28 Feb 2018

Migratory Locust - Haradh

Whilst at Haradh I saw a Migratory Locust Locusta migratoria in a large pivot irrigation field. Normally they occur in small numbers throughout Arabia, but rarely form into swarms. There are two colour forms, brown and green with the green colour forms mainly solitary adult females. Under favourable breeding conditions they can form into vast groups, with young ‘hoppers’ often all marching in the same direction. They are very strong fliers and migratory specimens have been recorded as far away as Great Britain. The migratory locust is the most widespread locust species in the world, and the only species in the genus Locusta. It occurs throughout Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Migratory Locust





27 Feb 2018

Western Marsh Harrier – Al Asfar Lake

I went to Al Asfar Lake near to Hufuf recently and saw over fifty Western Marsh Harriers. I managed to get a number of reasonable photographs with a couple of two birds playing in the air together. The Western Marsh Harrier is a winter visitor to Saudi Arabia and they always occur in areas of extensive reed beds and open water. Birds turn up in September and depart abut March or April each year with the best sites in the Eastern Province being Sabkhat Al Fasl and Al Asfar Lake.
Western Marsh Harrier

Western Marsh Harrier

Western Marsh Harrier

Western Marsh Harrier

Western Marsh Harrier


26 Feb 2018

Thousands of Pallid Swifts – Al Asfar Lake

Whilst birdwatching Al Asfar lake in early February we came across huge numbers of Pallid Swifts Apus pallidus totalling at least two thousand birds. It was an absolutely amazing sight with birds dotted across the entire sky and some flying quite low allowing photographic opportunities. The species is a common passage migrant and breeder with a peculiar pattern of occurrence. The species is common from late January to May, scarce after this and only recorded again in good numbers from November. Breeding takes place in the winter months from November to April. Pallid Swift are always good to watch but rarely come down low and allow photography.
Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

25 Feb 2018

Long-legged Buzzard in Dhahran – Bird record by Paul Wells

Paul Wells recently found a Long-legged Buzzard in Dhahran, an unusual occurrence t]for the location. In the Eastern Province it is a breeding resident, which is thinly distributed in small numbers. Bird numbers appear to increase in winter so there is either an influx from elsewhere or birds move from their breeding areas to more favourable wintering sites. This winter has been a very good one for the species with birds seen over a wide area of the Eastern Province and is the second good winter in a row.


24 Feb 2018

Winter Harriers - Haradh

Whilst birding the NADAC Farm area of Haradh recently I saw plenty of Harriers including at minimum of two Montagu’s Harriers over the pivot irrigation fields. Male Montagu’s Harriers are easily identified by their upperwing pattern amongst other details but Juvenile and female Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers are difficult to identify with certainty and good views are needed. Montagu’s Harrier are uncommon passage migrants in the Eastern Province mainly from April to May and from September to October with a few birds apparently wintering and up to eight seen in a day at Haradh in September. Pallid Harrier is a much more common species than Montagu’s Harrier with the species an uncommon passage migrant from late February to early May and again from September through November. Haradh is the best locality for seeing the species and previously during winter almost all records refer to adult males over cultivated fields, although now females appear to outnumber males.
Montagu's Harrier
Montagu's Harrier
Montagu's Harrier
Montagu's Harrier
Montagu's Harrier
  Montagu's Harrier
Montagu's Harrier
Montagu's Harrier
Montagu's Harrier
Montagu's Harrier
Pallid Harrier
Pallid Harrier
Pallid Harrier
Pallid Harrier

23 Feb 2018

Temmincks Stint – Jubail

This winter has been an excellent one for Temminck’s Stints. Normally birds are not seen in mid-winter with only a small number wintering. Favoured sites are Sabkhat Al Fasl and Lake Al Asfar. The species is mainly a passage migrant in small numbers almost always away from the coast. It occurs in April and May and again from September to November. This winter small groups have been seen including ten together in Jubail. Other birds seen apart from the Temminck’s Stints were winter visitors like Western Great Egret, Isabelline Wheatear, Eurasian Skylark.
Temminck’s Stint


22 Feb 2018

Crested Honey Buzzards in Dhahran – Bird Records by Phil Roberts

Phil Roberts photographed two Crested Honey Buzzards recently that have been around Dhahran for most of the winter. He has kindly allowed me to use his photos on my website which are shown below. The current status, of CHB in Saudi Arabia is a scarce passage migrant and winter visitor that also occurs rarely in summer. Most records are from the Eastern province in winter and spring with additional records in the west of the country in autumn, winter and spring. This winter has been an excellent one for the species with birds seen in Dhahran, Jubail, Taif, Jeddah and KAUST.


21 Feb 2018

Common Kingfisher and more - Bird records by Vinu Mathew

Vinu Mathew took a number of photos recently in and around Khafra Marsh. Birds he photographed included common winter visitors such as Common Kingfisher, Daurian Shrike and Red-spotted Bluethroat. Grey-headed Swamphen has recently started breeding at the site and Vinu took the below photo showing they still occur there. I thank Vinu for sending me the photos and allowing me to use them on my website, some of whch are shown below.
Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher
Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Grey-headed Swamphen
Grey-headed Swamphen
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat

20 Feb 2018

Desert Hyacynth - Haradh

Whilst birdwatching in Haradh I saw a small number of new Desert Hyacinth Cistanche tubulosa. The Desert Hyacinth is a widely distributed annual that produces a dense pyramid spike of bright yellow flowers topped by maroon-tinted buds. The yellow flowers do not smell very nice and flies are attracted to the smell and carry the pollen on their legs from plant to plant helping with pollination. They are parasitic, one of several such plants in Arabia, and live off other plants to gain their nutritional needs, as they have no green parts or leaves to synthesize chlorophyll directly. The many tiny seeds may remain dormant for years until the roots of the host plant are close enough to trigger germination. It is one of the showiest plants of Eastern Arabia with bright yellow, dense column of flowers sometimes approaching one metre in height. It has varying flower colour with the flowers either tightly packed in the spike or loose. They are widespread on sandy or sandy-silty ground and can tolerate saline environments as well as disturbed conditions, so are often seen growing near roads or tracks in the desert or along the shores of the Arabian Gulf.
Desert Hyacinth

19 Feb 2018

Black-winged Kite – Bird records by Jehad Alammadi

Whilst birding in Bahrain this winter Jehad Alammadi found a Black-winged Kite. This is a rare bird for the country with the first record being a bird found at the Chicken Farm 2 February 2012. This is a scarce visitor to Saudi Arabia but appears to have become more common in recent years with birds seen in every month with the exception of January, August and December. I thank Jehad for kindly allowing me to use his photos on my website some of which are shown below.
Black-winged Kite

Black-winged Kite

Black-winged Kite

18 Feb 2018

Ringing White-eared Bulbul – Sabkhat Al Fasl

Whilst ringing at Sabkhat Al Fasl recently I ringed a White-eared Bulbul. This was a new ringing species for me and was a bit of a surprise when I found it in the net. This species is common in the Eastern Province but has only been seen recently at this location in the last few months. Birds appear 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

White-eared Bulbul

17 Feb 2018

Sociable Lapwing – Haradh

Whilst birding the pivot irrigation fields of Haradh on 26 January 2018 we came across a minimum of two Sociable Lapwings Vanellus gregarius. The birds were associating with large numbers of Northern Lapwings and Spur-winged Plovers. The Sociable Lapwing is globally threatened and categorised as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red-list of threatened species. It is a migratory species breeding in the central steppes of Kazakhstan, with small numbers in southern Russian. The majority of the population migrate through south-west Russia, into Turkey, through the Middle East region including Saudi Arabia, before spending the winter in north-east Africa (mainly Sudan) and the Arabian Peninsula. There is an additional flyway where birds migrate south-east through central Asia into Pakistan and north-west India. The birds that winter in the Arabian Peninsula do so mainly in Oman with others in the United Arab Emirates. A few winter in Saudi Arabia with birds mainly in the northwest of the Kingdom around Tabuk. The birds we have seen in the Eastern Province in the last three winters constitute a new wintering area for the species. They frequent large pivot irrigation fields where they favour newly ploughed areas. This type of habitat is becoming more frequent in the Kingdom and probably explains the increasing numbers of birds wintering in Saudi Arabia.
Sociable Lapwing
Sociable Lapwing
Northern Lapwing
Northern Lapwing 
Northern Lapwing
Northern Lapwing
Northern Lapwing

16 Feb 2018

Eurasian Siskin near Buraidah – Bird records by Ragu Shanbogue

Whilst birding the Buraidah area this winter Ragu Shanbogue found and photographed a Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus. He has kindly allowed me to use his photos on my website of which two are shown below. They are seen regularly in the north of the Kingdom including Harrat al Harrah Reserve where they are a winter visitor but have also been seen from April to June. They appear to be more common if the weather is colder to the north of the Kingdom. In the Riyadh & Central Arabia area the Birds of Thumamah 1988-1994 mentioned them as a scarce winter visitor. A small influx from 16 November to 16 December 1990 with a maximum of 12 birds near the village and 11 on the dairy farm. A second influx occurred in November 1993 with 30-40 birds on 11 November. Also seen spring 1994 with 15 in new pivot field 9 March and six there 30 March. Birds of the Riyadh Region (Stagg 1994) mentioned they were an occasional winter visitor. Sporadically appears between November and March, mainly in years when harsh conditions prevail in northern climates. Sometimes ones and twos only, other times flocks of up to 20.
Eurasian Siskin

Eurasian Siskin



15 Feb 2018

Larks and Pipits – Jubail Farm

Whilst birding a set of pivot irrigation fields near Jubail I came across quite a good number of Eurasian Skylark. They were all using the wet pivot fields for feeding and occasionally flying out into the dry edges before going back into the grass. Other birds seen in good numbers in these fields included both Water Pipit and Tawny Pipit. A few harriers were present over the fields, including both Western Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers
Eurasian Skylark
Eurasian Skylark 
Tawny Pipit
Tawny Pipit 
Tawny Pipit
Tawny Pipit
Water Pipit
Water Pipit

14 Feb 2018

Winter Birding - Haradh

Phil Roberts and I went for our normal winter visit to Haradh. We saw a good number of winter visitors at the site including a large flock of 150 plus Kentish Plover feeding on the edge of a pivot irrigation field. We have seen the species here before but not in such a large flock. We always see good numbers of Desert and Isabelline Wheatears at this location and this visit was no different. An unusual sight was a Short-toed Snake Eagle, particularly as they are rare winter visitors, although more regular in the main migration season. Last year we saw a flock of over 60 Mallard in a spray field and had a similar sized flock in a similar location this year. Other birds seen included Tawny Pipit and Namaqua Dove.
Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear 
Kentish Plover
Kentish Plover
Mallard
Mallard
Namaqua Dove
Namaqua Dove
Short-toed Snake Eagle
Short-toed Snake Eagle
Tawny Pipit
Tawny Pipit