30 Sep 2016

Eurasian Wryneck trapped and ringed - Jubail

Whilst ringing on 23 September Nicole and I trapped and ringed a Eurasian Wryneck. We have only caught one Eurasian Wryneck at the site before on 10 April 2015, so this was a pleasant surprise when seen in the net. They are regular migrants through the region although are an uncommon passage migrants in the Eastern Province where we ring. They are beautiful birds in the hand and are very gentle. They also move their heads around in a very unusual manner. This is the first Eurasian Wryneck I have seen in the Eastern Province this year making the experience even better.
Eurasian Wryneck

Eurasian Wryneck

Eurasian Wryneck

29 Sep 2016

A few migrants in Dhahran – Records by Paul Wells

Migration has started picking up, and now there is a break in the very high humidity it allowed Paul to take his camera out. Paul has been seeing shrikes for the last week or so including Woodchat, Turkestan and Mauryan Grey Shrike. Paul has also been seeing a number of hirundines for several weeks that were impossible to photograph, but were mainly Sand Martins. Also seen and photographed were Greater Short-toed Larks a species not so commonly seen in Dhahran although common in the spray fields nearby. Kentish Plover was another species seen by Paul with many birds passing through the region at present.
Woodchat Shrike
Woodchat Shrike
Mauryan Grey Shrike
Mauryan Grey Shrike
Greater Short-toed Lark
Greater Short-toed Lark
Kentish Plover
Kentish Plover

28 Sep 2016

Two Yellow Wagtails trapped and ringed - Jubail

Whilst ringing at Jubail recently I trapped and ringed two Yellow Wagtails. This species is relatively common in the region during passage periods in both spring and autumn although more common during the spring. They are seldom ringed though, as they are very good at avoiding the nets and mainly are caught in double panel rather than four panel nets.This time both birds were caught in the bigger nets and were a pleasant surprise. Trying to work out the subspecies involved is a difficult proposition when birds are not adult males in spring but it is thought both birds that were trapped were beema / flava types.
Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

27 Sep 2016

A couple of good birds in Al Khobar – Records by Mark Jasmin

Mark found a Common Kingfisher and a Common Whitethroat near the South Corniche harbour in Al Khobar. Mark also found some Whimbrels, Ruddy Turnstone, Common Ringed Plovers, Common Redshanks, Common Greenshank, Black-winged Stilts, Terns and other waders. Mark kindly sent me the daetails and some of his photos and has allowed me to use them on my website two of which are shown below.
Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher
Common Whitethroat
Common Whitethroat

26 Sep 2016

Three Savis Warblers trapped and ringed - Jubail

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. This year we trapped and ringed three birds on 23 September 2016. 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. 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. The photos below show two of the three birds trapped.


25 Sep 2016

Lesser Sand Plovers – Dammam Wader Roost

The Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius altifrons is a common migrant and winter visitor to coastal areas. Autumn movement commences early with family groups moving through the region from the third week in June, continuing until September. In the Eastern Province. It is a winter visitor and passage migrant. In the 1980s it was abundant along the coast from August through May with smaller numbers of non-breeding immatures in June and July but now it I less common although still seen in good numbers. A count in January & February 1986 was estimated at 28,000 with the ICBP/NCWCD Waterbird Survey (November to December) 1991 - Mainly in Tarut Bay, counting a maximum of 2332 at Zur on 26 November. Kingdom wide it has the following ststus: Common migrant and winter visitor to the Gulf coast where a few are present throughout the summer. Uncommon migrant and winter visitor to the Red Sea coast. The only inland records are from Riyadh and Tabuk.
Lesser Sand Plover

Lesser Sand Plover

Lesser Sand Plover

Lesser Sand Plover

24 Sep 2016

Anumeta asiatica moth - Record by Mansur Al Fahad

Mansur has recently sent me a few moths he has caught near Riyadh and managed to identify. One such moth was Anumeta asiatica a moth of the Noctuidae family. It is found in southwestern Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and in the Arava Valley in Israel. There is one generation per year with adults are on wing from May to August. It occurs mainly in sandy areas and depressions with silty alluvial soils and along seasonal waterways with contracted shrub and semi-shrub thickets often dominated by Atriplex ssp., Calligonum comosum and Ochradenus baccats.

23 Sep 2016

Migrants finally arriving – Jubail

There were plenty of migrants around in early September with a Whinchat being the first bird we saw. A few shrikes of various species were also seen including Turkestan Shrikes, two Woodchat Shrikes, two Lesser Grey Shrikes and a Red-backed Shrike. Several Marsh Warblers and an Eastern Olivaceous Warblers were new in as was a couple of Rufous-tailed Scrub Robins. Fifty plus Sand Martins and tens of Bard Swallows were flying around as were up to ten European Bee-eaters. Two Yellow Wagtails and hundreds of Squacco Herons and Little Egrets were also present, with the Little Egret numbers being the highest I have seen at the site. Waders were made up almost entirely by Common Ringed Plovers but a few Little Stints, Black-winged Stilts and Wood Sandpipers were also present.
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler
Woodchat Shrike
Woodchat Shrike
Common Ringed Plover
Common Ringed Plover
Wood Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper

22 Sep 2016

Arabian Magpie family – Tanoumah

Whilst birding the Tanoumah area of southwest Saudi Arabia in the summer we found a family party of Arabian Magpies. The Eurasian Magpie Pica pica includes an isolated population, Arabian Magpie Pica pica asirensisis, endemic to the Asir province of southwest Saudi Arabia where it has a very restricted range. The area where the birds occur is part of the Asir mountain range (which extends into Yemen), a region holding all but one of the Arabian endemic bird species, suggesting the magpie population has been isolated for a very long time. The bird was first described by Bates 1936 after collection by Philby who said it was plentiful in the Asir mountain region and is unmistakable within its restricted range. Differences from the nominate population of Europe include a darker, duller overall colouration with only a slight sheen and with less white on the scapulars and primaries, all black rump, shorter wings, much shorter tail with a purple gloss and larger bill and feet. The juvenile differs from the adult by being duller, with black areas of the plumage unglossed, and white areas washed with brown. Birds are very vocal as group members call to keep in contact with each other, generally calling throughout the day, and in my experience this is often how they are located in the field, with at least three types of calls noted: A full loud ‘quaynk quaynk’, made when the bird calls from a top branch or while moving which is presumably the main contact call. A similar tone ‘Quenk Quenk’, is uttered when the bird is searching for insects or under some stress and may be some sort of alarm call; while the young birds make a much softer ‘qua qua’, which seems to be a soliciting call during food begging or when following their parents. The distinct calls along with morphological differences have led a number of observers to suggest that asirensis is specifically distinct, however, others disagree and say the calls are similar to distress calls of nominate Eurasian Magpie. Recordings indicate Arabian Magpie calls are very different from nominate pica pica but there is debate whether the calls are substantially different. Some people say Eurasian Magpie calls sound like asirensis calls, but are not as loud, clear or as often repeated, whereas others like myself suggest they are different.
Arabian Magpie

Arabian Magpie

Arabian Magpie

Arabian Magpie

Arabian Magpie

21 Sep 2016

Last of the Egyptian Nightjars – Jubail

The last few Egyptian Nightjars are still present in Jubail although I suspect this will be last time I see them this year. I saw five birds in different locations during the day, but they normally leave in early September. Wader numbers continue to build with large numbers of Common Ringed Plovers seen and smaller numbers of Terek Sandpipers and Grey Plovers. Numbers of Squacco herons are increasing steadily with well over fifty birds seen and a couple of the less common Little Bittern also present.
Egyptian Nightjar
Egyptian Nightjar
Egyptian Nightjar
Egyptian Nightjar
Egyptian Nightjar
Egyptian Nightjar 
Common Ringed Plover
Common Ringed Plover
Grey Plover
Grey Plover
Terek Sandpiper
Terek Sandpiper
Squacco Heron
Squacco Heron

20 Sep 2016

Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers – Jubail

The last few weeks have seen numbers of both Lesser Sand Plover and Greater Sand Plover building in the Jubail area. The Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius altifrons is a winter visitor and passage migrant that is common along the coast from August through May with very small numbers of non-breeding immatures in June and July. It is very rare away from the littoral with larger numbers on passage from late July to September and more especially in March and April showing characteristics of altifrons. The Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii is a passage migrant and winter visitor: Regular arrival of juveniles in late June and July where they remain common until September both on the coast and inland. From October they become scarce away from the coast but become regular again in April and May suggesting birds are on passage.
Lesser Sand Plover
Lesser Sand Plover
Lesser Sand Plover
Lesser Sand Plover
Lesser Sand Plover
Lesser Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover

19 Sep 2016

First breeding record of Greater Flamingo for Saudi Arabia – Jubail

In summer this year Phil Roberts and I found the first confirmed breeding record of Greater Flamingo for Saudi Arabia. We saw up to 30 adults and two very young juveniles (unable to fly) near Jubail. Birds have been around all summer with unto 4000 in April and several hundreds during the entire summer. We did not see any nest mounds although there are a number of structures that may be nests out on the sabkha. The juveniles are too small to fly so must have been born at SAF. The record was sent to Mike Jennings who confirmed it as the first breeding record for the Kingdom but mentioned nest building had been seen in a nearby area previously but no confirmed breeding.
Breeding Greater Flamingo

Breeding Greater Flamingo

Breeding Greater Flamingo

18 Sep 2016

Decreasing numbers of Egyptian Nightjars – Jubail

The number of Egyptian Nightjars have decreased from the high of 15 birds to five as has been the case in previous years. The birds tend to disappear entirely from early September. White-cheeked Terns have decreased in numbers even more rapidly from more than four thousand to several hundred now. One the other hand wader numbers are increasing with small numbers of Curlew Sandpipers, Ruff and Ruddy Turnstones appearing. White-winged Terns are also showing in small numbers with up to seven seen together on a small flooded area of sabkha.
Egyptian Nightjar
Egyptian Nightjar
Curlew Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Ruddy Turnstone
Ruff
Ruff
White-winged Tern
White-winged Tern

17 Sep 2016

Fairy Mantis – Tanoumah

There are a number of different mantis species in Saudi Arabia and when I was birdwatching in Tanoumah with Phil Roberts we found a different type that we had not seen before. After help from Mansur Al Fahad and looking on the internet it became obvious the species was a Fairy Mantis Oxyothepis nilotica. It was not easy to photograph with the below photos the only good one I got.
Fairy Mantis Oxyothepis nilotica

Fairy Mantis Oxyothepis nilotica

Fairy Mantis Oxyothepis nilotica