14 December 2020

Adult Indian Roller – Dhahran Hills

A friend of mine, Sebastian Henderson, found a Roller on 19 November in the Dhahran Hills area of Dhahran Aramco camp, and let me know. I suggested that due to the date it was probably an Indian Roller and went several times to look for the bird, which only appeared to arrive just before dark, before flying off to roost. Every time I visited, the bird was not present, until 4 December when I finally caught up with it. It did the same thing Sebastian said and flew in from the direction of the golf course and perched on top of yellow danger signs, before flying off after a few minutes. As the light was very poor, I did not manage to get and good photos, but could at least prove it was indeed an Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis. This was a new species for me in Saudi Arabia, where they have a status as a rare winter visitor, with the only recent records I know being an adult, Mansouriyah, Riyadh, 21 December 1989; an adult, Thumamah, Riyadh, 8 October 1999 until 17 February 2000. I visited several times during the last week and saw the bird only once in the evening again just as it was getting dark on top of a street light. I think the bird may be sending its time around the golf course bit it is not possible to access this area for birdwatching.