29 Nov 2017

Northern Lapwing in Dhahran Hills – Bird record by Paul Watson

Paul Watson sent me an e-mail kindly informing me of a Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus present on a bit of grassland in Dhahran Hills. I had not seen the species before on my local patch but was unable to look for the bird until the next day when luckily it was still present in the same area. It lingered for over a week until late November as Mats Ris also alerted me to the birds presence a few days later. Northern Lapwings have been seen at least once whilst I have been on the camp but I was away and did not see it so this was a nice addition to my local patch list. The Birds of the Eastern Province 1989 mentioned Northern Lapwing were a scarce and somewhat irregular visitor with records from November to early April but chiefly from November through January.  In 1979-71 up to 15 wintered in Dhahran but this proved to be exceptional, showing how large this flock was. Elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, high counts have been at 425 at Haradh 5 February 2016, at Al Safi Dairy farm, Central Province, where at least 111 individuals were seen 25 January 2001. Birds of Thumamah 1988-1994 said maximum numbers were 100 in the winter 1992/1993. Its status in the Kingdom is as an uncommon winter visitor to all areas north of a line from Hofuf, through Riyadh to Hail. Small flocks of birds have been seen this November at a couple of sites near Jubail with the largest count being 26.
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus

27 Nov 2017

Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters – Jubail

This autumn there have been large numbers of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters passing over Jubail as well as many other areas of the Eastern Province. The species is a common passage migrant through the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia with good numbers of birds passing in the spring as well as the autumn. Numbers are commoner in the autumn when they outnumber European Bee-eater whereas the opposite is true in the spring. This year birds have been seen eating insects on the ground with a favourite insect the Migratory Locust. The juvenile below eating the locust moved the insect around and hit it on its perch until its wings were removed before eating it.
Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters

Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters

Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters

Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters

Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters

Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters


25 Nov 2017

Black-necked Grebes back for winter – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area on 11 December I saw four Black-necked Grebes. A single bird was initially seen followed by two together and then a partially summer plumage bird made it four. The Black-necked Grebe is an uncommon but regular visitor to the Eastern Province from late August (normally November) through March but becomes scarce in April and May and rare in the summer. It is usually local in coastal waters but counts of over 40 have been recorded in Half Moon Bay on the Arabian Gulf. Small numbers occur inland and elsewhere in Saudi Arabia and away from the Eastern Province, birds have occurred in Riyadh, Tabuk and the Red Sea, as well as in the Jizan region. They are always great to see, but more difficult to get photographs of as they tend to stay some distance away and rarely come close.
Black-necked Grebe

Black-necked Grebe

23 Nov 2017

Pallid Harrier and Glossy Ibis – Jubail

Whilst birding Jubail area recently I have seen a few species that are less than common at the site. Harriers are normally not seen with the exception of Western Marsh Harrier which is common, so seeing a few Pallid Harriers was a surprise. Glossy Ibis is also not common and only seen once or twice a year, despite the area being one of the best, if not the best, wetland in the region. Western Great Egret was scarce at the location but has become common at the right time of year, with hundreds seen together occasionally. White-winged Tern and Dunlin are common passage migrants to the location.
Pallid Harrier
Pallid Harrier 
Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Western Great Egret
Western Great Egret
Western Great Egret
Western Great Egret
White-winged Tern
White-winged Tern 
Dunlin
Dunlin

21 Nov 2017

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater a new ringing species – Jubail

Whilst ringing in Jubail in November we trapped and ringed a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, a new ringing species for me. This was my 60 species ringed in Saudi Arabia. Birds are common in the area of our nets at the right time of year but as they are generally high-flying birds we seldom if ever catch them. Blue-cheeked Bee-eater is a common passage migrant seen in spring from March to May and in autumn from mid-August to November. Small numbers can sometimes be seen in June and December. Blue-cheeked Bee-eater is normally commoner than its close relative the European Bee-eater in autumn but less common in spring.  
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater


19 Nov 2017

Ringing in Jubail


Nicole and I went ringing in November and caught 44 birds of seven species including Common Kingfisher, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Red-spotted Bluethroat, Graceful Prinia and House Sparrow. We set nine nets (7 x 18 metre and 2 x 15 metre) as normal in the same locations each tip with some over water and others over land in rides between reed beds. The birds were mainly caught just after first light although birds continued to be trapped until around ten o’clock when the temperature became too high and we closed the nets. We had nine retraps this ringing session a higher number than before with most being retrapped Clamorous Reed Warblers with three from 2015 and one from 2014. This is a resident species.
Willow Warbler
Willow Warbler
Little Bittern
Little Bittern
Great Reed Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher

17 Nov 2017

Birding the pivot irrigation fields - Haradh

Phil Roberts and I set off early to reach Haradh pivot irrigation fields by first light. This meant leaving Dhahran by 03:00 hrs but getting there at first light is normally a good idea as most of the birds of prey are active just as it becomes light and the light for photography is also good. We normally see a good number of birds here and many that are not common in the areas we normally birdwatch with desert species such as Desert Wheatear, Greater Hoopoe-Lark and Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark seen around the edges of the fields. Crested Larks and Tawny Pipits are seen in the fields themselves with both Yellow and White Wagtails present. Pallid, Montagu’s and Marsh Harriers are regular over the fields hunting insects and small mammals and Daurian, Steppe Grey, Red-backed Shrikes are seen along the scrub surrounding the fields. A few Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were seen on the pivot irrigation equipment along with House and Spanish Sparrows. Four Spur-winged Lapwing were present showing they have almost certainly colonised the area now but there was no sign of any Sociable Lapwings although it is still a little early for this species.
Greater Hoopoe-Lark
Greater Hoopoe-Lark
Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Desert Wheatear - male
Desert Wheatear - male
Desert Wheatear - male
Desert Wheatear - male
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
Pallid Harrier - male
Pallid Harrier - male
Pallid Harrier - male
Pallid Harrier - male
Pallid Harrier - male
Pallid Harrier - male

15 Nov 2017

Yellow-browed Warbler – Tabuk

Whilst birding the pivot irrigation fields of Tabuk on 8 October Phil Roberts and I found a Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus. This is a vagrant to Saudi Arabia with only five previous records. Two Jubail - birds stayed three and six weeks February to April. One 60 kilometres south of Haql 17 October 2013 and One Yanbu Dump 25 October 2013. The identification as aYellow-browed Warbler rather than a Hume’s Warbler were as follows:
There was an obvious long and strong supercilium.
Supercillium was whitish with obvious yellow in it.
The eyestripe was obvious across the lores.
Mottled ear-coverts.
The throat is also creamy white and contrasts with the rest of the sullied white underparts.
Two obvious pale yellowish wing-bars with obvious white tips to tertials giving a strong pattern to the wing.
A slight paler area on the top of the crown forming a very indistinct stripe.
Overall, the bird was greenish brown coloured, lacking the grey associated with Hume’s Warbler.
The bird did, however, have dark legs and a black bill, features of Hume’s Warbler.

The bird was actively feeding along a row of small plants and shrubs along the edge of a large pivot irrigation field and continually returned to the same small area to feed. It was very active but was not heard to call in the over one hour of viewing. Initially it was seen in flight when a small dark warbler flew out of the scrub in front of us. I mentioned it could be a Yellow-browed Warbler and when it reappeared and we got good views this is what it turned out to be. This is the first time either of us had recorded the species in Saudi Arabia.The similar looking Hume's Leaf-warbler Phylloscopus humei has only a single record in Saudi Arabia in November, south of Salwa but no details can be found.
Yellow-browed Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler