26 Jan 2022

Sisra Well – Sakaka

Sisra Well is located in the northern end of the city about 200 metres from Za’abal Castle and dates back to the Nabataean Period (First century BC until the end of the first century AD). The well is dug in sandstone, is oval in shape and is about 15 metres deep and nine by eight metres across and has a hole in the eastern side that was used to irrigate the surrounding farms. The well currently has no water in it. It is made of stones in its top with a wide hole and engraved staircase reaching the bottom of the well and there is also a tunnel at the eastern side in the bottom of the well, which is feeding the farms with water that are located in the lower areas about three kilometers away from the city. Sisra Well is considered as one of the most significant antiquities in the region and took its name from the Kanaani military commander, Sisra who fought the Jews in Palestine as the commander of Kanaani army. His name is mentioned in Torah and Christian holy books as a Jew. Some people connect name of Sisrah to the name Cesar as an English translation to the name of Cesar in the western culture.





24 Jan 2022

A few winter birds - Dhahran Lake

Whilst walking around the lake in Dhahran 20 January I spent some time looking in the relatively newly planted scrubby area. It was full of Bluethroats but is normally the case they were flighty and shy and no photos were obtained this time. The various grasses planted here are very attractive to Indian Silverbills and a small group has been around most of the year but now seems to have increased in numbers to well over twenty individuals. Tawny Pipits were running around on the rough ground along with Crested Larks with a Daurian Shrike, Great Grey Shrike and a Caspian Stonechat also seen perched up on the shrubs and grasses. The pond itself held a few Western Great Egrets, 50+ Western Cattle Egrets, 20 Mallard, one Eurasian Teal, three Ferruginous Duck and 50+ Great Cormorants including a few juveniles. A single Gull-billed Tern and ten Common Black-headed Gull were present along with 23 Little Grebe.

Siberian Stonechat

Siberian Stonechat

Western Great Egret

Indian Silverbill




22 Jan 2022

Shuwaihtiyeh

Shuwaihtiyeh centre is located along the banks of Shuwaihtiyeh valley. The area was inhabited from the Stone Age dating back 130,000 to 100,000 years ago. It has various interesting sites including the old village, and the Shuwaihtiyeh tree, an ancient Tamarix tree, dating back to 1941. This type of tree was used for ceilings in the old village. It also holds one of the oldest, human inhabited archaeological sites in the Kingdom, which was fenced off and closed when we visited. Field studies have revealed 15 settlements and 2000 stone tools including knifes, hammer stones and arrowheads have been found. Various examples of Rock Art (petroglyphs) can be found on the hills surrounding the area, including depictions of Camel, Ibex and hunting scenes as well as inscriptions.







20 Jan 2022

Caspian Gulls – Sharma Beach

Whilst birding Sharma Beach in December I came across a small number or large White-headed Gulls. I was looking to see if I could find Yellow-legged Gull that had been recorded in this area previously but was only able to identify Caspian Gulls. The photos below show four different birds from top to bottom as follows:

Bird 1: Probably a Caspian Gull but immature gulls are always extremely tricky.

Bird 2: A pale-eyed variant Caspian Gull with characteristic shape and palish legs. Klaus Malling Olsen mentioned to me previously that the bill colour and pattern in more eastern Caspian Gulls are brighter than seen in the western part of the range.

Bird 3: Caspian Gull with typical wing-tip pattern; complete white tip to p10 and large white spot on p9 as well as long black tongues in mid primaries.

Bird 4: Caspian Gull showing the white tip to p10.






18 Jan 2022

Petrified Wood – Sakaka

Whilst in the Sakaka area recently my family and I went looking for petrified wood in the rough stony desert areas. We knew they had been found here before and were interested to see what they looked like. We did not know where to look bit drove to an off-road location. Here we were approached by a local Bedouin, and we asked him and his son if they knew were we may be able to find some. They very kindly showed us where some very large pieces were, with at least four large trunks seen although they were all broken up to some degree. These fragments are very large and very heavy but we were very glad to have seen them. The drive to them was over very rough ground and a four-wheel drive car would be essential to reach them although as we were following the Bedouin to reach them and get back safely to the road I have no idea where they actually were.  Petrified wood is the name given to wood that has been turned into stone (fossilized). All of the organic matter becomes replaced by minerals, while much of the original structure such as tree rings in retained. For this to happen the wood needs to be buried in an environment both low in oxygen (preventing decomposition) and with flowing, mineral-laden water. The coloration is due to the various minerals that are present during fossilization.