31 Aug 2017

Good numbers of Eurasian Griffon Vultures - Tanoumah Park

Tanoumah Park in southwest Saudi Arabia is positioned along the edge of the main escarpment of the Asir mountains and has very step cliffs for the Eurasian Griffon Vultures to roost on and to fly along. The birds can be seen flying over, below you as well as at eye level at this site and excellent views of many birds in the air together can be had. We had good views of up to ten Eurasian Griffon Vultures flying over. This species is declining rapidly, with this location probably the best site in the Kingdom for seeing this species. The species is an uncommon, resident breeder, in the mountains of western Saudi Arabia with a few scarce records elsewhere in the Kingdom. In the Eastern Province where I live it is a vagrant with six records of seven birds but none have been seen in recent years.
Eurasian Griffon Vultures

Eurasian Griffon Vultures

Eurasian Griffon Vultures

Eurasian Griffon Vultures

Eurasian Griffon Vultures

Eurasian Griffon Vultures

Eurasian Griffon Vultures

Eurasian Griffon Vultures

Eurasian Griffon Vultures

30 Aug 2017

A few Abdim’s Stork – Sabya Waste Water Lagoons

Whilst birding Sabya Waste Water Lagoons on 7-8 July 2017 I saw and got good views of 13 Abdim’s Storks Ciconia Abdimii. The birds were seen on the lagoons as well as it the nearby Sabya Rubbish Dump. Abdim’s Stork is an uncommon resident breeding species of southwest Saudi Arabia and occurs from Africa south of Sahara, and southwest Arabia. They breed north of the equator, with most of the population spending the rest of the year in eastern and southern parts of Africa. The male is slightly larger and they have glossed purple and green upperparts with non-breeding adults having the bare parts duller and immatures browner and duller still. They are normally found in open grassland and also in areas of cultivation and often occur near water. They mainly nest in villages as is the case in Saudi Arabia. The small population of the Arabian peninsula, mainly in Yemen but including southwestern Saudi Arabia, is at least partly resident in that region.







29 Aug 2017

Plenty of Arabian Wheatears – Tanoumah

Whilst birding the Tanoumah area I saw plenty of Arabian Wheatears at many different sites. The Arabian Wheatear Oenanthe lugentoides is a rather scarce resident of the south-west highlands, but is also found in Oman, Palestine and Yemen, mainly in rocky, bushy sites. It is widespread on the Jebal Souda plateau, Raydah Escarpment, Wadi Talea’a and Tanoumah as well as the Taif area. It was previously recorded more frequently than present so the species has probably declined slightly, with disturbance not thought likely to be the reason as it is often associated with gardens and regularly breeds near human sites. They nest in holes in terrace walls and feed largely on insects.
Arabian Wheatear

Arabian Wheatear

Arabian Wheatear

Arabian Wheatear

Arabian Wheatear

28 Aug 2017

Egyptian Nightjars – Bird record by Prasad Shinez

The Egyptian Nightjar Caprimulgus aegyptius is an uncommon bird in Saudi Arabia but birds are regular in the Jubail area in the summer. This year good numbers of birds have also been seen in Al Hassa during the summer months and this is where Prasad Shinez and his friends saw at least eight birds. With the number of birds recorded this year in Al Hassa and Jubail there is a very good chance birds are breeding. The photos below were taken by Prasad and he has kindly given me permission to use them on my website. I also thank Vinu Mathew for arranging the permission for me.
Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

27 Aug 2017

Desert Monitor at Khafra Marsh – Record by Arnold Uy

Arnold Uy kindly sent me a photo of a Desert Monitor Varanus griseus he took recently at Khafra Marsh and he has also kindly allowed me to use some on my website and is shown below. Copyright remains with Arnold. The Desert Monitor is a species of monitor lizard with three subspecies, the one occurring in Saudi Arabia being Varanus griseus griseus also called the Grey Monitor. This subspecies is found from Northern Africa throughout the Sahara, Arabian Peninsula and southwestern Asia eastwards to northwestern India. It has 5-8 narrow grey bands on the back as well as 19-28 bands on the tail, the highest number of bands of any subspecies. Its tail is more rounded that those of the other subspecies and the final size of the adults average around one to 1.3 mtres in length (approximately 55–65 cm excluding their tail) with their overall body size dependent on the available food supply, the time of year, environmental climate, and reproductive state, with males generally larger than females. The body is long and robust, with sturdy limbs, and a long, powerful tail which can be used liked a whip in defence as they are aggressive reptiles. The nostrils of this species are particularly distinctive, comprising diagonal slits much closer to the eye than the tip of the snout. Their coloration can be a simple grey if living in desert-like ecosystems, to more brilliantly colored if living in areas with large amounts of plant growth. It is a carnivorous lizard that feeds on a wide range of vertebrates and invertebrates with the most common prey consisting of lizards and snakes, but can also include ground-nesting birds and other small mammals. They hibernate from September to April becoming most active between the months of May and July. They are active during the day, emerging from their burrows in the early morning, and basking in the sun at the entrance in order to raise their body temperature often staying in their burrows during the heat of the day. During a single day, Desert Monitors range over large distances, usually between five and six kilometres, returning to their burrow before sunset. They are predominantly desert-dwelling, although can occupy a variety of arid and semi-arid habitats with a specific habitat requirement being the presence of sand or soft soil in which tracks can be made for communication and orientation. Their skin is adapted to the desert environment in which they live, and they are excellent swimmers sometimes entering water to hunt for food and have a lifespan of approximately eight years.
Desert Monitor

Desert Monitor

Desert Monitor

26 Aug 2017

Various subspecies/types of Yellow Wagtail - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area in the spring I came across a number of different subspecies/types of Yellow Wagtails. These included birds showing characteristics of dombrowskii which is an intergrade between feldegg (Black-headed Wagtail) and flava (Blue-headed Wagtail) and supeciliaris which is an intergrade between feldegg (Black-headed Wagtail) and lutea (Yellow-headed Wagtail), flava (Blue-headed Wagtail) or beema (Sykes’s Wagtail). Both 'superciliaris' and 'dombrowskii' can be seen on spring migration in the Middle East and most authors agree that 'superciliaris', 'xanthophrys' and 'dombrowskii' are intergrades, as no area is known in which the majority of the population match any of these forms, and the majority of breeding records of 'superciliaris' and 'dombrowskii' come from the wide zone of intergradation between feldegg and flava. Intergrades between feldegg and flava are highly variable in the colour of the crown, and many birds are intermediate and difficult to place in either 'superciliaris' or 'dombrowskii'. Also thunbergi or Grey-headed Wagtail which occurs from Scandinavia eastwards to northwest Siberia and winters mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and across S & SE Asia. M. f. flava or Blue-headed Wagtail which occurs from northern and central Europe east to the Urals and winters in sub-Saharan Africa. M. f. melanogrisea or Eastern Black-headed Wagtail which occurs from the Volga Delta and southwest Kazakhstan south to northeast Iran and Afghanistan and winters mainly in south Asia eastwards to western Nepal and possibly also northeast Africa.
dombrowskii type
dombrowskii type
supercilliaris type
supercilliaris type
thunbergi
thunbergi
thunbergi
melanogrisea
flava

25 Aug 2017

Booted Eagle at Dumat - Bird record by Euan Ferguson

Euan Ferguson was in Saudi Arabia with a couple of other birdwatchers in spring 2017, conducting an environmental survey and found a Booted Eagle on 26 April 2017 at Dumat in the northwest of the Kingdom. The species was considered to be entirely a passage migrant but in recent years there have been a number of winter records and its status has changed to a scarce passage migrant and winter visitor. Euan’s bird was at a classic passage migrant time and was probably just passing through. I thank Euan for sending me the details of this bird and allowing me to use his excellent photo on my website.
Booted Eagle

24 Aug 2017

Some residents and migrants – Talea Valley

I visited the Talea Valley eerier this year and found a few good birds including several good resident species and a few migrants. The migrants were mainly Ortolan Buntings and Northern Wheatears but some good residents were seen including Blanford’s Lark both in flight and on the ground. Other residents included endemic species such as Yemen Serin and Yemen Linnet as well as the localised African Stonechat and Chestnut-breasted Bunting. This valley in the southwest on the country near to Abha is an excellent site but involves some time and effort to see the good birds.
Blanford's Lark
Blanford's Lark
Blanford's Lark
Blanford's Lark
Ortolan Bunting
Ortolan Bunting 
Ortolan Bunting
Ortolan Bunting
Ortolan Bunting
Ortolan Bunting 
African Stonechat
African Stonechat
African Stonechat
African Stonechat
Arabian Serin
Arabian Serin
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting
Yemen Linnet
Yemen Linnet
Yemen Linnet
Yemen Linnet