14 Oct 2019

Al Uqair Customs house – Al Uqair

The customs house is situated close by the Arabian Gulf coast and about 100 metres from the fort and caravanserai. It was an area of offices for high ranking officials with a nearby large storage area where goods were kept prior to clearance to be moved to markets nearby.
Al Uqair Customs house

Al Uqair Customs house

Al Uqair Customs house

13 Oct 2019

Al Uqair Caravanserai – Al Uqair

There is a large caravanserai at Al Uqair positioned next to the Turksih Fort. A caravanserai was a roadside inn where travelers could rest and recover from the day's journey. They were normally placed where the flow of commerce, information and people across the network of trade routes converged. The caranvanserai is very large and has a market area outside where goods were bought and sold. There were a large number of rooms for travelers to rest in.
Al Uqair Caravanserai

Al Uqair Caravanserai

Al Uqair Caravanserai

Al Uqair Caravanserai

Al Uqair Caravanserai

12 Oct 2019

Al Uqair Fort – Al Uqair

This is a Turkish Fort established in 1549 Al Uqair a small fishing and cargo port in ancient times which was used as the main port of entry to the Al Hasa Oasis with the largest settlement now named Hofuf. Al Uqair was an important seaport as early as the 9th century BC but experienced a resurgence around 850 AD. The fort was built by the Ottoman Turks in 1549 to protect their trade route from Hajar (Hofuf) from the Portuguese who had recently built a fort and settlement on Taraut Island to the north near Qatif.
Al Uqair Fort

Al Uqair Fort

Al Uqair Fort

Al Uqair Fort

Al Uqair Fort

Al Uqair Fort

Al Uqair Fort

11 Oct 2019

Caspian Terns - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently it was obvious a build up in numbers of Caspian Terns was happening. Many of the other tern numbers are dropping such as White-cheeked Tern and Little Tern but Caspian and Gull-billed Terns have increased significantly. They are common breeding residents in the Kingdom but are always nice to see. They are huge compared to the other terns and often give good opportunities for photographing them. The below photos were taken as birds flew alongside a road fishing for small Tilapia of which they were quite successful in catching. Some birds came so close that is was not possible to fit them into the camera frame using the 600mm lens.
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Caspian Tern
Caspian Terns & Gull-billed Terns
Gull-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern

10 Oct 2019

Spotted Toad-headed Agama - Lake Al Asfar

Whilst birding Lake Al Asfar at the end of summer Phil Roberts found a Spotted Toad-headed Agama Phrynocephalus maculatus, which stayed still allowing some photos to be taken before we left it in peace. They can be identified due to their colouration, size and shape, transverse bars on the body and tail and the fact it was in Sabkha habitat rather than sandy habitat. Vinu has kindly allowed me to use his photo om my website. The Spotted Toad-headed Agama also called the Blacktail Toad-headed Agama, is a member of the Agamidae family, and has a body colour that is highly variable, but typically has distinct brown bars across the body and tail. It also tends to match the colour of its background and lizards found on pale coastal sands tend to be paler and less patterned than those on red, inland sands. The agamid lizards are also known as the chisel-teeth lizards due to the compressed, fused teeth being firmly attached to the upper jaw, unlike most other lizards which have loosely attached teeth. The head is short and broad, with a deep forehead and snub nose, and the flattened body is wide and strong and covered in rough skin with overlapping scales. The long, flattened tail is rounded at the base and has a black tip on the underside which, when raised, is used in visual signals. The spotted toad-headed agama is known from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Syria, Oman, northern Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The species inhabits harder sandy surfaces where it is often associated with coastal salt flats known as ‘sabkhas’ ad rocky islands. The Arabian Toad-headed Agama prefers sandy desert areas. They are active in all but the hottest hours of the day looking for insect prey and during the hottest periods, they will stand high on extended legs to limit contact with the sand, balancing on fingertips and heels while using the tail as a prop. They are able to sink rapidly into the sand by vibrating the body in a process called ‘shimmy burial’, and it uses this behaviour to escape from predators or create a nocturnal shelter. They lay eggs, producing a clutch of one to seven which are incubated for around six to eight weeks in a burrow. Two species of Toad-headed Agama live in the region with Arabian Toad-headed Agama P. arabicusbeing the second species. The species are relatively easy to identify by the relatively longer tail compared to snout-vent length in P. maculatus of 130-160%, as opposed to 100-125% in P. arabicus. The two species can also be told apart by their shape, colour & number of scales present between the eye and lip. P. arabicus is short-bodied dark grey above with creamy white spots and the upper-side of the tail paler than the body and lacking the spots. The ventral body parts were white with the under-side of the tail orange from the vent to the dark tail band and the species has three to four scales between the eye and lip. P. maculatus is relatively slim and long-bodied and appears larger than P. arabicus and has five to six scales between the eye and lip. The upper-side of the body is sandy grey with five broad dark brown cross bars, with the bars continuing on the tail from vent to the end of the tail with a longer dark terminal tail band, about 20% of the tail length (Al Sirhan & Brown 2010).
Spotted Toad-headed Agama Phrynocephalus maculatus

Spotted Toad-headed Agama Phrynocephalus maculatus

Spotted Toad-headed Agama Phrynocephalus maculatus

Spotted Toad-headed Agama Phrynocephalus maculatus

Spotted Toad-headed Agama Phrynocephalus maculatus