7 May 2021

Large numbers of Shrikes – Jubail

Whilst birding Jubail at end of April, a number of migrants were recorded including more than sixty shrikes. The majority of shrikes were Red-backed Shrikes although good numbers of Turkestan Shrikes were also seen along with five Lesser Grey Shrikes. These were my first records of the spring for Lesser Grey Shrike, one of the least common of the passage migrant shrikes through the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Apart from shikes, the wader numbers were still quite good particularly for Wood Sandpiper with Ruff also seen in small numbers. A Common Nightingale was seen briefly along with Spotted Flycatchers, Yellow Wagtails and Common Redstarts. The Spur-winged Plover was still present in the same place, hopefully indicating breeding is taking place and plenty of Common and Clamorous Reed Warblers were singing. Resident Grey-headed Swamphens were seen in good numbers including well grown young. Slender-billed Gulls were still around and terns seen included Gull-billed, Little, Caspian, White-winged and White-cheeked. 

Grey-headed Swamphen - Juvenile

Red-backed Shrike

Red-backed Shrike

Red-backed Shrike - male

Turkestan Shrike

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

5 May 2021

Catalina Seaplane Wreckage - Ras Al-Sheikh Hameed

The wreckage of a restored Consolidated PBY-5A Catolina United States Navy seaplane, built in San Diego, California in the 1930’s can be found on the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia, near Ras Al-Sheikh Hameed. The plane was bought from the US Navy by Thomas Kendall, a retired businessman, who converted it to a luxury flying yacht. In the spring of 1960 Mr Kendall took a pleasure trip around the world with his wife and children together with his secretary and her son. On the 22 March 1960 they landed at the Strait of Tirana and anchored the aircraft a short distance from the shore to spend the night there. They heard someone shouting but did not pay any attention and subsequently in the afternoon of the following day, they were attacked with machine guns and automatic firearms from a headland nearby as they did not have relevant permits and were mistaken for Israeli commandos. Mr Kendal tried to start the Catalina but only managed to move it about 800 metres, where it ran aground on a coral reef. The firing lasted 30 to 40 minutes and more than 300 shots hit the aircraft. The fuel tanks were perforated, and 4000 litres of fuel poured from the holes but miraculously the aircraft did not catch fire. The sea was only about 1.5 metres deep and all aboard managed to leave the aircraft and reach the shore. On the beach they were captured by a group of Bedouins attached to the Saudi Arabian army and were taken to Jeddah, interrogated and finally set free with the help of the American Ambassador. 

3 May 2021

Flycatchers, Redstarts, Shrikes & Crested Honey Buzzard – Deffi Park

Whilst birding Deffi Park at end of April, quite a number of migrants were recorded including a number of new species for the park for me. The most common migrant was Spotted Flycatcher, with plenty of both male and female Common Redstart also located. Shrikes were seen in good numbers with both Turkestan and Red-backed located along with a female White-throated Robin, all of which I had not seen previously in this park. Willow Warbler numbers were well done on previous weeks with only a single bird seen feeding on the ground by the small watercourse as were European Bee-eaters. A Crested Honey Buzzard was seen taking off from the ground but quickly flew off. This is a late date for this species in Saudi Arabia with most wintering birds departing by early April.

European Bee-eater

Spotted Flycatcher

Crested Honey-Buzzard

1 May 2021

Dark Grass Blue – Tabuk

Whilst birding the Tabbuk area last winter I came across a small number of Dark Grass Blue Zizeeria karsandra also known as Asian Grass Blue. It is a small butterfly found in the Arabian Peninsula in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Oman as well as the Southern Mediterranean, in a broad band to India, Sri Lanka, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, New Guinea and northern and eastern Australia. They are abundant throughout the northern part of Saudi Arabia excepting the border area with Jordon but also occur in the mountains as far south as at least Taif. They are weak flyers keeping low and are not strong migrants. Colour and size varies probably depending on food source availability with males generally blue with brown wing margins and the females a bit larger being brown. It is of oriental origin having many species of hostplants and is always found in warm biotopes and dislikes cold ones.

29 Apr 2021

Some birds starting to breed – Jubail

Whilst birding Jubail recently I saw quite a few signs of breeding behaviour. Some of the water birds such as Common Moorhen and Grey-headed Swamphen have young with other such as Little Tern showing courtship behaviour as shown in the below photos. Little Ringed Plovers are paired up for breeding and a Spur-winged Lapwing that has been about for a few weeks may have a mate sitting on eggs? A Black-necked Grebe was found in full breeding plumage but no mate was about and these birds do not breed in the kingdom. Many herons are still around in fine breeding plumage including Squacco Herons, Little Egrets and BBlack-cronwed Night Herons but proving breeding is difficult – with the first confirmed breeding of Squacco Heron and Little Egret last year and no confirmed records of the Black-crowned Night Herons.

Wood Sandpiper

Red-throated Pipit

Little Tern

Little Tern

Little Ringed Plover

Black-necked Grebe

Black-necked Grebe