21 November 2012

Greater Spotted Eagle with some fulvescens characteristics – Dhahran Hills

Early in the morning of 19th November, I went to the percolation pond to see if I could photograph an eagle I had seen in the dark the previous evening, perched in one of the trees. I had gone to the pond after dark the evening before to see if the Greater Spotted Eagles that have been around recently had come in to roost in the trees. I could only locate a single bird but it was sitting in a tree that would afford good photographic opportunities if the bird stayed until the light got better the following morning. On driving to the pond in the morning I could see the eagle still sitting in the same place but it was still dark when I arrived. I waited for the light to improve to take some photos but the bird flew off before the light had improved significantly. I did manage to get one reasonable shot before the bird departed but it was on a slow shutter speed and high ISO so is not pin-sharp. The photograph does show the difference between bird showing some characteristics of a fulvescens Greater Spotted Eagle and the normal type bird (photograph taken in the same tree in October 2012). This is not a real fulvescens bird as although its under-parts are good, albeit a bit darker than a typical fulvescens which has a milky tea colour, the upper-parts are normally coloured. In a true fulvescens the upper-wing coverts should also be very light, almost whitish, and there are no drop-marks anywhere on the plumage. This bird has now been around the Dhahran area for over a month and is a really beautiful bird – hopefully it will stay around and allow better photographic opportunities.

Greater Spotted Eagle showing some characteristics of fulvescens
Greater Spotted Eagle - juvenile

This eagle looks superficially like both a Tawny Eagle and an Eastern Imperial Eagle and shows that reasonable views of birds need to be obtained before positively identifying them. Tawny Eagle does not occur in the region with a distribution in Sub Saharan Africa and India. Eastern Imperial Eagle does occur as a winter visitor but is normally seen further north in the Dibdibah Plains area, although I have seen birds at Sabkhat Al Fasl. Dick Forsman mentioned to me pers comm that he estimated that only 2-3% of birds in Oman are of this form and it is very rare in Europe. They are, however, more common in the Middle East and clearly more common in Arabia than Israel or Egypt.