour and sides of body rather dark drab-grey, with the pink and red of adult males being extensive, reaching the tips of both the upper and under tail-coverts. The birds are almost always associated with rocky jebals and cliffs and are often heard calling loudly to each other. They are not easy to photograph so Viv has done well with this pictures.
20 May 2016
Mansur Al Fahad took a few macro photographs of a Lang's Short-tailed Blue Leptotes pirithous or Common Zebra Blue Butterfly at Heet village south of Riyadh. It was on Zygophyllum (propinquum) migahidii that Mansur tells me is known locally as Harm. Lang's Short-tailed Blue is a butterfly of the family Lycaenidae. It is a small butterfly with a wingspan of 21–29 mm in males and 24–30 mm in females. The uppersides of the wings are purple bluish in males, bluish-brown in female. The undersides are dark beige striped with white lines. The hindwings show marginal orange and black spots and two small tails. These butterflies fly from February to November depending on the location. They are regular migrants. I thank Mansur for sending me the details, identification and permission to use them on my website.
19 May 2016
Paul Wells has been out and about around the golf course in Dhahran and has seen quite a few shrikes. Most have been Red-backed Shrikes a species that becomes common in the region in May but he has also seen a few Lesser Grey Shrikes. This is a much less common species but this year appears to have been a good one as many people have seen them in various locations in the Eastern Province and in good numbers. Some years a lot of birds are seen in May and in other years only a handful. Another good shrike seen in Dhahran in recent days is a Masked Shrike. I thank Paul for sending me details of his sightings as well as photos and for allowing me to use his photos on my website that are reproduced below.
|Lesser Grey Shrike|
|Lesser Grey Shrike|
|Lesser Grey Shrike|
18 May 2016
Mansur Al Fahad took a few macro photographs of some Bulkan Blue Butterflies at Heet village south of Riyadh in early May. Identification was confirmed by looking at the uppersides of the butterflies. The area has some farms and semi-desert land and these butterflies are plentiful this year, as the good rains have helped the emergence of good vegetarian cover.
17 May 2016
Lorna Mackenzie sent me an update of birding her local patch. Lorna’s little patch was pretty quiet this spring until recently possibly due to the unsettled weather up to mid-April. Since then things have picked up into a good show of migrants. The residents are all busy courting and nesting, and among the sparrows there have been a few Spanish Sparrows for the first time a species I have only seen once in Dhahran Camp next to KFUPM. Migrants have included a sky absolutely filled with Swallows. Lorna had hardly seen any at other times, literally two or three on just some days. Regarding Swifts Lorna has seen many more Pallid than Common this year, never in huge numbers but very regularly in small numbers. A very early sighting of two European Bee-Eaters on 21st February was unusual, and although not too many more for a week or two, there have been a few dozen most days. Lorna was seeing a few Willow Warblers through March, Willow Warblers mostly but recently she noticed good numbers of Blackcaps and particularly high numbers of Barred Warblers, often together. She has been seeing both all over her patch and not just in trees but on the ground as well. A very nice Great Reed Warbler was in exactly the same corner of parkland I watched a youngish one last year. Lots of Spotted Flycatchers have been around, again more this past week although there have been one or two around for the last month or so. There are more Common Redstarts than previous years, an odd one over the last month but their numbers have gone up in the past week. There's been an occasional Northern Wheatear from time to time in the past couple of months but in the last fortnight a few Black-Eared Wheatears as well. The Shrikes have included a couple of Woodchat Shrike around for some time from late March onwards. There are many more Turkestan Shrikes now and a few Daurian Shrikes, not to mention a splendid Red-Backed Shrike that appeared recently and was an absolute stunning adult male as well as a female. Other notables around at the moment are several European Wrynecks, Yellow Wagtails, Red-Throated Pipits with a few Tree Pipits among them. A beautiful male Rock Thrush was seen last week as well. I thank Lorna for sending me her update as well as a few photos that she kindly gave me permission to reproduce below.
16 May 2016
Whilst birdwatching at Abqaiq Wetlands in early May I came across a mantis in the and dunes of the reserve. The mantis was identified by Mansur Al Fahad as a Lappet Mantis Empusa hedenbergi and I thank him for this. This mantis is one of several very similar Empusa species found in Arabia. All are attracted to light at night and are often seen on walls with moths and other creatures. During the day they sit amongst vegetation in wait for prey where their shape and colour provide perfect camouflage. The adults live from March to July and pass the winter in the last larval stage. Isolated adults appear even in winter, especially in the warmer districts where the development is perhaps somewhat accelerated. The large green species with white stripes is easily recognised. Its similarly colored larvae are conspicuous because of the erect position of their toothed abdomen. They occur in the Arabian Peninsula in Oman, United Arab Emirates as well as Saudi Arabia and their almost perfect camouflage makes them very difficult to see. The only reason I saw this one was because it moved across the sand and the movement attracted my attention.
15 May 2016
Whilst birding Abqaiq Wetlands on 1 May with Phil Roberts we came a cross a number of good birds with the best probably being a Eurasian Crag Martin. This species is a scarce passage migrant in the Eastern Province mainly in the spring and I have only seen one before in the Eastern Province over the percolation pond in Dhahran. A flyover adult Eurasian Spoonbill was also a surprise as were five Marsh Warblers. Marsh Warbler is supposedly a common passage migrant in May throughout Saudi Arabia, but I had only seen one previously do the birds seen at the wetland were very unexpected. The other good bird seen was one Eastern Nightingale as they are far less common than Thrush Nightingale and although all the above birds were not photographed in any acceptable manner they were all good birds to see, showing the importance of this new wetland area. Other birds seen included one Grey Heron, two Little Egrets, one Common Whitethroat, two Eastern Olivaceous Warblers, six Kentish Plovers, ten Little Grebes including an adults with juveniles, one Sedge Warbler, two Little Bitterns, ten Barred Warblers, five Willow Warblers, two Chiffchaffs, two Blackcaps, ten Graceful Prinias, 50 House Sparrows, four Common Moorhens, one Spotted Crake, eight Little Terns, one Great Cormorant, one Little Ringed Plover, ten Black-winged Stilts, ten Pallid Swifts, five Barn Swallows, one Sand Martin, one European Bee-eater, two Rufous Scrub Robins, ten White-eared Bulbuls, six Crested Larks, one Lesser Kestrel flying over, five Laughing Doves, five Namaqua Doves, ten Collared Doves, two Tree Pipits, five Red-backed Shrikes, eight Turkestan Shrikes, one Whinchat, ten Spotted Flycatchers, one Reed Warbler, 15 Indian (Clamorous) Reed Warbler, two European Rollers, one White-throated Robin and one Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush.