31 May 2014

Breeding waders – Dhahran Expro Wader Roost

A trip to Dhahran Expro Wader Roost last weekend after dropping the children at a birthday party coincided with low tide, the worst time to visit. As it was late in the day the sun was also in a poor position for photography, but this did not matter too much as I saw very few birds. The only waders seen were a few Eurasian Oystercatcher, several Eurasian Curlew, three Curlew Sandpipers, five Lesser Sand Plovers and lots of Black-winged Stilts and Kentish Plovers. The last two species were carefully guarding there young that were running around all over the place. There must have been at least six pairs of Black-winged Stilts and fifteen pairs of Kentish Plover, indicating a good breeding season for them both. It was interesting to see the birds different techniques to distract attention from their young with Black-winged Stilts flying overhead noisy and Kentish Plover pretending they had a broken wing or similar ailment to move you away from their offspring. A single Greater Flamingo and four Gull-billed Terns were the only other birds of note seen on the tip.
Eurasian Curlew
Curlew Sandpiper
Black-winged Stilt
Black-winged Stilts - juveniles
Black-winged Stilt chick
Kentish Plover
Kentish Plover chick
Kentish Plover chick
Kentish Plover chick

30 May 2014

Things have gone quite on the patch – Dhahran Hills

The last week has produced very few birds of note with almost no migrants seen. The only birds of note have been a couple of European Turtle Doves, a species that breeds locally and a male Little Bittern catching food on the percolation pond.  A large group of Barn Swallows were seen one night feeding around the main pond with two Common Swifts associating with them but few other birds. I was sent a photo of a Black Kite that a resident of the camp had taken in his garden in the main camp which is a good bird for here, but unfortunately I did not see the bird.
Little Bittern
European Turtle Dove
Common Swift

29 May 2014

Eurasian Golden Orioles & more in Udhailiyah – Bird records by Nishan Xavier

Nishan sent me an e-mail with a number of photographs of birds he had seen recently in Udhailliyah Heights, Saudi Aramco camp. He has kindly allowed me to use the photos on my website and they are reproduced below. Udhailliyah is well inland and shows that the Eurasian Golden Oriole movement this year is widespread with my wife even seeing one in our garden, unfortunately I was at work and did not see it. It is also interesting to note Red-vented Bulbul is present in Udhailliyah as this is a scarce bird in Dhahran. The other species shown are all common birds in Dhahran, but not so easy to photograph well.
Eurasian Golden Oriole
Spotted Flycatcher
Eurasian Golden Oriole
Eurasian Golden Oriole
Common Redstart - male
Common Redstart - female
House Sparrow
Namaqua Doves

28 May 2014

Two different Arabian Red Foxes – Dhahran Hills

Sightings of Arabian Red Fox appear to be increasing as the temperature increases slightly. I have seen then on a number of occasions in the last week on the ‘patch’ mostly in the scrubby desert and although they are not as tame as last year they still give quite good views. They are shedding some of their winter coat and become sleeker as the spring progresses. I always like seeing these animals when I am out and about so the increase in sightings is welcome by me at least. The top photos are all of a single fox with the last photo of one sitting on a rock a different animal.

27 May 2014

tschutshensis type or hybrid Yellow Wagtail – Sabkhat Al Fasl

I found a slightly unusual Yellow Wagtail at Sabkaht Al Fasl, Jubail on 16 May 2014 that had me scratching my head as to what exactly it was. It looked like a tschutshensis type? But the supercillium was yellow instead of the white I had expected, and was also not as obvious as I would have thought. As a result I started having thoughts it may be some sort of hybrid rather than a genuine tschutshensis and contacted Andrea Corso an expert in many things including Yellow Wagtails and received the following reply “The problem is that many hybrids of Western Palearctic flava ssp. produce offspring that are almost (or even totally) identical to this far eastern taxon. I have seen myself birds like it in Sicily, Israel, Sinai, Egypt and without sound recordings for sonograms or DNA I would not suggest to ever ID positively tschutshensis unless they are very typical fenotype with bright yellow supericlium, very dark ear-coverts and they sound like one also with sonograms etc. So, sure your bird is worthwhile studying and is very interesting but I am sorry I could not suggest to you any firm ID. To be honest I would prefer to think that it is an hybrid or one of those eastern populations of flava flava or a cinereocapilla x flava or other sort of hybrid”. I, like Andrea, prefer to leave these odd looking Yellow Wagtails unasigned but it is good fun trying to think what parentage they may have.

26 May 2014

Indian Silverbills – Dhahran Hills

Indian Silverbill is a resident breeder in Dhahran but they are not often seen and occur in very small numbers. They probably colonized the area naturally, although there is a possibility escaped cage birds were originally involved. Birds are most often seen in Dhahran feeding on the seeds of tall grasses around the edges of the scrubby desert area as well as around the golf course. They normally occur in small groups of up to ten birds and are rarely seen singly. I have seen several small groups in the last week feeding by the edge of the spray fields, although may all have been the same group as the species is very mobile. Apart from the Indian Silverbills, there has been a drop off of birds on the camp. Shrike numbers are well down with only the occasional Red-backed Shrike and warblers are now thin on the ground. There are still a few Willow Warblers and Common Whitethroats around but otherwise it is very quiet. A single Whinchat has been showing very well for the last few days by the edge of the spray field and has ben so close I could not focus the camera on it. It has been a good year for this species in the Eastern Province. Otherwise there has been a steady but slow trickle of Barn Swallows and Sand Martins but little else. The only other birds of note have been a few waders with up to five Wood Sandpipers passing though and resident breeding Kentish Plover and Little Ringed Plovers about with well-grown juveniles. Three Black-winged Stilts still remain on the flooded spray fields and a male Little Bittern has been showing well on the percolation pond, a specie that is not so regularly seen on the camp.
Indian Silverbill
Little Ringed Plover - juvenile
Wood Sandpiper

25 May 2014

Plenty of terns of various species – Sabkhat Al Fasl

Whilst birding at Sabkhat Al Fasl last weekend it became apparent there were plenty of terns about. The most obvious where the White-cheeked Terns that were about in their hundreds and are just returning to the Arabian Gulf to start breeding. All birds were adults in full breeding plumage and they were flying around catching fish, many already apparently paired up. Breeding mainly takes place on offshore islands with egg laying starting about now. I found one bird that looked in a bit of discomfort as it trying to swallow a large fish. Other Terns seen in good numbers were Little Terns that also breed in the area, this time mainly inland on open water bodies. Again these terns were busy feeding up presumably to get fit and healthy for the breeding season. Other Terns seen included Gull-billed Terns, Caspian Terns and a single White-winged Tern. Sabkhat Al Fasl is probably the best place for getting close up views of both White-cheeked and Little Terns on the Eastern Province mainland. Hopefully we will be going to Bahrain again in June to ring tern chicks on Al Jarim Island South (26deg 23min N 50deg 28min E). Here we catch White-cheeked Terns if we go to the central Island where they breed, but mainly Lesser Crested Terns and Bridled Terns on the southern island.
White-cheeked Tern
White-cheeked Tern
White-cheeked Tern
White-cheeked Tern
Little Tern
Little Tern
Caspian Tern

24 May 2014

A wave of warblers – Dhahran Hills

Birds have been passing through Dhahran in reasonable numbers during the past few days with an obvious passage of warblers noted with the best day being 19 May. This day there were warblers everywhere with many of them out in the open feeding on anything they could find. The majority of birds were Willow Warblers and Common Whitethroats of the grey-headed icterops subspecies with ten Willow Warblers seen on the wires of the settling pond alone. A few other warblers were seen as well including Caspian Reed Warbler, Indian (Clamorous) Reed Warbler and a Great Reed Warbler that led me a merry dance for a few minutes before I got proper views of the bird. It was feeding around in small dead or dying shrubs and not really behaving at all like a Great Reed Warbler. Red-backed Shrikes are still about in good numbers with plenty of males now occurring again after a dip in numbers last week. A single Turkestan Shrike was also seen on the edge of the spray fields. Plenty of Sand Martins have been passing with a few Common Swifts and some Barn Swallows but the last in smaller numbers than in previous years. A few waders are still passing as well with the best being a Temminck’s Stint on the percolation pond. Up to ten Wood Sandpipers have been present daily and three Black-winged Stilts have taken up residence on the flooded spray fields. The only other bird worth mentioning was a late Isabelline Wheatear in the scrubby desert area.
Willow Warbler
Common Whitethroat
Indian Reed Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Red-backed Shrike - male
Black-winged Stilt

23 May 2014

Pharaoh Eagle Owl at Jabal Nariyah – Bird records by Dave Kilmister

On 17 May Dave visited Jabal Nariyah, then drove south past Nariyah to As-Sarrar. “There was a Pharaoh Eagle Owl at the Jabal, and a trio of Brown-necked Ravens. Apart from that, the birding was quiet. The pivot fields at Qaryat Al-Olaya are far more accessible and the large lakes had dried out already. I did see my first Arabian Spiny-tail Lizard though, so I was happy”.
Pharaoh Eagle Owl
A couple of weeks ago Dave went to Ash Sharqiyah Development although it was very windy. Dave did not see a single raptor, and there was nothing on the lakes. “There were a lot of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters and I saw a single European Bee-eater (though very unlikely to have been alone), which was a first for me at the farm. Some of the less-common birds were a Masked Shrike, a flock of Wood Sandpipers on a pivot field, and a single Yellow Wagtail. There was a pair of European Rollers, and a Blackcap and a Redstart. I confirmed that the sparrows nesting are Spanish Sparrows, much quieter now and not carrying nest material so I presume they are brooding. I got a photo of a Common Quail (well, it’s head at least) and a Willow Warbler.
Common Quail
Willow Warbler

22 May 2014

KFUPM Update – Bird records by Lorna Mackenzie

Lorna sent me a weekly update from KFUPM in Dhahran saying “Not too much in the way of news this past week on campus, like you more female than male Red-backed Shrike and still a fair number of Warblers around. Less Spotted Flycatchers and indeed lower numbers of passage migrants generally. More Swifts than Swallows and still Bee-eaters from time to time, I saw eight on 18 May. The Golden Orioles though have continued to be a presence here over the past week, greatly diminished in numbers but I have seen them every day, every time I've been out in fact. Most days between two and six birds at a time, 14 passing over my head one evening a few days ago. All I can say with certainty recently is that there is one male who has been singing each morning”.
Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike - male