11 Dec 2019

Arabian Bee-eater - Shaqra

The Arabian Green Bee-eater subspecies M. c. cyanophrys occurring from southern Israel to western Jordan and west and south Arabian coasts of Saudi Arabia and M. c. muscatensis occurring from central Arabian plateau and east Arabia (E Yemen to Oman and United Arab Emirates). The race najdanus (from Central Arabian plateau) is now included within muscatensis. This proposed new species is not difficult to see and can be seen away from the main endemic rich area of the southwest mountains, although it does not reach as far as the Eastern Province stopping around the Riyadh area in central Saudi Arabia. Shaqra is about 175 kilometres northwest of Riyadh and holds good numbers of Arabian Bee-eater. The ones photographed below were seen at Shaqra landfill site where a group of five birds were seen flying around.
Arabian Bee-eater

9 Dec 2019

Striated Heron in Al Khobar – Bird Records by Paul Watson

Paul Watson found a Striated Heron along the seafront of Al Khobar near the Bahrain Causeway on 3 November 2019. This is a rare but increasing species in the Eastern Province. Striated Heron is a common breeding resident on the coasts of the Red Sea but is rare in the northern part of the Arabian Gulf including the Eastern Province. Eastern Province records include one remarkable inland record of a bird at Sabkha 40 on 30 May 2010 in the huge desert of the Empty Quarter. This is a species usually associated with the coast of Arabia and had never been recorded this far inland before and was the first record for eastern Saudi Arabia. It would have had to be a migrant, but its position at Shaybah raises the interesting possibility that it had travelled across eastern Arabia from the Arabian Sea en-route to the Arabian Gulf. Other Eastern Province records, were one in Al Fanateer marina, Jubail on 15 February 2014 and one on 7 June 2015 at Sabkhat Al Fasl, Jubail plus one 12 February 2016 along Dammam Seafront and another at Jubail farm in 2018. The increase in records in recent years shows that birds are spreading northwards and may soon be a regular feature of the Eastern Province avifauna. I thank Paul for kindly allowing me to use his photo of the bird on my website.
Striated Heron

7 Dec 2019

Hundreds of Steppe Eagles - Riyadh

Whilst driving back from Riyadh to Dhahran I came across a new landfill site on the side of the expressway. The site had plenty of Steppe Eagles in flight above it and almost as many sitting on the ground and scavenging in the rubbish. I estimated over 100 birds were present. I tried to gain access to the actual site which is fenced off but as it was a Friday the manager was not available to grant access and security would not allow entry. I do not know if it will be possible to enter even if the manager is there but if it is possible this will be a great location for photographing the birds. I was told the birds arrived in mid-October, fitting in nicely with their expected peak migration period of late September and early October.


5 Dec 2019

Birding the Riyadh River – Al Hair

I went birding to the Riyadh River near Al Hair recently. It is an amazing site with running river, reed beds and nearby pivot irrigation fields. As I live four hours drive away from Riyadh, I have not been before, but this will certainly not be my last trip. On arrival at the site I saw a huge flock of over one hundred Black-crowned Night Herons, easily the largest number I have seen in Saudi Arabia. A Western Osprey was sitting in a tree and groups of Mallard and Pintail were flying around. There were six or more White-throated Kingfishers and plenty of Arabian Bee-eaters sitting around along with some Crested Larks. One pivot irrigation field held two European Rollers and plenty of Streaked Weavers, Arabian Golden Sparrows, Red Avadavat and Spanish Sparrows as well as a few Black Scrub Robin. The rocky areas nearby held Blackstart and Eastern Morning Wheatears. The Riyadh area is the closest place Arabian Bee-eater and Blackstart occur to the Eastern Province although both are common further west and south. The pools and rivers held large numbers of Grey Heron and a few Purple Heron and Common Moorhen were everywhere. 
Arabian Bee-eater
Arabian Bee-eater
Arabian Bee-eater
Arabian Bee-eater
Arabian Bee-eater
Arabian Bee-eater
Black-crowned Night Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Blackstart
Blackstart
Crested Lark
Crested Lark
Eastern Mourning Wheatear
Eastern Mourning Wheatear
European Roller
European Roller
Mallard
Mallard
Namaqua Dove
Namaqua Dove
Spanish Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow

3 Dec 2019

Red Avadavat – Al Hair

Whilst birding Al Hair, near Riyadh recently I came across a small group of Red Avadavat, including males, females and juveniles. Birds were seen feeding in a mixed flock of birds including Streaked Weavers, Arabian Golden Sparrows and Indian Silverbills as well as on their own where they favoured the reed beds to perch. This species has been noted breeding in this area for the last twenty years at least but I have not tried to see them until this trip. The birds almost certainly originated from escaped cage birds but now are part of the Saudi Arabian breeding species avifauna.
Red Avadavat

Red Avadavat

Red Avadavat

Red Avadavat