Monday, 26 November 2012

Some eagles at Tabuk

During our visit to Tabuk two weekends ago, local birder Viv Wilson told Lou Regensmorter that he had recently been told about a place where dead camels were regularly dumped and that they had been attracting large birds.

Even hopeful, we contemplated that we might see some vultures.

adult and juvenile steppe eagle

When we arrived all of the carcasses were old and we didn't see any birds feeding on what was left.

We came close to missing the eagles sitting and resting on the ground on the other side of the road.

We soon realised there were five of them.

I am the first to confess my eagle identification skills are not good. However after over a year in Saudi Arabia they are getting better.

back view of the same adult and juvenile steppe eagle

I could identify two on the ground with a pale nape, broad baggy trousers  and dark plumage as adult steppe eagle.

adult steppe eagle

However, I had to be reminded that the long yellow gape is diagnostic of steppe eagle. This meant that two of the juvenile birds were steppe eagle too.

adult steppe eagle in flight cropped from a photo by Viv Wilson

One of Viv's photos was so clear that you can seeing the barring on the rimeges (type flight feathers) which further proves it is a steppe eagle rather than greater spotted eagle.

juvenile steppe eagle in flight

The juvenile steppe eagle were even easier to identify in flight. Apart from the long yellow gape (again) the pale band all across the wing combined with the dark chest helped confirmation.

two steppe eagle in flight

Of course, one of the birds gave an overall lighter impression. This was the bird most easily identified at the time as a juvenile eastern imperial eagle.

juvenile eastern imperial eagle in flight

We see both these birds near Riyadh all winter along with great spotted eagle. The eastern imperial eagle tends to keep more to the Kharj farming district whereas the other two are found both there and at Al Hair. After the chance to see them so close and for a while at Tabuk I think my eagle skills are improving to nearly adequate. 

It's all about practice.

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