05 October 2022

European Roller – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area in late September I came across a juvenile European Roller sitting on a metal frame. The bird would occasionally drop down to the ground and return with what looked like large moths to eat. At one point it flew off some distance but eventually returned to the same perch where it continued feeding happily until I left. Some European Rollers are quite timid and fly well before you can get close, with others being the opposite and remain in place even when the car gets quite close (possibly tired migrants). Luckily for photography, this one fell into the second group allowing me to take a few decent photos shown below. Saudi Arabia has three species of roller on the country list. These are Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis a vagrant, Abyssinian Roller Coracias abyssinicus a breeding resident of the southwest region of the Kingdom and European Roller Coracias garrulus an uncommon to common passage migrant from March to May and again from mid-July to late September when juveniles, such as the one I saw, are also seen along with the occasional adult. Birds are regularly seen in all areas of the Eastern Province almost every year in both spring and autumn but less commonly in autumn.

03 October 2022

Huge numbers of Slender-billed Gulls – Jubail

In September huge numbers of Slender-billed Gulls were seen in the Jubail area. Numbers of over 4000 birds were seen along the coast in a number of different locations, with these numbers being the largest I have ever seen. Most birds were adults although a few first-year birds were also present. The species does not breed in Saudi Arabia but must do somewhere close by based on these numbers. Most birds sit a little offshore or out on the flooded areas of Sabkha and getting close is not so easy but some can be seen along the coast line making photography easier. This species is partially migratory, with birds wintering around the Arabian Peninsula but others staying year around. Its status in Saudi Arabia is a common year-round visitor but is almost entirely found on the coasts where it prefers shallow coastal waters and intertidal areas. Birds are gregarious and almost always found in groups. 



01 October 2022

Black-tailed Godwits – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail in September I saw two Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa on the edge of the flooded sabkha. These two birds allowed me to drive very close to them and they did not seem at all disturbed by my presence, something that has never happened to me before. As a result, I managed to take a few nice photos of the birds feeding. I left the birds in place and returned an hour or so later and saw one bird sitting on the mud. Again, it allowed very close approach and I wondered if it was sick. I got out of the car with my camera and walked close to the bird thinking I may be able to pick it up and see what was wrong with it. I got to about two meters from the bird when it suddenly flew off, scaring me in the process. As I had my camera I managed to take a couple of flight shots which are shown below. Nothing appeared to be wrong with the bird which was a very nice surprise and it flew off strongly and out of sight. The species is a scarce migrant and winter visitor to all areas of Saudi Arabia. Birds of the Riyadh Region (Stagg 1994) says the species is an autumn passage migrant and winter visitor in variable numbers that passes from late August through to April. Winter birds are present between late December and early March. Birds of the Eastern Province (Bundy 1989) says the species is a winter visitor to the Eastern Province that is scarce and irregular away from Dammam. Birds have been seen in all months but mainly between August to June with most being seen in Tarout Bay. Birds of the Tihamah coastal plains in the southwest of the Kingdom says the species is locally abundant where it is seen both inland and on the coast. 

29 September 2022

White-cheeked Terns – Jubail

During September the number of White-cheeked Terns started decreasing although good numbers still remained in Jubail. Many spend time sitting on the coastal edges of flooded sabkha areas, some allowing close approach. White-cheeked Tern Sterna repressa is a common breeding summer visitor to the Gulf and Red Sea coast north to Jeddah. Birds start occurring in April and by June there are very large numbers as this is the start of their breeding season. White-cheeked Tern juveniles occur from late July and August and some remaining until October. Winter records are rare in the Eastern Province, although they have been seen occasionally. Birds breed offshore Jubail on small islands and use wetland areas of Jubail as feeding areas.  Amongst the White-cheeked Terns I also saw a single Lesser Crested Tern, a species seldom seen in the location I regularly birdwatch.

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

White-cheeked Tern

Lesser Crested Tern

27 September 2022

Late Egyptian Nightjar – Jubail area

Whilst birding the Jubail area 16 September I came across a single late Egyptian Nightjar. Most Egyptian Nightjars depart the Jubail area in early September although the latest sighting was 23 September 2015, so this was a good record. This summer saw a record 20 birds seen in August with the below photos taken on various dates through August and September 2022. The summer is quiet in Jubail bird wise so see Egyptian Nightjar on each visit is something to enjoy. This is a species that is very much desired by many birdwatchers who live away from areas that it occurs so seeing them so often and so close is something I appreciate.