24 Jul 2017

Greater Sand Plover – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently I came across a Greater Sand Plover feeding on a small area of sabkhat. The bird was an adult so it is difficult to know if it was a returning bird or a bird that has remained throughout the summer. 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. I managed to get quite close and take a few photos of the bird that are shown below. The only other waders seen were Kentish Plovers and Black-winged Stilts in very high numbers as well as Common Redshank.

Greater Sand Plover

Greater Sand Plover

Greater Sand Plover

23 Jul 2017

White-eyed Gulls – Jizan Fish Market

Whilst in Jizan we stopped at the fish market where we knew from past experience that photography was possible. The fish market is an excellent place to see both Sooty and White-eyed Gulls with plenty of birds normally resting on the roofs and feeding on scraps on the ground. It is best to get to the market in the early morning when the fish are being landed and processed to see the largest number of birds. We only managed to get there late one evening and again in the early afternoon but saw plenty of gulls at both times. July proved to be good at the fish market with hundreds of gulls present with almost all Sooty and White-eyed. Many wait around on the ground for fish waste to be thrown out and then a huge melee breaks out as all the gulls go for the waste at the same time. White-eyed Gulls have a range in Saudi Arabia that spreads mainly up the Red Sea coast to north of Jeddah. The White-eyed Gull is mostly sedentary although it disperses from its breeding sites in the Red Sea to occur throughout the Red Sea during the non-breeding season. There may also be some southward and eastward movement during this time, when it is reported to become scarce in the northern part of its range. Breeding takes place during the months of June – September where it breeds in loose colonies, on inshore islands, where it occupies bare rock and sand flats, and usually consiss of fewer than 25 pairs. During the non-breeding season it is usually found in small groups, but sometimes forms flocks of hundreds or even thousands to forage and often occurs further out to sea at this time. They are mainly coastal and usually feed at sea, but some Egyptian populations have adopted a scavenging role at rubbish tips and harbours, which is also the case at Jizan Fish Market. They eat mainly fish, but also crustaceans, molluscs, annelids and offal.
White-eyed Gull

White-eyed Gull

White-eyed Gull

White-eyed Gull

White-eyed Gull

White-eyed Gull

White-eyed Gull

White-eyed Gull

White-eyed Gull

White-eyed Gull

White-eyed Gull

White-eyed Gull

White-eyed Gull

White-eyed Gull

22 Jul 2017

Desert Locust – Talea’a Valley

The Desert Locust Schistocerca gregaria situation was calm during early 2017 due to poor rainfall and ecological conditions throughout most of the spring breeding areas in northwest Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Low numbers of solitarious adults were present but small-scale breeding probably occurred in interior Saudi Arabia that may cause locust numbers to increase slightly. Numbers remain low in 2017 so finding one in the Talea’a Valley, near Abha in the southwest mountains of Saudi Arabia was a bit of a surprise. The desert locust can form plagues and threaten agricultural production in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia which it has done for for centuries. The livelihood of at least one-tenth of the world’s human population can be affected by this voracious insect. The desert locust is potentially the most dangerous of the locust pests because of the ability of swarms to fly rapidly across great distances.
Desert Locust

20 Jul 2017

White-eared Bulbul - Jubail

Whilst birding Jubail in July I found a White-eared Bubul a species not commonly seen there although Phil Roberts saw one in early June. The birds in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia appear to be of the subspecies mesopotamia found in Iraq and Kuwait as they have very yellow eye rings and a bigger white ear patch. The subspecies that occurs elsewhere in Saudi Arabia including Riyadh, Tabuk, Wadi Dawasir, Sakaka and other areas in central and central western Saudi Arabia appear to be the Indian subspecies leucotis as birds are believed to have been introduced in these places. The species is widespread through much of the country although does not occur in the southwest around Jizan where the similar White-spectacled Bulbul is common. They are mainly a common resident breeding species where they occur.
White-eared Bubul

18 Jul 2017

Birding the Raydah Escarpment near Abha – Bird records by Munzir Khan

Munzir went birding to the southwest of the Kingdom on 27 June and went to the Raydah Escarpment. This is a site near Abha and is the best place to see Arabian Partridge first thing in the morning along the roadside. Driving down the escarpment is good but the road is very steep. Common endemics seen at this site include Yemen Linnet, Yemen Thrush and Arabian Wheatear along the roadside. Arabian Serin can be seen at the farm and the village at the bottom of the escarpment. Munzir sent me some of his photos taken there and has kindly allowed me to use them on my website some of which are shown below.
Arabian Partridge
Arabian Partridge
African Grey Hornbill
African Grey Hornbill
Blackstart
Blackstart
Cinnamon Breasted Bunting
Cinnamon Breasted Bunting
Little Rock Thrush
Little Rock Thrush
White-spectacled Bulbul
White-spectacled Bulbul

16 Jul 2017

Spur-winged Lapwing still present - Jubail

Whilst biding the Jubail area in early July 2017 I saw the Spur-winged Lapwing again in the same place I refound it on 23 June. The behaviour of the bird being very vocal and calling in flight as was the case the last time I saw it suggests the bird may be breeding. It will be interesting to see if I see more than one bird at the site over the next few weeks. Breeding has not been proven in the Eastern Province although I saw a bird that was apparently defending a territory at Haradh earlier this year.
Spur-winged Lapwing

Spur-winged Lapwing

Spur-winged Lapwing

Spur-winged Lapwing

15 Jul 2017

Lesser Black-backed (Baltic) Gull ringing recovery – Jizan Corniche

Whilst birding the Jizan Corniche on 6 & 8 July 2017 Phil Roberts and I found a second calendar year Lesser Black-backed Gull (Baltic Gull) Larus fuscus fuscus. The bird was wearing a white darvic ring on its left leg with black alpha-numeric details showing CC5P. We sent off the details to Finland and got back the below information saying the bird was ringed 370 days before in Kuhmoinen, Keski-Suomi, Häme, Finland (61°41′N 25°28′E) and had travelled 5159 kilometres in a SSE direction to reach Jizan. The bird has probably spent the winter in Jizan, as other Baltic Gulls do, such as Laura, a satellite tracked bird that wintered south of Jizan in Saudi Arabia in 2013 – 2014. As the bird was is a second calendar year individual it has obviously decided to stay the summer in southwest Saudi Arabia with up to 20 other second calendar year Baltic Gulls. The bird was seen on two dates in Jizan and both times within only a few hundred metres of where we first found it so it looks like it is site faithful. We looked carefully at all other Baltic Gulls in the area to see if any others had rings but could not find any others.

Lesser Black-backed (Baltic) Gull Larus fuscus fuscus
Ring Number: HT282352
Darvic Ring: White with black lettering CC5P
Ringing date: 01-Jul-2016
Ringing Place: Kuhmoinen, Keski-Suomi, Häme, Finland
(Co-ords: 61°41′N 25°28′E)
Age: Nestling
Ringer: Pekka Mäkinen (953)
Finding date: 06-Jul-2017
Finding Place: Jizan Corniche, Jizan region, Saudi Arabia (Co-ords: 16°56′N 42°32′E)
Finding Condition: Bird found alive
Duration: 370 days
Distance: 5155 km
Direction: 157° (SSE)

Finder: Phil Roberts & Jem Babbington

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Baltic Gull) Larus fuscus fuscus

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Baltic Gull) Larus fuscus fuscus

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Baltic Gull) Larus fuscus fuscus

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Baltic Gull) Larus fuscus fuscus

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Baltic Gull) Larus fuscus fuscus

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Baltic Gull) Larus fuscus fuscus

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Baltic Gull) Larus fuscus fuscus

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Baltic Gull) Larus fuscus fuscus

14 Jul 2017

Waders and Terns - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area in strong winds and the middle of summer few birds are generally seen. Waders can always be seen on the sabkha but they are restricted to breeding Black-winged stilts and Kentish Plovers as well as further inland Little Ringed Plovers that breed locally. A single Greater Sand Plover was a bit of a surprise as they normally occur later than this record. Terns are common in the summer months with mainly Little Terns, White-cheeked Terns and Caspian Terns seen. A surprise was the sighting in mid summer of an adult Ferruginous Duck possibly indicating a breeding attempt may be underway. I have never seen Ferruginous Duck in Summer in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.
Black-winged Stilt - Juvenile
Black-winged Stilt - Juvenile
Black-winged Stilt - Juvenile
Black-winged Stilt - Juvenile
Little Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern

12 Jul 2017

Immature Eurasian Spoonbill – Jubail

I was birding the Jubail area when I found an immature Eurasian Spoonbill on a wet Sabkha area. The status of the species has changed over the years in the Eastern Province and is now an uncommon visitor in all months to the province. Jubail is the best location to see the species in the Eastern Province but it is far from guaranteed here being only see on a few days per year. Most records in the spring and summer refer to immature birds suggesting breeding nearby somewhere. The closest breeding areas I know of are in Kuwait so birds may have come from there and headed south down the coast. A week later I saw two immature Eurasian Spoonbills in a similar area.
Eurasian Spoonbill

10 Jul 2017

White-cheeked Terns flying in strong ‘Shamal’ – Jubail

White-cheeked Tern Sterna repressa is a common breeding summer visitor to the Gulf and Red Sea coast north to Jeddah. 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. The strong ‘Shamal’ wind, a north-westerly wind, that blew for many days in late June meant the birds had to find struggle into the wind in favoured fishing areas and this allowed large groups to gather and gave the opportunity to try to photograph some. My best results are shown below.
White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern