11 June 2011

Steppe Buzzard

10/06/2011 - Dhahran Hills

At the scrubby desert area I saw a Stepp Buzzard (Buteo buteo vulpinus) flying over and landing. As I have realised whilst being here in Saudi Arabia, the birds of prey are very wary of people and as a result I went back to my car in the hope I would be able to get closer to the bird. I drove back to where I had seen the bird land but on the way I saw the bird in flight again and managed to take a single photograph (top flight photograph). The bird appeared to be carrying something but it was a long way off. Fortunatley the bird landed agin within the camp grounds and this time I managed to very close with the car as the bird was preoccupied with eating its prey. I managed to take the below photographs before a group of runners disturbed it and it took flight. The bird is a second calender year bird due to its pale eye and heavy streaked breast, but it has a well marked trailing edge to the wing similar in nature to that of an adult.

Large numbers of this sub-species of Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo), which is a long distance migrant, pass between the central Palearctic and thier wintering grounds in eastern Africa down to the Cape. Their main migration route is trough Eilat (Israel) mainly in the spring, with others passing the Red Sea at Bab-el-Mandeb (Yemen) mainly in the autumn, a loop migration around the Red Sea. It is recorded in Birds of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia by Bundy, Connor & Harrison published in August 1989 as generally very scarce in eastern Arabia, although I have seen a number of birds this spring:-

2nd Calendar Year - 9th & 10th May
2nd Calendar Year - 13th May
2nd Calendar Year - 28th May
2nd Calendar Year - 10th June

Some birds winter in the Arabian Peninsula but most of those recorded in Saudi Arabia are in the western parts. From the migration routes used (some Saudi Arabian Birds have been Satelite tracked), it would appear records should be commonest in Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea coast and in the north. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE) it is an uncommon to rare autumn migrant, rarely wintering Pedersen, T & Aspinall, SJ (comp.) 2011. EBRC Annotated Checklist of the birds of the United Arab Emirates. EAD, Abu Dhabi. I would like to thank Tommt Pedersen for kindly sending me the Annoted Checklist. This shows that the lower part of eastern Arabia, including Dhahran are not prime sites, although as wintering numbers build up in Arabia sightings should increase.

Caution is needed with these Buzzards as they can easily be confused with Long-Legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus) which breeds in small numbers in Eastern Saudi Arabia.