31 Jan 2018

Abyssinian Roller and Singing Bush Lark – Phil’s Fields

Whilst birding the southwest of the Kingdom this winter I went to Phil’s Fields which is a large pivot irrigation set up with three large fields. It is an excellent place to see good birds and I always see Singing Bush Lark and Zitting Cisticola there, and this visit was no exception. More unusual birds seen this trip included African Stonechat and Abyssinian Roller, both of which I have not recorded at the location and probably only occur in winter as this was my first winter visit to the site. Western Cattle Egret, Isabelline Wheatear, Green Bee-eater and Indian Silverbill were a few other more common species seen there. 
Abyssinian Roller
Abyssinian Roller
African Silverbill
African Silverbill
African Silverbill
African Silverbill
African Stonechat
African Stonechat
Green Bee-eater
Green Bee-eater
Singing Bush Lark
Singing Bush Lark
Singing Bush Lark
Singing Bush Lark
Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear

29 Jan 2018

Ringtail Hen Harrier - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area in January I found a ring-tailed Harrier that looked quite interesting due to its short and broad wings. It was a long way away from me and I managed to take a single photo which on inspection looked like a juvenile Hen Harrier. I then saw the bird again flying at some distance and managed to move the car to an area where I suspected it could reappear. When I saw it again, it was unfortunately flying away from me. I took a few photos, looked at the bird through my binoculars and became sure it was a Hen Harrier. The Hen Harrier is a scarce passage migrant and winter visitor with more birds seen in the north-west than anywhere else in the Kingdom. In the Riyadh & Central Arabia areas the Birds of the Riyadh Region (Stagg 1994) states the species is a vagrant with only four sightings in March, April, September and November. With only four additional records that I know of from the area of one juvenile at Al Safi Dairy Farm on 19 October 2000, one adult female on the same site 25 January 2001, a male in late march 1992 at Wadi Hanifah and a male in September 1993 over Dywidag compound. Elsewhere it is a rare autumn visitor to the southwest and Jeddah areas in winter and spring. In the Eastern Province, it is a scarce migrant and winter visitor from October to April but I have only previously seen one adult male in winter. Females could be overlooked due to their similarity to other ringtail harriers whereas males are quite distinct and are relatively easily identified. The bird stayed on the same area for at least a week.
Hen Harrier

Hen Harrier

Hen Harrier

Hen Harrier

27 Jan 2018

Steppe/Common Buzzard – Phil’s Fields

Whilst birding Phil’s Fields I saw at least two Steppe/Common Buzzards. Birds are seen much more commonly in the west of the Kingdom than the east. This bird in Phil’s Fields was circling around very close to us and later a second bird was seen in a similar location. I thank Yoav Perlman for helping with the ID of this bird.
Steppe/Common Buzzards

Steppe/Common Buzzards

Steppe/Common Buzzards

Steppe/Common Buzzards

Steppe/Common Buzzards

25 Jan 2018

Moustached Warbler trapped – Sabkhat Al Fasl

While ringing on Friday 12 January 2018 we trapped and ringed a Moustached Warbler, this is the fifth bird we have ringed at this site with the first being on 7 February 2014. This is the third January bird trapped with the others in November 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. 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. 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 mainly a scarce migrant and winter visitor mainly in the north of the country. 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 where birds are regularly recorded at Al Asfar Lake.

Measurements of birds (n5) are as below:
Tarsus       19.7 – 20.8
Wing          55.0 – 64.0
Weight       9.2 – 11.2
Tail            49.0 – 55.0
Bill / Skull   15.3 – 16.3
Bill depth    2.6 – 3.1
Fat             0.0 – 2.0
Muscle       2.0 – 2.0

Moustached Warbler

Moustached Warbler

Moustached Warbler



23 Jan 2018

White-eyed and Sooty Gulls – Jizan Corniche

The best place to see White-eyed and Sooty Gull in the Kingdom is the fish market at Jizan but the morning we went it was so bust with people that few birds were around. Luckily, as we moved south along the coast we saw a small mixed gull flock with a number of both species present. Also seen were Baltic Gull and Steppe Gull. Waders present were a small flock of Ruddy Turnstone, European Oystercatcher and several Bar-tailed Godwits. Plenty of House Crows were flying around and further up the corniche a Western Osprey was located with many Crab Plover.
Sooty Gull
Sooty Gull
Sooty Gull
Sooty Gull
Sooty Gull
Sooty Gull
White-eyed Gull
White-eyed Gull
White-eyed Gull
White-eyed Gull
White-eyed Gull
White-eyed Gull



21 Jan 2018

First ringing trip of 2018 – Sabkhat Al Fasl

We went ringing on 12 January and caught 29 birds of 10 species including Common Kingfisher, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Little Bittern, Graceful Prinia, Red-spotted Bluethroat, Moustached Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, White-eared Bulbul, Water Pipit and Daurian Shrike. White-eared Bulbul was a new species for us at our ringing site, although birds are common in the region they are scarce at the site itself with birds only being seen in the last year suggesting they may be colonising 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 and additional three nets along the edge of a reed bed as well as the normal ten nets we set every trip (11 x 18 metre and 2 x 15 metre). As normal, we arrived well before first light and set the nets during the hours of darkness. 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 five Clamorous Reed Warbler, two Red-spotted Bluethroat, a Graceful Prinia and a Little Bittern. The Clamorous Reed Warblers were from as early as 23 September 2016 with the Bluethroats only trapped this winter. The Graceful Prinia was trapped in November 2017 and the Little Bitter in March 2017. The number of birds was less than normal as it was the middle of winter and the weather was very cold with temperatures in the morning only reaching 5 degrees Celsius. Normally we have to take care of birds overheating but it was the opposite this time with care needed to ensure the birds did not become too cold.
Common Chiffchaff
Common Chiffchaff
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher
Water Pipit
Water Pipit
Little Bittern
Little Bittern