26 Jun 2016

Birding Either Mangroves - Either

Either Mangrove is a potentially very important natural mangrove lagoon west of Sabya in the southwest of the Kingdom on the Red Sea coast. It holds one of the only known populations of ‘Mangrove White-eye’ a little known white-eye that may be part of the Abyssinian White-eye complex or possibly an unknown species? It is also a site where I found Collared Kingfisher last year, so I went back looking for the two species in June 2016. On arrival I saw a pair of Collared Kingfishers sitting in the mangrove trees and occasionally calling as they often do. The birds were not frightened by my presence and flew close by to catch crabs and small fish on a number of occasions. Other birds on the water included Pink-backed Pelicans, with two fishing and four resting on a lagoon creek. A few Striated Herons were also fishing along the coast but little else apart from Indian Reef Herons. The mangroves held calling Mangrove Reed Warblers, Clamorous Reed Warblers and African Collared Doves but little else of note.
Collared Kingfisher
Collared Kingfisher
Collared Kingfisher
Collared Kingfisher
Collared Kingfisher
Pink-backed Pelican
Pink-backed Pelican
Pink-backed Pelican
Pink-backed Pelican

25 Jun 2016

Dideric Cuckoo trapped and ringed at Al Mehfar Park – Tanoumah

Whilst ringing at the Al Mehfar Park area of Tanoumah I heard two Dideric Cuckoos Chrysococcyx caprius calling nearby. The birds were very vocal we soon located it sitting high in a tree but it soon moved off. Luckily the bird was later caught in one of my mist nets where be below photos were taken by Chris Boland. The Diderick Cuckoo is a summer visitor to southwest Saudi Arabia where it parasitizes Rüppell's weaver. They were previously regarded as vagrants to the area, but recently birds have been seen near Tendaha dam 5 July 2010, Abha area 20 July 2010, As Sudah 5 July 2013, Wadi Jaw June 2015 and Taif area July 2015 so are probably a scarce summer visitor to the high mountains of southwest Saudi Arabia. I thank Chris Boland for allowing me to use his photos of the Cuckoo below on my website as I left my camera in the hotel and was too busy to go back and collect it.


24 Jun 2016

Desert Hedgehog in Dhahran – Record by Paul Wells

Whilst in Dhahran Camp Paul Wells found a Desert Hedgehog out in the open in the middle of the day. These animals are nocturnal and are almost always see during the nighttime so this was an unusual occurance and allowed Paul to take the below photo of the animal that he has kindly allowed me to use on my website. The Desert Hedgehog is a species found in northern Africa, from Morocco & Mauritania in the west to Egypt in the east as well as the Middle East including Israel, Jordon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman & Yemen. A typical hedgehog in appearance the Desert Hedgehog has a dense, spiny coat, an elongated snout and the ability to curl into a defensive ball when threatened. Its most distinctive feature is the contrasting dark muzzel and broad white, spineless band across the face, which extends onto the flanks. The ears are relatively short and rounded and like other members of the genus, there is a naked patch on the forehead. The legs are long and dark and the underside is softly furred and is usually a mixture of black, brown and white while the spines on the back are a light colour with two dark bands. The overall colouration is quite variable, with some individuals almost totally white, and others completely dark. It is one of the smallest of hedgehogs being 14 - 28 cms in length and weighing 285 - 510 grams. As its common name suggests, the Desert Hedgehog inhabits dry deserts, dry steppe and other arid terrain and often favours areas such as oasis and vegetated wadis where food is more readily available. It has also been recorded in gardens, cultivated areas, open woodland and parks like the areas it is found in Dhahran Camp. It is active at night, is solitary and forages on the ground for a range of insect and other invertibrate prey, as well as occasionally small vertibrates and even species such as scorpions, spiders and snakes. They enter hibernation between January & February, when the temperatures are cooler and may also become less active during the hottest months and when food is scarce. Breeding begins in March after hibernation has ended with the female giving birth up to six young in a burrow or concealed nest after a gestation period of 30 - 40 days. The young are born deaf and blind and with the pines located just under the skin, to prevent damage to the female during birth. The spines emerge within a few hours of birth and the eyes open after 21 days. The young Desert Hedgehog is weaned after about 40 days and a single litter is born each year.

23 Jun 2016

African Paradise Flycatcher on nest - Tanoumah

The African Paradise Flycatcher is a breeding resident in the Tihamah, Southern Red Sea and wadi bottoms of the Asir as well as the high mountains of the Asir. Most records come from the well watched Abha and Tanoumah areas where birds build a small nest in the fork of a tree and normally lay three eggs. The female does most of the incubating but the male is always in attendance and does some of the work. Birds are not easy to see in Saudi Arabia and finding nests is even more difficult. Some of the local photographers have become very good at finding birds nests in recent years including a number of African Paradise Flycatcher nests. On a recent trip to Tanoumah I was shown a nest by some photographers and took a couple of photos of the bird, shown below, before moving off to leave it in peace.


22 Jun 2016

Good numbers of Eurasian Griffon Vultures - Tanoumah Park

Tanoumah Park is positioned along the edge of the main escarpment of the Asir mountains and has very step cliffs for the vultures to roost on. The birds cab be seen flying over as well as below you at this site and excellent views of many birds in the air together can be had. We had good views of up to thirteen Eurasian Griffon Vultures flying over. This species is declining rapidly, with this location probably the best site in the Kingdom for seeing this species. The species is an uncommon, resident breeder, in the mountains of western Saudi Arabia with a few scarce records elsewhere in the Kingdom. In the Eastern Province where I live it is a vagrant with six records of seven birds but none have been seen in recent years.