31 January 2024

Pallid Swift – Dhahran Waste Water Lake

An early morning trip to Dhahran Waste Water Lake in January produced a few good birds including the Red-wattled Lapwings still present. The lake still held two Tufted Duck and a small number of Great Cormorant, although significantly less than last year. Egrets and herons included two Squacco Heron, one Great Egret, thee Little Egret and ten Grey Heron. Several Daurian Shrikes are wintering at the location and the Pied Kingfisher was also seen in flight, hovering, and perched briefly. A small number of Pallid Swift are still around, dropping down occasionally to drink from the lake. Graceful Prinia are now singing again, with males calling from a lot of different locations. This species has increased significantly in numbers over the last ten years and is now a common sight when out at any time of year. Another species that is singing commonly around the lake is the Crested Lark, a common resident breeder. 

Pallid Swift

Crested Lark

Crested Lark

Crested Lark

Crested Lark

Creat Cormorant

Little Egret

Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck

30 January 2024

Arabian Red Fox - Dhahran

When out walking in the rough scrubby area near to Dhahran Hills Waste-Water Lake recently I came across an Arabian Red Fox. This fox was quite wary and kept its distance and never came fully out into the open. They are relatively common in Dhahran and can be seen most weeks of the year if you look in the right areas, particularly around Dhahran Hills golf course. The Red Fox is currently recognized as a single species and has the widest natural distribution of any terrestrial carnivore, possibly any terrestrial mammal (excluding humans). Its range spans approximately 70 million square kilometres encompassing much of Europe, Asia and North America and extending into North Africa, with an introduced population in Australia. The Arabian Red fox has very large ears for its size and is very thin and sandy coloured compared to the European Red Fox, and they look very different.

29 January 2024

Northern Lapwings – Al Asfar Lake

An early morning trip to Al Asfar Lake in January produced a few good birds including about ten Northern Lapwings. This is a common wintering species in the correct areas, mainly large pivot fields but also occurs in small numbers in wetland areas such as Al Asfar Lake. Other waders included three Bar-tailed Godwits, and good numbers of Ruff and Common Redshank. This location is an excellent site for Western Marsh Harrier where more than twenty birds spend the winter. Most are juvenile/female types but one or two males can occasionally be seen. Eagles were seen in small numbers with three Greater Spotted Eagles and a single Bonelli’s Eagle, perched on the electricity pylons. Several Daurian Shrikes are wintering at the location and a Pied Kingfisher was also seen in flight and perched briefly, adding to the locations where this species has been seen this winter. Two Great Grey Shrikes and two Tawny Pipits were about the best of the other species seen. 

Northern Lapwing

Northern Lapwing

Western Marsh Harrier

Western Marsh Harrier

Greater Spotted Eagle

28 January 2024

Mediterranean Tiger Blue – Dhahran Waste Water Lake

Whilst walking around the Waste Water Lake in Dhahran in mid-January I saw a Mediterranean Tiger Blue Tancus rosaceus butterfly. These butterflies are not common in the Dhahran area but can sometimes be seen in the early part of the year until April. They are small at approximately 18-22 mm in size. It is like Little Tiger Blue Tarucus balkanicus but the underside of the hind-wing line proximal to spots is broken at the veins. The upperside of the wing of the male is blue with fewer spots, whilst the females are hard to separate. The family Tarucus is commonly known as Blue Pierrots and the caterpillars are typically feed on Zizyphus, a genus of spiny shrubs and small trees in the Buckthorn family and are attended by ants.

27 January 2024

Very few birds – Al Uqair

My most recent trip to Al Uqair resulted in very few birds. It is not very good for shorebirds, even though it looks good and is on the coast. This trip I saw a single Eurasian Curlew and a small flock of flying Common Redshank and Common Greenshank. On the coast were a small number of House Sparrow, lots of White-eared Bulbul and two Great Grey Shrike. The most unusual bird was a flying Long-legger Buzzard, a species that is uncommon in the region but one I had not seen at this site before.

Eurasian Curlew

Eurasian Curlew

Great Grey Shrike

House Sparrow

26 January 2024

Western Pygmy Blue – Dhahran Waste Water Lake

Whilst walking around the Waste Water Lake in Dhahran in early-January I came across a male Western Pygmy Blue Brephidium exilis the first time I have seen this butterfly in Saudi Arabia. It is quite a striking small butterfly with the upperside copper brown with dull blue at the bases of both wings. This butterfly can be found in alkaline areas such as deserts, salt marshes, and barren areas. They are common across their natural range, which includes the Southwestern United States from California eastwards to west Texas, and from Mexico to Venezuela but it has also been introduced to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and eastern Saudi Arabia along the Persian Gulf coast up to Kuwait. They entered Saudi Arabia more than 20 years ago in the Dhahran area where this butterfly was seen.

25 January 2024

Some good birds – Dhahran Waste Water Lake

Dhahran Waste Water Lake has had some good birds on and around it recently. A recent visit produced the same Pied Kingfisher as seen the week before, initially seen in flight flying up the lake but eventually seen well on its favoured perch of the dead tree. A very noisy Red-wattled Lapwing was busy chasing off the wintering Western Marsh Harrier and the Indian Roller was still about although not photographable this time. Herons included two Great Egrets, ten Grey Herons, three Western Cattle Egrets and two Little Egrets. A couple of Daurian Shrike were in the scrubby area as were plenty of singing Graceful Prinia, a White Wagtail and a single Common Chiffchaff. A few Pallid Swift were overhead as were several Rose-ringed Parakeets. The only wader seen was a single Common Sandpiper. The three Tufted Duck are still present for their second month.

Little Egret

Great Egret

Graceful Prinia

Tufted Duck

Pied Kingfisher

White Wagtail

White Wagtail



24 January 2024

Dark Grass Blue – Dhahran Waste Water Lake

Whilst walking around the Waste Water Lake in Dhahran in early-January I came across a number of Dark Grass Blue Zizeeria karsandra also known as Asian Grass Blue. It is a small butterfly found in the Arabian Peninsula in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Oman as well as the Southern Mediterranean, in a broad band to India, Sri Lanka, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, New Guinea and northern and eastern Australia. They are abundant throughout the northern part of Saudi Arabia excepting the border area with Jordon but also occur in the mountains as far south as at least Taif. They are weak flyers keeping low and are not strong migrants. Colour and size varies probably depending on food source availability with males generally blue with brown wing margins and the females a bit larger being brown. It is of oriental origin having many species of hostplants and is always found in warm biotopes and dislikes cold ones. This is the first time I have knowingly seen this butterfly in Dhahran, although they have been seen here previously. I have seen them many times elsewhere in Saudi Arabia.

23 January 2024

Lots of Duck – Dhahran Percolation Pond

The Percolation Pond has been dug out and refilled with water recently and now holds lots of ducks. Well over a hundred Northern Shoveler were present with fifty Eurasian Teal. Three Pochard, a single Gadwall and two Mallards were also present. Apart from this there were 22 Black-winged Stilts, well over two hundred Common Back-headed Gulls and 13 Little Grebes. Luckily this area is very safe for the duck as no hunting is allowed and there is strict security in the Aramco compound. 

Northern Shoveler

Eurasian Teal

Eurasian Teal

Eurasian Teal

Eurasian Teal

22 January 2024

Painted Lady Butterfly – Dhahran Percolation Pond

The first Painted Lady butterfly of the year appeared in early-January this year, possibly as a result of the very heavy rains we have had recently. Although the Painted Lady can survive in Saudi Arabia in most years the majority of butterflies are probably migrants. The Painted Lady is the most widely distributed butterfly in the world occurring on all continents except Antarctica. It is a large butterfly with a buffy-orange background colour to the upper-wings. The forewings have black tips marked with white spots and the hind-wings have rows of brown or black circular spots. The underside of the wing is pale buff brown than the upper-wing. Newly emerged butterflies are brighter coloured, with the colouring becoming muted with age. This butterfly was with many other feeding on a Pearl Plant.

21 January 2024

Five Pied Kingfisher - Jubai

In December 2023 two Pied Kingfishers were recorded at Aqua Park, Jubail in an area where there were four the previous year. I went to the location in early January 2024 and located five birds together. They were very active but the light was in the wrong direction for flight photos. I managed to see four of the birds land in a large tree on my side of the water and got the light in a reasonable position to get some decent photos. This winter has been a very good year for this species with bird seen in Dhahran, two locations in Jubail, Al Uqair and Nayriah with more than one bird at several sites. As is normal with our birds all five were females. Along with the five Pied Kingfishers there were also two Common Kingfishers, a male with an all-black bill and a female with a orange red colour to the lower mandible.

20 January 2024

Ochradenus baccatus or Pearl Plant – Dhahran Hills

Whilst birdwatching the Dhahran Hills area in January I came across a large flowering shrub that turned out to be Ochradenus baccatus. This is a perennial glycophyte growing on sandy and stony habitats in Middle East and it is one of the most important food sources for many animal species in desert regions. The green stems help leaves in conducting photosynthesis, especially when leaves are weakened after severe drought environment. This species is widely distributed and is found in Ethiopia, Egypt, Libya, Middle East, Iran and extends into Pakistan. Ochradenus baccatus reaches up to two metres tall and grows as a bush. The species produces yellow flowers, followed by whitish berry containing black seeds. It flowers mainly from December to March in Saudi Arabia and is one of the largest shrubs that grows in the Eastern Province with the “spikes” of tiny, yellow, apetalous flowers, that are slightly fragrant, attracting insects such as the Painted Lady, many of which were attracted to the shrub photographed above.

19 January 2024

Heuglin’s Gulls – Al Uqair

Whilst birding the Al Uqair area recently we went to an area of public beaches where I had previously seen some Large White-headed Gulls. My recent visits to the area had failed to turn up any but this time I saw seven birds on the ground together.  One was an adult Steppe Gulls and the remainder being Heuglin’s Gulls. Two of the Heuglin’s Gulls were much darker plumaged than the others in the group, however variation in upperpart coloration in heuglini is large and the late moult (p4-5 being renewed) support the identification, although a similar moult occurs in Baltic Gull which would be even darker, typically showing no contrast between upperparts and primary ground colour.

18 January 2024

Arabian Wildcat in the Southwest Mountains – Record by Phil Roberts

Whilst in the southwest mountains of Saudi Arabia in winter this year Phil Roberts set up his camera trap and left it out for a few days in the same location. Whilst doing this he managed to get some photos of African Wildcat with a kitten. The subspecies of African Wildcat that occurs in Arabia is Felis lybica tristrami is distributed from Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan to northern Saudi Arabia. They occur in the northwest of Saudi Arabia as far south as the Abha region. They are known to have a broad habitat tolerance from deserts, semi deserts, savannahs, scrub grassland to open forests in hilly and rocky terrain as well as in mixed forests. In some areas of its range it is restricted to mountains and dry watercourses. They have a more upright posture in the sitting position and a different walking form from domestic cat with a background colour ranging from reddish to sandy yellow and is typically marked with faint stripes and spots. Hairs have black tips giving a speckled appearance, their legs are banded with black bars and they have a reddish or rusty-brown tint to the backs of the ears. The long, thin tail ends with two or three black rings and a black tip and there is a line of darker fur down the spine from the shoulder to the base of the tail. The African species distinguishes itself from the European Wildcat by its lighter build, less distinct markings and thin tapering tail.