04 February 2023

Birding Jubail in January

In late January we went to Jubail but there had been lots of rain the previous few days and the area was flooded. Quite a few Western Great Egrets were present at one of the large water outlets, as normal and a little further down the reedbeds two Purple Heron were seen in flight. Plenty of Little Egrets and Squacco Herons were also around. Birds were quite scarce but the first two Siberian Stonechats of the winter were seen at this location by me with a smart male and a female. Daurian Shrikes were around in small numbers and a single Desert Wheatear was seen. Two barn Swallow were seen in flight but very little else.

Daurian Shrike

Daurian Shrike

Daurian Shrike

Little Egret

Purple Heron

Purple Heron

Purple Heron

Purple Heron

Purple Heron

Siberian Stonechat

Western Great Egret

Western Marsh Harrier


02 February 2023

Birding Aqua Park – Jubail

Phil Roberts and I went to Aqua Park to see if the cold weather had brought any birds down. We arrived at first light and walked to the end of the park where we saw a Eurasian Sparrowhawk in an aerial battle with a Common Kestrel. We also saw a Western Marsh Harrier in the same area along with two Common House Martins. We then went to the waterside where I saw a Pied Kingfisher flying down the estuary as well as a Striated Heron, an unusual bird in the Eastern Province. Also flying over the water were a few Slender-billed Gulls, a Squacco Heron and a Western Great Egret. On the water itself were three Greater Flamingo and three Eurasian Spoonbill. Further down the park in a tree on the edge of the water we found four Pied Kingfisher along with presumably the same Striate Heron as seen earlier in flight. A small group of Spanish Sparrow were in the reeds along with Clamorous Reed Warbler. At least one but probably two Masked Shrike was in the park as were two Eurasian Hoopoe.

Western Great Egret

Slender-billed Gull

Slender-billed Gull

Slender-billed Gull

Eurasian Sparrowhawk - juvenile

Eurasian Sparrowhawk - juvenile

Eurasian Sparrowhawk - juvenile

Eurasian Spoonbill

Eurasian Spoonbills

Eurasian Spoonbills

Greater Flamingo


31 January 2023

Sociable Lapwing – Al Jouf

Phil Roberts and I have found wintering Sociable Lapwings at Haradh & Qarat Al Ulya in the Eastern Province in recent years as well as at Wadi Ad Dewasir. These birds use the extensive pivot irrigation fields and particularly like the ploughed one. As we knew birds were present, from satellite tagging data, in the north of the Kingdom we kept a close eye out to see if we could find some in Al Jouf in late December 2022. We searched many fields paying attention to the ploughed ones without luck until I managed to locate a single bird in a field with some Spur-winged Lapwings and a single Northern Lapwing. Phil then located a White-tailed Plover in the same field making a nice collection of good species. Sociable Lapwing is listed as Critically Endangered because its population has undergone a very rapid reduction, for reasons that are poorly understood. This decline is projected to continue and increase in the future. Unfortunately, the bird we found kept its distance and was only really photographable when the sheep herder flushed the group on a number of occasions.







29 January 2023

Eastern Imperial Eagles – Al Jouf

Whilst birding in the Al Jouf area in late December we came across a number of both Juvenile & adult Eastern Imperial Eagles. We counted a maximum of ten on a single day, mainly seen in the early morning when they flew from their roosting areas. We are used to seeing them perched on pivot irrigation frames or in the pivot fields in the Eastern Province, but we only really saw them in flight in Al Jouf. Most of the large eagles in the Al Jouf area when we visited were Eastern Imperial Eagles with only a single Steppe Eagle seen. At one point there was an interaction between a male Pallid Harrier carrying prey and a juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle, of which I managed to get a couple of phots of both birds together. 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, adult mortality through persecution and collisions with power lines and prey depletion. The status in Saudi Arabia appears to be more or less stable, however.










27 January 2023

Little Owl - Sakaka

Whilst birding the Saka area recently Phin noticed a Little Owl perched on the side of the road at close range. Unfortunately, by the time we saw it, it had flown slightly further away and into the sun. The below photos are the only ones I got that are usable. Two subspecies of Little Owl occur in Saudi Arabia with Athene noctua saharae that occurs from northern and central Sahara Desert south to the African countries of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan, and east discontinuously into Arabian Peninsula occurring in the Abha area north to central Saudi Arabia. Its range overlaps with race Athene noctua lilith that occurs from Cyprus and inland Middle East from southeast Turkey south to Saudi Arabia where it occurs in northern and central Saudi Arabia. The overlap occurs in central Saudi Arabia at least, with Lilith occurring north to the boarders of Jordon, Iraq and Kuwait in the Kingdom. Lilith Owlet is an uncommon resident breeder in the Central Deserts, Hejaz, northern Hejaz and Najran as well as the Eastern Province where they are confined to broken escarpments and rocky outcrops in the desert north of Uray’irah. Athene noctua lilith is the palest race and is a very pale sand colour. Some authorities treat this as a separate species Athene Lilith from Little Owl with the name Lilith Owlet generally being used as the English name.




25 January 2023

Common Wood Pigeon - Sakaka

Nader Fahd took us to some farms in Qiyal area of Sakaka to see if we could locate Wood Pigeon, a species I had not seen before in Saudi Arabia. Nader mentioned he saw them regularly all through the year, but with larger numbers in the winter months. This is the first time I have heard they are resident as I previously thought they were winter visitors. Wood Pigeon is the largest pigeon in Saudi Arabia and occurs in good sized flocks with up to 200 birds seen on occasion feeding in fields. They often occur in the farms with date palms and we managed to see over 100 birds in the afternoon of searching. We saw two different groups of 50 birds each and several others besides but trying to find birds perched at a close enough range to photograph them was very difficult. The best I could manage was to photograph the birds as they all took flight from the palm trees before circling around and landing back in the trees. They were almost impossible to spot before they took flight once we entered the area they had landed. This was another species were Nader’s local knowledge was very useful for locating the species, as was his excellent eyesight seeing birds perched in trees a great range. 











23 January 2023

Desert Lark A. d. isabellinus – Sakaka

Whilst birding the Al Jouf area of northwest Saudi Arabia we came across some pale looking Desert Lark Alauda deserti near Sakaka, resembling A. d. isabellinus. Geographical variation in Desert Lark is complex, and numerous races have been named mainly on the basis of plumage coloration. The colour of the birds appears to be directly related to the colour of the local soil and rocks with birds from sandy habitats are mostly buff-coloured, those of stony or rocky ground various shades of grey, rufous, or brown with blackish races living in black lava deserts. Confusingly, pale and dark birds occasionally live side by side in some areas and bleaching and abrasion have marked effect on colouration and produce further complications often making sub-specific identification difficult. A. d. isabellinus occurs from northern Egypt, east to south and east Israel, southern Jordan, north-west Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq and is small and pale, generally light sandy to pale buff-brown with greyish or pale olive-grey tinge above, buff or creamy buff below, tail rufous with triangular black area at tip. Birds presumably of this subspecies occur throughout northern Saudi Arabia gradually becoming plaler towards the east becoming pale cream similar to A. d. azizi, which is the subspecies that occurs ear to me in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia around the Hufuf and Shedgum areas and is the palest race with pale creamy plumage. It is clear there is some difference between colouration, bill size and tail colour of many of the birds in Saudi Arabia but how much of this is clinal is unknown.