15 November 2013

Scarce birds in the Al Hassa area (part 1) – Bird records by Shaheen

A recent environmental survey of Lake Al Asfar near Al Hassa has turned up a number of good birds for the Eastern province. The details below are from a local photographer Shaheen who apparently took all the photographs in the area of Al Hassa. I am trying to find out the exact details of some of the records as they are very important ornithologically, and will post further details if they become available. All the photographs below were taken by Shaheen who has given permission for me to use them on my website.

Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina is a vagrant in Saudi Arabia with four records of nine birds all I can find. They are as follows:
Three females and a male at Dhahran Hills percolation pond, Dhahran Saudi Aramco camp, 31 July 1985
Pair at Dhahran Saudi Aramco Camp, 16th January 2004
Two males at Dhahran Saudi Aramco Camp, 9 - 19th February 2004
An adult male at Lake Al Asfar, Al Hassa in 2013?
Red-crested Pochard - male
Eurasian Stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus is a scarce migrant and winter visitor to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, probably annual especially at Haradh. It has occurred in widely scattered localities across the region with most records in March and October. The main passage periods are February to early May and from September to November. There is one July record. Up to seven have been found together but they are normally found singly. Birds have been seen in the Rub’ al-Khali desert in the Empty Quarter where a few birds winter in open sandy areas with the last one I know of being seen on 28 February 1990. The species is more common in the South-west of the country where they are uncommon but regular winter visitor in the Tihamah coastal plains. A flock of 100 were seen roosting on a plateau near Qarnayn 28 December 1991. It appears to have occurred quite regularly in winter in the Empty Quarter and Gulf earlier in 20th Century.
Eurasian Stone-curlew
Eurasian Stone-curlew

Macqueen’s Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii is a migrant breeder and scarce winter visitor to the Eastern Provinceof Saudi Arabia. Elsewhere in the country it breeds in small numbers in northern Saudi Arabia and has been reintroduced to central Saudi Arabia. For much of the twentieth century, Macqueen’s Bustard Chlamydotis macqueenii was treated as a subspecies of Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata, with them being treated as a polytypic species, comprising three subspecies: C. u. macqueenii in eastern Egypt (Sinai), Arabia and central Asia from northwest Kazakhstan east to Mongolia, wintering from the Persian Gulf to northwest India and in central China; C. u. undulata in northern Africa from Mauritania to western Egypt; and C. u. fuertaventurae on Fuertaventura, Lanzarote and Graciosa, in the Canary Islands. Recent studies of courtship behaviour, morphology, vocalisations, and mitochondrial and nuclear DNA have shown consistent differences between Macqueen’s Bustard and Houbara Bustard. Together with clear-cut plumage differences, these new data suggest that Macqueen’s Bustard and Houbara Bustard are best treated as separate species Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata (with the subspecies undulata and fuertaventurae) and Macqueen’s Bustard C. macqueenii (monotypic). The Macqueen’s Bustard is a traditional game bird found across the entire Arabian Peninsula; however, its population has decreased drastically during recent decades mainly as a result of human developments in the region, particularly new hunting techniques and an increase in livestock. In the 1930’s hunting parties could regularly kill 50 birds or more on a trip and in the 1960’s falconers were still taking up to twenty birds in a week, but by the 1980’s only a small population was still surviving in Harrat al-Harrah in the north of the country. It has been suggested that it may still breed in favourable years on the edge of the Danna. Recent sightings of the species in the Eastern Province are few, although some local Bedouins say it occurs sparingly from November to March.
The only other records are one over the sea at Half Moon Bay flying towards the Saudi coast (26°N 50°E) 31st October 1976
One at Haradh for a week in early February 1980
One near Abqaiq in December 1980
One south of Al Khobar 27 December 1983.
A pair Ras Tanajib 13 November 1991
A male Safwa 28 November 1991
One caught by local falconers in an area just south of Jubail 10th November 2011
One photographed at Al Asfar Lake winter 2013?
Maqueen's Bustard