30 Oct 2019

Arabian Horned Viper at Al Asfar Lake – Record by Vinu Mathew

Vinu Mathew kindly sent me a couple of photos he took af an Arabian Horned Viper near Al Asfar Lake on the edge of Al Hasa. He also kindly allowed me to use his photos on my website of which I am very grateful. The Arabian Horned Viper Cerastes gasperettii is found in desert and semi-desert habitats, and is well adapted to life on arid sandy and stony ground, and occurs up to elevations of 1,500 metres. It has sandy-coloured upperparts, marked with faint, light brown crossbars along the back, and white or yellowish underparts. The head is broad and roughly triangular, while the body is covered with keeled scales and it has a short tail. The purpose of the horns, which can be depressed, is not known and not all individuals have the horned scales. Like other vipers, this species has hinged, hollow fangs, which lie flat when the mouth is closed and swing forward when opened, and are capable of injecting large quantities of venom. They are 60 – 80 centimeters in length and are active from dusk until dawn, and well-camouflaged amongst the sand and rocks, the most obvious sign of their presence is usually the sinuous tracks it leaves while employing its sidewinding method of movement. They use both active pursuit as well as ambush to capture prey and often bury their body and head beneath the sand using rapid side-to-side wriggling, until only the eyes and snout are exposed. The snake then lays in wait for prey such as lizards, small birds and rodents to approach, before striking with lightning speed and injecting the animal with its powerful venom killing it quickly. When threatened, this species coils its body and rubs its keeled scales together to create a rasping sound, and it will also hiss and inflate its body before resorting to striking. They are found in the Middle East and throughout the Arabian Peninsula. There are two subspecies with Cerastes gasperettii gasperettii, the one found in Saudi Arabia as well as the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Oman, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq & south-west Iran.
Arabian Horned Viper

Arabian Horned Viper

28 Oct 2019

Juvenile White-winged Terns – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently I came across a group of four or five White-winged Terns. The location and light conditions allowed several good photos to be taken. In Saudi Arabia the White-winged Tern is a common migrant occurring in small groups of up to twenty birds. Adults in breeding plumage occurring from late April to early June and in early August juveniles appear and are seen through to December. Birds are most often seen near the coast but have occurred well inland with one seen at Haradh in September. 
White-winged Tern

White-winged Tern

White-winged Tern

White-winged Tern

White-winged Tern


26 Oct 2019

Plenty of Terns of various species – Jubail

The summer and autumn are excellent times to see terns of various species in Jubail. This autumn I saw various species with a few late White-cheeked Tern. Little Tern juveniles are reasonably common and small numbers of Gull-billed Terns and White-winged Terns also occur although it is rare to see either in numbers greater than ten birds. The site is a good place to try to photograph terns and the below photos are some of my efforts.
Gull-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern 
Gull-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Little Tern
Little Tern
Little Tern
Little Tern
Little Tern
Little Tern
White-cheeked Tern
White-cheeked Tern
White-cheeked Tern
White-cheeked Tern

24 Oct 2019

Waders close in - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently the water levels were higher than in recent weeks so more waders were present. There were plenty of Black-winged Stilts and a good number of Pied Avocet but they were quite distant so not photographed. Closer waders included good numbers of Little Stint and Dunlin with single figures of Lesser Sand Plover, Ruddy Turnstone and Marsh Sandpiper. More common waders included Common Ringed Plovers and Curlew Sandpipers. The high water made the waders closer to the road so photographic conditions were good but the light was quite harsh.
Little Ringed Plover
Common Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Common Ringed Plover 
Curlew Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper 
Dunlin
Dunlin
Dunlin
Dunlin
Lesser Sand Plover
Lesser Sand Plover
Little Stint
Little Stint 
Ruddy Turnstone
Ruddy Turnstone
Ruddy Turnstone
Ruddy Turnstone

22 Oct 2019

A few migrants - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently I saw a small number of migrants. A few Daurian Shrikes were sitting about on the bushes and Spotted Flycatchers were catching insects from various low perches. Great Egrets and a couple of Purple Herons were flying around and plenty of Squacco Herons were hiding in the Reed beds. Yellow Wagtails were seen flying over calling with a few on the ground in the scrub along with up to ten Greater Short-toed Larks. Barn Swallow, Sand Martin and Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were around in good numbers. It was not a great day for migration but there were enough birds around to keep the interest up. 
Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher
Spotted Flycatcher
Greater Short-toed Lark
Greater Short-toed Lark
Purple Heron
Purple Heron
Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Graceful Prinia
Graceful Prinia

20 Oct 2019

Grey-headed Swamphen - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently I saw a large number of Grey-headed Swamphen, including one with a reasonably well grown young. Although I have seen young birds many times I have never had a close encounter until now. The adult and juvenile were on a sand bank but the juvenile slowly moved off into the water and cover of some reeds. The Grey-headed Swamphen is a common resident breeder at Sabkhat Al Fasl, Jubail and has recently (August 2011) expanded its breeding range to Khafrah Marsh a wetland site 30 kilometres south-west of Sabkhat where six adults and a young bird were found. Birds have also been seen in Ash Shargiyah, Lake Al Asfar in Al Hassa and Dammam indicating they are extending their range in the Eastern Province. The species favoured habitat is large Phragmites australisreed-beds with associated water which is available at all the sites the species has been seen at in Saudi Arabia. The range expansion appears to be quite quick as the first record for Saudi Arabia was on 8th August 2003 at Sabkhat Al Fasl core area 2 with breeding confirmed in 2007 and numbers increasing each year since this date. It appears that the rapid population increase observed at Sabkhat al Fasl over the past five years has created pressures on territories and prompted some birds to move to alternative suitable habitats within the Eastern Province and thereby expand its range.
Grey-headed Swamphen

Grey-headed Swamphen

Grey-headed Swamphen

Grey-headed Swamphen

Grey-headed Swamphen - juvenile

Grey-headed Swamphen - juvenile

18 Oct 2019

Seven Spur-winged Lapwing - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently we saw seven Spur-winged Lapwing. We think these birds may now be breeding in the area but have no concrete proof of this. There have been at least two birds around throughout the year. The species is still scarce in the Eastern Province although good numbers have been seen recently in the Haradh area including possible breeding. The species was regarded as a vagrant to the Eastern Province when I arrived eight years ago but is now a scarce visitor that can be seen at any time of year indicating birds are resident in small numbers in areas away from Haradh where it appears they are now definitely resident.
Spur-winged Lapwing

16 Oct 2019

Waders returning - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently we saw plenty of waders of various different species. A few Terek Sandpipers were seen along with Ruddy Turnstones, both Greater and Lesser Sandplovers, three Pied Avocets and several Common Greenshanks. Good numbers of Common Ringed Plovers, one Little Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Common Snipe, several Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers and plenty of Black-winged Stilts.
Common Greenshank
Common Greenshank 
Common Ringed Plover
Common Ringed Plover
Ruddy Turnstone
Ruddy Turnstone
Terek Sandpiper
Terek Sandpiper

14 Oct 2019

Al Uqair Customs house – Al Uqair

The customs house is situated close by the Arabian Gulf coast and about 100 metres from the fort and caravanserai. It was an area of offices for high ranking officials with a nearby large storage area where goods were kept prior to clearance to be moved to markets nearby.
Al Uqair Customs house

Al Uqair Customs house

Al Uqair Customs house

13 Oct 2019

Al Uqair Caravanserai – Al Uqair

There is a large caravanserai at Al Uqair positioned next to the Turksih Fort. A caravanserai was a roadside inn where travelers could rest and recover from the day's journey. They were normally placed where the flow of commerce, information and people across the network of trade routes converged. The caranvanserai is very large and has a market area outside where goods were bought and sold. There were a large number of rooms for travelers to rest in.
Al Uqair Caravanserai

Al Uqair Caravanserai

Al Uqair Caravanserai

Al Uqair Caravanserai

Al Uqair Caravanserai