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.