31 Dec 2019

Wetland birds – Jubail

Whilst birding Jubail recently I came a cross a good selection of wetland birds. Waders were quite numerous with good numbers of Dunlin, Little Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Ruff and Wood Sandpiper. Common Greenshank, Grey Plover and Little Stints were about in smaller numbers. The resident Grey-headed Swamphen was enjoying the large amounts of wet areas and where seen I a few places where they are seldom seen, as the water levels were very high inundating previously dry areas. Egrets were also around in varying numbers with Western Cattle Egret and Western Great Egret in small numbers and Little Egret in much larger numbers.
Common Greenshank
Common Greenshank 
Grey Plover
Grey Plover
Grey Plover
Grey Plover 
Little Stint
Little Stint
Dunlin
Dunlin
Little Egret
Little Egret
Marsh Sandpiper
Marsh Sandpiper 
Ruff
Ruff
Western Cattle Egret
Western Cattle Egret
Wood Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper

29 Dec 2019

Greater Spotted Eagle – Jubail

I have seen at least seventeen Greater Spotted Eagles Clanga clanga this winter in the Jubail area. Birds winter at a number of sites in Saudi Arabia with the Jubail area the best for the species in the Eastern province. In winter, birds are almost always near wetland areas with large areas of reeds where they can hunt undisturbed. Another good wetland site is the large wetland area of Al Asfar Lake near Al Hassa. We recently found a few birds at Landfill/dump sites near Shaqra where no free-standing water is present. They occupy a fragmented range, breeding mainly in Estonia, Poland, Belarus, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, mainland China and Mongolia. Passage or wintering birds occur in small numbers over a vast area, including central and eastern Europe, North Africa, East Africa, the Middle East, the Arabian peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent, south Asia and South-East Asia. The Greater Spotted Eagle is suspected to have undergone at least a moderately rapid decline over the last three generations as a result of habitat loss and degradation throughout its breeding and wintering ranges, together with the effects of disturbance, persecution and competition with other predators. The species is listed on the Red Data list as Vulnerable as the species is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future.
Greater Spotted Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle


27 Dec 2019

Three Crested Honey Buzzard – Jubail

Whilst birding Deffi Park in late November Phil Robert and I came across three different Crested Honey Buzzards. The birds appeared to be an adult female, adult male and first calendar year so there is a possibility they bred nearby but no proof and may be here for the winter only. Crested Honey Buzzard in Saudi Arabia is a scarce passage migrant and winter visitor that also occurs rarely in summer. Most records are from the Eastern province in winter and spring with additional records in the west of the country in autumn, winter and spring. The first confirmed record of CHB for Saudi Arabia was in Asir province 11 October 1994, with another bird 5–10 km south on the same day. There has been a dramatic increase in sightings of this species and whilst speculative, one reason maybe the recent availability of suitable habitat. Most records in the Arabian peninsula are from anthropogenic sites with extensive shade such as farmed areas, suburban parks, golf courses and plantations of mature watered trees (mainly ghaf Prosopis cinerea, but tall gum Eucalyptus plantations are also utilised). Deffi Park is a landscaped park in Jubail with a large number of mature trees. All three birds were using the trees and only flew when disturbed by walkers getting too close. The birds appeared to be fairly used to humans and did not move until walkers were very close. Three Crested Honey Buzzards are the largest number seen in this park but six birds have been recorded in Dhahran in previous winters about 125 kms distant from Jubail.

Crested Honey Buzzard

Crested Honey Buzzard

Crested Honey Buzzard

Crested Honey Buzzard

Crested Honey Buzzard

Crested Honey Buzzard

Crested Honey Buzzard

26 Dec 2019

Annular Solar Eclipse - Dhahran

A partial Solar eclipse began in Dhahran on 26 December 2019 at 06:25 and reached its maximum at 06:36 where it reached a magnitude of 0.94. It ended at 07:49 and had a total duration of 1 hour, 24 minutes. This was an annular eclipse – one where the Sun bleeds around the edges of the Moon. As the sun was just rising it was not too bright and allowed a few photos to be taken with my 600mm lens. I went to the top of some jebals in the main Saudi Aramco camp with my daughter Julianna to see the sun rising and it was a great experience. I tried to see the last total eclipse of the Sun in the UK, in Plymouth on 11 August 1999 but unfortunately it was cloudy an no sun could be seen. This eclipse partly made up for the disappointment of not seeing the total eclipse in 1999.
Annular Solar Eclipse

Annular Solar Eclipse

Annular Solar Eclipse

Annular Solar Eclipse

Annular Solar Eclipse

Annular Solar Eclipse

Annular Solar Eclipse













25 Dec 2019

Pharaoh Eagle Owl - Dhahran

The Pharaoh Eagle Owl that was present in Dhahran Hills disappeared for some time as it favoured trees for resting out of the sun were trimmed back. The bird obviously did not move far as after a week or so later I saw it again under a large tree and again perched on the wire fence. These large owls are always a joy to see and never really appear to be too intimidated by humans.
Pharaoh Eagle Owl

Pharaoh Eagle Owl

Pharaoh Eagle Owl

Pharaoh Eagle Owl

Pharaoh Eagle Owl


23 Dec 2019

Eastern Imperial Eagle - Jubail

Whilst birding Jubail in November I saw young Eastern Imperial Eagle. The bird was initially seen sitting on the ground but flew due to a car approaching. It only flew a few hundred metres and settled again in a much more open area of sabkha. The light was poor but I got reasonably close to the bird in the car and managed to take a few photos whch are shown below. The species is rarely seen in the area although the Greater Spotted Eagle is seen almost every visit during the winter. The Eastern Imperial Eagle is an uncommon winter visitor to Saudi Arabia with most records coming from the north of the country where they are generally seen inland rather than near the coast. The species breeds from Eastern Europe across Asia to China and winters in the Middle East, east Africa south to Tanzania, the Arabian Peninsula, India, and from Thailand to Korea. Currently Eastern Imperial Eagle is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List as it has a small global population and is likely to be undergoing continuing declines, primarily as a result of habitat loss and degradation, persecution and prey depletion.
Eastern Imperial Eagle

Eastern Imperial Eagle

Eastern Imperial Eagle

Eastern Imperial Eagle

Eastern Imperial Eagle

Eastern Imperial Eagle

21 Dec 2019

Four White-tailed Lapwings - Jubail

Whilst birdwatching the Jubail area in November, Phil Roberts found four White-tailed Lapwings. I went at the weekend and initially after drawing a blank found a single bird close below me but hidden by the reed beds. A Western Marsh Harrier then flew over and put all the wading birds up into flight and the White-tailed Lapwing was joined by three more making four, as Phil had seen several days before. This is a scarce bird in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, with a status as a scarce migrant and rare winter visitor. Further north and west in Tabuk records are more regular with birds wintering in good numbers. I assume these birds are passage migrants rather than birds that will winter but time will tell.
White-tailed Lapwing

White-tailed Lapwing

White-tailed Lapwing

19 Dec 2019

A few interesting birds - Jubail

A trip to Jubail recently resulted in a good collection of birds. Many winter visitors are now back and a few late migrants are still moving so anticipation was hgh for something good. Although nothing too exciting turned up I did see a few good birds. Western Cattle Egret is not recorded so often in Jubail so three birds together was interesting. They occur commonly in Dhahran but not so in Jubail to the north. A few winter species were present including Watr Pipit, Daurian Shrike, Greater Spotted Eagle, Gadwall and Pintail. Desert Wheatear is common in the surrounding areas of desert but not seen often in Jubail itself so a nice male was a good record. Waders included Dunlin, Wood Sandpipers and Little Stint. The resident Grey-headed Swamphen were about in good numbers as were Squacco Heron which probably breed in the area but are certainly winter visitors as numbers build up in November and December.
Western Cattle Egret
Western Cattle Egret
Daurian Shrike
Daurian Shrike
Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear
Dunlin
Dunlin
Gadwall
Gadwall
Little Stint
Little Stint
Squacco Heron
Squacco Heron
Squacco Heron
Squacco Heron