20 Aug 2018

Mexican Poppy – Wadi Talea

The Mexican Poppy Argemone mexicanais a species of poppy originally from Mexico but now widely naturalized around the world including Saudi Arabia. It is an extremely hardy pioneer plant that is tolerant of drought. It grows in sandy, well-drained soil preferring dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought but not shade. They grow up to 150 cm tall with its stem branched and usually extremely prickly. It exudes a yellow juice when cut and has showy yellow flowers. The leaves are thistle-like and alternate, without leaf stalks, toothed and the margins are spiny. The grey-white veins stand out against the bluish-green upper leaf surface. The stem is oblong in cross-section. The flowers are at the tips of the branches and solitary, yellow and of 2.5-5 cm diameter. This plant and many others were found growing in a normally wet area behind a dam wall in Wadi Talea near Abha in the Asir mountains of southwest Saudi Arabia.
Mexican Poppy

Mexican Poppy

18 Aug 2018

African Paradise Flycatcher - Tanoumah

The African Paradise Flycatcher is an uncommon 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. The young constantly call to the adults and the adults feed the young very frequently with insects. On one day the male is the main food provider but the next day the female does most of the food collecting and feeding. The birds frequent tall juniper trees and prefer good stands of trees and vegetation to the more open areas. Birds are not easy to see in Saudi Arabia so seeing up to six birds in a day, in the Tanoumah area in summer, made for an exciting find.
African Paradise Flycatcher

African Paradise Flycatcher

African Paradise Flycatcher

16 Aug 2018

Desert Mantis – Abha area

I located a single specimen of Desert Mantis Eremiaphila baueriin the bottom of a wide sandy wadi whilst birding the Abha area recently. The insect was extremely difficult to see unless it moved, due to its camouflage. The mantids in Saudi Arabia include both praying mantis and ground mantis, with a total of 46 species known from Arabia. A common species is the cryptically coloured Desert Mantis Eremiaphila bauerialso known as the Ground Mantis. They occur in areas of sand and gravel and can survive in very high temperatures above 40 °C.
Desert Mantis

Desert Mantis

Desert Mantis

Desert Mantis


14 Aug 2018

Southwest species – Talea Valley

Whilst birding the Talea Valley in summertime it is very hot quite hard work. A few birds breed in the dry and rocky wadi bottom but seeing anything is not that easy. The bright light and high temperatures here make photography difficult and as I almost always arrive at midday, as I go to the Raydah Escarpment at first light, it is even more trying. Good birds can be seen if you persist and below are a few southwestern specialities I saw on my last visit. Arabian Babbler can be seen occasionally as they keep in small flocks and call to each other to keep in contact. Abyssinian White-eyes can occasionally be located in the tall acacia trees in the wadi bottom. Scarcer birds are Dusky Turtle Dove and African Silverbills that come down to drink if there is any free standing water. Cinnamon-breasted Bunting is only present in summer and is not there in winter of spring so presumably moves to lower altitude as it is resident in Saudi Arabia.
Abyssinian White-eye
Abyssinian White-eye
African Silverbill
African Silverbill
Arabian Babbler
Arabian Babbler
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting 
Dusky Turtle Dove
Dusky Turtle Dove

12 Aug 2018

Snake-tailed Fringe-toed Lizard

Whilst birding recently in the Abha area I came across a number of Snake-tailed Fringe-toed Lizard Acanthodactylus opheodurus down a tree filled wadi. The lizards were very active even during the hottest part of the day and where always found near small low-lying plants with hard sandy soil. It is superficially similar to its larger congener Acanthodactylus boskianus, and was described officially in 1980. As its name suggests, this species has a particularly long tail and, in common with other Acanthodactylusspecies, the toes are fringed with scales adapted for running over loose sand. Like other lacertids, the body is long and cylindrical, and the legs are well developed, with the animal having a basic body colour of grey, with seven dark stripes running down the back and sides and a tail tinged red in immatures. They live in a range of arid habitats, including plains with relatively hard sand cover and low hills covered by dense bushes. It is a diurnal lizard and lives in burrows excavated out of hard sand where it remains concealed for all but a few hours of the day. Their burrows not only act as a shelter from predators but also provide refuge from extreme temperatures. The snake-tailed fringe-toed lizard is currently known from the Arabian Peninsula and several other countries in the Middle East, including Jordan, Kuwait and Iraq. 
Snake-tailed Fringe-toed Lizard

Snake-tailed Fringe-toed Lizard