05 April 2014

Two Richard’s Pipits in pivot irrigation fields – Qarat al Ulya

A visit to the large pivot irrigation fields at Qarat al Ulya on 29 March 2014 produced few birds as most of the fields were turned over to Wheat and the birds, if present, were impossible to see. Luckily there were a few fields growing alfalfa crops that allowed some of the birds to be seen and in one of these I located a large Pipit looking out of the crop. It looked interesting and I pointed out to Phil that it looked good for Richard’s Pipit. We got a bit closer and I took a couple of rather poor, but identifiable, photos before it was spooked by something and flew off with two Tree Pipits giving it’s explosive call on taking flight. We could not locate the bird again despite searching all around the field but birds are difficult to see in these crops. This was a new species for me in Saudi Arabia and has only been recorded seven previous times in the Eastern Province of the country where it is regarded as a vagrant.

Two at Dhahran 14-18 December 1982 with one until 3 March 1983
One Haradh 19 October 1984,
One Qatif 20 December 1984
One Dhahran 12 November 1984
One near Jubail Holiday Inn 17 November 1991
One Sabkhat Al Fasl 20 November 1991.
One Sabkhat Al Fasl date unknown (Phil Roberts)

Amazingly we located another bird in another similar pivot irrigation field about half an hour later, which looked slightly different plumage wise. Phil took a couple of photos of this bird but the birds head was turned before it too flew off and although we followed it across the field it was eventually lost from view. Richard’s Pipit is regarded as a rare passage migrant and winter visitor to Saudi Arabia, although it was thought to be a rare resident in southern Asir, including Najran up to 1936. Birds are recorded more regularly in Kuwait to the north and United Arab Emirates to the south so they may be more common than the records suggest.