31 December 2011

Bahrain - White Wagtail Ringing Recovery

Brendan Kavanagh, my ringing trainer, has ringed almost 9400 birds in Bahrain since 2006 and had never had a passerine ringing recovery. Finally things changed and a recovery has emerged. A White Wagtail ringed in the Chicken Farm in Bahrain last November (2010) was recovered in the Russian Federation, whcih was all the more surprising as Brendan and his team have only ringed a couple of Pied Wagtail. It took 180 days from ringing to recovery and the distance travelled measured in a straight line, was 3,608 km. The bird was found dead.

Pied/White Wagtail 
Ring Number: X633740
Ringing date: 13-Nov-20010
Ringing Place: Chicken Farm, Dumistan, Bahrain, Bahrain & Qatar (Co-ords: 26deg 8min N 50deg 28min E)
Age: 3
Ringer: B Kavanagh, 4736
Finding date: 12-May-2011
Finding Place: Petrilovo, Kostromskoy District, Kostroma O, Russian Federation, (Co-ords: 57deg 50min N  40deg 40min E)
Finding Condition: Bird found dead - not freash
Duration: 180 days
Distance: 3608 km
Direction: 348 deg (NNW)
Finder: RUM Moscow

30 December 2011

Al Hasa Lagoons - Location Details

Al-Hasa Lagoons near the towns of Hofuf and Abqaiq is the only large body of fresh water in the Eastern Province. It's caused by the over-flow from the Al-Hasa oasis. There is a long, narrow river which flows from Hofuf and Abqaiq towards al-'Uqair. From time to time the river goes underground beneath sand dunes for several kilometers before resurfacing. There are many pools connected to the river, ranging in size up to 250 hectares. The countryside around the river and pools is a mixture of sand dunes, salt pans and beautiful, wind formed sand fields. The larger pools are surrounded by reed-beds, with some pools protected naturally by their inaccessibility, as they lie amidst sabkha and sand dunes. The lagoons have been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International. Bird life includes the protected Houbara Bustards which pass through the area during the winter migration. The ponds are a popular stop-over for birds on their annual migration. In winter you can see significant numbers of Black-winged Stilt and Great Bittern and in the summer are breeding ground for Ferruginous Duck, Little Bittern, Ruddy Shelduck, Cream-colored Courser, Moustached Warbler (the only known breeding site in Saudi Arabia), and probably Savi's Warbler. During a number of aerial surveys of the area, large concentrations of wintering and migrating waterbirds have been recorded, notably Grey Heron, Little Egret, ducks including Ruddy Shelduck, Common Crane and small flocks of Ruff, and Black-tailed Godwit.
Specialties occurring at the location include:-
Houbara Bustard
Black-winged Stilt
Great Bittern
Ferruginous Duck
Little Bittern
Ruddy Shelduck
Cream-colored Courser
Moustached Warbler
Savi's Warbler
Grey Heron
Little Egret
Ruddy Shelduck
Common Crane
Black-tailed Godwit

Abu Hadriyah - Location Details

Abu Hadriyah is an area that is currently being destroyed by dumping of rubish but is a wetland area with soem pool and reedbeds. It can be reached by driving out of Dammam on route 85 (Abu Hadriyah Highway) towards Jubail. The area is on the left hand side of the orad and will require a 'U' Turn to reach. Tracks are possible to drive around in the area but the rubish dumping has blocked many off. It is just trial and error to find a way around. The grid reference is 26°29'3.58"N   49°57'26.00"E

Speciality Species:
Common Redstart
Black Redstart
Black Bush Robin
Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin
European Bee Eater

Common Nightingale
Spotted Flycatcher
White-spotted Bluethroat
Common Chiffchaff

December - May

29 December 2011

Larks & Steppe Eagle - Dibdibah Plains

A trip ‘up north’ of Dhahran to the Dibdibah Plains in search of some true desert species, produced a number of good birds. Some of these were seen whilst driving through the area and others by taking the four wheel drive Landcruiser off-raod to search some likely looking areas. One such area was a large depression in the plain that had quite a bit of new growth, mainly in the shape of Bitter Apple. This area also held five Greater Hoopoe Larks, one adult Steppe Eagle, seven Desert Larks and one Steppe Grey Shrike. None of the birds were very cooperative and all were very flighty as they probably see very few people in this part of the world.

 Desert Lark
 Desert Lark
 Greater Hoopoe Lark
Steppe Eagle (adult)
Steppe Eagle (adult)
Steppe Eagle (adult)

28 December 2011

Bitter Apple - Dibdibah Plains

When birding the Dibdibah Plains we saw quite a few Bitter Apple citrullus colocynthis growing mainly in the depressions. They were probably seen in good numbers as it rained two weeks previously and this would have allowed them some moisture to fruit. These plants are a creeping perennial species. The fruit is a globose, smooth gourd that is variously stripped green and yellow-white that turns yellow when ripe before dying. They prefer sandy or silty ground, particularly in wadis and are common in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

27 December 2011

King Fahd Park Dammam - Location Details

The King Fahd Park in Dammam is the largest in the Kingdom and is located along the Dammam-Dhahran Express Road, north of the Gulf Palace and almost equidistant from the townships of Dammam and Al-Khobar. It is spread over 1,120 million square meters and its millions of trees, bushes and ornamental pools provide a refuge for birds. The water for much of the park comes from recycling urban and industrial runoff.  As a result it attracts quite a few birds that are not easily located in other less vegetated areas of the region. The best time to visit the park is between September and May, but try to avoid weekends as it is quite busy at this time, although if you go in the very early morning it is often still relatively quiet.
The location is at: 26°23'28.09"N   50° 7'28.48"E

Specialties occurring at the location include:-
Golden Oriole
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush
Black Kite
Indian Silverbill
Masked Shrike

Dammam Airport Pools - Location Details

Dammam Airport Pools is a good birding site near to Dammam, Dhahran and Al Khobar and is a large reedbed created by run off, I ssume, from the airport and holds water all year around. The surrounding Sabkha (salt pans) is also good for birds with breeding Black-crowned Sparrow Lark and Greater Hoopoe-Lark. The sparse vaegetaion around the sabkha is also good for migrants in the migartion season.

The site is easily reached by car by following directions to King Fahd International Airport in Dammam. Continue past the airport, which will be on the left hand side of the road if coming from Dhahran, until the road takes a sharp bend to the right. Continue on for about two kilometres and then take the first 'U' turn and start coming back towards the airport. After a hundred metres or so you will see a track off into the desert on the right hand side of the road. Take this track and head towards the reed beds. There are quite obvious tracks around the edge of the entire reed bed as well as a single track through the reeds that is driable. It is best to have a four-wheel drive vehicle for this site as the sabkha and sand is sot in places and it it possible to get stuck. Getting out and walking into the reed beds affords views of the waters edge but the water birds are very flighty due to the amount of shooting that can go on at this site.

Good roads lead to the airport from all directions and it can be rached in about fourty minutes from Dhahran. There are a couple of police checkpoints on the road but you very rarely, if ever, get stopped at these. Take your identity card or passport with you just in case you are stopped.

Specialties seen at the site include:-
Cream-coloured Courser (July & August is the best time)
Black-crowned Sparrow Lark
Lesser Short-toed Lark
Greater Hoopoe Lark
European Turtle Dove
Marsh Harrier
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
European Bee-eater
European (Caspian) Reed Warbler (A s fuscus)
Clamrous Reed Warbler(A s brunnescens)
Common Cuckoo
Eurasian Wryneck
Ducks and Grebes.

26 December 2011

Nesting Terns on the Saudi Arabian Gulf Coral Islands

The Terns that commonly nest on the Arabian Gulf Coral Islands are listed below with the commonest first and the scarcest last.

Bridled Tern (Adult breeding)

Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus) is a summer visitor from March or April until September or October and is widely distributed through the Arabian Gulf. It prefers islands with fairly dense vegetation that can provide nesting cover, though sometimes it breeds in cavities on rocky slopes/ It nests on Juraid, Jana, Karan and Kurain Islands offshore Jubail where it has an even nest distribution covering the entire well vegetated sections containing Suaeda vermiculata and Salsola baryosma bushes. An internationally important percentage of the world population breed in the Arabian Gulf with more than 34,000 pairs breeding each year. It is the most common of the four main Arabian Gulf Island breeding Terns, with the six Gulf Coral Islands being among the five most important breeding sites for the species in the world.

Lesser Crested Tern (Thalasseus bengalensis) is a summer visitor from March or April until September or October, with a few hundred birds remaining throughout the winter. It is widely distributed as a breeding species throughout the Arabian Gulf. It breeds in large colonies on the islands of Juraid, Jana, Kurain, Harqus and Karan where it nests in dense and very localized colonies on the bare ground. In the past the species has nested on Arabiya. An internationally important percentage of the world population breed in the Arabian Gulf with more than 20,000 pairs breeding on the Coral Islands, which are the largest know breeding colonies in the world.

White-cheeked Tern (Sterna repressa) is a summer visitor from March or April until September or October with a few birds remaining throughout the winter. They occur throughout the Arabian Gulf and are probably the most widely distributed Tern in the region, breeding in colonies of varying size not only on islands but also, where undisturbed, on sand-spits and mainland beaches. They breed regularly on Juarid, Jana & Karan Islands where more than 10,000 pairs breed in small colonies spread over the islands in areas of scattered vegetation and low annual plants such as Mesembryanthemum nudiflorum. The Saudi Arabian breeding population is of considerable importance as the species has a very limited world distribution, being confined to the seas of around the Arabian Peninsula.

Swift Tern (Thalasseus bergii) is almost as large as Caspian Tern and breeds off the coasts of Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. They breed on Harqus, Kurain, Karan and Jana Islands with the largest numbers on Harqus and Kurain where they breed in large, dense, very localized colonies on bare ground. Of the four main island breeding species of Terns they are the least common but still number more than 3500 breeding pairs each year.

25 December 2011

Saudi Arabian Gulf Coral Islands

All six Saudi Arabian, Arabian Gulf Coral islands were formed when sand, produced by wave action, boring of some worm species and grazing by Parrot Fish as well as other factors builds up on a submerged coral reef and finally breaks through the water surface. The islands are thus surrounded by extensive, shallow coral reefs which are excellent for diving and snorkelling as well as supporting local fisheries. The islands have grown in size but all still have elevations of less than three metres above the high tide line. They are all aligned along the edge of where the Gulf increases in depth to 35 metres with the exception of Arabiyah which is located in deeper water. The islands are located 35 – 90 kilometres offshore Jubail Industrial City (excluding Arabiyah) and to visit the islands you need permission from the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation, and the Coast Guards, which is not easy to get unless you have a contact in the ministry. The nesting Hawksbill Turtles (Eretmochelys imbricate) arrive to lay eggs in mid-May and the larger and commoner Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) in mid-June and start leaving the islands in September. They lay their eggs on the wide sand beach platforms of each island. Apart from the large breeding populations of terns on these islands they are also important for breeding larks including Crested Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark and occasionally Bimaculated Lark. Birds, mainly passerines, often stop on the islands during migration and they are listed as an important bird area by BirdLife International
Karan Island

Kurain Island
The descriptions of the islands below are listed with the southern-most first and the northern-most last.

(27°11’N, 49°52’E) is the third largest island measuring 20 hectares in size (732 x 282m) and is vegetated primarily with suaeda vermiculata and Salsola baryosma bushes. The vegetation is quite dense in places reaching a height of up to one metre and is mainly located in the central area of the island. There is a narrow bare beach platform and this island holds the largest breeding population of Bridled Terns in Saudi Arabia, with good numbers of breeding Lesser Crested Terns and White-cheeked Terns. The seabird nesting density is 65 birds per hectare. After Jana and Karan this is the next best nesting island for Hawksbill Turtle and Green Turtle and is probably less favourable then the two other islands due to its steeper sloping beach which the turtles find hard to climb.

Jana (27°22’N, 49°54’E) is the second largest island being 33 hectares in size (1105m x 300m) and is vegetated primarily with Suaeda vermiculata and Salsola baryosma bushes. The vegetation is quite dense in places, reaches one metre in height and is located mainly in the center of the island. Beach rock occurs on the northern side in the lower portion of the beach and the upper inter-tidal zone. There is a narrow bare beach platform and the largest colony of White-cheeked terns on the coral islands occurs on this island. Large numbers of Bridled tern and small numbers of Lesser Crested Terns and Swift Terns also nest here. The seabird nesting density is 28 birds per hectare. Hawksbill Turtle and Green Turtle nest on the island in preference to all other islands excepting Karan, probably as it has a gently sloping beach with good substrate to lay eggs in.

Kurain (27°39’N, 49°50’E) is the second smallest island with a size of 8 hectares (312m x 251m), has a narrow beach platform and is vegetated primarily with Suaeda vermiculata and Salsola baryosma bushes with the annual Mesembryanthemum nudiflorum also present. The vegetation is quite dense in places, can reach one metre in height and is located mainly in the center of the island. Large numbers of Lesser Crested Terns along with good numbers of Bridled Terns and White-cheeked Terns nest on this island along with 30 pairs of winter nesting Socotra Cormorant. The seabird nesting density is 404 birds per hectare and small numbers of Hawksbill Turtle and Green Turtle also nest on the island.

Karan (27°44’N, 49°50’E) is the largest of the six coral islands measuring 128 hectares in size (2025m x 625m) and it has a bare beach platform. It is vegetated primarily with Suaeda vermiculata and Salsola baryosma bushes with the annual Mesembryanthemum nudiflorum also present. The vegetation is much the same as on the other islands, being quite dense in places, up to one metre in height and located primarily in the center of the island. Beach rock occurs on the northern side in the lower portion of the beach and upper inter-tidal zone. This island has the largest breeding population of Lesser Crested terns in Saudi Arabia as well as good numbers of Bridled Terns and White-cheeked terns and a small number of Swift Terns. The seabird nesting density is 42 birds per hectare. The island is the main breeding location for Hawksbill Turtle and Green Turtle due to its gently sloping beach and suitable substrate for egg laying.

 Arabiyah is quite a small island being just over 13 hectares in size (488m x 267m), with a narrow bare beach platform. It is now a coast guard station, which occupies almost the entire surface area and as a result has been abandoned by breeding seabirds. It is located about 125 kilometres from the Saudi Arabian coast and previously had vegetation cover all of which has been destroyed.

Harqus (27°56’N, 49°41’E) is the smallest of the six coral islands being only two hectares in size (259m x 76m) and has a narrow bare beach platform. It is very low lying and has no vegetation due to the fact that during severe storms, waves wash over the entire island. The largest breeding colony of Swift Terns nest on this island with Lesser Crested terns also breeding. Very small numbers of both Hawksbill Turtle and Green Turtle also breed.

24 December 2011

Greater Spotted Eagle - Sabkhat Al Fasl

This is an interesting record of a summering Greater Spotted Eagle in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia - a more detail note on its occurrence will probably be issued in Sandgrouse (if accepted for publication).

Whilst bird-watching in the early morning of 21st July 2011 at Sabkhat Al Fasl (Jubail), Eastern Province Saudi Arabia, we saw a second calendar year Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga). This is a very early record for the species and will almost certainly relate to a bird that has spent the summer here. The same bird was seen again by us at the same site on 18th August 2011. Greater Spotted Eagle winter in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia in small numbers, but there is only one documented case, of three birds, summering in this area (May to August). Greater Spotted Eagle is a regular passage migrant and winter visitor to the Arabian Peninsula, with most records coming from the better recorded countries of the United Arab Emirates and Oman. The number of sightings of the species in the United Arab Emirates has increased in recent years, which is also the case in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, suggesting the wintering population in the Arabian Peninsula Is increasing.  Birds winter in all Arabian Peninsula countries and are generally present from late September until late April or early May. There is only one partly documented case of a bird or birds summering in Saudi Arabia previoulsy and this was at Qatif in May and June 1982. 
Qatar – Scarce winter visitor the vast majority being juveniles with a date range from late September to early May.
Kuwait – Uncommon passage migrant and common winter visitor.
United Arab Emirates – Common migrant and winter visitor, late September to late April (Pederson & Aspinall 2011). The earliest returning bird recorded on the United Arab Emirates database is 29th September 2006 and the latest spring record 27th April 2010.
Bahrain – Passage migrant and winter visitor.
Saudi Arabia - Uncommon winter visitor to central Arabia and the coastal areas of the Persian Gulf in variable numbers, arriving in early October and departing in mid-March to early April (Stagg 1991). It is now a regular but rare winter visitor to the littoral zone of eastern Saudi Arabia, occurring mostly around man-made lakes, sewage farms, and irrigated areas (Lobley 2007).
Yemen - Probably a winter visitor in very small numbers, but not recorded on the 1993 OSME survey of the birds of southern Yemen (Porter et al. 1996). There are five records all occurring in November and December. See also satellite tracked adult bird below.
Oman – An abundant passage migrant and winter visitor that occurs from early October to late April. Usually they occur singly or in small numbers with most records being of immature birds.

A young bird caught in the winter in the Arabian Peninsula and fitted with a satellite tracking device shows its migration patch and this bird started moving from its summering areas only in late September. A link to the article is here http://www.epaa-shj.gov.ae/posters/Tracking%20of%20a%20Greater%20spotted%20eagle.pdf

23 December 2011

Lesser Kestrel - Dhahran Hills

Lesser Kestrel sightings were less common the Common Kestrel, although when seen they were often in groups, meaning more total numbers of Lesser Kestrel were seen during the spring. The photographs below are of three different birds (male top photograph and female bottom two photographs) out of the flock of eight seen on 5th May 2011.

Lesser Kestrel sightings in spring 2011:-

Group of nine birds - 1st May (Golf Course)
Group of eight birds - 5th May (Scrubby Desert Dhahran Hills)
Adult Male - 17th May (Spray Fields Dhahra Hills)
Adult Male & Adult Female - 24th May (Spray Fields Dhahran Hills)

22 December 2011

Greater Spotted Eagle - Dhahran Hills

I saw Greater Spotted Eagle on three different occassions in spring 2011 and all concerned second calendar year birds (2cy). This species winters in the Arabian peninsula in small numbers.

Below are three shots of a 2cy Greater Spotted Eagle taken on 28th April 2011 in the scrub desert area of Dharhan Hills. Dick Forsman pers comm. mentioned young birds often linger in spring unlike adults, and late April is alright for young Greater Spotted Eagle to be seen on their wintering grounds. The long feathered "stove pipe" legs separate it from all other brown eagles, except for Lesser Spotted Eagle, but that would be much paler brown by this time in spring.

Records of Greater Spotted Eagle in Spring 2011

Second Calendar Year - 16th March
Second Calendar Year - 31st March
Second Calendar Year - 28th April.

21 December 2011

Black Kite - Dhahran Hills

As I am out of Saudi Arabia for the Christmas break I will post a few details of some birds of prey I saw in the spring before I started my blog. Black Kite was the most common large bird of prey seen by me in the spring of 2011, although they were by no means common. The photograph of the bird below was taken by me at the spray fields on 27th May 2011.

Records of Black Kite in Spring 2011:-

31st March - Golf Course
12-13th April - Percolation Pond
23rd April - Scrubby Desert
2nd May - Scrubby Desert
27th May - Spray Fields

20 December 2011

Dammam Port Mangroves - Location Details

The Dammam Port Mangroves area is the closest small stand of mangroves to Al Khobar and is good a high tide as many waders get pushed up by the tide into this area. Birds are visible at close range even when the tide is not fully in and are easily viewed from the car by driving behind the buildings on the left hans side of the road and viewing through the mangrove trees. The site is easily reached by driving northeast on the main Port Highway until you reach the causeway to the main port. Continue along the causeway with the railway track on the left hand side of the road until you approach the main port gate. Turn left here across the road and railway line and the mangroves are on the left behind the buildings

Specialties seen at the site include:-
Curlew Sandpiper
Little Stint
Lesser Sand Plover
Grey Plover
Black-tailed Godwit
Eurasian Curlew
Common Greenshank
Slender-billed Gull
Indian (Western) Reef Heron
Common Redshank
Terek Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Gull-billed Tern
Little Tern
White-cheeked Tern

Al Khobar Harbour Pool - Location Details

The Al Khobar Harbour Pool is a smallish hidden pool near to the causeway over to Bahrain and very close to Khobar Harbour. It is directly across the road from the spit of land that just into the sea just before Khobar Harbour and there is a dusty track that leads to a group of trees and dense bushes. It is best to park the car on the main road and walk to the pool although the herons etc will all, probably, take flight when they see you. The site is best in the winter months.

To get to the site drive to Al Khobar until you reach the sea and then head onto the Corniche Road heading towards Bahrain (south). The sea will be on the left and keep driving until you see the first spit of land jutting into the sea. The road should start turning left just after this and you need to park here and walk across the road down the track to the hidden pool.

Specialties seen at the site include:-
Grey Heron
Indian Reef Heron
Little Egret
Ferruginous Duck
Common Redstart

19 December 2011

Saihat Mangroves - Location Details

Saihat Mangroves are an excellent place for large numbers of waders, herons and Flamingos. Kingfishers have also been seen here in the past. To get to the site drive to Saihat from Dhahran on King Faisal Street. Turn right onto 15th Street in Saihat and the left onto Dhahran Street. This will lead you to the enclosed water area on your right. Turn right just before this and then left onto the spit cutting off the enclosed water area. At the end of this spit the mangroves are on the right. There are also some clumps in the sea off the spit which are good for large concentrations of waders.

Mangroves in Saudi Arabia are represented by a single species, Avicennia marina, commonly called Grey Mangrove, which are salt tolerant trees found from the mean high tide level down to the mid eulittoral. The mangroves in the Gulf are poorly developed compared to their counterparts in the Red Sea because of the cold winter temperatures. They provide food and shelter to many small invertebrates, including commercially important shrimp and act as a nursery for many species of young fish. This in turn attracts many birds including Herons, Flamingos and Wading birds. The mangrove stands occur only as patches at sheltered sites on waterlogged, soft anaerobic mud. The mangrove roots are only able to survive by means of pneumatophores which project above the ground and conduct oxygen to the buried portions of the root system. Mangroves have a limited occurrence and can be found only in restricted small stands. The Northern most limits in Saudi Arabia are just north of Jubail which are one of the most northerly mangrove occurrences in the world. The southerly limit in Saudi Arabia is just to the west of Dammam port. The linear extent of the mangroves is estimated at 12 km of the Saudi Arabian Gulf coastline.

Specialty species found at the site include:
Pied Kingfisher
White-throated Kingfisher
Greater Flamingo
European Golden Plover
Eurasian Oystercatcher
Indian Reef Heron
Lesser Crested Tern
White-cheeked Tern
Caspian Tern
Little Bittern

Taraut Bay - Location Details

Taraut Bay on the Gulf coast east of Qatif and north of Dammam is the single most important site for passage and wintering water-birds on the Saudi sector of the Arabian Gulf coast. This is a large, shallow, sandy (and in places muddy) bay, with one of the richest and most diverse 'inter-tidal' habitats in the Arabian Gulf. The bay is very sheltered, and thus is not buffeted by the wind and really assumes its importance as a wintering and passage site for water birds, especially shorebirds. In spring 1991 more than 20,000 water birds were present, with numbers peaking at the end of April and the first two weeks of May, whilst in 1991/92, approximately 58,000 water birds over-wintered. Waders occurring in large numbers both in winter and on passage include; Grey Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Terek Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone and Broad-billed Sandpiper. There are two islands, Za'l and Tarut; the latter is connected to the mainland by a bridge and is almost wholly developed. During low tide, many sand banks are exposed and the extensive sand and mud flats receive nutrients from Qatif oasis which feed the mangroves, sea-grasses and salt marshes. The rich waters also support an important shrimp and fishing industry, all of which attracts many birds to the area.

It has been tentatively estimated that 260,000 waders winter on the Saudi Arabian Gulf coast and up to four million in the whole Arabian Gulf. As a result the intertidal zone of the Gulf coast is regarded as one of the world’s five major wintering areas for waders, along with north-west Africa, Australia, northwest Europe and the northern coast of South America. The number of waders stopping off to refuel in the Gulf during migration in Spring and Autumn could be of the same magnitude as the numbers present in winter (Zwarts et al 1991). Tarut Bay has been identified as an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International.

Specialties occurring at the location include:-
Pallas's Fish Eagle
White-tailed Eagle
Greater Spotted Eagle
Indian Reef Egret

Lesser Crested Tern
White-cheeked Tern
Bridled Tern  
Caspian Tern
Saunder’s Tern
Grey Plover

Lesser Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Kentish Plover
Bar-tailed Godwit
Eurasian Curlew
Terek Sandpiper
Common Redshank
Common Greenshank
Ruddy Turnstone
Broad-billed Sandpiper
Crab Plover
Great Knot

18 December 2011

Bahrain - Ringing Water Pipit (A.s.coutellii) at Alba Marsh

When we were ringing at Alba Marshes last weekend we managed to catch a couple of Water Pipits. These birds were of the race Anthus spinoletta coutellii and look slightly different to the birds seen in Europe (Anthus spinoletta spinoletta) which breed in the mountains of central & southern Europe and winter in western & southern Europe and north-west Africa. This subspecies breeds in north, south & east Turkey, Caucasus and mountains of northern Iran and Turkmenistan (Kopet Dagh) and winters in neighbouring lowlands  and south and north-east Africa and Arabia including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in large numbers. They are slightly smaller and lighter in colour than spinoletta with coutelli having a wing length of 79 - 92 average 86, compared to 82 - 96 average 88.5 on spinoletta. Eighteen birds ringed in Bahrain in the last month had a wing length of 81 - 91 average 84.1 showing the small size of these birds. In non-breeding plumage coutellii has a greyer head with the rest of the upperparts being a paler brown colour with a slight sandy tinge, rather than deeper brown to greyish brown on spinolettaA.s.coutellii has much more pronounced dark olive brown feather centres with duller and paler underparts, showng less cream. The breast sides and flanks are richer buff, underpart streaking is less profuse, paler and more restricted and is narower and more sharply defined often stopping at the upper flanks on coutellii (Shirihai 1996 - The Birds of Israel).
 Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta coutellii)
 Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta coutellii)
 Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta coutellii)
Abdulla with a Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta coutellii)

17 December 2011

Dwarf Honeybee - Dhahran Hills

The Dwarf Honeybee is a common bee found in gardens where it is one of the most important pollinators of small flowers. It is still around in good numbers as the flowering plants are all in full bloom as the winter temperatures are ore suitable than the extremely hot summer ones. These photographs were taken in our back garden in Dhahran Hills.

Western Cattle Egrets - Dhahran Hills

Birding yesterdy produced the normal winter visitors such as Water Pipits and White Wagtails but there are now a good number of Western Cattle Egrets returning to the Eastern Province for the winter with quite a number now feeding around the spray fields and the grass verges of the camp. They are relatively tame and allow close approach either on foot or from the car. The photographs of these birds were taken early in the morning at the spray fields.

16 December 2011

Al Shubaily - Location Details

Al Shubaily is a small park and water area just behind Al Khobar Harbour. It is good for migrants as well as birds of prey and Kingfishers and is close to Al Khobar Harbour Pool. The best time to visit is between November and May. To get to the site drive to Al Khobar until you reach the sea and then head onto the Corniche Road heading towards Bahrain (south). The sea will be on the left and keep driving until you come to a roundabout (see map above). Turn left here (second exit) and then third right turn. This road will lead to the park and the water will be on the left. Location is 26°13'49.30"N  50°12'20.45"E

Specialties seen at the site include:-
White Throated Robin
Siberian Stonechat
Common Stonechat
Great Reed Warbler
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush
Red Throated Pipit
Tawny Pipit
Tree Pipit
European Roller
Southern Grey Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Turkestan Shrike
Red-backed Shrike
Woodchat Shrike
Northern Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Black-eared Wheatear
Ortolan Bunting
Common Kestrel
Collared Pratincole

Steppe Buzzard
Common Kingfisher
Eurasian Hoopoe
Eurasian Curlew
Eurasian Wryneck
Song Thrush