Saturday, November 18, 2017

We left a little later than we did for our last ringing adventure, and as it turned out it was made even later because we had to go back to get our Birds of the Middle East book.  When we turned off the main highway, and started our journey down the sandy dirt road, we saw the remains of a Great Egret.  Huge white feathers were scattered everywhere, and there was a light green scaly leg in the middle of the road.  The victim was clear, but we were not sure who did the killing, though we did see six Greater Spotted Eagles not too far down the road, including several juveniles.  

We arrived at the spot where Jem and Nicole were already ringing several birds from their first trip to the nets.  It was great to be part of ringing again, and we saw several new species of birds, along with some familiar ones.  We even caught several Clamorous Reed Warblers that were already ringed from our previous trip, they must have wanted to say hello.  Two species that were new from last time were the Blue Throat and the Chiffchaff.  I had never seen a Bluethroat before, such a beautiful bird with, as it's name suggests, a striking blue throat on the adult males.  The Chiffchaff is an amazing bird that Jem said migrates up to 11,000 kilometers one way from Europe to Africa.  They stop in Saudi Arabia to fuel up on their long journey.

The weather was cooler than our last trip, and there were many birds in the sky migrating. There were also lots of bird voices calling from the bushes.  It is a great time of year to go birding, and I can't wait until our next ringing adventure!

 Relaxing in the hammock, this is one that was previously banded. And that's him saying goodbye - until next time!


Monday, October 30, 2017

We ventured out under a beautiful pink and yellow Arabian sunset, which was just over the horizon.  It felt like we were surrounded by Crested Larks because we could hear their songs from all directions. 

We did not get a great shot of a Crested Lark, so we got in the car and packed up the scope and binoculars, and started to drive off from the desert scrub habitat.  When all of a sudden... I heard a call from outside my window!  I looked outside and saw a well-camouflaged pair of Crested Larks.  The Larks looked like miniature soldiers because of how well they blended in with their environment

This camouflage is important because of their need to avoid predators like foxes, which eat their eggs.  Crested Larks nest on the ground, so blending in helps them protect their nests.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

RTES Young Birder's Club Inaugural Adventure

We arrived at the Beach Path at 6:45 AM for our first bird walk as leaders of the Ras Tanura Elementary Young Birder's Club.  I was surprised that there were nine other kids that showed up because I was only expecting four or five.  I guess more people were interested than I thought.

We set off on the path with our binoculars, camera, and my mom had the spotting scope.  At the starting point we saw an immature House Sparrow with downy feathers.  After that we heard 20 to 40 Rose-Ringed Parakeets squawking from the tall Palm Trees.  The other kids were not sure what they were so I helped them identify the Parakeets.  Most people do not realize that these birds are actually invasive here because someone let go of their pet Parakeets.  Now there are hundreds.

After almost an hour of walking my mom and I were getting nervous that there was not going to be anything too exciting for the group to spot.  Mom was desperately scanning the dunes for movement, then she saw something.  We set up the scope and my mom exclaimed "Isabelline Wheatear."  As we continued to scan we noticed there were actually four of them.  Our theory is that there were two parents and two juveniles, but we could not distinguish with certainty, which ones were juveniles.  There was one male who was noticeably brighter than the rest.  The other kids had never seen a Wheatear before, so it was fun to give them a chance to look through the scope at them!

At the end of the trip, we happened to spot an Indian Silver-bill that appeared to be gathering nesting materials from the ground.  He was darting from the sand to the top of a small Palm Tree and back again.   The entire trip was only an hour, but several of the other kids were already tired at the end so it was good we only went for that long.  There were several kids who want to go again, with one of them asking "can we do this every weekend?"  Probably not, but I do look forward to leading another RTES Young Birder's Club outing, perhaps to the far north end of camp to "Boy Scout Beach" to try to spot nesting Crested Larks.
As always, you can see my blog and other Eco-adventures at

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bird Ringing in Jubail, Saudi Arabia

I woke up being carried outside and it was light, but barely.  It was already starting to get very warm outside.  It was about a one hour car ride to the city of Jubail, and  I changed into my clothes and ate breakfast on the way.  We arrived at a desert dirt road that was bumpy that we drove on to the ringing site for about ten minutes. 

My mom navigated us to the end of the road and we saw a white Land Cruiser and just as we pulled up, the ringers were just coming out of the reeds with bags of birds to weigh and ring.

I was excited to see the birds, especially when they told me they captured a White-Throated Kingfisher.  They took lots of different measurements.  They weighed the birds by putting them in a little plastic sleeve, and clipping it to a scale that looked like a little thermometer.  They also measured the wingspan, the length and depth of the beak, as well as leg from the last feather to the end of their claw.  

Another neat measurement they took was to see if the bird had any belly fat.  They blew on the belly to separate the feathers to see if there was any orange stuff.  The orange stuff is fat.  If a bird has fat, it means it is a migratory bird most likely. 
It was fun and interesting; especially when they blew on the belly fat.  I even got to hold a Kingfisher and several Warblers.  The Kingfisher even took a nap in my hands.

Check out more pictures and information on other birding trips on my website

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Birding at Bundala National Park Sri Lanka

Bundala is a massive natural preserve that can only be toured by arranging for a guided safari.  Details about the park, and how to arrange a tour, can be found here.  There are pictures of monkeys and elephants to be found on the birds and turtle site, but in this post I will just describe some of the birds.

It was a four hour guided safari in a jeep.  The guides were very knowledgeable, and pointed out many species.  We had our bird book and dad was busy recording the species in the book as we toured the area.  

Highlights include three separate species of Bee Eaters, lots of close-up looks at Peacocks, and hundreds of shore birds.  Over 30 species observed!

Birding in a Boat in Sri Lanka

At Kalamatiya Bird Sanctuary in Sri Lanka we went on two separate birding trips that were two hours each.   Mom and I shared the camera and the binoculars most of the time and dad was usually holding Julia.  Here is a link to the official Kalamatiya website where you can arrange reservations and see operating hours.

The highlights of the trip were that it was so quiet and peaceful and we got a great look at Grey Headed Fish Eagle, a Pied Kingfisher.  Lots of Peacocks calling.  Detailed photo gallery can be found at Birds and Turtles.