2020 Review

The beginning of 2020 was notable for an influx of Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus into Qatar. There were five individuals at Irkayya Farm identified from photographs between 21 Dec 2019 and 26 Jan 2020.

A crested honey buzzard seen in Doha, Qatar
Crested Honey Buzzard. Transitional juvenile-adult female based on bare part colouration. Irkayya Farm 17 Jan 2020. © Simon Tull

There was a further sighting at Education City, Doha on 26 Jan and another at a residential compound in West Bay, Doha on 9 April 2020.

Should this be part of a trend, it may parallel observations from the Eastern Provence of Saudi Arabia, where the species has been found overwintering at a park in Jubail. It is noteworthy that in both cases, the species has a preference for cultivated areas such as farms, park and gardens.

Other notable raptor sightings – all at Irkayya Farm – in the early part of the year included a male Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus on 30 January, a dark morph Long-Legged Buzzard Buteo (rufinous) rufinus on 17 January and a rufous phase bird between 12 January and 2 February. A Short-Toed Snake Eagle Cicaetus gallicus was present from 27 Feb to 2 March. Two Black-Winged Kite Elanus caeruleus were at Irkayya Farm 24-26 Jan, with one confirmed as belonging to the race vociferous.

There was a minimum of three Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi at Irkayya Farm from 21 to 29 February, unusual for a species that has only been seen singly and sporadically before.

A Richard's Pipit seen in Qatar
Richard’s Pipit © Simon Tull

Possibly the most surprising record from the early part of the year was that of a male Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus at Al Meshaf on 31 Jan, and then another sighting of a male at Doha Sewage Farm, some 30 km away, on 8 Feb – these were the first records for the country.

Semi-Collared Flycatchers Ficedula semitorquata were widespread in March and April, with two males at farm near Rawdat al Ajuz on 24 March, one male at Doha Golf Course on 31 March, two males and one female at a farm near Abu Thaylah on 1 Apr, a female at Wakra on 2 Apr and individual males at a farm near Al Numan on 5 Apr and Shamal Park on 17 Apr.

A male semi-collared flycatcher seen in Qatar
Semi-Collared Flycatcher Ficedula semitorquata © Gavin Farnell

The Shamal area proved fruitful during the first half of the year. A Wryneck Jynx torquilla on 17 January, was an unseasonal record for a species more usually seen in March-April and September-October. A Sub-adult male Black-Throated Thrush Turdus atrogularis was at Shamal Park on 17 February. 

A black-throated thrush seen in Qatar
Black-Throated Thrush © Gavin Farnell

A male “Northern” Shikra Accipter (badius) conchroides was seen at Shamal Park on 17 April.

A Shikra seen in Qatar
Shikra © Gavin Farnell

A juvenile Black-Eared Kite Milvus (migrans) lineatus was sighted around the Shamal area from 28 Apr to 4 May, and two more juveniles were near Fuwairit on 1 May 2020; the vast majority of sightings of Black-Eared Kite are of juvenile birds

A juvenile Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus was found at Shamal on 13 April after seemingly being brought down during a storm. It has been acquired by a private zoo and was seen there during a visit, along with a Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis.

Eurasian Griffon Vulture

A Greater-Spotted Cuckoo Clamador glandarius was shot by hunters near Messaieed on 10 March. On a brighter note, the first established breeding of Hoopoe Upapa epops was recorded during the period, at a private farm between Doha and Al Khor.

Noteable sightings of waders during the early part of the year included a Spur-Winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus at West Saliya on 17 March, which had increased to three birds by 17 April. Sightings of this species have been increasing in frequency in recent years.

A male summer plumage Caspian Plover Charadrius asiaticus was at Irkayya Farm from 2 May to at least 21 May, an extended stay due to an apparent injury.

Caspian Plover © Gavin Farnell