30 Dec 2017

Some birds from Bahrain – Records by Jehad Alammadi

Jehad Alammadi has sent me a few photos recently of birds taken in Bahrain over the spring and summer. He has kindly allowed me to use his photos on my website which are shown below. Jehad has found some excellent breeding birds in Bahrain in recent years including Egyptian Nightjar and Striated Heron and is a very valuable recorder for the country where, like Saudi Arabia, very few birdwatchers live.
Eurasian Collared Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove chick 
Eurasian Nightjar
Eurasian Nightjar
Eurasian Hoopoe
Eurasian Hoopoe
Greater Short-toed Lark
Greater Short-toed Lark
Little Bittern
Little Bittern
Pied Wheatear
Pied Wheatear

28 Dec 2017

Rare and unusual birds seen in Saudi Arabia in first half of 2017

An adult and juvenile Bewick’s Swan Cygnus (columbianus) bewickii near Al Jawf 14-15 December 2016 with three more adults in the north of the Kingdom 19 December 2016 being only the third to seventh records of the species for the Kingdom. Four See-see Partridge Ammoperdix griseogularis, including a calling male, were at a remote desert site a couple of hours drive from Sakaka in Al Jawf province 23 April, the first records for the Kingdom for many years. A Striated Heron Butorides striata was at Al Khobar Corniche seafront 13 January the fifth record for the Eastern Province with signs the species is spreading north up the Arabian Gulf coast. A Goliath Heron Ardea goliath remained at KAUST until 18 May at least with two present from 6 - 19 April. A Macqueen’s Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii, a species in serious decline in the Eastern Province, was near to Al Hassa 6 January. A juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle Aquila fasciata was over Dhahran Hills 25 February only the fourth record for the Eastern Province. An overwintering immature male Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus was at Deffi Park 16 December 2016 with up to eight wintering birds in Dhahran until mid-February with a single remaining until 12 April. An adult Verreaux’s Eagle Aquila verreauxii was at the bottom of the Raydah Escarpment 31 March. 350 Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus at Haradh 13 January where the second largest recorded flock for Saudi Arabia. 26 Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus were at Haradh pivot fields 13 January with six at the same site 3 February. Two further birds were at Sabkhat Al Fasl, Jubail 7 April with one staying until 27 May at least. A single bird at Haradh 21 April appeared to be defending a territory aggressively from other birds suggesting it might be breeding. An amazing 24 Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus were at Shaybah water ponds 14 February, a species previously regarded as a vagrant to the Eastern Province. Seven Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarious were at Haradh 13 January with at least five remaining until 3 February, only the third record for the Eastern Province and proving birds have started wintering at this site since 2016. The bird at KAUST wintered in the area until 23 February at least. A Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius was at KAUST 4 February. A Pallid Scops Owl Otus brucei was in a Wadi south of Zulfi 20 December 2016. A White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis was at Dhahran 20 January whilst a Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis remained at KAUST until 23 May. A Black-crowned Tchagra Tchagra senegalus was at the bottom of the Raydah Escarpment 31 March. Two Arabian Magpie Pica (pica) asirensis, were at Sallal al-Dahna, Tanoumah 1-2 April. A large flock for twenty Blanford’s Lark Calandrella blanfordi were at Talea’a Valley, Abha Province 31 March to 2 April. Fifteen Oriental Skylarks Alauda gulgula were at Sabkhat Al Fasl, Jubail 10 February. A Basra Reed Warbler Acrocephalus griseldis was at Sabkhat Al Fasl, Jubail 26 May. A Moustached Warbler Acrocephalus melanopogon was at KAUST 19 April a first for the site. The first Thick-billed Warbler Arundinax aedon for Saudi Arabia was at Sarrar 24 February amongst a large ‘fall’ of migrants. An adult male Common Blackbird Tudus merula was at Sabkhat Al Fasl, Jubail 29 December 2016 until 20 January with a female there 29 January. Four Black-throated Thrush Turdus atrogularis, an adult male and three first year males were at Deffi Park, Jubail 20 January, the first record for the Eastern Province since the 1980’s, increasing to 12, two adult males, two adult females and eight first year males 27 January remaining until 10 February. Two Redwing Turdus iliacus were at Deffi Park, Jubail 27 January a vagrant to Saudi Arabia. A pair of Black Scrub Robin Cercotrichas podobe near Sarrar 24 February with another a short distance away still in Sarrar was the sixth & seventh records of this species for the Eastern Province. Additional records from Al Hassa area show the species is now resident in the region favouring farms. A female Eversmann’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythronotus
was at Sabkhat Al Fasl, Jubail 29 January the first record since 2000. A Sinai Rosefinch Carpodacus synoicus was well to the south of its normal range at Yanbu Waste Water Treatment dump, 4 February.
Black-throated Thrush
Black-throated Thrush
Blanford's Lark
Blanford's Lark
Black Scrub Robin
Black Scrub Robin
Eversmann's Redstart - female
Eversmann's Redstart - female

26 Dec 2017

Toadstool in Deffi Park - Jubail

I recently found a small white toadstool growing on the grass in Deffi Park, Jubail. I had not seen on before in Saudi Arabia and took the below photograph in the hope I could identify it. Unfortunately, I have failed to do so but would be very happy if anyone has any ideas as to what it is and can leave a message below. Toadstools are the spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically in the form of a rounded cap on a stalk.
Toadstool

24 Dec 2017

Western Cattle Egret – Dhahran Hills

The number of Western Cattle Egrets around the camp seems to have stabilized for the winter around the 100 bird mark. Good views can be had of the birds as they feed along the roadside grass verges finding insects in the soft ground after the grass has been watered. Many people in the camp have mentioned to me about the Western Cattle Egrets here and they are a popular bird with the residents who are interested in nature. The birds spend the evening roosting in the pharagmites reed-beds of the percolation pond where they arrive just before dark and leave just after first light. Good numbers of birds were first seen in the early 2000’s and have increased to toady’s numbers slowly over the last ten years. The below photo was taken along the walking track by the golf course a very good place to see the species feeding on the grass of the fairways or the green areas along the walking track.
Western Cattle Egret

22 Dec 2017

Crimson-speckled Footman – Dhahran

Whilst birdwatching in Dhahran I found a Crimson-speckled Footman Utetheisa pulchella. The Crimson-speckled Footman is a small, day flying moth measuring approximately 30-40mm in length. They are mostly white, speckled with black and crimson and have characteristic black eyes. The legs are white in colour and the antennae are black. The moth is found from Africa to southern Europe, throughout the Middle East, central & southern Asia and Australia. They are migratory moths but I assume the ones I have been seeing in the last few days are residents? They are seen every year in Dhahran in February and March and are not very easy to see until you flush one from its resting place and it flies to its new location. They very rarely, if ever, land with their wings spread and almost always end up in a position similar to that in the photograph below.
Crimson-speckled Footman

Crimson-speckled Footman

20 Dec 2017

White-eared Bulbul – Dhahran Hills

Whilst birding Dhahran I came across a White-eared Bulbul with a very large grub in its beak. It was in the trees at the edge of the golf course, but would not come out fully into the open. White-eared Bulbul is a very common species in Dhahran with the birds appearing 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 Bulbul

18 Dec 2017

Doubleday’s Acraea – Raydah Escarpment

Whilst birdwatching at the village at the bottom of the Raydah escarpment in December I came across a good example of Doubleday’s Acraea Acraea doubledayi. This butterfly is a member of the Nymphalidae family that are the largest family of butterflies with about 6,000 species distributed throughout most of the world. Many hold their colourful wings flat when resting and are also called brush-footed butterflies or four-footed butterflies, because they are known to stand on only four legs which often have a brush-like set of hairs. Many species are brightly colored and include the emperors, Monarch butterfly, admirals, tortoiseshells, and fritillaries. However, the underwings are in contrast often dull or much paler, producing a cryptic effect that helps the butterfly disappear into its surroundings. The larvae feed on Adenia species a genus of flowering plants in the passionflower family distributed in the Old World tropics and subtropics. The genus name Adenia comes from the Greek aden "gland", and is inspired by the prominent leaf glands of most species. Doubleday’s Acraea is found in Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen with the subspecies azvaki found only in southwest Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Doubleday’s Acraea

15 Dec 2017

Grey-headed Swamphen & Water Rail at Dhahran golf course – bird records by Mats Ris

Mats Ris sent me an email and photos of a Grey-headed Swamphen and Water Rail he had seen at a small pond on the Dhahran golf course. Grey-headed Swamphen has only been recorded a couple of times in Dhahran so this is a very good record. The Grey-headed Swamphen is a common resident breeder at Sabkhat Al Fasl, Jubail and has recently (August 2011) expanded its breeding range to Khafrah Marsh a wetland site 30 kilometres south-west of Sabkhat where six adults and a young bird were found. The species favoured habitat is large Phragmites australis reed-beds with associated water which is available at all the sites the species has been seen at in Saudi Arabia. The range expansion appears to be quite quick as the first record for Saudi Arabia was on 8th August 2003 at Sabkhat Al Fasl core area 2 with breeding confirmed in 2007 and numbers increasing each year since this date. Other signs of the species expanding its range include a record from Dhahran percolation pond, 130 kilometres to the south of Sabkhat Al Fasl in October 2009 with two birds there in December 2014 and a sighting of one and possibly two birds at a farm well inland from jubail. The most recent records are three adult birds at the same site 4 September 2015 showing a very high likelihood of breeding here as well. It appears that the rapid population increase observed at Sabkhat al Fasl over the past five years has created pressures on territories and prompted some birds to move to alternative suitable habitats within the Eastern Province and thereby expand its range. This expansion now appears to have taken in Dammam as birds are regularly seen in the wetlands around the industrial city. I thank Mats for allowing me to use his photos on my website which are shown below.
Grey-headed Swamphen
Grey-headed Swamphen
Grey-headed Swamphen
Grey-headed Swamphen
Water Rail
Water Rail



13 Dec 2017

Some interesting birds from Riyadh – Bird records by Liam Brickwood

Liam sent me a number of his photos that he kindly said I could add to my website of birds seen by him at Salwa Garden Village, Bae Compound, Riyadh over the last month or so. He photographed Eurasian Hoopoe, Common Chiffchaff, Grey Hypocolius and Lesser Whitethroat. Grey Hypocolius are seen regularly in the Riyadh area but are not easy to see anywhere else in the Kingdom and have just started retuning for the winter. The other species may also be ready to winter here but could also be late passage migrants.
Lesser Whitethroat
Lesser Whitethroat
Lesser Whitethroat
Lesser Whitethroat
Common Chiffchaff
Common Chiffchaff
Hypocolius
Hypocolius

11 Dec 2017

A good autumn ringing trip - Jubail

We went ringing on 17 November and caught 53 birds of 11 species including Common Kingfisher, Eurasian (Caspian) Reed Warbler, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Little Bittern, Graceful Prinia, Red-spotted Bluethroat, Moustached Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Common Moorhen and House Sparrow. Common Moorhen was a new species for us at our ringing site, although birds are common in the area. We set nets in the same locations each tip with some over water and other over land in rides between reed beds. We set ten nets this trip (8 x 18 metre and 2 x 15 metre). As normal, we arrived well before first light and set the nets during the hours of dark. The best time for catching birds for us are the first couple of hours of day and this was the case this trip. We retrapped 11 birds including nine Clamorous Reed Warbler and two Red-spotted Bluethroat. The Clamorous Reed Warblers were from as early as 9 October 2015 with the Bluethroats only trapped the previous ringing trip to the site on 3 November.
Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher
Common Moorhen
Common Moorhen
Great Reed Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat

9 Dec 2017

Birding Jubail

A day out in the Jubail area produced a few interesting birds. As mentioned in a previous post whilst birding the Jubail area on 11 December I saw four Black-necked Grebes. A single bird was seen initially followed by two together and then a partially summer plumage bird made it four. I went back to the same location two weeks later and the numbers of Black-necked Grebes had increased to 21 birds. This is the largest count of the species seen in the Eastern Province for many years and as it is the start of winter numbers may continue building. 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. A few harriers including a male Pallid Harrier and several Western Marsh Harriers including a male were good to see as were tens of Common Kestrels. A Steppe Buzzard and an adult Greater Spotted Eagle completed the raptors. A few pipits including plenty of Water Pipits, several Tawny Pipits and a few Meadow Pipits were in and around any grass area found and several Eurasian Skylarks were also present. A single White-winged Tern was seen flying around a large lake and an Arabian Grey Shrike on a fence.
Arabian Grey Shrike
Arabian Grey Shrike
Western Marsh Harrier - male
Western Marsh Harrier - male
White-winged Tern
White-winged Tern

7 Dec 2017

Some winter birds – Bird records by Munzir Khan

Munzir photographed a few winter visitors recently including Northern Lapwing, Jack Snipe, Common Redshank and RAed-spotted Bluethroat at a marsh about 20 kilometres before Khafra Marsh. Both these species are winter visitors to the Kingdom. Northern Lapwing is a very difficult species to get close to in Saudi Arabia and Munzir has done very well to get such a good photo of the species. It is certainly better than any photograph I have of this species in the Kingdom. I thank Munzir for sending me the photos and allowing me to use them on my website. Northern Lapwing is an uncommon winter visitor to the Eastern Province occurring in varying numbers. This year appears to be a good year for the species however. Jack Snipe is an uncommon winter visitor to the Eastern Province, with Red-spotted Bluethroat being a common winter visitor. It is very difficult to get a photo of the quality of Munzir’s of the species, however.
Jack Snipe
Jack Snipe
Northern Lapwing
Northern Lapwing
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Common Redshank
Common Redshank

5 Dec 2017

Returning Pied Kingfisher and White-throated Kingfisher – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently I came across a female Pied Kingfisher. This species is now becoming an uncommon winter visitor to the Jubail area with birds seen every winter for the last four years. The weather was very poor with overcast conditions so the photo is not the best but they are always lovely birds to see and often allow close approach. I also saw a White-throated Kingfisher a species that may now be resident in very small numbers in the Jubail area. Unlike the Pied Kingfisher the White-throated Kingfisher rarely allows you to get close so the below is the best photo I could manage. Common Kingfishers are also back for the winter in good numbers so now we can see three species of Kingfisher in the same day if lucky in the Eastern Province.
Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

White-throated Kingfisher

3 Dec 2017

Moustached Warbler trapped and ringed – Jubail

While ringing on Friday 17 November 2017 we trapped and ringed a Moustached Warbler, this is the fourth bird we have ringed at this site in two winters with the first being on 7 February 2014. This is the earliest bird trapped with the others in January (2) and February. The bird showed an appearance similar to the eastern subspecies A. m. mimica that occurs from eastern Turkey, Iraq, Transcaucasia, and the lower Volga east to Kazakhstan and northwest India. This subspecies differs from nominate A. m. melanopogon by having dull olive-grey upperparts, not rufous-brown with the black of the crown less intense, more heavily streaked olive. The underparts are largely white with the flanks rather pale pink-brown similar to Sedge Warbler A. schoenobaenus. The Moustached Warbler has been recorded as a local breeder in the Central region and Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia with the first breeding site in Saudi Arabia located at Hufuf in the Eastern Province. Records of Moustached Warbler are now quite widespread from the Eastern Province, with the first record at Sabkhat al Fasl seen in 1990 but there have been no breeding records from the site. There are breeding records from nearby where Brian Meadows found them at a small wetlands in Jubail as well as at nearby Khafra Marsh about 30 kilometers south. Pairs have been seen at Sabkhat Al Fasl in April and May indicating a strong likelihood of breeding although birds tend to be resident on their breeding grounds. We have not seen or trapped birds in the spring, summer or autumn at the site, and there is evidence of an influx of birds in winter to the area, suggesting they are a winter visitor to the site. Away from the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, they are a scarce migrant and winter visitor mainly in the north of the country.
Moustached Warbler

Moustached Warbler

1 Dec 2017

Winter visitors – Jubail

Whilst birding Jubail recently I have come across a number of winter visitors to the region. Common Kestrel is an uncommon passage migrant but numbers build up in the winter months when they can be seen in various locations. Isabelline Wheatear numbers also increase as winter wears on and they can be seen along the edge of any habitat where at least some vegetation is present. Squacco Heron can be seen throughout the year but again numbers build up significantly during the winter with hundreds of birds seen on some occasions. Duck are more difficult to see and photograph as they are very timid, but I have seen a few Northern Shoveller in recent weeks in various sites. Other birds seen but not photographed include Montagu's Harrier, Pied Kingfisher and White-throated Kingfisher.
Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel
Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Northern Shoveller
Northern Shoveller
Squacco Heron
Squacco Heron