3 Dec 2021

Black Kite - Abu Arish Municipal Dump

Whilst birding the Abu Arish Municipal Dump in mid-November we found up to 250 Black Kites, with more than 650 in the entire area. It was an amazing spectacle watching hundreds of Black Kites swirling around the rubbish dump, with some birds right overhead and many others on the ground. Some birds looked like typical Black Kites which are a medium-sized bird of prey that is a widespread species throughout the temperate and tropical parts of Eurasia and parts of Australasia. The two sub-species, European Black Kite & Black-eared Kite with European Black Kite Milvus migrans migrans - Breeds Central, Southern and Eastern Europe to Tien Shan and south to NW Pakistan. Winters in sub-Saharan Africa. Black-eared Kite Milvus migrans lineatus - Siberia to Amurland South around Himalaya to Iran, Northern India, Northern Indochina and Southern China; Japan. Recent DNA work suggests that the Black-eared Kite (M. m. lineatus), is not sufficiently distinctive to justify specific status. The status varys throughout Saudi Arabia, where in the east they are uncommon passage migrants, mainly in the spring, and winter visitors, whereas in the west they are common to very common passage migrants and winter visitors occurring from Tabuk in the north and increasing in numbers towards Jizan in the southwest. In central areas it is an uncommon spring and autumn passage migrant and winter visitor that passes in March and again early August to October with wintering birds arriving in November and departing early February.

1 Dec 2021

Blandford’s Agama - Jubail

Whilst birding Jubail I saw a Blandford’s Agama Trapelus ruderatus resting in the top of a small tree. I have seen the species here on a previous visit but they are not often seen, although are probably common. They range from northeast Jordan and southern Syria, through northern and eastern Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and southern and central Iran as far south as Shiraz. The species occurs from close to sea level to around 1,000 metres above sea level. It can be moderately common in suitable habitat. This ground-dwelling species is associated with low shrubs (Nitraria) on the fringe of sandy dunes in arid areas and in sandy desert areas. It can sometimes be found perching on bushes but is not found in modified areas. It is very similar to Yellow-spotted Agama Trapelus flavimaculatus but Blanford's Agama has lines on its back that are missing on Yellow-spotted Agama.

29 Nov 2021

Western White Stork - Abu Arish Municipal Dump

On 12 November Phil and I found a Western White Stork ciconia ciconia ciconia feeding on a municipal waste dump on the outskirts of Abu Arish in southwest Saudi Arabia. This is only the second time we have seen the species in Saudi Arabia, with the first a bird we found in Dhahran 17 September 2013. The Western White Stork is a scarce passage migrant and local winter visitor to all areas of Saudi Arabia mostly in autumn. They are usually seen singly or in small numbers, more often in the west of the Kingdom. Birds are thought to pass over the area unnoticed which is borne out by a paper on electrocution and collision of birds with power lines in Saudi Arabia by Mohammed Shobrak (2012) where he recorded 242 dead birds in 2008 with 150 dead birds found on 29 August 2008 alone. The power line surveyed was 100 kilometres south of Jeddah on the west coast of Saudi Arabia. The species is said to winter in the Tihamah, but records are very uncommon from here. The best location appears to be the Abu Arish Municipal Rubbish Dump, where we saw our bird, as 300 were present 9 February 1992 and 100 there December 1999, with one at nearby Malaki Dam Lake (Wadi Jizan Lake) on 7 May 2002 and 15 late October 2002.

27 Nov 2021

Schmidt's Fringed-toed Lizard – Jubail

Whilst briding in Jubail in the summer I found a Schmidt's Fringed-toed Lizard Acanthodactylus schmidti near a wetland area. Schmidt's Fringed-toed Lizard is one of the most abundant species in the genus Acanthodactylus found in Saudi Arabia and occupies sandy plains, dunes and sabkhas (salt flats), particularly in areas of scrubby vegetation. It was named after Karl Patterson Schmidt, with a type locality of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and it can be distinguished by the exceptionally long fourth toe found on each of its rear feet. As its name suggests it has 'fringes' of elongated scales along the sides of each toe, which are thought to provide better traction on loose sand. It has a light brown or coffee coloured back that is richly speckled with oval-shaped, pale or white spots and can grow to 18 centimetres in length. They have a cylindrical body with smooth, rectangular scales on the belly that are arranged in well-defined rows and scales on the head that are larger than those on the rest of the body. Little is known about the biology of the species but it is thought that its main prey is ants and when prey is located they instantly go rigid, suddenly quiver their tail and strike. It is a diurnal species that digs burrows in the sand among the roots of vegetation and is found throughout the Arabian Peninsula including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, southeast Iraq and south-west Iran.

25 Nov 2021

Waterbirds - Malaki (Jizan) Dam Lake

Malaki (Jizan) Dam Lake, near Abu Arish is probably the best birding location in the Kingdom and when we were there, we saw quite a few birds including Glossy Ibis, Purple Heron and Hamerkop. Hamerkop is a species that is regularly seen at this location, with it being the best site in the Kingdom to record it. They are quite widespread in the southwest of the Kingdom but very local and uncommon. A good number of Terns were flying over the water including up to ten Whiskered Tern and several Gull-billed Tern. Hundreds of Black Kite were present mainly perched in the trees surrounding the lake but also a few in flight and good numbers of Western Marsh Harrier and a single Greater Spotted Eagle were also located.

Greater Spotted Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle


Purple Heron

Western Marsh Harrier

Western Marsh Harrier

Western Marsh Harrier

Whiskered Tern