31 Jan 2021

More Sociable Lapwings – Wadi Ad Dewasir

As Phil Roberts and I had found wintering Sociable Lapwings at both Haradh (for fifth year) and Qarat Al Ulya in the Eastern Province this winter and I had a long weekend from work, I suggested we go to Wadi Ad Dewasir. This has extensive pivot irrigation fields and had not been looked at since 1999. We hoped to locate more Sociable Lapwings here during the trip as well as to see if we could find anything else interesting. We spent most of our time checking the fields and particularly the ploughed ones for Sociable Lapwing. On day one, we were not successful in finding Sociable Lapwings but on the second day I located three birds in a ploughed field. It was near to midday and the light was harsh, combined with the flighty nature of the birds meant only the below poor photos could be taken before we left the bird in peace. This looks like another wintering area for the species and suggests Saudi Arabia could be an extremely important wintering ground for the critically endangered species. We asked farmers we came across about Sociable Lapwings and showed them pictures to see if they had seen them and all said no. This suggests that although they occur there they must do so in very low numbers, also supported by us only seeing them once despite spending two full days looking entirely at the pivot fields.




29 Jan 2021

Common Grass Yellow - Tanoumah

Whilst birdwatching in the Tanoumah area recently I came across a Common Grass Yellow butterfly Eurema hecabe. They are also known as ‘Large Grass Yellows’ or ‘Grass Yellows’ and are small to medium butterflies that are found in Africa, Arabia, Asia, South Pacific islands and Australia. They are bright lemon yellow in colour, and have black markings at the tips and borders of the butterfly’s wings and a narrow black band on the hind wing, and the underside of the wings are paler yellow with brown speckles and a wingspan of 35 to 45 millimetres.  Common Grass Yellow butterflies like to fly quickly, close to the ground, are found in open grassy or bushy terrain, hence their name. They have different colouration in their wings depending on the season, known as ‘seasonal polyphenism’, resulting in generally darker wing colours in summer. They are often seen in large groups. The female is larger and a paler yellow, with broader black but diffused markings on the upper sides of both wings. There are typically two cell spots on the forewing – a characteristic that is mainly used to identify the lookalike species in the genus.





27 Jan 2021

Red-tailed Wheatear in pivot field - Al Wannan

Whilst birding the pivot irrigation fields around Al Wannan on 30 October I saw an odd-looking wheatear. I was looking directly into the sun, with the Wheatear in a field with very little plant growth. The bird was some distance away but gradually came closer and eventually right outside the car. Unfortunately, the light was miserable and the resulting photos did not turn out as well as they may have done. It turned out to be a Red-tailed Wheatear Oenanthe chrysopygia, a species normally found on boulders or jebals and not in irrigation fields and this is the first time I have located one in such habitat. The Red-tailed Wheatear is an uncommon winter visitor to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia with birds occurring from late September until early April, especially in the vicinity of jebals, other rocky outcrops, dry scrub areas and semi-desert. It breeds in an area from northeast Turkey through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and western Pakistan while it winters to the south from southern Iraq, across the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, eastern Afghanistan, Pakistan and north-west India. 




25 Jan 2021

Jahwat Ibn Tali

Jawat Ibn Tali is a large group of old historic stone buildings on the left side of the main road through the Talea Valley if driving through from Abha. They are well preserved and are lit up at night. You can view them from the side of the main road, as there are good places to pull off safely and take photographs.




23 Jan 2021

Blue Pansy - Tanoumah

Whilst birdwatching the Tanoumah area I came across a Blue Pansy Butterfly Junonia orithyawhich is native to Africa as well as parts of Asia and Australia and is also called the Eyed Pansy in Africa and in Australia the Blue Argus. Butterflies belonging to the family Nymphalidae are few in number in Saudi Arabia although are quite conspicuous. They include Blue Pansy that is a migratory butterfly and they appear sporadically, produce one or more local broods of offspring, and then disappear again until their next invasion. Their success in establishing themselves temporarily within the region depends very much upon their powers of adaptation and choice of larval food-plants. The adults occur in open areas, often sitting on bare ground. This species has a stiff flap and glide style of flight and maintains a territory, driving away other butterflies that enter it. The upperside of the forewing for the male is black to dark brown with a whitish sub-apical band, two orange and two blue bars in the cell, and two post-discal eye-spots. The hindwing of the male is brilliant blue with orange post-discal eye-spots. The female is similarly marked but with a much duller hue. Underneath, both sexes are grayish brown with cryptic orange/brown markings and have eye-spots similarly placed as on the upperside. 



21 Jan 2021

Brown-necked Raven – Wadi Ad Dewasir

The Brown-necked Raven occurs throughout the desert belt of the Old World from Cape Verde Islands east through Africa and Arabia to Kazakhstan and western Pakistan. They are a common resident breeder in Saudi Arabia and have been seen on the Farasan Islands as well as the Rub’ al-Khali and is commonest in the central and western regions of the Kingdom. As a result, it was not surprising to see many birds in the Wadi Ad Dewasir area, central Saudi Arabia, when we visited. They are normally not easy to approach and get photos of so the below attempts were my best efforts so far. On the trip back to Dhahran, many birds were seen along the road close to Wadi Ad Dewasir, presumably looking for road kill.








19 Jan 2021

King Jird – Wadi Grosbeak

Whilst birding Wadi Grosbeak I came across a few King Jird Meriones rex. The animals were seen near their burrows, but luckily, one remained above ground for some time allowing some photographs to be taken. The King Jird is endemic to Arabia and occurs in the highlands of the southwestern Arabian Peninsula, from near Mecca in Saudi Arabia south to near Aden in Yemen. In Saudi Arabia, the species has been reported from 1,350 to 2,200 metres above sea level. This Jird lives in large burrows amongst bushes, preferring raised areas bordering agricultural land. It is active in the evening and early morning. It lives in burrows which it shares with other rodents and lizards. They are reported as common throughout their range. Although I have seen the King Jird on a number of occasions they are difficult to photograph as they are normally seen briefly disappearing down their burrows.
King Jird

King Jird

King Jird

King Jird

King Jird

King Jird

King Jird



17 Jan 2021

Birding the lake area – Dhahran Hills

The lake area in Dhahran is now large as additional water is being pumped into it. It has started to attract good numbers of herons with Little Egret, Great Egret, Grey Heron, Squacco Herron and Cattle Egret all in good numbers. Great Egret is the scarcest of all the egrets but up to seven have been seen in the last few weeks. In the early morning hundreds of Great Cormorant come to the lake to wash and catch the large numbers of Talapia fish present, but are very nervous and do not allow close approach. Common Black-headed Gulls also arrive in good numbers in the early morning but then generally hang around all day. A single Black-necked Grebe and Common Kingfisher have been present for several weeks but again do not allow you to get too close. Several terns are also present which is a little surprising as the lake is a long way from the coast with Gull-billed Tern, White-winged and Whiskered Tern all present, mainly in the evenings.

Common Black-headed Gull

Black-necked Grebe

Black-necked Grebe

Common Kingfisher

Great Cormorant

Great Cormorant

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern


Whiskered Term

Whiskered Term

Whiskered Term


15 Jan 2021

Guineafowl – Jabal Fayfa

Whilst birding the Jabal Fayfa I saw a Guineafowl butterfly Hamanumida Daedalus. The guineafowl butterfly, is a butterfly of the family Nymphalidae and only member of the genus Hamanumida. It is found in the Afrotropical realm (Natal, Swaziland, Transvaal, Mozambique, Rhodesia, Botswana, tropical Africa (dry lowland areas) and southwest Arabia). The wingspan is 55–65 mm for males and 60–78 mm for females. Adults are on wing year-round, with peaks in midwinter and summer. The larvae feed on Combretum and Terminalia species. This was the first time I had seen this butterfly in Saudi Arabia.
Guineafowl

Guineafowl

Guineafowl

13 Jan 2021

Two invasive species becoming commoner – Dhahran Hills

Whilst birding the Dhahran Hills area recently I came across good numbers of both House Crow and Common Myna. House Crow is native to the Indian Subcontinent but has spread around the Indian Ocean by self-colonization, often hitchhiking on ships and is most often found near port cities It was first recorded in Saudi Arabia in 1980 near Dhahran and is a uncommon breeding resident in the Kingdom although locally common in certain areas such as Dhahran. Numbers appear to be increasing with up to fifty birds seen together on occasions. Common Myna is one of the world’s three most invasive bird species; it was first recorded in Saudi Arabian cities in 1984 and has since established large self-sustaining populations. In Saudi Arabia it has a status as a common breeding resident









11 Jan 2021

Hamadryas Baboon – Jabal Fayfa

Whilst birding the Jabal Fayfa and Raydah Escarpment areas of Saudi Arabia we came across a number of Hamadryas Baboon Papio hamadryas. The Hamadryas Baboon is the northernmost of all the baboons and is distinguished from other baboons by the male’s long, silver-grey shoulder cape (mane and mantle), and the pink or red rather than black face and rump. They are large monkeys with a dog-like face, pronounced brow ridges, relatively long limbs with short digits, rather coarse fur, and a relatively short tail. The male is considerably larger than the female, often twice as large, and has a heavy silvery-grey coat, bushy cheeks, and large canine teeth whilst the juvenile and females are brown, with dark brown skin on the face and rump. Males may have a body measurement of up to 80 cm and weigh 20–30 kg; females weigh 10–15 kg and have a body length of 40–45 cm.  The tail adds a further 40–60 cm to the length, and ends in a small tuft. They occur from north-eastern Africa, mainly in Ethiopia, but also eastern Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and northern Somalia as well as the Arabian Peninsula, in Saudi Arabia and Yemen where it is the only native non-human primate. In Saudi Arabia they inhabit arid sub-desert, steppe, hilly areas, escarpments at elevations of up to 3,000 metres requiring cliffs for sleeping and finding water. They are primarily terrestrial, but will sleep in trees or on cliffs at night. An opportunistic feeder, it will take a wide variety of foods, including grass, fruit, roots and tubers, seeds, leaves, buds and insects. The female usually gives birth to a single young with the new-born having black fur and pink skin, and is suckled for up to 15 months. Each adult male controls a small group of females (a harem) and their young, and remains bonded with the same females over several years, aggressively ‘herding’ any that wander, and retaining exclusive mating rights over the group. The females will often compete to groom and stay close to the male, and it is the male who dictates the group’s movements. The Hamadryas Baboon is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Recent studies have suggested that the population of Hamadryas Baboons in Arabia colonised the peninsula much longer ago than previously thought, and shows a considerable amount of genetic variation compared to the African population.
Hamadryas Baboon

Hamadryas Baboon

Hamadryas Baboon