21 April 2024

More Yellow Wagtails – Dhahran Hills

Whilst birding the Dhahran Hills football fields in the spring the number and type of Yellow Wagtails has been very high. The main numbers were Sykes Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava beema amongst them, which is an early migrant with March and April being the best months for seeing them. They are more often seen in spring than autumn. The other common Yellow Wagtail seen was Black-headed Wagtail feldegg which is part of the Yellow Wagtail complex a group of birds that are common spring and autumn passage migrants, sometimes in hundreds. Yellow Wagtails pass from mid-February to May and again from early August to mid-November with many races identifiable in the field including feldegg, melanogrisia, lutea, flava, thunbergi and bema. Sykes's Wagtail and Blue-headed Wagtail are sometimes difficult if not impossible to separate in the field.

Sykes Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava beema

Sykes Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava beema

Sykes Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava beema

Sykes Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava beema

Sykes Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava beema

Sykes Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava beema

Sykes Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava beema

Yellow-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava lutea

Yellow-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava lutea

Black-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava feldegg

Black-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava feldegg

Black-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava feldegg

Blue-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava flava

Blue-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava flava

Blue-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava flava


19 April 2024

Heron numbers building – Dhahran Waste Water Lake

The number and type of herons at the Dhahran Waste Water Lake have been building up the last few weeks. New species seen include a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron and three Purple Herons, the first ones for a few months. Great Egrets have increased to almost double figures and twelve Grey Heron was the high count. A dark phase Western Reef Heron was an unusual sighting with Little Egrets less unusual. Squacco Heron numbers are also steadily on the increase again almost reaching double figures.

Western Reef Heron - dark phase

Little Egret

Little Egret

Little Egret

Purple Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron - juvenile

Black-crowned Night Heron - juvenile

Great Egret

Grey Heron

Grey Heron


18 April 2024

First spring Whinchat & Lesser Grey Shrike – Dhahran Football Field

Whilst birding the Dhahran Football field in mid-April area recently I saw my first records this year of Whinchat and Lesser Grey Shrike. Both these species are seen each year in Dhahran but only on one or two days in the spring. Migration of shrikes has been good through Dhahran this year with the majority being Turkestan and Daurian Shrikes but also Woodchat, Great Grey and Masked Shrikes have been seen. Other migrants seen have been a few Northern Wheatear, a species seen rarely in Dhahran, tens of Eurasian Hoopoe and one Whimbrel 

Eurasian Hoopoe

Lesser Grey Shrike

Lesser Grey Shrike

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

Whimbrel

Whinchat

Whinchat

Whinchat


17 April 2024

Red-wattled Lapwing – Dhahran Waste Water Lake

The Dhahran Waste Water Lake and the Percolation Pond both had Red-wattled Lapwing with the first location having a pair and the second asingle different bird. We has also seen on the day before at Khafra Marsh near Jubail. This was only the fifth time I have seen the species in Dhahran camp. 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 is gradually colonizing westwards. It was first recording breeding in Saudi Arabia at Sabkhat Al Fasl, a couple of years ago and has bred at Khafra Marsh, Jubail for the last two 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.




16 April 2024

Barred Warbler – Al Uqair

Whilst birding Al Uqair im mid-April I came across a few migrants bit a lot less than previous days. One unusual species seen was a Barred Warbler which is an uncommon but widespread passage migrant in Saudi Arabia. This bird was on a barbed wire fence but normally they occur in dense undergrowth, tall scrub, overgrown plantations and hedges. They are very distinct and are a large, gray warbler with crescent markings on the breast and a prominent pale yellow eye. It is usually shy but occasionally appears in a very exposed position, and as a result it may be more common than it seems. It sometimes sings in spring.





15 April 2024

Keralini type Turkestan Shrike – Dhahran Waste Water Lake

I saw an odd shrike at the Waste Water Lake, but it was distant and good views could not be obtained. I tried to get close to the bird but it was always moving but I eventually managed to get behind a bush and it flew in landed briefly and flew off. I got a few close-up photos of it but it only stayed for a few seconds and was gone. I could not relocate it but on the views in the field and from the photo it appeared to be a keralini type Turkestan Shrike. I sent the photo to Alan Dean who is an expert on shrikes, amongst many other things, and he sent me the following very interesting information. Panov’s ‘The True Shrikes of the World’ regards karelini as a hybrid form, between Turkestan phoenicuroides and Red-backed collurio but others regard it as a variant of phoenicuroides including Lars Svensson, who notes that the wing-formula seems always to match pheonicuroides and not collurio as does the tail pattern. Hybrids can vary of course but there are lots of photos of hybrids which look obviously intermediate whereas these ‘karelini’ types have greyer upperparts and crown that typical phoenicuroides but don’t show much else in the way of intermediate plumage. 




13 April 2024

lutea Yellow Wagtail – Dhahran Hills

Birding the football fields near Dhahran Wastewater Lake at the end of March produced fifteen Yellow Wagtails. One of the Yellow Wagtails was a bright adult male lutea Yellow Wagtail. It was feeding around the grassy football fields but came close to the edge near the road allowing some close-up photos to be taken. The plumage variation of the male lutea in summer can by divided into three main types: a) wholly yellow head, b) yellow supercilium and forehead, and largely yellow ear-coverts & c) yellow supercilium, greenish forehead and crown, largely greenish ear-coverts, and distinct dark loral stripe. The bird seen had a wholly yellow head and was a very bright individual. In Saudi Arabia, it is uncommon and usually occurs singly or a few individuals in flocks of M. f. flava. They occur in the central regions from March to May and again from August to November. In the Eastern Province, birds occur from March to mid-May where it appears to be the least common western yellow wagtail along with the superciliaris. In the western part of Saudi Arabia, four males were captured in Hadda (Makkah Region) on 3rd April 1948 (Meinertzhagen, 1949) and there is a record from Wadi Muhayil (Asir Province) on 8 May 2002.





 

 

 

11 April 2024

Carmine Darter – Dhahran Waste Water Lake

Whilst birding the Dhahran Waste Water Lake recently I came across a few Carmine Darter Crocothemis erythraea. The Carmine Darter is a common dragonfly throughout the Middle East, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Oman. The male is carmine red, while the female is a significantly drabber yellow-buff colour with two paler marks on top of the thorax. It is a medium-sized dragonfly approximately 52mm in length. The abdomen is wider than other members of the family, flattened and tapering to the end. It is widespread in the Arabian Peninsula where it prefers a habitat of rocky areas and dry watercourses as well as shallow, still, eutrophic waters such as small ponds, paddy fields, and desert pools, but it avoids oases. Adults only live for up to two months. Adults spend much of their time perched on vegetation although they have a fast, darting flight and hover frequently.



09 April 2024

Various subspecies/types of Yellow Wagtail – Dhahran Hills

Whilst birding the Dhahran Hills football fields in the spring I came across a number of different subspecies/types of Yellow Wagtails. The main numbers were Sykes Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava beema amongst them, which is an early migrant with March and April being the best months for seeing them. They are more often seen in spring then autumn. A single thunbergi, also known as Grey-headed Wagtail was seen. This subspecies occurs from Scandinavia eastwards to northwest Siberia and they winter mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and across South & southeast Asia. Yellow Wagtails are common in the Eastern Province throughout the spring with various subspecies passing but thunbergi appears to be one of the late passing subspecies with most records occurring in late April and May, so this bird was an early migrant. As always with wagtails they were difficult to get good photographs of as they are always moving and in areas with lots of vegetation. My best shots are shown below. The other common Yellow Wagtail seen was Black-headed Wagtail feldegg which along with melanogrisia are often the first subspecies to occur. They are then followed by bema, flava and thunbergi. The Black-headed Wagtail is part of the Yellow Wagtail complex a group of birds that are common spring and autumn passage migrants, sometimes in hundreds. Thy pass from mid-February to May and again from early August to mid-November with many races identifiable in the field including feldegg, melanogrisia, lutea, flava, thunbergi and bema. By April, flocks of more than a hundred birds are regularly recorded in cultivated areas. Sykes's Wagtail and Blue-headed Wagtail are sometimes difficult if not impossible to separate in the field.

Black-headed Wagtail - feldegg

Blue-headed Wagtail - flava

Sykes's Wagtail - beema

Grey-headed Wagtail - thumbergi

Sykes's Wagtail - beema

White Wagtail