24 November 2016

An influx of Eurasian Bitterns – Records by Mohammed Al Mohatresh and Mansur Al Fahad

Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris is a scarce migrant and winter visitor to Saudi Arabia. Birds of the Riyadh Region (Stagg 1994) – Status uncertain but probably a rare visitor often overlooked because of its secretive nature and fondness of dense reedbeds. First confirmed record was of a single bird seen on four occasions between 10 and 22 November 1987 with the next sighting again in winter on 10 November 1989: this was followed by a spring record on 13 April 1990 and an autumn sighting on 15 September 1990. One in a fodder field at Al Hayer 12 April 2013 was a very unusual record for central Saudi Arabia. In the Eastern Province Bundy regarded it as a Vagrant: Hofuf Lakes 21 May 1976, Dhahran 24 November 1978, Jawb on the northern edge of the Rub’ al-Khali 25 September 1980, Abqaiq 11-17 December 1982, three Abqaiq 19-20 October 1983 and one 14-21 December 1984. I know of no other records from the East of the Kingdom. As a result I was very surprised when I received an e-mail from Mansur Al Fahad saying numbers had been seen to the north of Riyadh in November this year including fifteen 30 kilometers east of Zulfi 8 November, six together 40 kilometers north of Zulfi 11 November and 40 at Sakaka near Al Jouf 6 – 12 Nov. A single has also ben seen in KAUST in early November a first record for the location. I thank Mansur for sending me details and for obtaining me permission to use Mohammed Mohatresh amazing photos of some of the birds. I also thank Mohammed for allowing me to use his photo shown below. Mansur said to me that birds are regularly seen in good numbers in this are of Saudi Arabia in the winter, a phenomenon that has not been published elsewhere as far as I am aware.  
Eurasian Bittern