17 January 2016

Second Woodlark for Saudi Arabia – Sarrar, Eastern Province

Phil Roberts and I found two Woodlark Lullula arborea at the edge of a pivot irrigation fodder field near Sarrar on 15 January. Initially the birds were feeding along the edge of the field giving good views but eventually moved into the crop where they were not possible to see unless flushed when they could be seen in flight only. Luckily for us the man tending the field, Stanley, allowed us to walk through it but it eventually became obvious we would not get better views than the initial ones so we left them in peace. This was only the second record for Saudi Arabia following the first confirmed one on the afternoon of 22 December 1994 that remained until 25 December 1994, in an area of low sandy dunes immediately south of the Holiday Inn, Jubail. There were previous claims of the species at Dhahran in December 1973 and at Jubail in March 1983 but In the absence of a description, both Saudi records were regarded as unacceptable by Bundy et al. (1989) in their review of the avifauna of the Eastern Province. The plumage of the bird we found, like the one in Jubail, was of the race pallida as it was paler and greyer than nominate with less buff and more obvious white below as well as narrower black breast. The race pallida breeds in the Mediterranean region and the northern Middle East from Turkey east to Iran. It is migratory or partially so in the northern parts of its range, but mainly resident or dispersive elsewhere. Phil has kindly allowed me to use his photo of the bird (top one shown here) as he was on the correct side of the car to get initial shots.