25 Oct 2011

Short-toed Snake Eagles & Eastern Imperial Eagle – Dhahran Hills

On the evening of the 22nd October I went to the ‘patch’ for a late evenings birding. A strong Shamal wind (north-westerly) had been blowing for a couple of days and with the weather being clear, without dust that is often associated with these winds, I had hopes that something may be about. On the way to the main site of the percolation pond, in the scrubby desert area, I saw a large bird of prey flying briefly before disappearing over a hill. I cautiously drove to the approximate area where the bird had disappeared and immediately saw two birds sitting together on the top on a pile of rubble. They looked interesting and I got the telescope on them and they turned out to both be juvenile Short-toed Snake Eagles. I did not have my camera with me as the light is so poor in the evening that it is impossible to photograph anything now but I still crept up on them in the car until quite close. Very good views were obtained before they flew off as a security car drove past. All the features associated with the species were seen both on the ground as well as in flight. I then saw another large bird of prey fly over and land on a nearby telegraph pole and when I set the telescope on this and saw it fly later it became apparent it was a juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle a species I have not seen before in Saudi Arabia although they are relatively regular at Sabkhat Al Fasl in the winter.

As I did not get any photographs of the birds I saw so I am including these three photographs of a second calendar year (2cy) Short-toed Snake Eagle I saw in the same place on 31st March 2011. The species is scarce in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia with 21 records seen between 1979 and 1989 when the Birds of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia by Bundy, Connor & Harrison was published in August 1989. There is only one previous record for the Dhahran area as all the other records have been recorded well north of Dhahran. I have now seen three different birds on less than a year in Dhahran Hills.
Short-toed Snake Eagle (2nd Calendar Year)
 Short-toed Snake Eagle (2nd Calendar Year)
Short-toed Snake Eagle (2nd Calendar Year)

When I got home I looked at the Birds of Kuwait Website and saw that AbdulRahman Al-Shiran had also seen a good number of raptors at Jahra Pool Reserve in Kuwait the same morning so raptor migration must have been good over the entire northern & central region of the Arabian Peninsula. He also saw two Short-toed Snake Eagle and a Juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle plus a few other raptors and details of his sightings plus an amazing photograph of the juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle he saw can be found at this link

1 comment:

  1. In October, the city Riyadh, I do not know exactly what day it was I saw a huge bird in the sky. I knew it was not grandstanding, and now I'm sure it was an eagle. Marvelous experience!