29 May 2022

Migration continuing – Jubail

A trip to Jubail in late May produced a few migrants, although significantly less than earlier in the month. The most numerous species was Red-backed Shrike with 85 seen during the trip a slight drop from the 87 seen the week previously. Spotted Flycatchers were about in good numbers but other migrants there low in number. A single European Roller was week for the third week running, a different bird to the one seen last week and Sand Martins were around in good numbers with a few Barn Swallows present as well. Wader numbers were low with only a handful of Dunlin, one Green Sandpiper, several Wood Sandpipers, and a nice group of 17 Curlew Sandpipers, one in full summer plumage. A very smart White-winged Tern was seen flying over and a male Golden Oriole, my first for this location, flew across in front of the car and landed in some large trees by the roadside.

European Roller

Red-backed Shrike

Spotted Flycatcher


27 May 2022

Temminck’s Stints - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area in late May I came across three Temminck’s Stints. This is a species I see quite regularly but they are normally quite distant, and I have not really obtained any good photos of them previously. These three birds were in the corner of a sabkha area where I could drive the car along a raised bank and as a result, I could get relatively close to them. The below photos are the best of those I took. The Temminck’s Stint is a migratory species breeding across northern Eurasia above the Arctic Circle and wintering south of the Sahel region in Africa and Arabia to Southeast Asia. It has a status in Saudi Arabia of an uncommon passage migrant (March to May & August to November) and uncommon winter visitor. They prefer inland freshwater sites with shallow pools as well as coastal mudflats and flooded sabkha. 











25 May 2022

Corncrakes - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area 20 May Phil Roberts located a Corncrake out in a relatively open area of the site and pointed it out to me. The bird was busy feeding on lots of small insects, picking them off the ground and nearby plants. It would often stretch its neck up like a Giraffe and pick insects from the top of plants. It was so busy feeding that it was completely oblivious to our presence allowing some close-up views and photos. These are by far the best views I have ever had of a Corncrake, and it was sometimes so close the camera could not focus on it. We watched the bird for over thirty minutes before leaving it in peace to continue searching for food. The Corncrake is a migratory species breeding from western Europe to western Siberia and winters in south, southwest and south-eastern Africa. It is a scarce passage migrant throughout Saudi Arabia, with records from both the spring (mainly May) and the autumn (mainly September) although it is more common in the north and west of the Kingdom. I see the species occasionally in the Eastern Province, but it is always a joy to find one and even more so when it puts on a show like the one photographed below. There is one exceptional record from the Eastern Province of about 30 birds together in a pivot irrigation field in Haradh in September. We saw two more birds during the day although these were more typical views, one running across a path and into thick vegetation and one in flight where they look quite heavy and ungainly with their legs dangling down but show the rufous in the wings nicely.



















23 May 2022

Breeding birds and migrants – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area in mid-May it is becoming more obvious birds are starting to breed. Little Ringed Plovers and Black-winged Stilts are common, some with young already and others on nests. Caspian Reed Warbler and Clamorous Reed Warblers are in full song and Little Terns are back in good numbers at one site where they bred in last two years as are Pied Avocets, again breeding for the third year in succession. At this time of year good numbers of migrants are also passing through including Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Spotted Flycatchers, Shrikes, Yellow Wagtails, Tree Pipits, Common Redstarts, Sand Martins and Barn Swallows. Waders are passing in small numbers with good numbers of Wood Sandpipers and a single Spotted Crake was located in a small wet area. Unfortunately, the light was poor and I could not get in a good position for photos so the below shot is not very good. Birds of prey have now mainly left for their breeding grounds but Common Kestrel is a breeding resident and a single pair seem to be in residence this spring and will hopefully breed.

Common Kestrel

Pied Avocet

Spotted Crake

Wood Sandpiper


21 May 2022

European Roller – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area in mid-May I came across a European Roller sitting in a small tree. I was able to manoeuvre the car into a position where the light was good and the bird not to distant and was able to photograph and is shown below. The bird remained in the tree and I I left it sitting in the same place I first saw it. 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 a common passage migrant from March to May and again from mid-July to late September when juveniles are also seen along with adults. Birds are regularly seen in the Eastern Province in all areas but are not particularly common in the Jubail area. They are seen almost every year in both spring and autumn in very small numbers at this location but they are always good to see and photograph.




19 May 2022

Breeding Little Ringed Plover - Jubai

Whilst birding Jubail in mid-May I came across a pair of breeding Little Ringed Plovers with a small chick. This species has started to breed commonly in the Jubail area with many pairs seen daily but this is the first chock of the year that I have recorded. The chicks are very skilful at hiding when disturbed so I may have overlooked them in previous weeks. The species is an early passage migrant with small numbers seen from January through to early May, breeders remaining through the summer and more migrants arrive in August to October. A few birds stay until November and exceptionally December and they often occur on pools and lagoons sometimes well away from the coast. The prefer inland freshwater locations often well away from the coast and breed in open areas with sandy or shingle banks close to streams, freshwater and treated wastewater lagoons. Breeding numbers appear to be increasing in the Eastern Province over the last few years with birds seen in many different locations.




17 May 2022

Shrikes still passing - Jubail

As the previous week I started seeing shrikes as soon as we got to the location and by the end of the day we had seen five different species (Red-backed Shrike, Turkestan Shrike, Daurian Shrike, Masked Shrike and Lesser Grey Shrike) with some birds looking like freshly arrived migrants. The make up of the shrikes was slightly different to last week as I saw 87 Red-backed Shrike, one Turkestan Shrike, one Daurian Shrike, one Masked Shrike and two Lesser Grey Shrikes. This is the second largest number of Red-backed Shrikes I have seen in a day here in Saudi Arabia and they were basically everywhere you looked. It was a great days birding with so many shrikes and other migrants and the close views made it even more rewarding.

Red-backed Shrike

Red-backed Shrike
Masked Shrike

15 May 2022

Good numbers of migrants - Jubail

Phil Roberts and I went to Jubail in early May and had a great morning’s birding with lots of migrants. Immediately on arrival we saw ten summer plumage Red-necked Phalaropes, but they were quite distant so no phots were possible. Over the course of the morning, we located 62 species, a very high number for the location where 40 species is normal. The best birds seen were a Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, an unusual sighting for this location, several Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Eurasian Roller, Whinchat, Spotted Flycatcher, Common Redstart, Tree Pipit, and shrikes of various species including Lesser Grey Shrike. Waders were quite numerous with lots of Wood Sandpipers and two Terek Sandpipers seen and Pied Avocet starting to breed along with Little Tern and Black-winged Stilt. It was a good first day birding back in Saudi Arabia after a short break back to the UK.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater


Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

European Roller

European Roller

Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush

Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush

Whimbrel

Whimbrel



13 May 2022

Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard - Jubail

Phil Roberts located an Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard in Jubail when we were last birding there, a species I have seen here before but only once. The Lizards are a blue colour if not warmed up properly otherwise they reach a bright yellow colour. Spiny-tailed Lizard (Uromastyx spp.)is a medium to large sized, heavily built lizard with a spiny club like tail, which has been likened to a small living dinosaur. They are ground dwelling and live in some of the most arid regions of the planet including northern Africa, the Middle East, Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and north-western India. The Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard Uromastyx aegyptia microlepis is most common in Saudi Arabia and is the one that occurs in the Eastern Province and is generally regarded as a subspecies of the Egyptian Spiny-tailed Lizard Uromastyx aegyptia. Due to the poor weather and distance the photo is not of great quality.



11 May 2022

Plenty of Shrikes - Jubail

In early May in the Jubail area we saw many shrikes in a relatively small area. We started seeing shrikes as soon as we got to the location and by the end of the day we had seen six different species (Red-backed Shrike, Turkestan Shrike, Daurian Shrike, Masked Shrike, Lesser Grey Shrike and Woodchat Shrike) with some birds relatively easy to get close to, suggesting they may be freshly arrived migrants. We saw about thirty Red-backed Shrike, five Turkestan Shrike, ten Daurian Shrike, one Masked Shrike and three Woodchat and three Lesser Grey Shrikes. Lesser Grey Shrike, is a species I do not see very often, and one I have struggled to get good photos of over the years so my efforts below were quite good for me regarding this species. I always enjoy seeing shrikes (except when they are in a mist net as they are ferocious on the hands) as they have great characters and beautiful plumage. I did not try to hard to photograph other species of shrike as the weather was very overcast, windy and dusty,