Whilst birdwatching near Tanoumah in summer this year I photographed the below Plain Tiger Danaus chrysippus. The Plain Tiger 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.
27 Aug 2016
The Egyptian Nightjar Caprimulgus aegyptius is an uncommon bird in Arabia although since 2006 additional birds have been located in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia near Jubail in August with the highest count being ten birds together on 22 August 2008. Birds have been seen every year in August near Jubail since 2006 with birds also seen in July from 2011 to date with the earliest record on the 27 June 2014. On 1 July 2016, in the desert near Jubail, Phil Roberts and I found 14 birds in two groups at different sites. Six were at the first site and eight at the second. This is the second highest count of the species for the country as 15 were seen in August 2015. The birds are normally seen sitting in the shade under small bushes but some of the ones we saw were alongside a track and out in the open. Many of these birds have remained in the area until late July at least. Below are a number of photos of some of the birds, many of which were in wing moult, possibly a reason for them being around?
26 Aug 2016
Whist birdwatching in the Tanoumah area of southwest Saudi Arabia I came across a Painted Lady Butterfly. I have seen these hundreds of times in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia where I live but have not seen them on my many visits to the southwest until this trip. Painted Lady butterflies which is one of no less than 130 species of butterfly that occur in the Arabian region. The majority of these butterflies live in the mountainous regions of south-west Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman, but even the desert regions have their permanent and semi-permanent residents. The Painted Lady belongs to a group of butterflies which have not specialized, yet also survive. They are a migrant species and their survival strategy is based on mobility and the endless search for conditions where they can breed. The Painted Lady and other migrant butterflies are less specialized in their choice of food plant and habitat than most of the sedentary species. This is because they can't be as fussy to survive and as a result can live in harsher environments. If winter rains have been good and flora has flourished the number of Painted Lady recorded increases significantly.
25 Aug 2016
Whilst looking for Nightjars and Owls near Tanoumah Phil Roberts and I located a minimum of two Montane Nightjars Caprimulgus poliocephalus flying around just after dark. We observed the birds continually flying around and landing on a lamppost for at least three hours after dark. The birds remained silent but one one occassio I heard a bird calling from some distance briefly. Mountain Nightjar was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 1982 and has since been observed in every month of the year at the Raydah Escarpment indicating it is resident. Increased singing has been noted in March to May with birds seen between 2000-3000 metres although down to 1200 in cold winters. They only appear to occur along the western slopes and highlands of the Asir mountains from the Yemen boarder in the south through Al Baha to Al Shafa near Taif in the north. Where they occur they appear to be locally common.
24 Aug 2016
Whilst birdwatching in Tanoumah 100 kilometres north of Abha in the Asir mountains in the west of the Kingdom I came across a Small Copper butterfly Lycaena phlaeas shima. The Small Copper is a fast flying butterfly that, once settled, is unmistakable with its bright copper-coloured forewings. The upperside forewings are a bright orange with a dark outside edge border and with eight or nine black spots. The hindwings are dark with an orange border. The undersides are patterned in a similar way but are paler. The black spots on the forewings are outlined in yellow and the dark colouring is replaced by a pale brownish, gray. The hindwings are the same brown/grey colour with small black dots and a narrow orange border. It is widespread and common across Europe, Asia, and North America, and also found in North Africa south through to Ethiopia.