Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Early February in Tabuk

From time to time, Viv Wilson based in Tabuk sends his birding friends in other parts of Saudi Arabia batches of photos of birds he has seen up there.

common buzzard or "steppe buzzard" ?

One of these birds caught my eye and I asked Viv if he could send me higher resolution photos. It is of a buzzard.

Now my Helms guide to "Birds of the Middle East" says that the nominate sub species of common buzzard (buteo buteo) is unreported in Arabia and yet is "a regular winter visitor to Israel".

second view of the buzzard (cropped from a photo by Viv Wilson)

Well if ever there was a candidate place to see buteo buteo in Arabia, by geography it must be Tabuk. Also there hasn't been much regular, day- to-day birding done there before Viv. Furthermore, its been a harder winter in that part of the world than usual which has likely brought more northerly birds down.

And finally his bird looks just like the common buzzard I see in great numbers when I visit my base in Bulgaria.

The default sub species in Arabia is buteo buteo vulpinus or steppe buzzard. Some steppe buzzard do look this dark and the experts on BirdForum where I posted it for help on identification cannot separate the two possibilities from the photos presented.

I have an instinct about this one. 

I have corresponded with Viv and he will return to the field on Friday precisely one week after the photo was taken. it would be great if the bird were still there. Viv will aim to get some underside shots of the bird in flight which could be enough to separate the sub species given his powerful camera.

It's a long shot but worth a try.

black kite (cropped from a photo by Viv Wilson)

In late Autumn thousands rather than hundreds of black kite arrive in Tabuk. Over the course of the winter all reports suggest there numbers thin out and increased sightings are made down the coast to Jeddah and beyond all the way down to Jizan. I have made some of these sightings myself this winter. For example Brian James and I saw 600 near Rabigh two weeks ago. Viv is still seeing tens in Tabuk. Many of them look like juveniles to me.

black kite takes off (cropped from a photo by Viv Wilson)

Viv mentioned to get some good photos of some the local passerines too.

bluethroat (cropped from a photo by Viv Wilson)

Bluethroat winters throughout Saudi Arabia where there is any wet land.

stonechat (cropped from a photo by Viv Wilson)

Stonechat is a wide spread winterer too. Most are Siberian stonechat though proportionate more are European in the north west and north east corners. Unfortunately, I can't tell which it is from Viv's photo.

chiffchaff (cropped from a photo by Viv Wilson)

It doesn't look like too many warblers winter in Tabuk other than chiffchaff.

Between us (the recent birding crowd in KSA)  we haven't yet seen many cyprus warbler, ruepells warbler or sub alpine warbler. From lack of observations, it looks like they don't winter as far south as Jeddah nor as far north as Tabuk which means by deduction, Yanbu is worth more investigation - half way between Tabuk and Jeddah.

graceful prinia (cropped from a photo by Viv Wilson)

Graceful Prinia is now nearly everywhere in Saudi Arabia with vegetation. Tabuk is no exception.

white wagtail at Tabuk (cropped from a photo by Viv Wilson)

I intend to visit Tabuk again in March and I am looking forward to it already.

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