Trip Report: Al-Jubail (Saudi Arabia), October 1-14, 1999

Barnaby Briggs, United Kingdom;

I visited Al-Jubail on the Gulf Coast of Saudi Arabia. Most birds were seen around the hotel in the early morning. I did manage two days birding: one day at Tarut Island in Tarut Bay (a proposed Important Bird Area of the Middle East), and a short time at an oasis called Musallakh near Jubail. I used a map called the National Road Atlas, published by Farsi Maps and bought in the hotel in Jubail.

While officials in the airports were fine with binoculars and telescope, I was stopped by a rogue coastguard on Tarut Island. He offered the fairly stark choice of accompanying him to the police station or handing over my binoculars. Oh well, needed a new pair I suppose... The beach was open to the public, and when we checked with Saudi colleagues afterwards there was no reason for me not to be there. If you take your binoculars everywhere you do run the risk of hassle. I think the only way to minimise it would be to have as much as possible official-looking documentation in Arabic, and preferably to be accompanied by a Saudi colleague. I would add that that this coastguard was about the only Saudi who was not polite and welcoming. Very frustratingly, he stopped us at the high tide wader roost, with thousands of birds packed together on the beach.

The birding in Saudi is obviously very good, and Fasl lagoons and Tarut Island are both excellent sites. I was frustrated not being able to spend more time birding. Fasl lagoons are to be found in the north-western corner of the Industrial City, very close to the golf course. Tarut Island is easily found near the city of Qatif.

  1. Western Reef-heron (Egretta gularis)
    Very common on the coast, with regular small flocks going to roost.
  2. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
    Very common on the coast, especially on Tarut Island.
  3. Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)
    Seen on the coast at Jubail, but largest flock - 100 or more - seen at Al Fasl lagoons.
  4. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
    Seen at Al Fasl lagoons.
  5. Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
    At least 3 seen from Intercontinental Hotel in Jubail, and two on Tarut Island.
  6. Black Kite (Milvus migrans)
    Two seen over the sea at Intercontinental Hotel in Jubail.
  7. Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
    Singles seen at Fasl lagoons and Musallakh oasis.
  8. Steppe Buzzard (Buteo buteo vulpinus)
    One seen at Musallakh oasis, and another raptor seen on main Jubail-Damman Road was probably this species.
  9. Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni)
    One seen over Intercontinental Hotel in Jubail.
  10. Hobby (Falco subbuteo)
    One seen on main Jubail-Damman Road.
  11. Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)
    Common on coast in Jubail and on Tarut Island.
  12. Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
    Common on coast and inland waters.
  13. Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
    200+ on Fasl lagoons.
  14. Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
    Two or three on Tarut Island.
  15. Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
    Several on Tarut Island and Fasl lagoons.
  16. Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)
    Common on all water.
  17. Curlew (Numenius arquata)
    Common on the coast.
  18. Redshank (Tringa totanus)
    Common on the coast.
  19. Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
    Several on Tarut Island and Fasl lagoons
  20. Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus)
    At least 4 seen on Tarut Island, probably more present.
  21. Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
    Common on Tarut Island and on coast at Jubail.
  22. Common Snipe (Gallinago gallingo)
    One on Tarut Island.
  23. Little Stint (Calidris minuta)
    Very, very abundant on Tarut Island and Fasl lagoons - probably in the thousands.
  24. Temminck's Stint (Calidris temminckii)
    At least one at Tarut Island.
  25. Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
    Thousands on beach at Tarut Island and on Fasl lagoons.
  26. Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)
    10 identified on Fasl lagoons, probably many more.
  27. Broad-billed Sandpiper (Limicola falcinellus)
    2 identified at Fasl lagoons, probably many more. One within 3 metres in evening light.
  28. Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
    At least one on the beach at Tarut Island.
  29. Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus fuscus)
    Common on the coast.
  30. Slender-billed Gull (Larus genei)
    Common on the coast, especially on Tarut Island.
  31. Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia)
    12+ at Fasl lagoons
  32. Little Tern (Sterna albifrons)
    6 seen on coast at Jubail and Tarut Island. Efforts to turn them into Saunders' failed, they all looked too familiar.
  33. Feral Pigeon (Columba livia 'feral')
    In the towns.
  34. Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
    Common in towns.
  35. Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis)
    Common in towns.
  36. Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis)
    A dozen at Musallakh oasis.
  37. Ring-necked Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
    A flock of at least a dozen seen around the Intercontinental Hotel, Jubail.
  38. Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
    One seen on the beach at the Intercontinental Hotel, Jubail.
  39. Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)
    Flock of c12 roosted at Intercontinental Hotel, Jubail one night, 8 seen at Musallakh oasis.
  40. Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
    One or two seen at Intercontinental Hotel, Jubail most days.
  41. Black-crowned Finch-lark (Eremopterix nigriceps)
    12 seen on shallow lagoon near Jubail - can't be more specific!
  42. Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
    Common everywhere.
  43. Sand Martin (Riparia riparia)
    Several over open water eg Fasl lagoons
  44. African Rock Martin (Hirundo fuligula)
    Common in Riyadh.
  45. Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
    Common everywhere.
  46. Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava)
    Common everywhere.
  47. Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
    Two seen, probably more around.
  48. Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)
    One at Intercontinental Hotel, Jubail.
  49. White-cheeked Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucogenys)
    Common in all towns and villages.
  50. Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
    One seen at Fasl lagoons, and one at Musallakh oasis.
  51. Rufous Bushchat (Cercotrichas galactotes)
    One at Musallakh oasis.
  52. Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
    One seen at Intercontinental Hotel, Jubail.
  53. Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)
    Common in scrub.
  54. Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
    Common everywhere.
  55. Olivaceous Warbler (Hippolais pallida)
    One seen in Intercontinental Hotel, Jubail.
  56. Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)
    Several seen in flocks of other warblers.
  57. Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)
    Several seen, sometimes in company with other warblers.
  58. Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)
    Several usually present in any tree.
  59. Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis)
    Common in scrub vegetation.
  60. Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
    One seen at Intercontinental Hotel, Jubail.
  61. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
  62. Common Mynah (Acridotheres tristis)
    Common in Jubail.
  63. House Crow (Corvus splendens)
    Six seen in Jubail.
  64. Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis)
    One seen near Riyadh.

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This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser;; December 4, 1999