30 May 2018

Thunbergi Yellow Wagtails – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area in early May I came across a small group of thunbergi Yellow Wagtails. They are also known as Grey-headed Wagtail and occur from Scandinavia eastwards to northwest Siberia and they winter mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and across South & southeast Asia. Yellow Wagtails are common in Jubail throughout the spring with various subspecies passing but thunbergi appears to be one of the late passing subspecies with most records occurring in late April and May. These birds fit the pattern of occurrence nicely. One or two birds showed a pattern of marks across the breast forming a necklace, a feature I had not noticed previously. As always with wagtails they were difficult to get good photographs of as they are always moving and in areas with lots of vegetation. My best shots are shown below.
thunbergi Yellow Wagtail

thunbergi Yellow Wagtail

thunbergi Yellow Wagtail

thunbergi Yellow Wagtail

thunbergi Yellow Wagtail

28 May 2018

Sacred Scarab – Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm (Fadhili)

Whilst birding the Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm (Fadhili) with Phil Roberts we came across a Sacred Scarab Scarabaeus sacer. The Sacred Scarab is a dung beetle that is common in Saudi Arabia where swarms often follow herds of camels and sheep in the desert. They pounce on any fresh droppings, make them into balls and then roll them into a hole made in soft ground. The female will then lay and egg in the ball which is large enough for food throughout the young beetle’s development. Some of these beetles have become nocturnal to prevent birds of prey and shrikes eating them. The Sacred Scarab we saw was jumping on Sand Swimmer beetle’s Zophosis complanate and rolling them backwards between its legs to a hole and dropping them down the hole. No Sand Swimmer that went down the ole came back up again. Dung beetles are usually round with short wing covers (elytra) that expose the end of the abdomen. They vary in size from 5 to 30 mm and are usually dark in colour, although some have a metallic lustre. In many species, there is a long, curved horn on the top of the male’s head. Dung beetles can eat more than their own weight in 24 hours and are considered helpful to humans because they speed up the process of converting manure to substances usable by other organisms.
Sacred Scarab

Sacred Scarab

Sacred Scarab

Sacred Scarab

Sacred Scarab

26 May 2018

Spring birding - Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm, Fadhili

A spring trip in early May to Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm, Fadhili failed to produce much of interest. The best birds seen included Spur-winged Lapwing and Ruddy Turnstone. Spur-winged Lapwing may well be breeding at the site now as birds have been around all winter and most of last year. It was the first time I had seen Ruddy Turnstone at the location as it is more than 30 kilometres from the sea. There were good numbers of migrant Red-backed Shrikes and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters present, with a few Willow Warblers and a single male Whinchat but very little else of interest. The location is normally excellent so it was a bit of a disappointing visit.
Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike
Whinchat
Whinchat

24 May 2018

Sand Swimmer – Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm (Fadhili)

Whilst birding the Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm (Fadhili) with Phil Roberts we found a large number of Sand Swimmer Zophosis complanate. Sand Swimmer is a darkling beetle that is normally found in sand dunes. They prefer soil with some clay in them and the ones we found were near a wet sabkha area and reeds with the sand having at least some clay content. Their exterior is smooth allowing them to swim through sand often just below the surface. The beetles we saw were being predated by a Sacred Scarab Scarabaeus sacer which I do not know if it common or not but the Sand Swimmers did not appear concerned about the Scarab Beetle at all.
Sand Swimmer

22 May 2018

Native Honeybee – Abha area

I saw a single honeybee Apis sppwhen in Abha recently but am not sure what Honey Bee it is but Apis mellifera jemeniticahas been used in apiculture throughout the Arabian Peninsula since at least 2000 BC. Existing literature demonstrates that these populations are well adapted for the harsh extremes of the region with populations of A. m. jemenitica native to Saudi Arabia far more heat tolerant than the standard races from Europe. The indigenous race of Saudi Arabia differs from other subspecies in the region in some morphological, biological, and behavioural characteristics. Further taxonomic investigation, as well as molecular studies, is needed in order to confirm whether the Saudi indigenous bee populations represent a race distinct from A. m. jemenitica, or merely an ecotype of this subspecies.
honeybee

20 May 2018

Red-backed Shrikes – Jubail

Early May is always a good time to see Red-backed Shrike in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom and this year is no exception. A trip to the coastal areas of Jubail produced more than 30 birds in a single morning with five Turkestan Shrikes and a single adult male Daurian Shrike. Other migrants seen included plenty of Willow Warblers, Whinchat, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and several Yellow Wagtails. Waders included Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Little Stint, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper. All the Western Marsh Harriers and Greater Spotted Eagles appear to have left for the summer now as none where seen. At least two Spotted Crakes were located and many Grey-headed Swamphens including young were present. 
Red-backed Shrike

18 May 2018

White-tailed Lapwing - Jubail

Whilst birdwatching the Jubail area 4 May, Phil Roberts and I came across a White-tailed Lapwing. This is a scarce bird in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, with a status as a scarce migrant and rare winter visitor. Further north and west in Tabuk records are more regular with birds wintering in good numbers. I have seen birds this winter in Jubail but not for a couple of months so assume this bird was a passage migrant rather than the bird that winter being seen again. This bird allowed close approach, indicating it may have been tiered, something that they seldom do. It was located on an area of wet puddles formed by the recent rain we have had in the area and did not fly at all just walked away when we got too close. We left the bird in peace after taking a few photographs to avoid disturbance.
White-tailed Lapwing

White-tailed Lapwing

White-tailed Lapwing

White-tailed Lapwing



16 May 2018

Breeding Little Ringed Plovers – Jubail

Whilst birding Jubail in May I saw a number of adult Little Ringed Plovers and several juvenile birds indicating successful breeding again in the area this year. Birds arrive early in the year, sometimes as early as January and remain until after the breeding season in August. They are commonly seen around wet areas and are more common than Common Ringed Plover during the summer months. 
Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover



13 May 2018

Western Osprey at Khafra Marsh – Bird record by Vinu Mathew

Whilst birding Khafra Marsh recently Vinu Mathew came upon a Western Osprey at very close range. Vinu managed to take a number of excellent closeup photos of the bird and has kindly allowed me to use them on my website some of which are shown below. Western Osprey is uncommon at the location but is a regular passage migrant as well as resident breeding species in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Birds breed on islands along all coasts of the Kingdom where they are also a migrant sometimes occurring far inland. Birds of the Riyadh Region by Stagg 1994 mentions it is a passage migrant and winter visitor, in small numbers, that passes from March to April then again in September and October.
Western Osprey

Western Osprey

10 May 2018

Small-spotted Lizard - Tanoumah

The Small-spotted lizard Mesalina guttulatais a small, slim lizard with a long, narrow snout and a light brown-grey body. As its common name suggests, the upperparts of this species are covered in conspicuous light and dark spots, which sometimes form a lined pattern. The underparts of the small-spotted lizard are whitish. The limbs of the small-spotted lizard are relatively robust, and the toes are long and thin. The small-spotted lizard has a very long, slender, banded tail, which measures around twice the length of the head and body and is blue in juveniles. The female small-spotted lizard has a proportionately longer body and slightly smaller head than the male. The small-spotted lizard has a widespread distribution that extends across North Africa, through the Middle East and into Asia, as far as Pakistan and India. It occurs in rocky and gravel-covered habitats on hillsides, mountains and small rocky wadis. It is a cautious and elusive species that is able to survive in extreme desert conditions. They are active during the day, particularly in the morning and has a diverse diet which includes a range of invertebrates, such as ants, beetles and spiders. An elusive species, the small-spotted lizard remains secretive, hiding under rocks and remaining close to the ground when it is active.
Small-spotted lizard

8 May 2018

Red-wattled Lapwing at Jubail – Bird record by Phil Roberts

Whilst birding the Jubail area on 13 April Phil Roberts found an adult Red-wattled Lapwing. The species is scarce in Saudi Arabia with records from Riyadh, the Empty Quarter and the Eastern Province. This species is a resident breeder at wetlands in eastern Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait, and is gradually colonizing westwards. It would be great to think that the birds breeding to the north and south of us are trying to join up their breeding ranges, but so far it has not yet been recorded to breed in Saudi Arabia. In the Eastern province it is regarded as a scarce passage migrant and winter visitor although records are becoming more common with over twenty birds seen together at Shaybah in recent years. There have been a number of suspected breeding birds seen but no actual confirmation of the species breeding in the Kingdom. I thank Phil for sending me the details and allowing me to use his photo on may website.
Red-wattled Lapwing

6 May 2018

Rock Semaphore Gecko – Raydah Escarpment

Whilst birding the bottom valley of the Raydah Escarpment I saw a Rock Semaphore Gecko Pristurus rupestris also known as Blandford’s Semaphore Gecko. This is a tiny gecko which, like other members of the genus Pristurus, is notable for being active during the day rather that at night. Whereas most other geckos are nocturnal and use calls to communicate, Pristurus species signal to each other with body postures and tail movements, earning them the name ‘semaphore geckos’. The rock semaphore gecko has a relatively flattened, soft-skinned body. Its eyes are quite small compared to most other geckos, and the rounded pupils do not contract to slits in bright light. The limbs of the rock semaphore gecko are quite long and slender, and the slender tail is longer than the head and body combined. Male rock semaphore geckos have a crest of pointed scales along the top of the tail. The body of the rock semaphore gecko is generally greyish-brown or olive above, with darker and lighter spots, and sometimes with small red spots on the sides. A dark streak passes through the eye, and there may be a light reddish band along the back. The rock semaphore gecko closely resembles the bar-tailed semaphore gecko Pristurus celerrimus, which is endemic to the United Arab Emirates and Oman, but is smaller, with a shorter and less conspicuously banded tail. The rock semaphore gecko occurs in southwest Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and possibly in Pakistan. This common gecko is typically found on rocks, under stones, or on walls and has been recorded from sea level up to elevations of around 3,000 metres. The rock semaphore gecko hunts during the day, typically lying in wait on a rocky perch to ambush passing prey, usually small invertebrates such as ants.
Rock Semaphore Gecko

4 May 2018

White-spotted Pansy – Raydah Escarpment

Whilst birdwatching the bottom valley of the Raydah Escarpment in the Asir Mountains of southwest Saudi Arabia, I came across and photographed a White-spotted Pansy or White-spotted Commodore Precis limnoria. This is a butterfly in the Nymphalidae family. It is found in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania. The habitat consists of savanna and thorn-bush country, especially rocky terrain. The subspecies seen in Saudi Arabia is Precis limnoria limnoria and it also occurs in Yemen, Ethiopia and Somalia. Torban Larsen Butterflies of Saudi Arabia says the Arabian subspecies is Precis limnoria niveistictus and is unlike the African subspecies that are extensively marked red.
White-spotted Pansy

White-spotted Pansy


2 May 2018

Common Three Ring – Raydah Escarpment

Whilst birdwatching the bottom valley of the Raydah Escarpment in the Asir Mountains of southwest Saudi Arabia, I came across and photographed a Common Three Ring Ypthima asterope. It is also known as the African ringlet and is a species of Satyrinae butterfly found in most dry areas of Africa and Asia. The wingspan is 30–34 mm in males and 32–38 mm in females. Adults are on wing year round.
Common Three Ring