31 Oct 2016

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron at Abu Hadriyah – Record by Arnold Uy

Arnold has taken some photographs of Black-crowned Night Heron from the main wetland at Abu Hadriyah 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.

30 Oct 2016

First winter White Wagtails – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area on 21 October I came across the first winter White Wagtails for me. Birds will arrive in good numbers in the next few weeks and stay for the winter. White Wagtail records occur from Mid-September to April with the majority of birds arriving in October and only occasional records in May and early September. They are most commonly seen around settlements, near pools, ponds, sewage works and in cultivated wet fields. Peak counts include 700 at Abqaiq lagoons March 1976 and 600 in February 1977 which were thought to be migrants mainly of the race Motacilla alba dukhunensis. Geographical variation is marked and complex with widespread intergradation occurring where races meet. There is a possibility that M. a. dukhunensis may be only an inter-racial hybrid, perhaps better included within nominate Motacilla alba alba. Two races occur in the Eastern Province Motacilla alba alba which breeds in south-east Greenland, Iceland, Faeroe Islands and throughout continental Europe (has bred Britain and Ireland) east to the Urals, Turkey and Levant; winters in southern part of range and south to west & east Africa, Arabia and south-west Asia. Motacilla alba dukhunensis breeds from central Russia (Ural Monutains east to Taymyr Peninsula) south to Caucasus, north-west Iran, Kyrgyz Steppes and the foothills of the Altai Mountains; winters Middle East eastwards to the Indian Subcontinent.

29 Oct 2016

Bar-tailed Godwit at Shahaily – Record by Arnold Uy

Whilst birding at Shuhaily near Al Khobar recently Arnold Uy saw a number of waders including a close Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Snipe and Western Cattle Egret. Arnold Uy sent me some photos and has allowed me to use it on my website some of which are shown below. Although these species are common they are not so easy to get close to and the light is seldom in the correct direction to allow for good photos.
Bar-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Common Snipe
Common Snipe
Western Cattle Egret
Western Cattle Egret

28 Oct 2016

European Roller in Dhahran – Record by Paul Wells

Whilst birding in Dhahran recently Paul Wells saw a European Roller Coracias garrulus. Paul sent me the photo and has allowed me to use it on my website which is shown below. European Roller a common passage migrant from March to May and again from mid-July to late September / early October when juveniles are also seen along with adults. Birds are regularly seen in the Eastern Province in all areas but they are always good to see.

27 Oct 2016

Large numbers of Harriers - Haradh

Whilst birding the NADAC Farm area of Haradh 14 October I saw plenty of Harriers including at minimum of ten Western Marsh Harriers, mainly female/immatures but a smart male was also seen. Montagu’s Harriers were also present including an adult and several Pallid Harriers with a male and several juveniles seen. In total we saw over thirty harriers all of which were hunting over the pivot irrigation fields of the farming areas. October is the best month to see harriers on migration and Haradh is the best location in the Eastern Province but the total seen was very high even for this time and location.
Western Marsh Harrier
Western Marsh Harrier
Western Marsh Harrier
Western Marsh Harrier
Montagu's Harrier
Montagu's Harrier

26 Oct 2016

Two Eurasian Spoonbills at Shubaily – Record by Arnold Uy

Arnold Uy was at Shubaily very early one morning and saw two Eurasian Spoonbills flying over. He managed to get a photograph that he kindly sent to me for use on my website for which I thank him. The status of the species has changed over the years in the Eastern Province, with it being regarded as a rare and irregular visitor usually involving immature birds until the end of the 1980’s. Records occurred from November to December and April and June with most on the coast at Taraut Bay, Qatif, Abu Ali and Al Khobar. The only inland record was one at Abqaiq 30 September to 1 October 1976. Today it is an uncommon visitor in all months to the province. In Central Saudi Arabia the status of the species has also changed with the List of Birds of Saudi Arabia (Jennings 1981) saying there were no inland records for the country. By the mid 1980’s the Birds of the Riyadh Region (Stagg 1994) stated that prior to 1987 the Spoonbill was a rare autumn visitor. Since then it made frequent appearances along the Riyadh watercourse and became a spasmodic spring and autumn passage migrant and a regular winter visitor in growing numbers. Wintering birds arrived occasionally in November but mainly January and were seen thereafter until May with the largest group 11 on 23 November 1990. In the late 1990’s the species was not recorded at all by the local birders and is still regarded as a scarce bird in the area. The main stronghold for the species in Saudi Arabia is the Red Sea where it is a common resident breeder. Largest numbers are seen in the southwest near Jizan but birds have been recorded all along the coast to north on Yanbu.

25 Oct 2016

Quality migrants at Abu Hadriyah – Records by Arnold Uy

Whilst birding the Abu Hadriyah area recently Arnold Uy and found some amazing birds. He very kindly sent me the details and has allowed me to use his photos on my website some of which are shown below. Blue Rock Thrush is an uncommon passage migrant that is commoner in the spring than autumn and a species I personally do not see every year. Eurasian Wryneck has a similar status to Blue Rock Thrush but they are seen slightly more often. Other birds seen by Arnold included Indian (Clamorous) Reed Warbler a species extended it range considerably in the province in recent years. Also seen was Spotted Flycatcher a species that has been passing through in very good numbers this autumn over a broad range.
Blue-Rock Thrush
Blue-Rock Thrush
Eurasian Wryneck
Eurasian Wryneck
Indian (Clamorous) Reed Warbler
Indian (Clamorous) Reed Warbler
Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher

24 Oct 2016

Desert birds and migrants - Haradh

Whilst birding the NADAC Farm area of Haradh 14 October I saw some good desert birds and migrants. One of the first birds seen was an Eastern Morning Wheatear, which was good as birds have only just started returning for the winter and I have not seen one at this location before. Other migrants included a few Common Kestrels hunting over the pivot irrigation fields and a Collared Pratincole was along one field edge. Several shrikes were seen including good numbers of Daurian Shrikes, Turkestan Shrikes and Mauryan Grey Shrike. Birds seen in the desert included, Namaqua Doves, Greater Hoopoe-Lark and Black-crowned Sparrow Larks with possibly over 100 birds seen, easily the largest number I have seen at one time in the Kingdom.
Eastern Mourning Wheatear
Eastern Mourning Wheatear
Eastern Mourning Wheatear
Eastern Mourning Wheatear
Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel
Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Greater Hoopoe-Lark
Greater Hoopoe-Lark
Greater Hoopoe-Lark
Greater Hoopoe-Lark
Collared Pratincole
Collared Pratincole
Black-crowned Sparrow Lark
Black-crowned Sparrow Lark
Namaqua Doves
Namaqua Doves

23 Oct 2016

Male Montagu’s Harrier - Haradh

Whilst birding the NADAC Farm area of Haradh 14 October I saw plenty of Harriers including at minimum of five Montagu’s Harriers including adult and juvenile harriers over the pivot irrigation fields. Male Montagu’s Harriers are easily identified by their upperwing pattern amongst other details but Juvenile Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers are difficult to identify with certainty at times and good views are needed. The birds were mainly at some distance but luckily for me the one bird that chose to come close was a fine adult male bird. It was hunting over the fields catching large Migratory Locusts by dropping into the pivot fields and catching them on the ground and then either eating them there or flying to the field side and doing likewise there. Birds are uncommon passage migrants in the Eastern Province mainly from April to May and from September to October with a few birds apparently wintering and up to eight seen in a day at Haradh in September. Birds of the Riyadh Region by Stagg 1994, says they are a common passage migrant and increasingly frequent winter visitor that passes March and again late August to mid-October. Since 1988, winter visitors have taken up residence around alfalfa fields south of Riyadh during December and January. Other records have come from all areas from the southwest to the northeast of the Kingdom although the species is not common anywhere.













22 Oct 2016

Fan-tailed Raven on the Abha to Baha road – Recirds by Jean-François Frey

Jean-François Frey is an engineer working occasionally in Saudi Arabia who is interested in birds and photography. He very kindly sent me a photograph of a Fan-tailed Raven on the road between Baha and Abha that he has allowed me to reproduce below. Although the species is common in the area they are not so easy t photograph due to their liking for steep cliffs and their black colour.

21 Oct 2016

Thousands of Clouded Yellows - Haradh

Whilst in Haradh recently Phil Roberts and I saw huge numbers of Clouded Yellows in a single pivot irrigation field. The numbers probably exceeded one thousand individuals and it was an amazing sight. The Clouded Yellow is occasionally common in all areas of Saudi Arabia, originating from North Africa and southern Europe. The upperside is golden to orange yellow with a broad black margin on all four wings and a black spot near the centre forewing. The underside lacks the black borders and is lighter, with a more greenish tint, particularly on the forewings. In the forewing underside is the same dark spot as on the upperside, but often with a light centre; the hindwing underside has a white centre spot, often with a smaller white or dark dot immediately above it. Sometimes, a row of black dots occurs on the underwings' outer margins, corresponding to where the black border ends on the upperside, Females differ from the males in having yellow spots along the black borders on the upperside. In flight, it is easily identifiable by the intense yellow colouring, and like all Colias species, they hardly ever open their wings at rest, although the one Phil photographed did open its wings very briefly allow Phil to take the photograph below that he has kindly allowed me to use on my website.
Clouded Yellow

20 Oct 2016

Dark Grass Blue - Haradh

Whilst birding a number of large pivot irrigation fields in the Haradh area I cam across a small colony of Dark Grass Blue Zizeeria karsandra also known as Asian Grass Blue. It is a small butterfly found in the Arabian Peninsula in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Oman as well as 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. They are abundant throughout the northern part of Saudi Arabia excepting the boarder are with Jordon. They are weak flyers keeping low and are not strong migrants. Colour and size varies probably depending on food source availability.
Dark Grass Blue

Dark Grass Blue

Dark Grass Blue

19 Oct 2016

Largest every flock of Spur-winged Lapwing in Saudi Arabia - Haradh

Whilst birding the large Pivot Irrigation fields of Haradh on 14 October Phil Roberts and I came across large numbers of Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus. This was a surprise as the species is seldom recorded in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. The largest recorded flocks in Kingdom have been 61 at Todhia farm, 27 February 2009 and 15 birds at NADEC Dairy Farm in Haradh 7 Februry 2013. We counted many flocks of over 10 in various areas and had 106 together so we estimated a minimum of 150 birds and probably many more. The species is an uncommon resident in the southwest of the Kingdom but until nw has been a vagrant to the Eastern Province but the large numbers seen in recent years makes it an uncommon passage migrant and scarce winter visitor to the region.
Spur-winged Lapwing

Spur-winged Lapwing

Spur-winged Lapwing


18 Oct 2016

Migratory Locust - Haradh

Whilst at Haradh I saw plenty of Migratory Locust Locusta migratoria in the pivot irrigation fields. Normally they occur in small numbers throughout Arabia, but rarely form into swarms. There are two colour forms, brown and green with the green colour forms mainly solitary adult females. Under favourable breeding conditions they can form into vast groups, with young ‘hoppers’ often all marching in the same direction. They are very strong fliers and migratory specimens have been recorded as far away as Great Britain. Most of the locusts were in the fields but the one I photographed was on the sand at the edge of a pivot field.
Migratory Locust

17 Oct 2016

A few migrants - Jubail

Whilst birding Jubail last weekend I came across a few migrants but things were fairly quiet. The best birds were a few Daurian and Turkestan Shrikes and two Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, although several waders were also seen like Green Sandpiper and Little Stint. Several Pied Avocets were seen and a couple of Marsh Sandpipers. Good numbers of herons in particular Grey Heron and Little Egret were about but also a few Squacco Herons. As always plenty of Grey-headed Swamphens were see but otherwise if was generally fairly quiet.
Isabelline Shrike
Isabelline Shrike 
Green Sandpiper
Green Sandpiper
Little Stint
Little Stint
Little Egret
Little Egret
Grey-headed Swamphen
Grey-headed Swamphen

16 Oct 2016

Winter plumaged Red-necked Phalaropes - Jubail

Phil Roberts and I found two winter plumaged Red-necked Phalaropes on some flooded Sabkha in Jubail on 7 October. These two birds were behaving in typical Phalarope manner by spinning around at the same spot feeding. They kept far out on the water making taking photographs very difficult. One bird kept close to a feeding Pied Avocet and the other on its own. Red-necked Phalarope is an uncommon bird in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, with Sabkhat Al Fasl is the best place in the Province to see them. Bundy’s ‘Birds of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia’ published in October 1989 states that they are regular in varying numbers on marshy pools in spring but very scarce and irregular in autumn. Records are regular in Kuwait to the north but from the Eastern Province are limited with one record from March, scare in April and regular in May with the peak inland count being 150 birds at Abqaiq in May 1976. As shown they were regular in years gone by but have become increasingly scarce, although in the last four years birds have been seen each year. Recent sightings have been in February, May, June, August, September and October.