6 Jul 2015

Plain Tiger – Sabya Waste Water Lagoons

The Plain Tiger Danaus chrysippus was first depicted in an Egyptian tomb 3,500 years ago, making it the first ever butterfly to be recorded in history. Its striking tawny-orange colouration serves as a warning to predators that this species is distasteful, which ultimately deters predators from attacking. Male butterflies are slightly smaller than females with the males identified by the presence of a black scent-producing pouch located in the lower-centre of the hind wing; on the underside of the wing it appears as a white-centred black patch. In addition, the males have a pair of brush-like organs hidden within the abdomen, which are used in reproduction. The Plain Tiger has an extensive range and can be found throughout the Old World tropics, from Africa to Southeast Asia as well as Australasia. Recently it has been discovered that there are three subspecies; Danaus chrysippus chrysippus is found in Asia and tropical Africa, Danaus chrysippus alcippus ranges from the Cape Verde Islands, across Africa to Oman and Saudi Arabia, and Danaus chrysippus orientis is predominantly found in tropical Africa and the surrounding islands including Madagascar and the Seychelles. They inhabit open, fairly arid areas and unlike other members of the Danaus genus, the Plain Tiger often flies in open sunlight, even at the hottest point of the day.
Plain Tiger

Plain Tiger

5 Jul 2015

Breeding Shikra – Tanoumah

Shikra is a scarce breeding resident of the southwest of Saudi Arabia with a few scattered records of migrants elsewhere including Riyadh where a female was collected on 18 October 1938 that is now held by the British Museum (Natural History) at Tring, UK. The birds we saw were an adult male and female and a three juveniles still in the nest. An adult was seen perched in the tree top and another seen chasing a Long-legged Buzzard and later the same birds were seen near the nest as well as circling over. We got good flight views of the birds but they were no on view for long periods of time so getting good photographs was difficult. 
Shikra nest

Shikra nest

Shikra nest

Shikra

Shikra

Shikra

Shikra

4 Jul 2015

Ten species of Arabian Endemic at Al Mehfar Park – Tanoumah

During the weekend of 19-20 July, Phil Roberts and I went to the southwest of Saudi Arabia for a birding trip. This was a very busy and long weekend with little sleep as we were birding on foot all day and then looking for owls and nightjars all night. We birded the Al Mehfar Park area for most of the day on 20 June and saw plenty of good birds including ten of the thirteen Arabian Endemics that occur in Saudi Arabia including: Philby’s Partridge, Arabian Partridge, Arabian Scops Owl, Arabian Woodpecker, Yemen Warbler, Yemen Thrush, Arabian Wheatear, Yemen Serin, Arabian Serin & Yemen Linnet. The ones we failed to see were: Arabian Waxbill, Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak and Arabian Spotted Eagle Owl. As it started getting light we went to the more bare area of the site with large boulders in the hope of seeing Philby’s Partridge where we located several small groups totaling 16 birds. Other birds seen included; Five Arabian Scops Owls, four Eurasian Hoopoes, five Arabian Woodpeckers, three Fan Tailed Ravens, six Violet-backed Starlings, 15 Tristram's Starlings, five Yemen Thrushs, 10 White-spectacled Bulbul, Crested Lark, two Barn Swallows, two Pale Crag Martins, six Red-rumped Swallow, four Brown Woodland Warblers, six Streaked Scrub Warblers, African Paradise Flycatcher, Arabian Warbler, three Abyssinian White-eyes, four Arabian Wheatears, four Little Rock Thrushes, seven Gambaga Flycatchers, five Palestine Sunbirds, House Sparrow, Long-billed Pipit, three Arabian Serins 35 Yemen Serins, 30 Yemen Linnets and two Cinammon-breasted Buntings.
Arabian Wheatear
Arabian Wheatear - male
Arabian Woodpecker
Arabian Woodpecker - male
Arabian Woodpecker
Arabian Woodpecker - male
Little Rock Thrush
Little Rock Thrush
Palestine Sunbird
Palestine Sunbird
Philby's Partridge
Philby's Partridge
Streaked Scrub Warbler
Streaked Scrub Warbler
Violet-backed Starling
Violet-backed Starling 
Violet-backed Starling
Violet-backed Starling
Yemen Linnet
Yemen Linnet
Yemen Serin
Yemen Serin 
Yemen Serin
Yemen Serin

3 Jul 2015

Arabian Scops Owl at Al Mehfar Park – Tanoumah

Arabian Scops Owl Otus pamelae is regarded by many as a regional endemic and last year Phil and I saw a bird near Tanoumah. Al Mehfar Park in southwest Saudi Arabia, north of Abha at 1950 metres elevation, is a good place to try to see them and last weekend we heard one calling just aft it became dark. Eventually we had at least five birds calling. We were lucky enough to see at least two birds perched in the open calling and managed to get a few reasonable photos of the birds using a flash attached to the camera. Whilst looking for the owls we also heard Montane Nightjar calling but were unable to find any birds during our nighttime birding. The Arabian Scops Owl only lives on the western side of the Kingdom and particularly favours the Asir mountain chain from the Yemen boarder to north of Taif.
Arabian Scops Owl
Arabian Scops Owl
Arabian Scops Owl
Arabian Scops Owl
Arabian Scops Owl
Arabian Scops Owl
Arabian Scops Owl
Arabian Scops Owl
Arabian Scops Owl
Arabian Scops Owl


2 Jul 2015

Sallal al-Dahna - Tanoumah

Whilst in the southwest of Saudi Arabia Phil and I visited Sallal al-Dahna an upland valley at 1955 metres above sea level on the outskirts of Tanoumah. This is a good location to see Arabian (Asir) Magpie that is generally regarded as a sub-species of Eurasian Magpie but sometimes treated as a separate species. They are becoming increasingly rare with the total population estimated to be between 135-500 birds. The valley holds mature acacia and Juniper trees and has a permanent water supply at one end. Our visit was to try to get good views and photos of the Arabian Magpie. You normally locate the species by hearing its loud contact calls that to my ears sounds very different to the calls of Eurasian Magpie, and this was the case on both days we visited the site. We saw the birds late one evening and again after lunchtime and although we got reasonable views we did not get really close to the birds. There were at least two birds present and possibly three with one being a well grown youngster with browner overall plumage. Other birds seen In the valley included House Sparrow, Palestine Sunbird, Shining Sunbird, Gambaga Flycatcher, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Arabian Babbler, Brown Woodland Warbler, White-spectacles Bulbul, Yemen Thrush, Abyssinian White-eye, Fan-tailed Raven and Long-legged Buzzard.
Arabian Magpie
Arabian Magpie
Arabian Magpie
Arabian Magpie
Arabian Magpie
Arabian Magpie
Arabian Magpie
Arabian Magpie
Arabian Babbler
Arabian Babbler
Grey-headed Kingfisher
Grey-headed Kingfisher