31 October 2012

Two first calendar year Greater Spotted Eagles – Dhahran Hills

As soon as I got back from Abha, after our family holiday there, I went to the percolation pond to see what I had been missing in the previous four days. As soon as I got there I could see two large birds of prey sitting in the trees at the edge of the pond. As I was walking I thought it would be better to get back in my car and drive closer to see if I could identify them and get some photos. Although the sun was in the wrong direction for good views I could see they were both first calendar year Greater Spotted Eagles and needed to get the other side of the birds to be able to get any chance of a decent photo. Luckily the birds remained in their place as I drove past and turned the car around and was able to get a few photos before a mountain biker scared the birds off. I was then able to see them fly off and land in the trees at the edge of the spray fields. Although I have seen Greater Spotted Eagle a number of times in Dhahran, this is the first time I have seen two birds together and also the first time I have managed to get close enough to get any decent photographs of the birds.

The Greater Spotted Eagle is an uncommon passage migrant and winter visitor to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia with a few summer records. Most birds that occur in the region are seen on passage from late September until November and from late February until late April. Winter records from December to February are generally on the littoral with birds seen mainly around lowland man-made lakes and sewage farms as well as central pivot irrigation fields. Prime locations for seeing the species are Sabkhat Al Fasl, Jubail green belt zone, Khafrah Marsh, Jubail sanitary landfill site, Qatif sanitary landfill site and Dhahran Saudi Aramco compound. The wintering population has been increasing in recent years with a minimum of 6 – 8 birds in the mid 2000’s but by 2011 this number had increased to 15 – 20 with a ratio of adults to young birds of about 20% adults to 80% youngsters and the maximum number of birds seen in a single day being thirteen on 9th February 2012 at Sabkhat Al Fasl.