29 Mar 2017

Western Siberian Stonechat trapped and ringed - Jubail

Whilst ringing at Sabkhat Al Fasl we trapped a female Siberian Stonechat of the sub-species maurus known as Western Siberian Stonechat. The bird was looked at closely and the rump and uppertail feather moved to see if there was any white extending down the tail feathers, but on this bird there was not. This was a new ringing species for Saudi Arabia although I had trapped and ringed ne in Bahrain some years ago and it was interesting to see the bird in the hand at close quarters. The rump appeared warmer in the hand than when seen in the field but it was completely unstreaked as would be expected. The white wing patch was also well developed on the bird. There has been a good passage of Siberian Stonechats of various types through the Eastern Province in the last few weeks so it was not so surprising to trap one.

28 Mar 2017

Bahrain – Lesser Crested Tern Ringing Recovery

Brendan sent me a ringing recovery of a Lesser Crested Tern that we ringed as part of the tern ringing project on Al Jarim Islands Bahrain. This project has been ongoing for at least ten years and thousands of tern chicks have been ringed. This bird was ringed in Bahrain in 2012 that was found injured in Sri Lanka in 2015. I would like to thank Brendan for sending me the details that are shown below.

Lesser Crested Tern
Ring Number: DE65264
Ringing date: 22-Jun-2012
Ringing Place: Al Jarim Island South, Bahrain, Bahrain & Qatar (Co-ords: 26deg 22min N 50deg 28min E)
Age: Chick
Ringer: B Kavanagh, 4736
Finding date: 18-Nov-2015
Finding Place: Puttalum Lagoon, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanks (Co-ords: 8deg 5min N 79deg 45min E)
Finding Condition: Leg injury
Duration: 1244 days
Distance: 3699 km
Direction: 124 deg (SE)

Finder: D Ramasingha

27 Mar 2017

Birds of prey eating Fat Sand Rats near Jubail - Records by Arnold Uy


Arnold Uy has been seeing Fat Sand Rats at a location near Jubail for most of the winter but reported that recently a large number of birds of prey as well as other birds were in the area probably eating the animals. Species seen included Greater Spotted Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Common Kestrel and Long-legged Buzzard. Last week Arnold sent me some great photos of a Common Kestrel eating one of the rats and has kindly allowed me to use them on my website. I am still yet to see these rats so hope a few survive until I have the chance to try and locate them.
Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel
Common Kestrel 
Mauryan Grey Shrike
Mauryan Grey Shrike
Fat Sand Rat
Fat Sand Rat

26 Mar 2017

Winter visitors and spring migrants together - Jubail

Birding the Jubail area a week ago is quite interesting as you can see winter visitors and spring migrants side by side. I saw a reasonable number of migrants as well as a few winter visitors with wintering birds still around in small numbers including Water Pipit, White Wagtail, Red-spotted Bluethroat and Greater Spotted Eagle. Many of the Water Pipits and some Red-spotted Bluethroats are already in summer plumage and will be leaving very soon for their breeding grounds. Summer migrants were mainly Barn Swallows, Sand Martins, Pallid Swifts and a few Yellow Wagtails of various subspecies but mainly Black-headed Wagtail. A single Citrine Wagtail was present with the Yellow Wagtails and this could either be a winter visitor as some winter in very small numbers or more likely a passage migrant as March is the best month for seeing the species in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom.
Water Pipit
Water Pipit
White Wagtail
White Wagtail
Greater Spotted Eagle
Greater Spotted Eagle
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Black-headed Wagtail
Black-headed Wagtail
Black-headed Wagtail
Black-headed Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail

25 Mar 2017

Ringing in windy conditions - Jubail

Whilst ringing at Sabkhat Al Fasl on 17 March we caught a few birds which was very surprising as the wind was very strong. The forecast had been for calm conditions with sunshine but it turned out to be overcast and strong winds. As we had driven along way we decided to set only four nets along a partly sheltered ride but held out little hope of catching anything. As it turned out we caught 15 birds including nine species so not too bad. Species trapped included Turkestan Shrike, Common Chiffchaff, Red-spotted Bluethroat, Little Bittern, Eurasian Reed Warbler, Indian Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Eastern Stonechat and Graceful Prinia. It was not the best ringing session but was not a waste of time either.
Turkestan Shrike
Turkestan Shrike
Turkestan Shrike
Turkestan Shrike
Indian Reed Warbler
Indian Reed Warbler
Graceful Prinia
Graceful Prinia
Eurasian Reed Warbler
Eurasian Reed Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Sedge Warbler

23 Mar 2017

Bee-eaters – Records by Vinu Mathew

Vinu Mathew has been seeing quite a lot of Bee-eaters recently and has managed to take photos of both European Bee-eater and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. He has kindly sent me some of his photos and allowed me to use them on my website some of which are shown below. Both species of Bee-eaters have been reported quite widely across the Eastern Province in the last two weeks with birds seen in Jubail, Dhahran, Hafuf and Udhailyah. Both species are common passage migrants and have an extended spring passage so birds will, hopefully, continue to be seen for some weeks to come.
European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater
European Bee-eater
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

21 Mar 2017

A few migrants passing through Jubail – Bird records by Phil Roberts

Phil Roberts went to Deffi Park and the Jubail area in Mid-March and mentioned there was no sign of the Black-throated Thrushes that had been around for some time although he did see five Song Thrush and a nice male samamisicus Common Redstart. The Jubail area is really flooded from the rains.  There are a few migrants coming through with good numbers of Ruff in the flooded areas.  He also heard two Savi's Warbler reeling.  Quite a few Siberian Stonechat, four Turkestan Shrike, a Northern Wheatear, loads of Barn Swallow among others.  He also saw three Greater Spotted Eagles and five Western Marsh Harriers. Phil kindly sent me some of his photos and has allowed me to use them on my website some of which are shown below.
Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Lesser Whitethroat
Lesser Whitethroat 
Greater Spotted Eagle
Greater Spotted Eagle
Eastern Stonechat
Eastern Stonechat
Northern Wheatear
Northern Wheatear

19 Mar 2017

Three Citrine Wagtails - Jubail

An early morning trip to Jubail was rewarded with the sighting of three different Citrine Wagtails together in an area of flooded track. We met Phil Roberts after packing up early from ringing due to the hgh winds and he kindly informed us of two birds presence. As a result we went to look for them and found them quite easily amongst a number of other wagtails. They all appeared to be adult males in breeding plumage but some were brighter than others. Citrine Wagtail is a regular though local winter visitor to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia that was not seen until 1975. I have seen quite a few in the last few years indicating the species is becoming more common in the region, particularly as they are not so difficult to identify in full breeding pluamge. They are almost always found near water and favour feeding on wet roadside puddles, but are not the easiest species to photograph as they are quite nervous and flighty and rarely stay still for long. March appears to be a month when passage occurs through the region as more birds are seen during this month than any other.
Citrine Wagtail

Citrine Wagtail

Citrine Wagtail

Citrine Wagtail

17 Mar 2017

Horwoodia dicksoniae – Dibdibah Plains

Whilst looking for lars in the Dibdibah palins of northern Saudi Arabia I found a very strongly scented plant growing on the sand all on its own. I had no idea what it was so asked Irene Linning an expert in Arabian plants who told me it was probably Horwoodia dicksoniae an annual herb with pinnately lobed leaves, up to 40 centimetres high. Leaves ovate to oblong. Flowers in terminal racemes, strongly fragrant, petals purple or violet. Silicles orbicular, glabrous and glossy when mature. They grow on stable sandy to silty soils often overlying hard rock plains. They occur mainly in the northwest of the Eastern Province. I thanks Irene for her help with the identification of this plant.
Horwoodia dicksoniae

15 Mar 2017

Desert Lark - Jabal Nayriyyah

On a quick trip to Jabal Nayriyyah I saw a pair of Desert Larks of the pale azizi race. Birds occur throughout Saudi Arabia gradually becoming paler towards the east. A. d. azizi occurs in northeast Saudi Arabia around the Hufuf and Shedgum areas and is the palest race with pale creamy plumage. To get to the Jabal Nayriyyah site take the Abu Hadryah highway from Dhahran/Dammam/Al Khobar towards Jubail and Khafji. At the Sabkhat Al Fasl turnoff in Jubail continue straight on towards the Kuwait border. After 66 kms turn left towards Nayriyyah on route 85 and continue past Nayriyyah and after about 20 kilometres you will see the jabals off to the right.
Desert Lark


13 Mar 2017

Another Black Scrub Robin - Sarrar, Eastern Province

Whilst birding the Sarrar area of the Eastern Province Phil Roberts and I found two Black Scrub Robin Cercotrichas podobe a species that has only been recorded five times in the Eastern Province making this sixth record as posted about earlier. Amazingly we then found a third bird some kilometres further down the main road in some woodland around a large pivot irrigation field. After posting the first post and informing Arnold Uy he mentioned that they are commonly seen in the farms around Al Hassa so it looks almost certain they have now colonized the Eastern Province and are spreading west. It will be interesting to see how long it is until I see one in Dhahran. There current status as a vagrant to the province clearly needs updating.
Black Scrub Robin

11 Mar 2017

Bonelli’s Eagle – Dhahran Hills

Whilst birding the Dhahran Camp area I saw a juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus fly low over my head. The species is a rare migrant to all areas of the Kingdom and is possibly a winter visitor to Tihamah, Hejaz and Asir. Records from the Eastern province are as a vagrant with the only records being a first year at Dhahran 2-9 January 1981, one Dhahran 4-27 February 1981, one captured exhausted 20 kilometres south of Safaniya 14 July 1984, one at Qatif 11 December 1991, a juvenile in flight at Jabal Nariyyah 25 January 2007 and a juvenile Sabhka al-Fasl 10 December 2015.
Bonelli’s Eagle

9 Mar 2017

Twenty-four Red-wattled Lapwing at Shaybah – Bird records by Arnold Uy

Arnold Uy sent me a message to say he had found an amazing twenty-four Red-wattled Lapwing near Shaybah in late February. This is the third time the species has been found in the Empty Quarter and may indicate breeding, especially due to the numbers involved. The species is rare in Saudi Arabia with the following records all the birds I know about. In Riyadh & Central Arabia, birds were seen in January 1977, within the Riyadh city boundary; one was seen 1 November 1985 near Mansouriyah; one on 2 December 1988 and another January 1989 on farmland adjacent to the lower reaches of the Riyadh watercourse and another on 4 November 1989 at the Riyadh watercourse. One was on Thumamah dairy farm 16-22 January 1994. One individual wintered at Thumamah between 5 November 1999 and 17 February 2000 & from 27 January onwards it was present at the old dairy farm. A second individual was seen at Al Safi Dairy Farm on 25 January 2001. In the Empty quarter Up to five birds were seen on three days at Sabkha 40 in 2010 where there was suitable breeding habitat present. An adult was at Sabkhat Al Fasl 15 February 2014, an adult was at Dhahran Saudi Aramco camp 1 June 2014 and one juvenile Sabkhat Al Fasl 8 June 2014. An adult Shaybah 8 mrch 2016. This species is resident at wetlands in eastern Arabia (United Arab Emirates), and is gradually colonizing westwards. So far it has not yet been recorded to breed in Saudi Arabia. In the Eastern province it is regarded as a rare passage migrant and winter visitor and there have been seventeen records prior to this one of single birds from October to December (especially November), but also January, April, June and July. I would like to thank Arnold for sending me the details as well as allowing me to use his photos on my website. The photos were taken using a mobile phone.
Red-wattled Lapwing

Red-wattled Lapwing


7 Mar 2017

Corn Bunting - Sarrar

Whilst birding the Sarrar area at then end of February I found a singing Corn Bunting. I could hear the bird singing but could not locate it, but after some time and moving around to try to pinpoint it I saw it at the edge of a large pivot irrigation field sitting on the ground. The Corn Bunting is an uncommon and irregular winter visitor to the Eastern Province and a bird I see infrequently. Although I have seen birds in Dhahran I mostly see them in the large pivot fields to the north around Qaryat Al Ulya Qaryat. This bird was well south if these fields showing that they can be found around any pivot field in the winter if conditions are right. The bird was very happy singing and allowed close approach and was even in the same place thirty minutes later when I went past the area again.
Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting

5 Mar 2017

Bladderdock – Dhahran Hills

The Bladderdock Rumex vesicarius is an abundant annual found on rocky land and shallow sand. It is most noticeable when fruiting, when it bears large, long clusters of papery winged fruits that are often pink, red or pale straw in colour. Sandwiched between the wings is the seed. The leaves are glabrous and slightly succulent. They are the favorite food of the Striped Hawkmoth caterpillar, which in a rainy year, can be seen feeding on these plants in large numbers. Its height is up to 35 centimetres and it has been used in traditional medicine to cure stomach complaints and toothache.

3 Mar 2017

Masked Shrike - Sarrar

Whilst birding the Sarrar area at then end of February I found a smart Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus. The bird appeared to be a freshly arrived migrant as there had been a big fall of passerines in the area and it allowed close approach even when on foot, although the timing suggests it may have been a wintering bird. As a result I managed to get a few good photographs of the bird. The Masked Shrike is an uncommon migrant to all areas of Saudi Arabia with a few birds wintering in the southwest and rarely in the Eastern Province. Most birds are seen on migration mainly in April, May and September although there are a few summer records in June with early migrants in late March and late migrants in early October.
Masked Shrike

Masked Shrike

Masked Shrike

1 Mar 2017

Two Black Scrub Robin - Sarrar, Eastern Province

Whilst birding the Sarrar area of the Eastern Province Phil Roberts and I found two Black Scrub Robin Cercotrichas podobe a species that has only been recorded five times in the Eastern Province making this sixth record. The species is apparently extending its range north and east. Although very rare in the Eastern Province, they are an uncommon breeding resident along the Red Sea north to Yanbu, the Tihamah, Asir, Hejaz, and Northern Hejaz to 160 km north of mecca. They are not found on the juniper summits of mountains in Asir or Hejaz but are regularly seen as far east as Riyadh. The fact that the two birds appeared to be a pair suggests the species may have finally spread as far as Sarrar and colonized the area as we saw one in a similar area last year.