30 Nov 2020

Striated Heron – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area I saw the Striated Heron again. Phil had seen two adults and two juveniles during the summer, thehis is the first evidence of breeding in the Eastern Province where the species is a rare but increasing species. They are common breeding residents on the coasts of the Red Sea but is rare in the northern part of the Arabian Gulf including the Eastern Province. The increase in records in recent years shows that birds are spreading northwards and look likely to become a regular feature of the Eastern Province avifauna.




29 Nov 2020

Hypocolius still at Uqair – Bird records by Munzir Khan

The large gathering of Hypocolius, near Uqair Fort, numbering at least 150 birds remained in the same location over the last two weeks and has allowed a number of great photos to be taken of the species in November. Below is a female taken by Munzir Khan who also photographed a Desert Wheatear nearby which he has kindly allowed me to use on my website. Uqair is approximately 100 kms by road from Dammam/Dhahran.




28 Nov 2020

Carmine Darter - Tanoumah

Whilst birding the mountains of Tanoumah we came across an area of permanent water with good bird and insect life. One of the most common insects was the bright red coloured Carmine Darter Crocothemis erythraea with a number of duller yellow female Carmine Darter. The Carmine Darter is a common dragonfly throughout the Middle East, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Oman. The male is carmine red, while the female is a significantly drabber yellow-buff colour with two paler marks on top of the thorax. It is a medium-sized dragonfly approximately 52mm in length. The abdomen is wider than other members of the family, flattened and tapering to the end. It is widespread in the Arabian Peninsula where it prefers a habitat of rocky areas and dry watercourses as well as shallow, still, eutrophic waters such as small ponds, paddy fields, and desert pools, but it avoids oases. Adults only live for up to two months. Adults spend much of their time perched on vegetation although they have a fast, darting flight and hover frequently.
Carmine Darter

26 Nov 2020

Crested Honey Buzzards in Deffi Park - Jubail

Whilst birding Deffi Park in November Phil Robert and I came across three different Crested Honey Buzzards although only one is shown below. 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. This is the second consecutive year three Crested Honey Buzzards have been seen in this park but six birds have been recorded in Dhahran in previous winters about 125 kms distant from Jubail.





24 Nov 2020

Arabian Tree Frog – Tanoumah & Talea Valley

Whilst birding the Talea Valley in small area of permanent water with nice growths of reed mace I came across a single tree frog with several others on a grassy area near the permanent water by the dam wall. Another much larger tree frog was found in Tanoumah at Salah Al Dana. These tree frogs are H. felixarabica, which is distributed in the Arabian Peninsula and southern Levant, eastward from the Dead Sea Rift. This points to a biogeographic connection between south-western Arabia and southern Levant, and highlights the importance of the Dead Sea fault system, which probably played a primary role as a barrier when formed in the late Miocene. The new species differs from H. heinzsteinitziby absence of strong fragmentation of dark lateral stripe. In the Arabian Peninsula, H. felixarabica inhabits the regions above 1400 m a.s.l. in south-western Saudi Arabia to south-western Yemen. 
Arabian Tree Frog

Arabian Tree Frog

Arabian Tree Frog

Arabian Tree Frog

22 Nov 2020

Rose-coloured Starling & Hypocolius at Uqair – Bird records by Vinu Mathew

On Friday 13 November a group of bird photographers known as Photomates found a large flock of Hypocolius totaling more than 100 birds moving around from one palm tree to another. We also found a Rose-colored Starling in the area, along with more common species such as White-eared Bulbuls, Desert Wheatear, Common Chiffchaff & Indian Silverbill. The below photos were taken by Vinu Mathew who very kindly allowed me to use them with credit also going to Sujitt Nicholas, Mathew Scaria and Rajeev Anandan for finding the location and the Rose-colored Starling.







20 Nov 2020

Small Copper - Tanoumah

Whilst birdwatching in the Tanoumah area in the mountains of the west of the Kingdom I came across a couple of Small Copper butterflies Lycaena phlaeas shima in various locations. The Small Copper is a fast flying butterfly that, once settled, is unmistakable with its bright copper-coloured forewings. The upperside forewings are a bright orange with a dark outside edge border and with eight or nine black spots. The hindwings are dark with an orange border. The undersides are patterned in a similar way but are paler. The black spots on the forewings are outlined in yellow and the dark colouring is replaced by a pale brownish, gray. The hindwings are the same brown/grey colour with small black dots and a narrow orange border. It is widespread and common across Europe, Asia, and North America, and also found in North Africa south through to Ethiopia.   
Small Copper

Small Copper

Small Copper

Small Copper

Small Copper

Small Copper


18 Nov 2020

Birding Malaki Dam Lake

We visited Malaki Dam Lake recently and saw quite a few Pied Cuckoo including adults and juveniles. This species is restricted to the southwest of the Kingdom where it is an uncommon summer visitor. Another summer visitor seen was White-throated Bee-eater, where again we saw both adults and juveniles. At the lake itself we located a few Pink-backed Pelican and plenty of Little Grebes as well as a Grey-headed Kingfisher and a calling Abyssinian Roller.
Abyssinian Roller
Abyssinian Roller
Grey-headed Kingfisher
Grey-headed Kingfisher
Pied Cuckoo
Pied Cuckoo
Pied Cuckoo
Pied Cuckoo
Pink-backed Pelican
Pink-backed Pelican
Pink-backed Pelican
Pink-backed Pelican
White-throated Bee-eater
White-throated Bee-eater
White-throated Bee-eater
White-throated Bee-eater

16 Nov 2020

Cream-banded Charaxes Charaxes hansalii – Jabal Ibrahim

The Charaxinae are a group of robust, medium to large Nymphalids characterised by having a rapid and powerful flight, stout bodies, falcate apexes, and a habit of feeding at dung and carrion. Most are forest-dwellers but several are adapted to savannah and arid Acacia thorn scrub habitats. Most Charaxes species are black on the upperside, with bands of either white, orange or blue. The bands in some species are very broad, while in others they are narrow and broken into a series of small spots. Many Charaxes species have a pair of thin tails at the tornus of the hindwings. Charaxes hansalii is found in southern Arabia; and in eastern Africa from s.e. Egypt and Ethiopia to northern Tanzania. This species inhabits dry savannah, thorn scrub, steppe and semi-desert environments, at altitudes between sea level and at least 2000m. Males have been observed hill-topping more than 1000m above their breeding sites, and females are known to travel long distances from their emergence sites. This migratory behaviour allows the species to survive the droughts which can temporarily eliminate their larval foodplants.
Cream-banded Charaxes

Cream-banded Charaxes

Cream-banded Charaxes

Cream-banded Charaxes

Cream-banded Charaxes

Cream-banded Charaxes

14 Nov 2020

Birding the Farasan Islands

Birdwatching on the Farasan Islands was excellent with very close views of birds possible due their lack of fear of humans. Great views of the common Greater Hoopoe Lark and Black-crowned Sparrow Lark were obtained with the views of the Sparrow-Lark probably better than anywhere else in the Kingdom I have seen them. The shoreline had numerous wader species in very good numbers with Crab Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Greater Sand Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Whimbrel and Kentish Plover seen. Other species seen included Sooty Gull, Pink-backed Pelican, Western Reef Heron and Western Osprey. Inland and in the mangroves were Purple Heron, Barn Swallow, Egyptian Vulture, Common Cuckoo, Graceful Prinia and Black Scrub Robin.
Bar-tailed Godwits
Bar-tailed Godwits
Black-crowned Sparrow Lark
Black-crowned Sparrow Lark
Black Scrub Robin
Black Scrub Robin
Common Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Crab Plover
Crab Plover 
Graceful Prinia
Graceful Prinia
Greater Hoope-lark
Greater Hoope-lark
Pink-backed Pelican
Pink-backed Pelican
Pink-backed Pelican
Pink-backed Pelican
Pied Oystercatcher
Eurasian Oystercatcher
Purple Heron
Purple Heron
Western Osprey

12 Nov 2020

Black Cone-headed Grasshopper – Talea Valley

Whilst birding the Talea Valley I came across a Black Cone-headed Grasshopper Poekilocerus bufonius. The Black Cone-headed Grasshopper occurs throughout Saudi Arabia and has a large black body and slow movement and feed on plants in the milkweed family, which produce toxic chemicals. Ingesting these plants make the grasshoppers poisonous and distasteful to predators. When they are attacked, Black Cone-headed Grasshoppers spray a toxic fluid in defense. In Arabic, they are called zagat. Adults are 10 centimeters in length and black or dark-coloured often with yellow spots. Females are substantially larger the males with short wings. As is typical of this order of insects (Orthoptera), the grasshoppers go through incomplete metamorphosis. The young nymphs resemble the adults but have no wings. As they age, they will shed their exoskeletons several times, growing wings until their final moult into a mature adult with fully-developed wings.
Black Cone-headed Grasshopper