31 Jul 2016

Carmine Darter at Wadi Waj - Taif

Whilst birdwatching at Wadi Waj in Taif I came across a number of Carmine Darters. They are a medium-sized dragonfly measuring about 50 milimetres. The adult male has a bright red, widened abdomen, and small yellowish-amber patches at the bases of the hind wings. Pterostigma are yellow. The male is a handsome carmine red, while the female is a significantly drabber yellow-buff colour.  They are widespread in the Arabian Peninsula where it prefers a habitat of rocky wadis (normally dry watercourses) and desert pools, especially around irrigation channels. Nymphs feed on small insects. When the adults emerge they dry their wings and immediately start hunting for food as they only live up to two months as adults.
Carmine Darters

30 Jul 2016

Breeding Indian Reed Warblers in Bahrain – Record by Jehad Alammadi

Indian Reed Warbler is a common breeding resident of Bahrain and Eastern Saudi Arabia but photos of the young and nest are not easy to take. As a result the photographs below taken by Jehad Alammadi in Bahrain this year are noteworthy. Although local birders know the species breeds locally it is not mentioned as doing so in many books such as the latest Helm Warbler guide. The birds nest in tall reeds with water nearby so they can feed on the abundant insects, although I have also seen one individual eating a small fish. The Indian Reed Warbler is often treated as a subspecies of Clamorous Reed Warbler. In Saudi Arabia Clamorous Reed Warbler also occurs and breeds on the Red Sea coast.
Indian Reed Warbler

Indian Reed Warbler

Indian Reed Warbler

Indian Reed Warbler

Indian Reed Warbler

Indian Reed Warbler

29 Jul 2016

Anderson’s Rock Agama - Taif

Whilst birdwatching in the Taif area recently I came across many Anderson’s Rock Agamas. This species is endemic to the Arabian Peninsula, where it is found in west and south Arabia, from Taif (Saudi Arabia) in the north to Dhofar (Oman) in the east. It is found to around 2,000 metres above sea level. It is common in Saudi Arabia where it is a rock dwelling lizard mainly present in mountainous areas. Populations can be found on vertical rocks, rock steps and amongst boulders where they appear to prefer large boulders in the vicinity of water in precipitous wadis surrounded by dense vegetation. They do not however require water, obtaining moisture from their insect prey.
Anderson’s Rock Agama

Anderson’s Rock Agama

28 Jul 2016

Looking for Arabian Waxbill in Wadi Waj – Taif

Phil and I went to Wadi Waj, a site near the center of Taif. This site is a wastewater runoff stream that permanently flows and has good growth of reeds and sedges nearby. It is a place where Waxbill has been seen and where we saw two last summer. We went on the hope of seeing the species again as they are not easy to locate and managed to see the Waxbills soon after we arrive. They were in some sedges near the water but flew off and than we saw a flock of about fifteen birds fly in and join them. There were plenty of other birds about including Graceful Prinia’s and plenty of Green Bee-eaters. On our return we located a Bruce’s Green Pigeon and as it was getting dark we saw a Plain Nightjar fly over and saw it again a few times over a filed across the stream from us. This site appears to a good one for Plain Nightjar as well as we saw one here last summer. The nightjar rounded off a good selection of birds at this site in the centre of Taif.
Arabian Waxbill
Arabian Waxbill
Arabian Waxbill
Arabian Waxbill
Bruce's Green Pigeon
Bruce's Green Pigeon
Green Bee-eater
Green Bee-eater

27 Jul 2016

Yellow Pansy – Bani Saad

The Yellow Pansy Junonia hierta is primarily an Africa species but is also migratory allowing it to quickly colonize other areas even if temporarily. It has been found in virtually all African countries as well as in Arabia, India and parts of southeastern Asia. It penetrates to the eastern corner of the Mediterranean in Egypt and Lebanon and is also found in southern Arabia and extends to India and southeastern Asia, though in a distinctly different subspecies. The butterfly is unmistakable with its straw basal colour and blue spots on the upperside of the hindwing and is usually seen in open scrub and grassland habitats.
Yellow Pansy

26 Jul 2016

Birding along the roadside - Bani Saad

Recently I was in Bani Saad and stopped along the roadside at a nice looking area of market garden fields with crops. This area had once held Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak where birds were seen sitting on a roof in Bani Saad but unfortunately I have never seen them in the built up areas. I did see a few good birds including a couple of Long-billed Pipits on one roadside bluff and nearby a few Cinnamon-breasted Buntings. The best bird seen, however, was a dark phase Long-legged Buzzard seen flying over. This phase is much commoner in the west of the Kingdom than in the east and are always good to see. Other species seen included Eurasian Hoopoe, Palestine Sunbird and Tristram’s Starlings.
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting
Long-billed Pipit
Long-billed Pipit
Long-billed Pipit
Long-billed Pipit
Long-legged Buzzard - dark phase
Long-legged Buzzard - dark phase
Long-legged Buzzard - dark phase
Long-legged Buzzard - dark phase

25 Jul 2016

Blue Pansy – Bani Saad

Butterflies belonging to the family Nymphalidae are few in number of species in Saudi Arabia although are quite conspicuous. They include Blue Pansy Junonia orithya that is a migratory butterfly and they appear sporadically, produce one or more local broods of offspring, and then disappear again until their next invasion. Their success in establishing themselves temporarily within the region depends very much upon their powers of adaptation and choice of larval food-plants. Whilst birdwatching the Bani Saad area near Taif I came across a number of Blue Pansy butterflies although most were very worn and appeared to be at the end of the life cycle. Although obvious when their wings are outstretched, they are well camouflaged with folded wings.
Blue Pansy

Blue Pansy

Blue Pansy

Blue Pansy

24 Jul 2016

Looking for Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak – Wadi Grosbeak

Phil Roberts and I went to Taif in the hope of seeing Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak. We went to a wadi where we had located birds in summer 2015 and hoped to get some better photographs than we managed the previous year.  The area we went to was about 130 kilometres south of Taif where there are a few good looking valleys with fields and trees. We got to Bani Saad just after first light and spent most of the day checking suitable areas of habitat looking for the species. We managed to find a number of good looking valleys with fields and trees and one of these we were lucky enough to find a juvenile Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak. The bird was initially located by its odd contact calls and stayed in a dead tree. We managed to get a few photos before the bird flew off. More searching was conducted and we found a second bird some distance from the first perched on some overhead wires but no photos were obtained of this individual. Plenty of other species were seen in this valley including Arabian Woodpecker, Long-billed Pipits, Arabian Wheatears, Little Rock Thrushes, Little Swift and three Bruce’s Green Pigeons.
Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak
Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak
Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak
Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak
Arabian Serin
Arabian Serin
Arabian Wheatear
Arabian Wheatear

23 Jul 2016

Small Copper – Bani Saad

Whilst birdwatching in the Bani Saad area near Taif in the west of the Kingdom I came across a good number of Small Copper butterflies Lycaena phlaeas shima in various locations. The Small Copper is a fast flying butterfly that, once settled, is unmistakable with its bright copper-coloured forewings. The upperside forewings are a bright orange with a dark outside edge border and with eight or nine black spots. The hindwings are dark with an orange border. The undersides are patterned in a similar way but are paler. The black spots on the forewings are outlined in yellow and the dark colouring is replaced by a pale brownish, gray. The hindwings are the same brown/grey colour with small black dots and a narrow orange border. It is widespread and common across Europe, Asia, and North America, and also found in North Africa south through to Ethiopia.        
Small Copper

Small Copper

22 Jul 2016

Arabian Wheatear – Taif

Whilst birding the Taif area recently I saw plenty of Arabian Wheatears at many different sites including Wadi Grosbeak, Wadi Thee Gazelle and Wadi Waj. The Arabian Wheatear Oenanthe lugentoides is a rather scarce resident of the south-west highlands, but is also found in Oman, Palestine and Yemen, mainly in rocky, bushy sites but is widespread on the Jebal Souda plateau, Wadi Tale’a, Pipeline Road, near Farshah, Gara’a and Tanoumah as well as the Taif area. In 1987 it was recorded more frequently than present so the species may have declined slightly, with disturbance not thought likely to be the reason as it is often associated with gardens and regularly breeds near human sites. They nest in holes in terrace walls and feed largely on insects. They are common in the upper reaches of the Raghadan Forest and the upper parts of the Golden Tulip valley in Baha.
Arabian Wheatear

Arabian Wheatear

Arabian Wheatear
 
Arabian Wheatear

21 Jul 2016

Arabian Skittering Frog in Wadi Thee Gazelle - Taif

Whilst birdwatching a wadi in Wadi Thee Gazelle we found a few pools of water with hundreds if not thousands of small frogs present as well as other pools with tadpoles. The excellent rains of spring 2016 have made many suitable pools for the frogs to breed which they have done in abundance. This is the first time I have seen this frog in Saudi Arabia and they turned out to be Arabian Skittering Frog or Arabian Five-fingered Frog Euphlyctis ehrenbergii a species of frog in the Dicroglossidae family found in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. It has previoulsy been treated as a subspecies of the Skittering Frog Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis, but is now considered as a valid species. The frog is restricted to areas of permanent and temporary water in the Red Sea coastal region of Yemen and Saudi Arabia. An aquatic species, it can also be present in irrigated area where it is extremely common or abundant. It has an altitudinal range from sea level to 2,400 metres above sea level and lays its eggs in water. The species may aestivate during the dry season, meaning it spends the hot or dry period in a prolonged state of torpor or dormancy.
Arabian Skittering Frog

Arabian Skittering Frog

Arabian Skittering Frog

20 Jul 2016

Returning Greater Sand Plovers – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area in early June I came across four Greater Sand Plovers feeding on a small area of sabkhat. The birds appeared to be juveniles so are presumably returning from their breeding grounds to their wintering areas. Greater Sand Plover is a common species on passage but it is difficult to get close to them as they are normally out on the tide line or in the flooded sabkha. As a result of the location of these birds I managed to get quite close and take a few photos of two birds that are shown below. The only other waders seen were Kentish Plovers and Black-winged Stilts in very high numbers as well as a single Ruff. Close by the area where the waders were seen were also a few Egyptian Nightjars that gave good views both in flight and on the ground. Thousands of Greater Flamingos were also seen in a large flooded wetland are, where only six had been two weeks previously.
Greater Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Kentish Plover
Kentish Plover
Little Tern
Little Tern
Egyptian Nightjar
Egyptian Nightjar
Egyptian Nightjar
Egyptian Nightjar
Egyptian Nightjar
Egyptian Nightjar

19 Jul 2016

White-cheeked Terns – Jubail

White-cheeked Tern Sterna repressa is a common breeding summer visitor to the Gulf and Red Sea coast north to Jeddah. There are no inland records of this species that I know off. Birds start occurring in April and by June there are very large numbers as this is the start of their breeding season. White-cheeked Tern juveniles occur from late July and August and some remaining until October. Winter records are rare in the Eastern Province, although they have been seen occasionally. Birds breed offshore Jubail on small islands and use wetland areas of Jubail as feeding areas. It is not easy to get photos with light showing in the eyes as their plumage is grey, black and white, but birds do come close along the open water areas so close up shots are possible. In June many birds also form groups sitting on sandbanks and close up photography becomes easier.
White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern