23 Oct 2018

Three species of Rock Thrush in one morning – Tanoumah

Whilst birding the Tanoumah area in Mid-October Phil Roberts and I saw all three species of Rock Thrush that occur in Saudi Arabia in a single morning. We located both Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush and Little Rock Thrush in a well-vegetated valley with the first species an uncommon passage migrant and the second a common breeding resident. We then went to Salah Al Dana and located a male Blue Rock Thrush on a pile of waste rocks and earth. This species is an uncommon passage migrant and one I had not seen in the southwest previously. Rock Thrush are always great to see as apart from their beautiful plumage they also have great character. 
Blue Rock Thrush

Blue Rock Thrush

Blue Rock Thrush

Little Rock Thrush

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush

21 Oct 2018

Migrating Eurasian Griffon Vulture - Tanoumah

Whilst birding the Tanoumah area in Mid-October 2018 we saw the amazing site of 50 Migrating Eurasian Griffon Vulture - Tanoumah in the air together, many later came down and rested on the rocks before again moving southwards. These birds are almost certainly migrating down towards the Bab-el-Mandeb straight, a relatively easy and short distance crossing from Arabia to Africa where the birds will winter. The Bab-el-Mandeb is a strait located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. It connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and is a proven flyway for many birds of prey. Tanoumah is positioned along the edge of the main escarpment of the Asir mountains and has very steep cliffs where Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus can roost and rarely breed. The species is uncommon in the Kingdom with numbers apparently declining and the southwest of the Kingdom is easily the best location for trying to locate birds. The species is an uncommon, resident breeder, in the Hejaz, Asir and the Tihama mountains of western Saudi Arabia, as well as a passage migrant. There are few records elsewhere in the Kingdom, and 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. There is a small breeding colony near Riyadh. This gathering of Eurasian Griffon Vulture is easily the largest group I have seen together since I have been in Saudi Arabia with the previous largest group being thirteen. 

Migrating Eurasian Griffon Vulture - Tanoumah

Migrating Eurasian Griffon Vulture - Tanoumah

Migrating Eurasian Griffon Vulture - Tanoumah


19 Oct 2018

Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard- Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm

Whilst birding Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm, Fadhili, in late August Phil spotted an Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard sunning itself by its hole. This individual was not too large but was a bright yellow colour as it had obviously spent some time warming up in the hot sunshine. These lizards are relatively common and widespread across Saudi Arabia preferring hard stony ground to excavate their holes. They are ground dwelling and live in some of the most arid regions of the planet. The Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard Uromastyx aegyptia microlepisoccurs in the Eastern Province and is generally regarded as a subspecies of the Egyptian Spiny-tailed Lizard Uromastyx aegyptia. It is locally known to the Arabs as 'Dhub'.


17 Oct 2018

Little Swift Nesting – Wadi Grosbeak

Whilst birdwatching near Wadi Grosbeak in the Bani Saad area south of Taif, Phil Roberts and I found a number of Little Swift Nests on a building. The Little Swift is probably a breeding visitor from Africa as it is very scarce in November and December. in the southern Red Sea, Asir, Hejaz and the Tihamah areas. They are regularly seen near Jeddah and rarely Riyadh but are a vagrant in the Eastern Province where I live. The breeding range is from Jeddah southwards to Yemen. The photo of the nest below was taken by Phil who has kindly allowed me to use it on my website.


15 Oct 2018

Blister Beetle – Wadi Grosbeak

The Blister Beetles (Coleoptera: Meloidae) are global distributed insects except for New Zealand and the Antarctic region and are also called Oil Beetles. The species seen near Bani Saad was Mylabris calida that has a distribution in central Asia (east to China and Korea), Caucasus and Transcaucasia, southern Balkan Peninsula, Near East, Levant and Arabian Peninsula and northern Africa. The insect was common in the area where we saw them always on flowering plants. Adult beetles can be recognized by morphological characteristics such as soft body, bright coloration, rather elongate, head deflexed with narrow neck, pronotum not carinate at sides, heteromerous tarsi, smooth integument. The bodily fluids of blister beetles contain the skin irritant cantharadin, giving the family its common name. It is possible that cantharadin acts as a protection against accidental beetle consumption by large herbivores, as some animals will avoid grazing on vegetation supporting large numbers of orange, red, or otherwise brightly colored blister beetles.