23 May 2019

Dunlin in breeding plumage - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently I saw a few summer plumaged Dunlin, these birds are supposedly of the subspecies Calidris alpina centralis. I rarely see Dunlin in summer plumage, so took the opportunity to take a few photos and although the light was very poor but I did manage to obtain a few average photos, shown below. C. a. centralis breeds in north-east Siberia from Taymyr Peninsula to Kolyma Delta and winters from the eastern Mediterranean and Red Sea eastwards to southern Asia.
Dunlin

Dunlin

Dunlin

Dunlin

Dunlin

Dunlin

Dunlin

21 May 2019

Migrants - Jubail

A steady trickle of migrants have been passing through the Eastern Province in the last couple of weeks with several Red-backed Shrike appearing. Lesser Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, Common Redstart, Pied Wheatear, Tree Pipit and Western Siberian Stonechat were also seen in small numbers. Very few Yellow Wagtails have been around recently compared to recent years but small flocks of European and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters have been passing over mainly in the early morning.
Red-backed Shrike
Red-backed Shrike 
Red-backed Shrike
Common Redsatart
Common Redsatart
Pied Wheatear
Pied Wheatear
Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin
Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin
Tree Pipit
Tree Pipit
Western Siberian Stonechat
Western Siberian Stonechat

19 May 2019

Great Snipe - Jubail

Initially found by Phil Roberts on 6 May it was feeding in a shallow area of flooded sabka. Phil took a number of excellent photos of the bird including with the wings raised showing clearly all the features of Great Snipe. As I had only seen one bird previously in Saudi Arabia at the edge of the percolation pond in Dhahran Saudi Aramco Camp, Dhahran 22 October 2011 I was keen to see if the bird was still around at the weekend. Luckily for me it was still present in exactly the same area and after feeding in the open for some time walked onto the land and rested under a tree where we left it. Great Snipe is the largest of the three species in Western Europe and is 5% to 10% longer and broader-winged and about 10% longer legged, but 10% shorter-billed and marginally shorter-tailed. Great shows more white in the upperwing (all of the wing coverts, including the primary coverts, are fringed white) showing a white-boardered, dark mid-wing panel broader white sides to the tail and darker, more densely barred underwings. It appears bulkier, primarily because of its stouter bill, larger head, greater girth and broader wings giving it more of a ball shape on the ground. The head pattern of the Great Snipe is subtly different from that of the Snipe, with less pronounced striping and the belly shows less white being almost completely barred ith the exception of the central belly. There is extensive white on the outer tail-feathers but this was not visible in the field as the bird did not fly and we did not want to disturb it. It is a rare bird in Saudi Arabia with a single record from KAUST in 2018. Birds of the Riyadh Region (Stagg 1994) stating it is a scarce passage migrant and winter visitor. Passes February to April in ones and twos and again from September to November, sometimes several mingling with G. gallinago. Winter visitors occur December and January. In the Eastern Province, it is a Vagrant with six records of eight birds. One Abqaiq 9-10 May 1976, Three Abqaiq 3-16 September 1977, One Abqaiq 12-13 October 1977, One Abqaiq 30 April 1982, One Dhahran 22 October 2011 and one Jubail 6-10 May 2019.


















17 May 2019

Passage & Breeding Waders - Jubail

Wader numbers have started to increase again as passage of some species speeds up. Passage waders included good numbers of Wood Sandpiper and Ruff with smaller numbers of summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin and Little Stint. Terek Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover and a single Broad-billed Sandpiper were also seen. Regular breeders were seen in good numbers with plenty of Black-winged Stilt around including many well grown juveniles. Kentish Plover were also seen with a few juveniles, another species that breeds locally.
Little Stint
Little Stint
Wood Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Black-winged Stilt - juvenile
Black-winged Stilt - juvenile
Curlew Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper

15 May 2019

Slightly odd Barn Swallow - Juabil

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently I came across a slightly odd looking Barn Swallow. It had a large amount of white in the wing, which when originally seen from distance perched on a reed made it look very interesting. Instead, it turned out to be a Swallow made to look even more strange by its very long and thin tail streamers. The plumage appears to rule out all other swallows apart from Barn Swallow.
Barn Swallow

13 May 2019

Purple Darter – Khafra Marsh

Whilst walking around Khafra Marsh recently I saw quite a number of Purple Darter dragonflies flying about and landing regularly. They were a dark purplish-black colour and quite small and regularly perched in the open on small shrubs. A number were breeding and I managed to photograph the ones below. This darter has an iridescent dark-purplish sheen which gives rise to its name the Purple Darter. It is also known as the black percher, due to the male being almost entirely black, and to the species’ habit of regularly perching on grasses and other vegetation. In contrast to the male, the female is a vibrant yellowish-green, with small black stripes across the thorax. The wings of the purple darter are very clear, although they turn slightly amber towards the base of the hind-wing. This amber patch is bigger and darker in females. Both the male and female have a greyish-brown cell, known as the pterostigma, near the tip of the wing and it has a widespread distribution, primarily occurring in Africa, outside of forested areas but can also be found on several islands in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as across the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula, and through Arabia to the Indian subcontinent.
Purple Darter

9 May 2019

Desert Campion – Khafra Marsh

The Desert Campion Silene villosa is an annual herb with green stem and leaves and white flowers. They occur in sandy areas and flower from February to March and occasionally into April. It measures 10-20 centimetres and is very common occurring in Bahrain, Kuwait, eastern Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Can be numerous after rains.
Desert Campion Silene villosa

7 May 2019

Lesser Kestrels – Jebal Hamrah

Whilst driving to Judah and Jebal Hamrah we came across two Lesser Kestrels perched on fence wires in the very early morning. This was the first time I have seen the species in Jebal Hamrah. Lesser Kestrel is an uncommon passage migrant to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia that migrates in small flocks. They are normally seen in areas where insects are common such as pivot irrigation fields where good numbers can sometimes be seen in spring. Small flocks are sometimes seen flying over at some height and not landing suggesting many move through the area unseen. Numbers are significantly lower in the autumn than the spring. Most birds occur in Saudi Arabia from the middle of February to mid-April in spring, and between the end-September and mid-November in autumn. 
Lesser Kestrel

Lesser Kestrel

5 May 2019

Elevated or Variable Stalker? - Jebal Hamrah

Whilst birding the Jebal Hamrah area recently I came across a stalker beetle of some description. It appears to be either an Elevated or otherwise Variable Stalker. These beetles live in stony deserts such as the area where I photographed it but are not easy for the uninitiated to identify.

3 May 2019

Camouflaged Desert Larks – Jebal Hamrah

Whilst walking around the Judah area we located tens of Desert Larks often in pairs and almost all were of the pale subspecies azizi which is the palest form of all the subspecies and matches almost perfectly with the limestone rocks and scree of the escarpment. As can be seen from one of the photos below they blend in to the background perfectly with their plumage matching that of the limestone cliffs and rocks. They prefer arid hills, stony or rocky slopes with sparse vegetation and can often be located by their constant calling. Birds were seen along the entire length of the escarpment and although never common should be located if looked for carefully enough.
Desert_Lark

Desert_Lark

1 May 2019

Arabian Darkling Beetle – Jebal Hamrah

Recently whilst walking around the flat stony desert area near Jebal Hamrah I came across Arabian Darkling Beetles on the edge of an escarpment. This is one of the most common species of Arabia and is found in many locations. There are many darkling beetles but this one appears to be the most common. 
Arabian Darkling Beetle

Arabian Darkling Beetle

29 Apr 2019

Breeding Pharaoh Eagle Owl – Jubail area

I took a few photos recently of a nesting Pharaoh Eagle Owl. The bird had four young but when I was present only two were seen. A male was seen calling nearby so I did not stay long in order not to disturb the birds. The Pharaoh Eagle Owl is distributed throughout much of North Africa and the Middle East, with two recognised subspecies and the smaller, paler and sandier coloured Bubo ascalaphus desertorum appearing to be this subspecies. They are found in arid habitats, including open desert plains, rocky outcrops and broken escarpments and jabals, mountain cliffs and wadis. 
Pharaoh Eagle Owl

Pharaoh Eagle Owl

Pharaoh Eagle Owl - young

Pharaoh Eagle Owl - young

27 Apr 2019

Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard – Jebal Hamrah

Recently whilst driving around the flat stoney desert area near Jebal Hamrah I came across an Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard sunning itself by its hole. It was still quite cool as it was early morning and still a blue colour as they become yellow when they have heated up. These lizards are relatively common and widespread across Saudi Arabia preferring hard stony ground to excavate their holes, but are decreasing in numbers locally. Spiny-tailed Lizard Uromastyx spp.is a medium to large sized, heavily built lizard with a spiny club like tail, which has been likened to a small living dinosaur. They are ground dwelling and live in some of the most arid regions of the planet including northern Africa, the Middle East, Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwestern India. The Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard Uromastyx aegyptia microlepisis most common in Saudi Arabia and is the one that occurs in the Eastern Province and is generally regarded as a subspecies of the Egyptian Spiny-tailed Lizard Uromastyx aegyptia.It is locally known to the Arabs as 'Dhub'. 
Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard

22 Apr 2019

Last of the wintering Bluethroats - Haradh

Whilst birding the Haradh area recently we saw good numbers Bluethroats. There were calling from an area of long grass in a partly cut pivot field and consisted mainly of Red-spotted Bluethroats but two White-spotted birds were also seen. There were double figures seen which is a good number of a non-wetland area and were probably the last wintering birds being joined by migrants on their way to their breeding grounds. They are really beautiful birds but not so easy to get good photos of as they seldom allow close approach. Other birds seen in the fields nearby were Namaqua Dove and Water Pipit.
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Red-spotted Bluethroat
Water Pipit
Water Pipit
Namaqua Dove
Namaqua Dove

20 Apr 2019

Winter Birds - Tabuk

Whilst birding the Tabuk area recently I saw a few good winter species such as Montagues Harrier. It was the commonest harrier although both Pallid and Marsh Harrier were also seen. Several Long-legged Buzzard were also around the large fields. Three Cream-coloured Coursers were seen along the edge of a large pivot irrigation field but trying to obtain good photos proved extremely difficult. Other birds seen commonly were Crested Lark and Eurasian Hoopoe.
Cream Coloured Courser
Cream-coloured Courser
Crested Lark
Crested Lark 
Eurasian Hoopoe
Eurasian Hoopoe
Eurasian Hoopoe
Eurasian Hoopoe
Long-legged Buzzard
Long-legged Buzzard
Montagu's Harrier
Montagu's Harrier