31 Jan 2017

Eversmann’s Redstart - Jubail

Whilst birding at Jubail I found a female Eversmann’s Redstart, a new species for me. Birding up to that point had been rather poor due to the overcast and windy conditions but it was made up for with this bird. I noticed a redstart on the track between the large reed beds and it almost immediately flew up into the reed bed but luckily stayed on the edge. Initially I could only see it through the windscreen of the car making views poor but it looked very interesting due to the pale panel in the closed wing. I moved the car slightly to get a view through the window and got a few photos of to look at when I got home but the combination of wing markings and covert edges made the identification as a female Eversmann’s Redstart look very positive. I have never seen this species and on checking details in books and photos on the internet combined with Yoav Perlman’s confirmation of my identification I was happy I had found a very good vagrant for Saudi Arabia as well as another new species for my Saudi Arabian list. This was the third new species I had found in ten days after Black-throated Thrush and Redwing.
The only records I know of for Saudi Arabia are as follows:
Five at Ras Tanurah in December 1970 until January 1971 - Eastern Province
One Haradh 31 January 1980 - Eastern Province
One Kurais 14 November 1980 - Eastern Province
One at Dhahran from 21 January to 28 February 1982 - Eastern Province
A male at Thumamah, Riyadh, in alfalfa fields 8 December 1990 to 11 January 1991 - Central Province
Two at Jubail near the Holiday Inn on 17 November 1991 one remaining until 19 November 1991 - Eastern Province.
A female was found on 27 January to 9 March 2000 at Thumamah - Central Province
Eversmann’s Redstart

30 Jan 2017

Twelve Black-throated Thrushes in Deffi Park - Jubail


After finding four Black-throated Thrushes at Deffi Park, Jubail on 20 January I went back a week later to see if I could get better photos and see if anything else had turned up. On arrival, at first light, I saw plenty of Song Thrushes feeding around under the trees and in with them a least three Black-throated Thrushes. As I stayed and looked around more I counted more and more birds and finally ended up with twelve. This is an unprecedented number in recent years and made an amazing sight with the twenty or so Song Thrushes and two Redwings also present. Photography is difficult as light is poor in the early morning, they generally stay in the shade and the birds are constantly disturbed by walkers later on in the day, but occasionally they would come out into more open areas. There has been a major influx of this species into Arabia with 20+ birds seen in Qatar in late December where there had only been one previous record and others in the UAE, Bahrain and Oman.
Black-throated Thrush

Black-throated Thrush

Black-throated Thrush

Black-throated Thrush

Black-throated Thrush

Black-throated Thrush

Black-throated Thrush

Black-throated Thrush

Black-throated Thrush

Black-throated Thrush

Black-throated Thrush


29 Jan 2017

Two Redwing at Deffi Park - Jubail

Whilst birdwatching at Deffi Park in Jubail in the earl morning of 27 January I found two Redwing Turdus iliacus in with a group of migrant Black-throated Thrush and Song Thrush. Unfortunately after finding them and getting a couple of poor photos a walker disturbed them and they flew off and despite three hours searching could not be relocated. This was a new species for me and takes my total of species seen in Saudi Arabia to 350. All these species have been found by myself or others whilst I have been with them so is not a bad reflection of six years birding the Kingdom. The species is a rare winter visitor to the Kingdom mainly to the Eastern Province where Bundy states single birds in Dhahran 23 December 1973 to 23 January 1974; one on 13 February and two on 17 February 1974, 8-19 December 1974 and 4-15 February 1975, three 16-23 January 1976 and two 5 March 1976. Two at Abqaiq 25 November 1975, two 17 February 1976 and a party of five flying over Abqaiq town 30 November 1977. The only birds seen away from the Eastern Province that I know of was a small influx in Yanbu during 1991/92 winter with two from 5-16 January 1992 feeding on fallen dates in a palm grove and a flock of seven on 20 January 1992. These were the first for the west part of the Kingdom. Since this date I do not know of any other records but this may partly be because of the lack of observers in the country.
Redwing

Redwing

27 Jan 2017

Rare and unusual birds seen in Saudi Arabia in second half of 2016

A pair of Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus with two recently hatch young, 12 August, were the first record of breeding for the species in the Kingdom. An unprecedented influx of Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris were seen with fifteen 30 kilometers east of Zulfi 8 November, six together 40 kilometers north of Zulfi 11 November and 40 at Sakaka near Al Jouf 6 – 12 November. A Goliath Heron Ardea goliath returned to KAUST 22 October until 5 November at least. A Short-toed Snake Eagle Circaetus gallicus at Sabkhat Al Fasl 7 October. Two winter plumaged Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus at Sabkhat Al Fasl 7 October. A Eurasian Scops Owl Otus scops was at KAUST, 1 & 2 October a first record for the site. A Pied Cuckoo Oxylophus jacobinus was at Al Mefah Park, Tanoumah 7 July with another well north of its normal range at Wadi Thee Gazelle 25 June. Two male Diederik Cuckoo Chrysococcyx caprius were still at Al Mehfar Park, Tanoumah 7 & 8 July. Egyptian Nightjar Caprimulgus aegyptius were at Sabkhat Al Fasl throughout the summer until 16 September, with a maximum 13 recorded. A minimum of three Montane Nightjar Caprimulgus poliocephalus were at Al Mehfar Park, Tanoumah 7 & 8 July.
Arabian Magpie
Arabian Magpie
A White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis was at Sabkhat Al Fasl 28 October. A Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis were at KAUST 23 September to 3 October only the third documented record from the west coast and four were at Sabkhat Al Fasl 28 October until 11 November at least. Five Arabian Magpie Pica (pica) asirensis, two adults and three juveniles, were at Al Mehfar Park, Tanoumah 8 July with six at nearby Sallal al-Dahna 28 October.
Blanford's Lark
Blanford's Lark

Four Blanford’s Lark Calandrella blanfordi were at Talea’a Valley including adults and juveniles 6 & 9 July. Four Oriental Skylarks Alauda gulgula were at Sabkhat Al Fasl 11 November.  A European Robin Erithacus rubecula was on the west coast at KAUST 11 November with another on the same day on the east coast at Sabkhat Al Fasl. Eight African Pipit Anthus cinnamomeus eximius including two adults feeding young were in Al Mefah Park, Tanoumah 7 & 8 July with another in song flight in the Talea’a Valley 9 July.

25 Jan 2017

Semirufus Black Redstart and Pharaoh Eagle Owl at Abu Hadriyah – Bird records by Arnold Uy

Whilst birding at Abu Hadriyah Arnold found a couple of very good birds. Both are found in the region but neither are common or easy to photograph. Semirufus Black Redstart is an uncommon winter visitor to the region whereas Pharaoh Eagle Owl is an uncommon breeding resident. I thank Arnold for sending me the photos and for kindly allowing me to use them on my website.
Eastern Black Redstart
Eastern Black Redstart
Pharaoh Eagle Owl
Pharaoh Eagle Owl
Pharaoh Eagle Owl
Pharaoh Eagle Owl

24 Jan 2017

Fifth Striated Heron for the Eastern Province at Al Khobar – Bird Record by Vinu Mathew

Vinu Mathew found the fifth Striated Heron for the Eastern Province along the seafront of Dammam cornice on 13 January 2017. Striated Heron is a common breeding resident on the coasts of the Red Sea but is a vagrant to the northern part of the Arabian Gulf including the Eastern Province. Eastern Province records include one remarkable inland record of a bird at Sabkha 40 on 30 May 2010 in the huge desert of the Empty Quarter. This is a species usually associated with the coast of Arabia and had never been recorded this far inland before and was the first record for eastern Saudi Arabia. It would have had to be a migrant, but its position at Shaybah raises the interesting possibility that it had travelled across eastern Arabia from the Arabian Sea en-route to the Arabian Gulf. The only other Eastern Province records I know of were one in Al Fanateer marina, Jubail on 15 February 2014 and one on 7 June 2015 at Sabkhat Al Fasl, Jubail and one Dammam cornice on 12 February 2016. The increase in records in recent years means that birds are spreading northwards. i thank Vinu for sending me the details of the bird as well as for allowing me to use his photos on my website.
Striated Heron

Striated Heron

Striated Heron

23 Jan 2017

Long-legged Buzzards – Haradh

Whilst birding in Haradh in mid-January I saw at least five Long-legged Buzzards Buteo rufinus. These birds must be wintering in the area as there were too many in too small an area for them to be breeders. Long-legged Buzzard is an uncommon breeding resident in all areas of the Kingdom. In the Riyadh area it is a scarce resident as well as a migrant and winter visitor. It is not seen as often as it has been as it has retreated for breeding to remoter areas as urbanisation and farming have expanded. It remains a breeding resident in small numbers and sightings suggest a big increase in the winter population, with more sightings in the last few years than previously during this period. In the southwest it is regarded as an uncommon resident seen in all months except January. There is one recent record from the Empty Quarter of a bird coming to drink at an irrigation pipe at GOSP 2 although the bird is a resident of the Rub al Khali. In the Eastern Province it is a breeding resident, which is thinly distributed in small numbers. Although I have seen the species at Haradh before I have never seen this number so hopefully numbers are increasing.
Long-legged Buzzard

Long-legged Buzzard

Long-legged Buzzard

Long-legged Buzzard

Long-legged Buzzard

22 Jan 2017

Four Black-throated Thrushes in Deffi Park - Jubail

Phil Roberts and I went to Deffi Park on 20 January to see if we could find any displaced birds. Weather to the north of us has been very severe with lots of snow and we were hoping the cold weather may have moved birds south. Deffi Park is a large urban park in Jubail and holds goods birds most winters. We have never seen a thrush in the park although have discussed finding Black-throated Thrush here on a number of occasions so when we found a large flock of Song Thrushes we were not surprised to find four Black-throated Thrushes amongst them. The birds appeared to be one adult male and three 1st year males and were not easy to photograph as they kept in the shade of the tall trees and were easily disturbed by walkers and runners. This species was a new bird for Saudi Arabia for both Phil and I so we were very happy with our find made even better by seeing four birds. The Black-throated Thrush has become much scarcer in recent years with no records I know of in the last twenty years in the Eastern Province although this may be due to lack or birders. Prior to this Bundy mentioned in his book Birds of the Eastern Province "Usually a scarce winter visitor from November to March, but numbers vary from year to year and in some winters it is not recorded at all.  In years when numbers are good, such as 1982-3, birds have been noted at oases and cultivated areas from the coast to Haradh and Hanidh. Single birds in Dhahran in April and May were possibly migrants". It is now a rare winter visitor. It appears to have been a good year for the species with birds also being seen in Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar.
Black-throated Thrush

Black-throated Thrush

Black-throated Thrush

Black-throated Thrush

Black-throated Thrush

21 Jan 2017

Scarce winter visitor at Sabkhat Al Fasl – Record by Phil Roberts

Phil Roberts was at Sabkat Al Fasl recently and saw a few good birds. He managed to see a Western Marsh Harrier in a tree, a very unusual place for one to be seen. Other good birds were Water Pipits that were back in good numbers for the winter, Common Kingfisher, Common Chiffchaff, Greater Spotted Eagle and a male Common Blackbird a rare winter visitor to the Eastern Province. I would like to thank Phil for sending me the records and photos and for allowing me to use them on my website.
Common Chiffchaff
Common Chiffchaff
Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher
Western Marsh Harrier
Western Marsh Harrier
Water Pipit
Water Pipit

19 Jan 2017

Pallid Scops Owl near Zulfi – Record by Mohammad Al Mohatresh

Mohammed Al Mohatresh an excellent birder from the Zulfi region of the Kingdom saw and photographed a Pallid Scops Owl in wadi south of Zulfi in late December 2016. This is not the first time Mohammed and Masur Al Fahad have seen this species of owl in the winter around Zulfi where it is probably an uncommon winter visitor. The Pallid Scops Owl is a rare or scarce winter visitor to most areas of Saudi Arabia with the majority of records coming from the northern areas of the country with this bird fitting in nicely with the other records of the species in the Kingdom. I would like to Thank Mansur for sending me the record and photo of the species and Mohammed for allowing me to use his excellent photo on my website.
Pallid Scops Owl i


17 Jan 2017

White-crowned Wheatear - Haradh

Phil Roberts and I found a juvenile White-crowned Wheatears Oenanthe leucopyga  at Haradh on 13 January 2017. The bird was seen along a roadside with scattered rocks as well as fences to keep people away from the pivot irrigation fields. This species had not been recorded in this area previously according to Mike Jennings, but is one of the most common wheatears in the Kingdom having been seen in more areas than any other. White-crowned Wheatear is an uncommon resident in areas where it is found, normally associated with granite and sandstone jebals and other rocky areas although it status in the southern part of the Kingdom is unclear. Birds of the Riyadh Region (1984) said they were locally common breeding resident with some movement within the region post-breeding and during the winter months. Jennings Birds of Saudi Arabia (1981) said they were a locally common breeding resident in dry rocky areas. Occurs Hejaz north from Taif, Northern Hejaz, Asir south of Soudah and Najran, Tuwaiq escarpment and locally in the Gulf. Also Jauf, Hail and Dawadimi. In my area of the Eastern Province they are only commonly seen in the Shedgum Escarpment so the bird at Haradh was a good but unexpected find.
White-crowned Wheatear

15 Jan 2017

Sociable Lapwing wintering in Eastern Saudi Arabia - Haradh


On 13 January Phil Roberts and I travelled to Haradh an area of extensive pivot irrigation fields three hours drive from Dhahran. We were primarily looking to see if we could prove Sociable Lapwing wintered in the area as we had seen birds here in February 2016 but were uncertain if these were wintering birds or very early migrants. We left at 03:30 hrs to allow us to be at the site at first light. We tried a set of fields off the main road some distance and eventually found some access to some very good looking fields in various stages of growth from ploughed to fallow to newly growing. We eventually came across a newly ploughed field that had over 100 Northern Lapwing in it, a habitat and species that were used by associated with by lasy years Sociable Lapwings . After a couple of minutes I saw two Sociable Lapwings in flight in the flock that flew around and landed in the ploughed field. We drove around to the area where the access track was to the pivot irrigation bars and moved down this into the middle of the field. Here we scanned through the Northern Lapwings we could see and eventually found three Sociable Lapwings. The three Sociable Lapwings eventually flew off and we went looking for further birds. Another filed that was in the process of being ploughed also held several hundred Northern Lapwings and four Sociable Lapwings making a total of seven birds. The birds never came close enough for good photos and were very timid when we were on foot so the below poor photos are all that I obtained. These birds are only the third time the species has been recorded in the Eastern Province after an adult at Haradh farm on 25 February 1982 and our 16 at Haradh on 5 February 2016. These birds seen on 13 January are much too early to be passage migrants and show that Haradh is a new wintering location for the species. This is not the first place for the species to winter in Saudi Arabia as other winter in the northwest of the Kingdom at Tabuk and others still in the southwest near Jizan.
Sociable Lapwing

Sociable Lapwing

Sociable Lapwing

Sociable Lapwing

13 Jan 2017

Eurasian Scops Owl – Dhahran Main Camp

Chris Boland a birdwatcher who lives in Dhahran saw a Scops Owl at very close range in his garden on the evening of 6 November and sent me a message the next day saying he would look for it again that evening and let me know if it was still present. I got a text at 18:45 saying the bird was still present in the trees and shrubs of his garden and was using the satellite dish to sit on. I went around with my camera and flash gun to see if I could relocate it and saw it almost immediately sitting on the grass but it flew and landed in a tree very near to me. My first views gave me the impression it was a Pallid Scops Owl but they are not so easy to tell apart from grey phase Eurasian Scops Owls. After a couple of brief views Chris came out with a torch and saw the bird again sitting on the grass. This time it flew only a short distance and landed in a palm tree where I was able to take a few photographs of it. It move around a little before eventually flying over to another garden. We have two Scops Owls in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabian, Eurasian Scops Owl and Pallid Scops Owl. Both are seldom seen with Eurasian Scops Owl being an uncommon passage migrant and Pallid Scops Owl being a scarce passage migrant and winter visitor. I have only seen one Eurasian Scops Owl in Saudi Arabia on 26 August 2015 when I found one in my garden in Dhahran Hills. I was unable to photograph that bird so the shots I got of this one made up for things. This bird although not straight forward to identify was a Eurasian Scops Owl of the subspecies O. s. turanicus that occurs in Iraq, western and northern Iran and southwest Turkmenistan east to northwest Pakistan. Winters south of the Sahara from south Mauritania eastwards to Eritrea, south to southern Cameroon, Kenya and Somalia. This subspecies is mainly a long-distance migrant, leaving the breeding grounds from August onwards; most reach Afrotropical savanna regions in winter; return migration occurs from late March. I would like to thank Chris for letting me know about the bird and texting me to let me know it was still present the next day and various birders including Oscar Campbell, Mark Smiles, Yoav Perlman and Hadoram Shirahai for help with the identification.


Eurasian Scops Owl

Eurasian Scops Owl

Eurasian Scops Owl

Eurasian Scops Owl

Eurasian Scops Owl

Eurasian Scops Owl

Eurasian Scops Owl