31 Aug 2019

Libyan Jird - Jubail

Whilst in the Jubail area at end of August I saw a Libyan Jird Meriones libycus. Although I have probably seen this species before they were brief views of animals bolting for cover. As a result I was uncertain if it was a Jird or Fat Sand Rat but thought more along the Jird line due to thin face and less fat appearance. I sent the photos below to Mansur Al Fahd who is extremely knowledgeable about most of the Kingdoms wildlife and he replied “This is a Libyan Jird, you can note the longer ears, reddish tail and black nails as well as daytime activity during a hot summer day. The tail tip is normally dense, but here it is small so may have had an accident”. 
It is a large species of jird with a head-and-body length of 100 to 160 mm and a similar-length tail and a weight of 56 to 105 g. The head is broad with large eyes, the fur is fine and dense and the hind legs are long. The upper parts are greyish-brown. The hairs on the underside have white tips and grey bases and the tail is pale brown except for the terminal third of the tail which is deep brown or blackish. The claws are dark-coloured, and the soles of the hind feet are partly hairy so that patches of bare skin are visible. In Saudi Arabia it may be confused with Sundevall's jird Meriones crassusbut that species is smaller, has pale claws and a smaller dark tail tuft. The Libyan Jird is native to North Africa and parts of Western and Central Asia. Its range extends from Mauritania and Morocco to Saudi Arabia, the Near East, Kazakhstan and Western China. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, intermittent saline lakes, hot deserts, and rural gardens. The Libyan jird may live alone or in small colonies, and is more sociable in winter when colonies may contain twenty or thirty individuals. It inhabits a burrow up to 1.5 m deep which is a fairly complex series of passages with multiple entrances, It is a diurnal species and forages for seeds, bulbs, tubers and leaves, as well as any dead insect it may find. It often carries the food back to the burrow and here large quantities are stored in chambers near the surface, deeper burrows being used for nesting. It is opportunistically migratory, moving to new territory when food becomes scarce. Breeding takes place throughout most of the year with several litters of about five young being born.
Libyan Jird

Libyan Jird

Libyan Jird

Libyan Jird


29 Aug 2019

A few migrants - Jubail

Birding the Jubail area in late August produced a few migrants including three Common Cuckoos, Turkestan Shrike, a group of seven Garganey, Barn Swallow, House Martin and several Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. A few waders were seen including Ruddy Turnstone a species that is not commonly seen and the scarce Spur-winged Plover of which we saw three together. Resident species included Greater Flamingo and Grey-headed Swamphen. The reed beds had many Indian (Clamorous) Reed Warblers and Gracful Prinias. Migration is just picking up and hopefully many more birds will be seen in the coming weeks.
Garganey
Garganey
Greater Flamingo
Greater Flamingo
Grey-headed Swamphen
Grey-headed Swamphen
Grey-headed Swamphen
Grey-headed Swamphen
Ruddy Turnstone
Ruddy Turnstone

27 Aug 2019

Traditional Haystack – Abu Arish area

Whilst in the southwest of the Kingdom recently I saw a number of traditional style haystacks. The kingdom is well developed with most haystacks now the typical rectangular form but as you get closer to the Yemen boarder and away from the big cities the more traditional haystacks become common place due to lack of farm machinery. The haystack below was guarded by a farm dog but he allowed us to take a couple of photos.
Traditional Haystack

25 Aug 2019

Lesser Sand Plover - Jubail

The Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolusis a common migrant and winter visitor to coastal areas in Saudi Arabia. Autumn movement commences early with family groups moving through the region from the third week in June, continuing until September. In the Eastern Province it is mainly a winter visitor and passage migrant. In the 1980s it was abundant along the coast from August through May with smaller numbers of non-breeding immatures in June and July but now it is less common although still seen in good numbers. A count in January & February 1986 was estimated at 28,000 with the ICBP/NCWCD Waterbird Survey (November to December) 1991 - Mainly in Tarut Bay, counting a maximum of 2332 at Zur on 26 November. Kingdom wide it has the following status: Common migrant and winter visitor to the Gulf coast where a few are present throughout the summer. Uncommon migrant and winter visitor to the Red Sea coast. The only inland records are from Riyadh and Tabuk. I saw the below bird near Jubail in late August and it appears to resemble C. m. pamirensis in plumage which according to HBW occur from western Tien Shan, Pamirs and Karakoram to west Kunlun Shan and winter in south and east Africa to W India.
Lesser Sand Plover

Lesser Sand Plover

Lesser Sand Plover

23 Aug 2019

Egyptian Nightjars - Jubail

Whilst birding at Jubail today I saw a number of Egyptian Nightjars. They are now an easily seen species during the summer months in this area. Birds generally turn up in early June and depart in late September with records of early and late birds occurring every year for the past few years. Numbers have increased almost every year since they were first found in 2006. It is quite likely birds breed in the area or very nearby but I have not had any confirmation of this yet although juveniles were seen in June this year indicating strongly they do breed. You can get very close to them in the car without disturbing them as they are convinced their camouflage can hide them from anything. I managed to get a couple of flight shots of the bird as we got out of the car to move the bird from the track. We saw four different birds but did not try to find as many as we could as we did not want to disturb them and they sit in tamarisk cover and flush easily.
Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar