30 Jul 2017

Brown Booby - Jizan fish market

Whilst photographing gulls at Jizan fish market, Phil saw a Brown Booby Sula leucogaster flying in and alerted me to its presence. The bird had been seen the day before at the fish harbor, but this time was much closer, flying around and occasionally over the fish market. It perched on the roof of the market at one stage and remained there until a collection of fish waste was thrown out and all gulls and the Booby flew down to eat the scraps. As the Brown Booby was at least twice the size of any gull present it took the largest flatfish and after eating it flew off in the direction of the harbour. The close fly past allowed a number of photographs to be taken of the bird that are not easy to see and photograph from the mainland. Brown Booby is an uncommon resident of the Red Sea, where it mainly occurs offshore. They breed on the Farasan Islands as well as other islands in the Red Sea and wander north to the Gulf of Akaba in winter. S. l. plotus is the subspecies we get in Saudi Arabia and it occurs from the Red Sea and tropical Indian Ocean east to northern Australia and the central Pacific Ocean. The race plotus is the largest and has a blackish head and neck almost concolorous with rest of upperpart. Its iris is grey to yellowish grey with narrower pale yellow outer ring. The bill is yellowish horn to pale horn with bluish or greyish cast, facial skin and gular pouch bluish grey to blue, legs pale greenish yellow. The female has an ivory or pale horn coloured bill, slightly tinged either yellowish or pale greenish. The facial and gular skin are pale greenish yellow, with the legs coloured like the facial skin or slightly more greenish. Birds are strictly marine, feeding mostly in inshore waters. They breed mainly on bare, rocky islands or coral atolls.
Brown Booby Sula leucogaster

Brown Booby Sula leucogaster

Brown Booby Sula leucogaster

Brown Booby Sula leucogaster

Brown Booby Sula leucogaster

Brown Booby Sula leucogaster

Brown Booby Sula leucogaster

Brown Booby Sula leucogaster


28 Jul 2017

Seven Pied Cuckoos – Sabya area

Whilst birdwatching the southwest of the Kingdom in July, around Sabya, I came across at least seven Pied Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus a species not often seen in the Kingdom. Birds were seen near Sabya Waste Water Treatment Lagoons (three) as well as at Phil’s Fields (four). Some of the birds appeared to be pairs and others were heard calling, the first time I have heard them in the Kingdom. The Pied Cuckoo is a scarce and irregular summer visitor to the southern Red Sea, the Tihamah, Asir and Hejaz north to Taif. It is unclear if it breeds or is a migrant but the timing of birds in the middle of the summer months of June and July suggest it breeds in Saudi Arabia. They occur in thorn-scrub, cultivated areas, and parasitise mainly Bulbuls and Babblers. They normally occur below 1000 metres but have been seen in the mountains of the west of Saudi Arabia up to 2000 metres. The subspecies that occurs is C. j. pica that occurs from sub-Saharan Africa S to northwest India and Myanmar.
Pied Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus

Pied Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus

Pied Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus

Pied Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus

26 Jul 2017

Yellow Splendour – Sabya Waste Water Lagoons

Whilst birding the southwest of the Kingdom to the northeast of Jizan this month I saw a number of Yellow Splendour Colotis protomedia butterflies.This is a large species, with a beautiful primrose yellow upperside, bordered with black. The veins on the forewings are also black, as it the sub apical bar. They occur from northeastern Nigeria and Cameroon, east to Sudan (and even the extreme north of Egypt), Somalia, Saudi Arabia (southwest), Yemen, and south to the drier parts of East Africa (northern Uganda, northern and eastern Kenya, and northern Tanzania) covering in excess of 20,000 km2. The species is found mainly in dry savannah habitats. Individuals of this species are attracted to flowers, especially those of the larval host-plants, which comprise Maerua species and adults have a fast flight. The intricate underside of this large yellow butterfly make it one of the most beautiful of all species found in Saudi Arabia.  
Yellow Splendour

Yellow Splendour

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