20 Sep 2019

Gulls – Jizan fish market

Whilst birding the Jizan fish Market in Summer with Phil Roberts we saw plenty of gulls waiting around for fish scraps from the nearby fish market. Occasionally a fish trader would come out and put all the fish offal in the road and the gulls would have a feast. There were plenty of White-eyed Gulls and Sooty Gulls sitting around and a couple of Baltic Gulls were also present.  We spent quite a long time trying to get good photos and they normally come out less well than anticipated. Some of my best shots are below. 
Baltic Gull
Baltic Gull
Baltic Gull
Baltic Gull
Sooty Gull
Sooty Gull
Sooty Gull
Sooty Gull
Sooty Gull
Sooty Gull
Sooty Gull
Sooty Gull
Sooty Gull
Sooty Gull
White-eyed Gull
White-eyed Gull
White-eyed Gull
White-eyed Gull
White-eyed Gull
White-eyed Gull
White-eyed Gull
White-eyed Gull
White-eyed Gull
White-eyed Gull


19 Sep 2019

White-browed Coucal – Abu Arish Waste-water Lakes

Whilst birding the Abu Arish area recently I came across a good number of White-browed Coucal Centropus superciliosus including well grown juveniles. The subspecies of White-browed Coucal we get in southwest Saudi Arabia is Centropus superciliosus superciliosus. They occur on Socotra and southwest Arabia as well as eastern Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and western Somalia south through Kenya and northeast Uganda to northeast Tanzania. In Saudi Arabia, they are an uncommon breeding resident in the Tihamah and have been recorded on the Farasan Islands. They are normally located by their distinct song/call that is a series of 10 – 20 notes, descending in pitch and increasing in tempo. They may call from deep inside vegetation but occasionally do so from an exposed perch. The best places to see the species in the Kingdom appear to be Malaki Dam Lake and the bottom of the Raydah Escarpment where they can be seen near the village and in the dry wadi at the bottom of the escarpment. This is a difficult species to photograph well as they spend much of the time hidden in vegetation.
White-browed Coucal

White-browed Coucal

White-browed Coucal

White-browed Coucal

White-browed Coucal

White-browed Coucal

White-browed Coucal

White-browed Coucal

White-browed Coucal

17 Sep 2019

Pharaoh Eagle Owl - Dhahran Hills

I took a few photos today of a Pharaoh Eagle Owl in Dhahran Camp. It allowed extremely close approach in the car and the below photos are some of those I took before leaving in in place on its favourite perch. Although they have occurred here previously this is the first time I have seen and photographed the species on my ‘patch’. They are an uncommon species throughout most of the Kingdom. 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

Pharaoh Eagle Owl

Pharaoh Eagle Owl

Pharaoh Eagle Owl

16 Sep 2019

Malaki Dam Lake

I went to the Malaki Dam Lake area in July (also known as Malakiyah, Wadi Jizan Dam or Hakima Dam) which is probably the largest and most variable expanse of freshwater habitats in the southwestern provinces of Saudi Arabia. This area is a large lake (17 04.72N, 42 97.88E) at the edge of the Asir foothills, 15km east of Abu Arish. It is fed by four main wadis and at high water levels the lake spreads to over ten square kilometres and has a large catchment area extending south into Yemen. The reservoir is bordered to the north by basaltic lava plains and to the south several rocky outcrops which form the edge of Wadi Juwwah, another excellent birding area. The surrounding acacia and salvadora scrubland is interspersed with Tamarix where the hills are grazed and cultivated with some areas with shallow water, the dead remains of flooded trees forming ideal roost sites for herons and egrets. The Lake is on a main migration route and its surrounding area has one of the highest diversities of breeding birds in Arabia with many species being of Afro-tropical origin accounting for the large number of species recorded. 
Malaki Dam Lake

Malaki Dam Lake

Malaki Dam Lake


14 Sep 2019

Juvenile Caspian Plovers – Al Asfar Lake

Phil and I went to Al Asfar Lake on 30 August and as we were looking at the waders along the edge of the lake shore we found two juvenile Caspian Plovers Charadrius asiaticus. They were very obvious because of the very rufous tones to the plumage and quite large size superficially resembling bright Greater Sand Plovers. Caspian Plover is a scarce passage migrant in the Eastern Province in small numbers during March and April and again from late July until early September. The peak passage of adults is during March and again from August when juveniles are also frequently seen. A flock of 500 was seen in late March 1982 on the northern steppes with other good numbers from the same area including 45 on the Dibdibah 14 April 1983, 30 there 4 November 1983 and 100 in the same area 28 March 1985. Most sightings occur away from the coast but they are often near inland waters. I have only seen them twice before this sighting with two juveniles at Sabkhat Al Fasl 28 August 2015 and three adults in ploughed fields at Haradh 5 February 2016
Caspian Plovers Charadrius asiaticus

Caspian Plovers Charadrius asiaticus

Caspian Plovers Charadrius asiaticus

Caspian Plovers Charadrius asiaticus

Caspian Plovers Charadrius asiaticus

Caspian Plovers Charadrius asiaticus

Caspian Plovers Charadrius asiaticus

Caspian Plovers Charadrius asiaticus

Caspian Plovers Charadrius asiaticus

Caspian Plovers Charadrius asiaticus

12 Sep 2019

Desert Rose – Malaki Dam Lake

Whilst birding the Malaki Dam Lake area in July I came across a number of large Desert Rose Adenium obesumin. Adenium obesum is a species of flowering plant in the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, that is native to the Sahel regions, south of the Sahara (from Mauritania and Senegal to Sudan), and tropical and subtropical eastern and southern Africa and Arabia. It is an evergreen or drought-deciduous succulent shrub which can also lose its leaves during cold spells. It can grow to 1–3 metres in height, with pachycaul stems and a stout, swollen basal caudex. The leaves are spirally arranged, clustered toward the tips of the shoots, simple entire, leathery in texture, 5–15 cm long and 1–8 cm broad. The flowers are tubular, 2–5 cm long, with the outer portion 4–6 cm diameter with five petals. The flowers tend to red and pink, often with a whitish blush outward of the throat.
Desert Rose

Desert Rose

10 Sep 2019

Gabar Goshawk - Malaki Dam Lake

Whilst in Phil’s Fields near Sabya in southwest Saudi Arabia we came across a raptor hunting from the pivot irrigation system. There are two species that the bird could have been, Gabar Goshawk or Dark Chanting Goshawk. We had not seen Dark Chanting Goshawk in Saudi Arabia and were hoping for this species. The bird was obviously a fresh juvenile and althoygh we thought it was a Gabar Goshawk I asked Dick Forsman for his views. Dick very kindly replied saying “Definitely a fresh juvenile Gabar. The two species have rather different proportions, note especially long tail vs. short wings and white tips to secondaries, all typical of Gabar Goshawk”. These are some of the best photos I have taken of the species in Saudi Arabia.
Gabar Goshawk

8 Sep 2019

Tiger Moth - Tanoumah

Whilst in Tanoumah I photographed a moth that appears to be a Tiger Moth. The Arctiinae (formerly called the family Arctiidae) are a large and diverse subfamily of moths, with around 11,000 species found all over the world. This group includes the groups commonly known as tiger moths (or tigers), which usually have bright colours, footmen, which are usually much drabber, lichen moths, and wasp moths. Many species have "hairy" caterpillars that are popularly known as woolly bears or woolly worms. The scientific name of this subfamily refers to this hairiness. 
Tiger Moth

Tiger Moth

6 Sep 2019

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse – Abu Arish

Whilst birding the Abu Arish area in July I came across a few small groups of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles exustus. The largest flock was 15 birds. The species is a common breeding resident on the Tihama and southern Red Sea coastlands, less common in the Northern Hejaz north to Rabigh with all records below 1000 metres. They are a relatively small species, with elongated central tail feathers, dark underwing, blackish belly and unmarked head. The male has a narrow pectoral band and chestnut brown belly darkening towards rear, whereas the female is more mottled above and shows a tricoloured ventral pattern. Races differ mainly in tone of upperpart coloration with the Arabian population P. e. erlangeri sandy coloured. They typically inhabit bare semi-desert, often with scattered thorny scrubs or trees including Acacia. They feed during the cooler hours of morning and afternoon and drink 2–3 hours after sunrise, while in very hot weather some individuals drink again before sunset.
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse