28 August 2013

Early migration through Zulfi – Bird records by Mansur Al Fahad

Mansur Al Fahad is a very good Saudi Arabian birdwatcher, as well as all round naturalist, who currently lives in Riyadh, but who is originally from Zulfi (north-central Saudi Arabia). Mansur has previously sent me photographs of a number of lizards he has seen in the region as well as helped me with the identification of a lizard I saw at Sabkhat Al Fasl in the Eastern Province. Recently he sent me some excellent photographs, which he has kindly allowed me to reproduce here, taken with his new camera set up of a Canon 7D and 600mm F4 ISII which he took when on holiday in his original home town of Zulfi in August. Copyright of the below photos remains with Mansur.

Zulfi consists of five main environments:
1 - Sand dunes with some shrubs and palm oases constitute two-thirds of the area and are mainly in the north and west.
2 – The eastern plateau with high ground and valleys with some acacia trees and shrubs.
3 – The sharp western edge of the plateau overlooking the city with good vegetation cover and valleys.
4 - Farms around the city consisting mostly of palm plantations, animal feed fields and vegetables
5 - Large farms in western Zulfi (in the sandy plains), for grain and animal feed (pivot irrigation) with some new palm plantations.

Central Saudi Arabia has quite a different birding fauna to the Eastern Province and birds pass through the region and slightly different times and in slightly different numbers. Mansur photographed a number of birds that have yet to come through the Eastern Province this autumn, as far as I am aware, including White-throated Robin and Greater Short-toed Lark. White-throated Robin is a very scarce autumn migrant through the Eastern Province with only two documented records until 1989 (Bundy et al) although it is more regular in spring. Large numbers of this species have recently been seen in the Abha region of South-west Saudi Arabia indicating it has a westerly migration route in autumn through Saudi Arabia. Greater Short-toed Lark is seen in autumn from September until October in the Eastern Province, but again is commoner in spring, showing this species passes earlier through central Saudi Arabia than the east of the country. These records appear to show that Zulfi is on a migration route of a number of birds that do not occur as regularly further east in the country.
White-throated Robin
Greater Short-toed Lark

All the other birds Mansur sent me photographs of have been seen in the Eastern Province this autumn with some resident bird numbers increasing due to passing migrants. Eurasian Hoopoe, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin are examples of three species whose breeding numbers are greatly increased by passing migrants. European Reed Warbler may or may not breed in the Eastern Province but is an early passage migrant with both races including the eastern race Caspian Reed Warbler fuscus passing through. Marsh Warbler is a difficult bird to identify in the field but has been recorded by both Mansur and birders in the Eastern Province this autumn.
Upcher's Warbler
Eurasian Hoopoe
Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin
European Reed Warbler
Marsh Warbler
I would like to thank Mansur for allowing me to use his excellent photographs and hope to have a few more of his excellent photos to post in the coming days.