31 Mar 2017

Eastern Black-headed Yellow Wagtail – Jubail

Whilst birding Jubail at the end of March I found ta number of Eastern Black-headed Yellow Wagtail melanogrisea feeding along a path and near the waters edge.  This subspecies is not as common as Black-headed Wagtail feldegg in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia but arrive in early to mid-March similar to feldegg. Some individual Black-headed Yellow Wagtails feldegg, more common in the eastern part of their range, show some white on the sides of the throat (often also on upper throat) like the ones I saw and have been named melanogrisea. Melanogrisea is said to breed from the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea south to northern Afghanistan and the Tian Shan, and east to Lake Balkhash, Tarbagatay and Dzungaria and winter mainly in India. Plumage wise it is close to feldegg but slightly brighter and paler green on the back, paler yellow below with the chin white instead of yellow and the yellow throat separated from the black ear-coverts by a more or less narrow white line lacking in feldegg. The hood also does not reach the back onto the mantle. These differences are not consistent according to Alstrom and Mild ‘Pipits & Wagtails’ and they do not think it is a valid subspecies saying birds showing characteristics of melanogrisea are uncommon spring migrants in East Africa and comprise 10% of the feldegg passing in spring in Israel and many birds in spring in India appear to be typical feldegg. Birds on the breeding grounds of melanogrisea also lack the white stripe and some birds in the European breeding range of feldegg also have a white stripe. As a result Alstrom & Mild regard melanogrisea as a plumage variant within feldegg that becomes clinally commoner in the eastern part of the breeding range. This is probably correct as the birds I saw show signs of melanogrisea but lack the white throat mentioned for that type.
Eastern Black-headed Yellow Wagtail melanogrisea

Eastern Black-headed Yellow Wagtail melanogrisea

Eastern Black-headed Yellow Wagtail melanogrisea

Eastern Black-headed Yellow Wagtail melanogrisea

Eastern Black-headed Yellow Wagtail melanogrisea

Eastern Black-headed Yellow Wagtail melanogrisea

30 Mar 2017

Bahrain – Lesser Crested Tern Ringing Recovery

Brendan sent me a ringing recovery of a Lesser Crested Tern that we ringed as part of the tern ringin project on Al Jarim Islands Bahrain. This project has been ongoing for at least ten years and thousands of tern chicks have been ringed. This bird was ringed in Bahrain in 2012 that was found alive on the coast of Kerala in India in 2015. I would like to thank Brendan for sending me the details that are shown below. Interestingly it was ringed a few weeks after the last ringing recovery we had and was found a few weeks later although the first was in Sri Lanka and this bird in nearby southern India.

Lesser Crested Tern
Ring Number: DE64942
Ringing date: 13-Jul-2012
Ringing Place: Al Jarim Island South, Bahrain, Bahrain & Qatar (Co-ords: 26deg 22min N 50deg 28min E)
Age: Chick
Ringer: B Kavanagh, 4736
Finding date: 29-Nov-2015
Finding Place: Vailiazheekal, Kerala, India (Co-ords: 9deg 7min N 76deg 26min E)
Finding Condition: On shore
Duration: 1234 days
Distance: 3342 km
Direction: 126 deg (SE)

Finder: P Harikumar

29 Mar 2017

Western Siberian Stonechat trapped and ringed - Jubail

Whilst ringing at Sabkhat Al Fasl we trapped a female Siberian Stonechat of the sub-species maurus known as Western Siberian Stonechat. The bird was looked at closely and the rump and uppertail feather moved to see if there was any white extending down the tail feathers, but on this bird there was not. This was a new ringing species for Saudi Arabia although I had trapped and ringed ne in Bahrain some years ago and it was interesting to see the bird in the hand at close quarters. The rump appeared warmer in the hand than when seen in the field but it was completely unstreaked as would be expected. The white wing patch was also well developed on the bird. There has been a good passage of Siberian Stonechats of various types through the Eastern Province in the last few weeks so it was not so surprising to trap one.

28 Mar 2017

Bahrain – Lesser Crested Tern Ringing Recovery

Brendan sent me a ringing recovery of a Lesser Crested Tern that we ringed as part of the tern ringing project on Al Jarim Islands Bahrain. This project has been ongoing for at least ten years and thousands of tern chicks have been ringed. This bird was ringed in Bahrain in 2012 that was found injured in Sri Lanka in 2015. I would like to thank Brendan for sending me the details that are shown below.

Lesser Crested Tern
Ring Number: DE65264
Ringing date: 22-Jun-2012
Ringing Place: Al Jarim Island South, Bahrain, Bahrain & Qatar (Co-ords: 26deg 22min N 50deg 28min E)
Age: Chick
Ringer: B Kavanagh, 4736
Finding date: 18-Nov-2015
Finding Place: Puttalum Lagoon, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanks (Co-ords: 8deg 5min N 79deg 45min E)
Finding Condition: Leg injury
Duration: 1244 days
Distance: 3699 km
Direction: 124 deg (SE)

Finder: D Ramasingha

27 Mar 2017

Birds of prey eating Fat Sand Rats near Jubail - Records by Arnold Uy


Arnold Uy has been seeing Fat Sand Rats at a location near Jubail for most of the winter but reported that recently a large number of birds of prey as well as other birds were in the area probably eating the animals. Species seen included Greater Spotted Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Common Kestrel and Long-legged Buzzard. Last week Arnold sent me some great photos of a Common Kestrel eating one of the rats and has kindly allowed me to use them on my website. I am still yet to see these rats so hope a few survive until I have the chance to try and locate them.
Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel 
Mauryan Grey Shrike
Mauryan Grey Shrike
Fat Sand Rat
Fat Sand Rat

26 Mar 2017

Winter visitors and spring migrants together - Jubail

Birding the Jubail area a week ago is quite interesting as you can see winter visitors and spring migrants side by side. I saw a reasonable number of migrants as well as a few winter visitors with wintering birds still around in small numbers including Water Pipit, White Wagtail, Red-spotted Bluethroat and Greater Spotted Eagle. Many of the Water Pipits and some Red-spotted Bluethroats are already in summer plumage and will be leaving very soon for their breeding grounds. Summer migrants were mainly Barn Swallows, Sand Martins, Pallid Swifts and a few Yellow Wagtails of various subspecies but mainly Black-headed Wagtail. A single Citrine Wagtail was present with the Yellow Wagtails and this could either be a winter visitor as some winter in very small numbers or more likely a passage migrant as March is the best month for seeing the species in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom.
Water Pipit
Water Pipit
White Wagtail
White Wagtail
Greater Spotted Eagle
Greater Spotted Eagle
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Black-headed Wagtail
Black-headed Wagtail
Black-headed Wagtail
Black-headed Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail

25 Mar 2017

Ringing in windy conditions - Jubail

Whilst ringing at Sabkhat Al Fasl on 17 March we caught a few birds which was very surprising as the wind was very strong. The forecast had been for calm conditions with sunshine but it turned out to be overcast and strong winds. As we had driven along way we decided to set only four nets along a partly sheltered ride but held out little hope of catching anything. As it turned out we caught 15 birds including nine species so not too bad. Species trapped included Turkestan Shrike, Common Chiffchaff, Red-spotted Bluethroat, Little Bittern, Eurasian Reed Warbler, Indian Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Eastern Stonechat and Graceful Prinia. It was not the best ringing session but was not a waste of time either.
Turkestan Shrike
Turkestan Shrike
Turkestan Shrike
Turkestan Shrike
Indian Reed Warbler
Indian Reed Warbler
Graceful Prinia
Graceful Prinia
Eurasian Reed Warbler
Eurasian Reed Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Sedge Warbler

23 Mar 2017

Bee-eaters – Records by Vinu Mathew

Vinu Mathew has been seeing quite a lot of Bee-eaters recently and has managed to take photos of both European Bee-eater and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. He has kindly sent me some of his photos and allowed me to use them on my website some of which are shown below. Both species of Bee-eaters have been reported quite widely across the Eastern Province in the last two weeks with birds seen in Jubail, Dhahran, Hafuf and Udhailyah. Both species are common passage migrants and have an extended spring passage so birds will, hopefully, continue to be seen for some weeks to come.
European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

21 Mar 2017

A few migrants passing through Jubail – Bird records by Phil Roberts

Phil Roberts went to Deffi Park and the Jubail area in Mid-March and mentioned there was no sign of the Black-throated Thrushes that had been around for some time although he did see five Song Thrush and a nice male samamisicus Common Redstart. The Jubail area is really flooded from the rains.  There are a few migrants coming through with good numbers of Ruff in the flooded areas.  He also heard two Savi's Warbler reeling.  Quite a few Siberian Stonechat, four Turkestan Shrike, a Northern Wheatear, loads of Barn Swallow among others.  He also saw three Greater Spotted Eagles and five Western Marsh Harriers. Phil kindly sent me some of his photos and has allowed me to use them on my website some of which are shown below.
Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Lesser Whitethroat
Lesser Whitethroat 
Greater Spotted Eagle
Greater Spotted Eagle
Eastern Stonechat
Eastern Stonechat
Northern Wheatear
Northern Wheatear

19 Mar 2017

Three Citrine Wagtails - Jubail

An early morning trip to Jubail was rewarded with the sighting of three different Citrine Wagtails together in an area of flooded track. We met Phil Roberts after packing up early from ringing due to the hgh winds and he kindly informed us of two birds presence. As a result we went to look for them and found them quite easily amongst a number of other wagtails. They all appeared to be adult males in breeding plumage but some were brighter than others. 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. March appears to be a month when passage occurs through the region as more birds are seen during this month than any other.
Citrine Wagtail

Citrine Wagtail

Citrine Wagtail

Citrine Wagtail

17 Mar 2017

Horwoodia dicksoniae – Dibdibah Plains

Whilst looking for lars in the Dibdibah palins of northern Saudi Arabia I found a very strongly scented plant growing on the sand all on its own. I had no idea what it was so asked Irene Linning an expert in Arabian plants who told me it was probably Horwoodia dicksoniae an annual herb with pinnately lobed leaves, up to 40 centimetres high. Leaves ovate to oblong. Flowers in terminal racemes, strongly fragrant, petals purple or violet. Silicles orbicular, glabrous and glossy when mature. They grow on stable sandy to silty soils often overlying hard rock plains. They occur mainly in the northwest of the Eastern Province. I thanks Irene for her help with the identification of this plant.
Horwoodia dicksoniae

15 Mar 2017

Desert Lark - Jabal Nayriyyah

On a quick trip to Jabal Nayriyyah I saw a pair of Desert Larks of the pale azizi race. Birds occur throughout Saudi Arabia gradually becoming paler towards the east. A. d. azizi occurs in northeast Saudi Arabia around the Hufuf and Shedgum areas and is the palest race with pale creamy plumage. To get to the Jabal Nayriyyah site take the Abu Hadryah highway from Dhahran/Dammam/Al Khobar towards Jubail and Khafji. At the Sabkhat Al Fasl turnoff in Jubail continue straight on towards the Kuwait border. After 66 kms turn left towards Nayriyyah on route 85 and continue past Nayriyyah and after about 20 kilometres you will see the jabals off to the right.
Desert Lark


13 Mar 2017

Another Black Scrub Robin - Sarrar, Eastern Province

Whilst birding the Sarrar area of the Eastern Province Phil Roberts and I found two Black Scrub Robin Cercotrichas podobe a species that has only been recorded five times in the Eastern Province making this sixth record as posted about earlier. Amazingly we then found a third bird some kilometres further down the main road in some woodland around a large pivot irrigation field. After posting the first post and informing Arnold Uy he mentioned that they are commonly seen in the farms around Al Hassa so it looks almost certain they have now colonized the Eastern Province and are spreading west. It will be interesting to see how long it is until I see one in Dhahran. There current status as a vagrant to the province clearly needs updating.
Black Scrub Robin

11 Mar 2017

Bonelli’s Eagle – Dhahran Hills

Whilst birding the Dhahran Camp area I saw a juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus fly low over my head. The species is a rare migrant to all areas of the Kingdom and is possibly a winter visitor to Tihamah, Hejaz and Asir. Records from the Eastern province are as a vagrant with the only records being a first year at Dhahran 2-9 January 1981, one Dhahran 4-27 February 1981, one captured exhausted 20 kilometres south of Safaniya 14 July 1984, one at Qatif 11 December 1991, a juvenile in flight at Jabal Nariyyah 25 January 2007 and a juvenile Sabhka al-Fasl 10 December 2015.
Bonelli’s Eagle