14 Nov 2018

Breeding Gambaga Flycatcher – Wadi Grosbeak

The Gambaga Flycatcher breeds from Africa (Ghana to Somalia) and into south-west Arabia. It is a breeding summer visitor to the highlands of the Asir. It frequents lightly wooded areas and open wooded hillsides particularly where acacia occurs and mostly above 1500 metres often near water. Nests are usually placed in the fork of a tree, as was the case with this pair. This bird was breeding, and still sitting on eggs on 29 August, a late date as most birds return to Africa in September.

12 Nov 2018

Robber Fly – Wadi Thee Ghazal

Whilst birding Wadi Thee Ghazal I came across two Robber Flys. These were the first ones I had seen in Saudi Arabia and then amazingly a few weeks later I saw a similar one near Tanoumah several hundred kilometres south of the first sighting. The Asilidae are the robber fly family, also called assassin flies and have 7000 described species. They are powerfully built, bristly flies with a short, stout proboscis enclosing the sharp, sucking hypopharynx. The name "robber flies" reflects their notoriously aggressive predatory habits; they feed mainly or exclusively on other insects and as a rule they wait in ambush and catch their prey in flight. Many Asilidae have long, tapering abdomens, sometimes with a sword-like ovipositor. Larvae generally seem to live in soil, rotting wood, leaf mould and similar materials.

10 Nov 2018

Arabian Warbler – An Namas

Whilst birding the An Namas area north of Abha in the Asir Mountains in the summer I came across a pair of Arabian Warblers. The Arabian Warbler is a locally common breeding resident in bushy areas of the Hejaz and Asir mountains occurring in the eastern desert fringes as well as on the temperate summits. It has a somewhat narrow habitat preference, of thick acacia scrub in dry locations, notably scrub-covered hillsides, and is not so easy to locate. The Saudi Arabian sub-species is Silvia. I. leucomelaena.The birds I saw were in exactly the type of habitat mentioned above and performed very well allow some good photographs to be taken. 

8 Nov 2018

Lesser Egyptian Jerboa – Judah

The worldwide distribution of extant jerboa species is extensive throughout the arid and desert regions of North Africa and Central Asia. The Lesser Egyptian Jerboa Jaculus jaculushowever, is found in North Africa, throughout the Arabian Peninsula, and as far north as Southwestern Iran. Although several species of jerboas have been designated as vulnerable or threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), J. jaculusis considered of “least concern”. They are mouse-like in appearance with large eyes and ears with brown and grey fur with a pale coloured belly. The animal is very small at only 95 to 110 millimeters long and 43 to 73 grams in weight, averaging 55 grams. The Lesser Egyptian Jerboa can jump one meter from a standing position and 1.5 meters at top speed and has been recorded travelling up to ten kilometers in one evening in search of food. This is due to the animal's long bald tail except for a clump of fur at the end for balance and huge feet with a posture and stride that is similar to that of a kangaroo. They live in burrows in the sand, sleeping during the day and feeds on seeds, grass, grains and even some insects at night. The species dies nit hibernate and can live up to four years in the wild. Their main predators are foxes and snakes.

6 Nov 2018

Birding An Namas

An Namas is an area north of Tanoumah in the Asir Mountain chain. It is the northerly most point where Asir (Arabian) Magpie can currently be found and is a good birding location. Whilst birding a small valley there I found a lot of good birds including Ruppells Weaver, Violet-backed Starling, Crested Lark, Gambaga Flycatcher, Red-breasted Wheatear, African Pipit, Long-billed Pipit, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting and Arabian Wheatear. The African Pipit is also the furthest north this species has been recorded in the Kingdom in the last forty years proving the area is rich for birdlife. Most birders and photographers who come to the Asir stop at Tanoumah and go no further north but there are plenty of great areas north of this location with much to be discovered.
African Pipit
Arabian Wheatear 
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting
Crested Lark
Gambaga Flycatcher
Gambaga Flycatcher
Long-billed Pipit
Red-breasted Wheatear 
Ruppell's Weaver
Violet-backed Starling