24 June 2024

Striped Hyena in the Southwest Mountains – Record by Phil Roberts

Whilst in the southwest mountains of Saudi Arabia in June, Phil Roberts set up his camera traps at two different locations and left them out for four days. Whilst doing this he managed to get some photos of Stripped Hyaena Hyaena hyaena sultana on one day at each site. Phil has kindly allowed me to use his photos on my website, some of which are shown below. Striped Hyaena have a body length of 1.1 metres, a tail length of 20 cms and they weigh between 35 and 40 kgs. They are grey or pale brown in colour with 5 – 9 dark coloured, vertical stripes on their flanks. They have a mane on their neck and shoulders, a bushy tail, rounded head with pointed ears set high on their heads and have a black, pointed muzzle. On each foot they have four toes with blunt, non-retractable claws. Their front legs are longer than their hind which gives their back a sloping appearance and they have powerful jaws with strong teeth. Striped Hyenas have excellent senses of vision, hearing and smell. They are usually silent but will vocalize if excited or threatened. When they feel threatened, they erect their mane and the hairs on their back to make themselves appear much larger. Dwindling numbers of the Striped Hyena exist in Saudi Arabia where they have lived for thousands of years as hyaena rock art is engraved on mountain rocks in different parts of the Kingdom. They live in open land close to agricultural areas, as well as in wadis and lava fields (Harat), and live a nomadic lifestyle. The below photos below are of the same animal at one of the locations walking past the camera.

22 June 2024

Summer at the Lake – Dhahran Waste Water Lake

The summer in Saudi Arabia is very hot with few birds about. The Waste Water Lake in Dhahran has many fewer birds than the other seasons but birds can still be seen if you stick at it. A few Pallid Swift are flying around, often dropping down to to the water to drink or wet their breast feathers. Graceful Prinia, European Reed Warbler and Clamorous Reed Warbler are the only warblers seen recently all of which are calling loudly from the reeds. Herons are still present about in ones or twos with Great Egret, Squacco Heron, Grey Heron, Little Egret and Purple Heron all seen along with the more common (now) Little Bittern. Common species seen regularly in the scrub and around the lake include White-eared Bulbul and House Crow.

Graceful Prinia

Great Egret

House Crow

Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift

Purple Heron

Squacco Heron

White-eared Bulbul

20 June 2024

Buddleja polystachya - Abha

Buddleja polystachya is a multi-branched shrub or occasionally small tree endemic to the semi-arid highlands flanking the Red Sea in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen, where it grows in secondary scrub or around forest, often along watercourses, at elevations of between 2,200 and 3,600 m; its range extends southward into the highlands of Kenya and Tanzania. Buddleja polystachya usually grows to < 5 m, but can occasionally reach 12 m in favourable conditions. The bark can be either red-brown or grey in colour. The flowers are generally bright orange, forming dense panicles < 20 cm long; however, specimens found in Saudi Arabia bear flowers with yellow corollas, and only the lobes are orange. The leaves are < 15 cm long and narrow, with a pointed tip, the upper surface a pale grey-green. The fruit is a small dry orange capsule.


18 June 2024

Namaqua Dove – Khafra Marsh

Khafra Marsh is an excellent place to see Namaqua Dove, which has the be the best-looking Dove in Arabia. They have a range throughout Sub-Saharan Africa across Arabia to Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. In Saudi Arabia it is a common breeding resident that has spread rapidly since the mid 1970’s to occupy almost the entire Kingdom. It favours farmland with nearby desert and can be seen in good numbers in some areas such as Haradh. The bird below is a juvenile.

16 June 2024

Foliose lichens – Raydah Escarpment

The climate of Raydah and the general area of Jebel Sawdah near Abha is influenced both by westerly depressions which bring rain in the winter and spring, and by the southwest monsoon system which brings summer precipitation averaging of 559 mm of rainfall per year. In addition, the Red Sea diurnal wind circulation brings frequent cloud to areas above 1000m, allowing the growth of foliose lichens on trees. Foliose lichens are abundant on the trees above 2500 m but there are few or no lichens below 2350m showing how the cloud moisture at the top of the Raydah Escarpment helps sustain this plant.

14 June 2024

Red-wattled Lapwing – Khafra Marsh

Whilst birding Khafra Marsh last weekend we found a pair of Red-wattled Lapwing in the same place where they have bred for the last three years at least. One bird was flying around calling with the second calling from the ground in a small farm with allotments. At one point both birds were seen flying at the same time. The species is scarce in Saudi Arabia with records from Riyadh, the Empty Quarter and the Eastern Province. They are resident breeders at wetlands in United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait, and are gradually colonizing westwards. It was first recording breeding in Saudi Arabia by Phil Roberts at Sabkhat Al Fasl, a few years ago, a location quite close to Khafra Marsh. Birds have bred at Khafra Marsh, Jubail for the last three years. In the Eastern province it is regarded as a scarce passage migrant, rare breeder and scarce winter visitor although records are becoming more common.

12 June 2024

Crimson-speckled Footman – Dhahran Waste Water Lake

Whilst birdwatching Dhahran Waste Water Lake recently I came across a Crimson-speckled Footman Utetheisa pulchella. The Crimson-speckled Footman is a small, day flying moth measuring approximately 30-40mm in length. They are mostly white, speckled with black and crimson and have characteristic black eyes. The legs are white in colour and the antennae are black. The moth is found from Africa to southern Europe, throughout the Middle East, central & southern Asia and Australia. They are migratory moths but I have seen them a few times during the winter here so am not sure if they are residents? They are not very easy to see until you flush one from its resting place and it flies to its new location. They very rarely, if ever, land with their wings spread and almost always end up in a position similar to that in the photograph below.

10 June 2024

Some good breeding birds – Khafra Marsh

My last visit to Khafra Marsh produced a few signs of breeding species some of which are not so easy to locate in the area in the summer. Spur-winged Lapwing is an uncommon species in the Eastern Province but spreading and increasing un numbers. They have bred here for the last two to three years. Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark is an unusual species and one I see rarely in this area, but birds are hanging about the same area for a few weeks and appear to be breeding nearby. Blue-cheeked Bee-eater is another rare breeder in the area but one that bred last year and again this year in the same place. The other species that is breeding that is not so common, but commoner than the preceding species is Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin with a few birds seen and at least a one definite pair located. Grey-headed Swamphen is another species that has recently colonized the marsh from nearby Sabkhat Al Fasl and birds are now seen on every visit and in many different locations suggesting the species is doing well.

Spur-winged Lapwing

Spur-winged Lapwing

Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark

08 June 2024

Carmine Darter – Dhahran Waste Water Lake

Hundreds of Carmine Darter are still around in the vegetation next to the Dhahran Waste Water Lake. Below is a photograph of a different coloured one from the males and females I normally see and am not sure if it is an immature male or a female. I spent some time trying to get photos of them in flight but it proved much too hard a task with a big and heavy 600mm prime lens and I failed entirely in the exercise. 

06 June 2024

Very little – Dhahran Waste Water Lake

My Saturday early morning trip to the Dhahran Waste Water Lake turned up very few birds. As it’s getting very hot, I arrived at 05:30 and spent an hour and a half looking around. I had very few birds for my efforts with only two Grey Herons and two Great Egrets plus a few Great Cormorant on the waters edge. A couple of Little Bittern (male and female) were about the best birds seen. Lots of Clamorous Reed Warblers and Graceful Prinia were seen and heard. Pallid Swift and Little Tern were seen flying around but not much else. Hopefully next weekend will be better.