16 February 2017

Fifteen Oriental Skylarks – Jubail

Phil Roberts and I found a group of fifteen Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula in Jubail 10 February 2017, only the second time we had seen the species in the Kingdom. The birds were discovered on the ground feeding with a few Greater Short-toed Larks and a single Eurasian Skylark but were clearly different to either species and in flight gave a very distinct buzzing flight call and lacked the white trailing edge to the wing. The first records was only discovered in Saudi Arabia in the mid 1980’s when six were found at Dhahran Saudi Aramco camp, percolation pond, 22-23 October 1984, were found at Dhahran BROWN, G. K. & J. PALFREY. 1986. The Small Skylark, a new species for Saudi Arabia. Sandgrouse 7:55-59. Since this date there have been very few records although the species could be overlooked, as it is very similar to Eurasian Skylark save for a distinctive buzzing call, short primary wing projection, and warmer colouration. The other records I know of include one on 1 October 1999 at Thumamah Estate in a big pivot-irrigated field, close to The King Khalid Wildlife Research Centre where the bird gave a buzzing call: ”biz-biz” and had a lack of white trailing edge to the wing. There are also a number of records from the Eastern Province including, twenty five at Abu Ali party on 3 January 1991, Sabkha al-Fasl three on 17 November 1991 increasing to seven on 3 December 1991, three at Abu Hadayah on 6 October 1995, two at Uttayyiq Agricultural Area 2 February 1996, three near Thaj in March 1997 and a party of eighteen from 27 January - 2 March 2000 at Jubail on a landscape lawn and four Sabkhat Al Fasl 11 November 2016. The birds we found may have included the four seen at the same site 11 November 2016 in which case they would have spent the winter here. They were, however, in a different location and we have birded the site regularly in-between the dates without locating them.