31 Mar 2016

Black-winged Kite near Tabuk – Bird records by Viv Wilson

Whilst birding in the Tabuk area on 25 March 2106 Viv Wilson found a Black-winged Kite. This is a scarce visitor to the country that appears to be coming more common in recent years with birds seen in every month with the exception of January, August and December. In the north of the Kingdom birds have been seen as follows: An adult was at Wadi Rabigh 24 May 2013, one west Tayma 13 November 2015 and one near Tabuk 25 March 2016 with one in the Riyadh area at Al Hayer early October 2015 with two until 18 October 2015 at least. In the Eastern Province one Elanus caeruleus vociferous at Dhahran Saudi Aramco Camp spray fields 29 March to 17 April 2012, one adult Elanus caeruleus vociferous Dhahran Saudi Aramco Camp spray fields 20 April 2014 and one Elanus caeruleus vociferous Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm, Fadhili, near Jubail 4 September. All birds sub-specifically identified in the north and east of the Kingdom were of the eastern subspecies Elanus caeruleus vociferous as they had very dark under-wing markings on the secondaries a subspecies that occurs from Pakistan east to southern & eastern China, Indochina and the Malay Peninsula. In the Southwest of the Kingdom the status is not clear although they are probably an erratic visitor from Africa and has occurred as far north as Jeddah and Taif. Birds from this area include one Farasan Islands April & June 1988, one on a telegraph wire near Wadi Shahdan 3 September 1991, one over a maize field near Malaki Dam 9 February 1992, an adult NE Jizan 24 July 2001, one at Malaki Dam Lake on 6 May 2002 and 7 May 2002, one near Shuqayri, 11 July 2010 and one Malaki Dam Lake 3 Sep 2015 Elanus caeruleus caeruleus the first confirmed record of this African subspecies for the Kingdom, although all previous SW records were assumed to have been this race. Elanus caeruleus caeruleus occurs in the southwest Iberian Peninsula, most of Africa and Southwest Arabia. I thank Viv Wilson for kindly allowing me to use his photos on my website which are shown below.
Black-winged Kite

Black-winged Kite

Black-winged Kite

30 Mar 2016

A few migrants in Jubail – Bird records by Phil Roberts

Phil Roberts went to Jubail on Friday and saw a Greater Spotted Eagle perched on a lamppost as well as two more on the ground. Other wintering birds seen included a Pied Kingfisher, half a dozen White Wagtails, Daurian Shrike and seven Western Marsh Harriers. There were signs birds are on the move with a small flock of Red-throated Pipits, plenty of Yellow Wagtails (one black-headed and the rest beema). Phil also saw a flock of 100+ Ruff, two Common Sandpipers, two Black-tailed Godwits and a Common Redstart. Added to that were the usual residents, including 53 Grey-headed Swamphen and plenty of Indian (Clamorous) Reed Warblers. I thank Phil Roberts for kindly allowing me to use his photos on my website which are reproduced below.
Black-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwit
Indian Reed Warbler
Indian Reed Warbler
Common Redstart
Common Redstart
Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Greater Spotted Eagle
Greater Spotted Eagle

29 Mar 2016

Lots of Wheatears passing through Bahrain – Bird records by Jehad Alammadi

Jehad Alammadi sent me a few of his photographs of various species of Wheatears he has taken in Bahrain over the last few weeks, Jehad mentioned that a good page of birds had occurred and he had seen Northern Wheatears, Eastern Black-eared Wheatears, Pied Wheatears and the last remaining winter Morning Wheatear. These birds are all regular in Bahrain but the numbers appear to have been slightly higher this spring than normal. I thank Jehad for allowing me to use his photographs on my website some of which are shown below. Copyright to these photos remains with Jehad.
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear
Northern Wheatear
Northern Wheatear
Northern Wheatear
Northern Wheatear
Eastern Mourning Wheatear
Eastern Mourning Wheatear
Eastern Mourning Wheatear
Eastern Mourning Wheatear
Pied Wheatear - male
Pied Wheatear - male
Pied Wheatear - female
Pied Wheatear - female

28 Mar 2016

Seven Savi’s Warblers - Jubail

Recently there have been a number of reeling Savi’s Warblers around Jubail with three heard in late February and seven heard by Phil Roberts on 25 March 2016. Whilst ringing at Sabkhat Al Fasl ten Savi’s Warbler we have trapped and ringed in the last two years. Birds have occurred mainly in the spring with seven records from 20 March until 18 April and three in the autumn from 26 September until 24 October. Savi’s Warbler previously had a status until this ringing project as a scarce passage migrant but our ringing records show the species is in fact an uncommon passage migrant through the Eastern Province of the Kingdom at least. These seven birds reeling also indicate numbers are increasing in the region. The subspecies fuscus we get in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia is darker coloured, has more obvious under-tail covert tips and some streaking/spotting on the throat making it look more like a River Warbler than the nominate subspecies. The throat markings are not as dark and well defined and the undertail coverts more warm toned than in River Warbler though and the supercilium is more obvious behind the eye.


27 Mar 2016

A few interesting birds at Qarayat Al Ulya – Bird records by Vinu Mathew

Vinu Mathew and a few of his friends went to Qarayat Al Ulya on 18 March 2016. Vinu said they did not see too many birds, which is not unusual at this site. The good thing is the birds you see are not so common elsewhere and Vinu managed to see and photograph a smart male Pallid Harrier as well as a female Western Marsh Harrier over the spray fields. He also saw Common Kestrel, Common Chiffchaffs and a lot of Namaqua Doves. He even saw an owl in flight but unfortunately no one got a clear frontal photograph and it was difficult to identify from the photos but looks like it was a Pharaoh Eagle Owl. I would like to thank Vinu for sending me his records and for allowing me to use his photos on my website.
Namaqua Dove
Namaqua Dove
Namaqua Dove
Namaqua Dove
Namaqua Dove
Namaqua Dove
Pallid Harrier
Pallid Harrier
Western Marsh Harrier
Western Marsh Harrier
Common Chiffchaff
Common Chiffchaff


26 Mar 2016

Blue Rock Thrush - Qatar

Vinu Mathew went to Qatar recently and visited a farm called Mekaines farm. Vinu said it was an amazing site with a lot of species there. Unfortunately he only spent only two hours there but there were Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart, Eastern Black Redstart, Stonechats, lots of butterflies, lots of Shrikes, Gulls and Lapwings, Vinu mentioned it's a paradise for bird lovers. I thank him for sending me details of his visit and allowing me to use his photos and although it is not in Saudi Arabia all species shown in the photos below can be seen in Saudi Arabia. Thanks to Carlos for comments on the Eastern Black Redstart.
Blue Rock Thrush
Blue Rock Thrush
Eastern Black Redstart
Eastern Black Redstart
Eastern Black Redstart
Eastern Black Redstart
Crested Lark
Crested Lark

25 Mar 2016

Arabian Red Fox - Dhahran

I have recently been seeing a few Red Foxes in Daharan a sight I always treasure. The Red Fox is currently recognized as a single species and has the widest natural distribution of any terrestrial carnivore, possibly any terrestrial mammal. Its range spans approximately 70 million square kilometres encompassing much of Europe, Asia and North America and extending into North Africa, with an introduced population in Australia. The Red Fox occupies a wide variety of ecosystems, including forests, grasslands, deserts and agricultural and human-dominated environments. Interestingly a recent study (see paper detail below) was conducted providing the most geographically and genomically comprehensive study to date of the Red Fox. Analysis of mitochondrial sequence of 1000 individuals suggested an ancient Middle Eastern origin for all extant Red Foxes with demographic analyses indicated a major expansion in Eurasia during the last glaciation 50,000 years ago.


24 Mar 2016

Last of the winter visitors in Jubail – Bird records by Phil Roberts

Phil Roberts spent the morning of 18 March 2016 in Jubail but mentioned it was relatively quiet.  There was no sign of the Pied Kingfishers that have been around all winter or the Dead Sea Sparrows that have been around for a couple of weeks. He also mentioned only seeing one Greater Spotted Eagle a large decrease over the ten plus seen during the winter. These species are winter visitors (except the Dead Sea Sparrow that is a vagrant with only teo records) have probably moved back to their breeding grounds. Other winter visitors seen by Phil included Western Marsh Harriers but again they were in lower number than previously in the winter, Common Kingfisher and Great Cormorants. Phil mentioned there was not much in the way of migrants.  He saw one Yellow Wagtail but all the Black-headed Wagtails appeared to have moved on.  There were 47 Caspian Terns and a few waders but not many.  There was also a Common Black-headed Gull resplendent in its breeding plumage. Phil sent me a few of his photos and has kindly allowed me to use them on my website.
Western Marsh Harrier
Western Marsh Harrier
Great Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher
Black-headed Gulls
Black-headed Gulls

23 Mar 2016

Last remaining Western Cattle Egrets – Dhahran Hills

The number of Western Cattle Egrets around the camp seems to dropping from a high point of over 100 birds with many of the birds coming into full breeding plumages. Good views can still be had of the birds as they feed along the roadside grass verges finding insects in the soft ground after the grass has been watered. It was previously a scarce species in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia but since the 2000’s good numbers of birds were seen that have increased to toady’s numbers slowly over the last ten years. In the evening birds move to trees to spend the night in relative safety and then move back to the grass verges at first light to continue feeding.

22 Mar 2016

At least three Pied Kingfishers remain – Jubail

The last visit to the Jubail area produced at least three wintering Pied Kingfishers. The birds cannot be seen in their normal area but we saw two in different areas and a third perched on a power pylon, and unusual place to see one. It will be interesting to see if the birds return or stay through the summer. It is great to see such a magnificent bird in the area and would be even better if they became resident. We also saw White-throated Kingfisher and Common Kingfisher on the same day, making all the Kingfishers seen in the Eastern Province present in the same area on the same day.
Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

21 Mar 2016

Five Citrine Wagtails – Jubail

An early morning trip to Jubail was rewarded with the sighting of five different Citrine Wagtails in various different places. They varied in plumage from washed out to full adult males in breeding plumage but the bird I managed to photograph was somewhere in between. Citrine Wagtail is a regular though local winter visitor to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia that was not seen until 1975. I have seen quite a few in the last few years indicating the species is becoming more common in the region, particularly as they are not so difficult to identify in full breeding pluamge. They are almost always found near water and favour feeding on wet roadside puddles, but are not the easiest species to photograph as they are quite nervous and flighty and rarely stay still for long.
Citrine Wagtail

20 Mar 2016

Siberian Stonechat –Bird records by Vinu Mathew

Vinu Mathew sent me some photos of a male Siberian Stonechat he saw in Saudi Arabia last week and I also received an e-mail from Arnold Uy who said he has seen a similar bird as well. As I saw a couple in Jubail the weekend before it seems certain they are passing through the Eastern Province at present. They are an uncommon passage migrant and winter visitor to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. I thank Vinu for allowing me to use his excellent photos on my website.





19 Mar 2016

Plenty of water birds – Jubail

The last time I visited Jubail I found plenty of water birds. Gulls numbers were high with lots of Steppe Gulls and Caspian Gulls along with a second calendar year Great Black-headed Gull. Common Black-headed Gulls were also plentiful with up to 100 birds seen, but they were still fewer in number than Slender-billed Gulls. Great Cormorants were also seen a good numbers as has been the case all winter in the Jubail area. Wader numbers are increasing with all the normal fare plus a single much less common Broad-billed Sandpiper and up to ten Marsh Sandpipers. Great White Egrets, Little Egrets and Indian Reef Herons were also common with all the Indian Reef Herons seen being white phase birds. Land birds seen included a number of singing Graceful Prinias and several Daurian Shrikes.
Common Black-headed Gull
Common Black-headed Gull
Great Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Broad-billed Sandpiper
Broad-billed Sandpiper
Marsh Sandpiper
Marsh Sandpiper
Little Egret
Little Egret
Graceful Prinia
Graceful Prinia
Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike