23 Sep 2018

Greater Hoopoe-Lark - Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm

Whilst birding Ash Shargiyah Development Company Farm, Fadhili, in late August I came across a Greater Hoopoe-Lark. This is probably one of the best locations for seeing the species in the Eastern Province. The birds are almost always on the move so getting excellent photos of them is not so easy. Luckily this bird stood on top of a sand dune for a short while allowing some photos to be taken in good light. The Greater Hoopoe-Lark is a common breeding resident in all sandy desert areas of the Kingdom including the Empty Quarter, the desert regions of the Southern Red Sea and the Tihamah. They are uncommon in the North-west. They are common in the Eastern Province but normally seen in small numbers except in winter when large gatherings can occur near pivot irrigation fields and surrounding desert areas. 

21 Sep 2018

Desert White – Wadi Wadj

Whilst birding Wadi Wadj in Taif I came across a Desert White Butterfly Pontia glauconome.This is a striking white butterfly of arid regions occurring in deserts and on mountain slopes and foothills with sparse vegetation, up to around 2000 metres above sea level. The Desert White is a widespread species, ranging from North Africa through Arabia and the Middle East to Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is a small white butterfly (10-15mm) whose antennae are clubbed, ending in a white tip. The inside of the forewings are black tip with white dots. Underside of both wings has characteristic yellow veins, with light brown colour pattern. Large round compound eyes with black dots. These butterflies are seen regularly in the mountains in the Taif area but are less common in the Eastern Province where I live.

19 Sep 2018

Summer Records of Crested Honey Buzzard

Whilst birding the southwest this summer Phil Roberts and I found two Crested Honey Buzzards in different areas. The first was an adult female seen flying just overhead in the Bani Saad area and the second a few weeks later was an adult female at some distance at the bottom of Wadi Wadj in Taif. The species has only been seen three time previously in the summer in the Kingdom, an adult male in Dhahran in two sperate years and a female near Tanoumah in the sout-west of the Kingdom. These new records mean that birds have been seen along most of the Asir mountain range in summer and show a few birds may regularly summer there. The area has very poor coverage outside Abha and Tanoumah so it is worth keeping an eye out for this species if in the area birdwatching. 

17 Sep 2018

Common Zebra Blue – Wadi Thee Ghazal

Whilst birdwatching the Wadi Thee Ghazal area of Taif in the Mountains of western Saudi Arabia, I came across a number of small butterflies using a damp area in a dry wadi bottom. These butterflies were Common Zebra Blue Leptotes pirithousa butterfly of the family Lycaenidae. It is also called Lang's Short-tailed Blue. It is a small butterfly with a wingspan of 21–29 mm in males and 24–30 mm in females. The uppersides of the wings are purple bluish in males, bluish-brown in female. The undersides are dark beige striped with white lines. The hindwings show marginal orange and black spots and two small tails. These butterflies fly from February to November depending on the location and are regular migrants.

15 Sep 2018

Arabian Scops Owl – Tanoumah

Whilst birdwatching the Tanoumah area in summer 2018 I managed to hear a number of Arabian Scops Owls Otus pamelae and photograph one. The Arabian Scops Owl has recently been split as a distinct species from African Scops Owl O. s. senegalensis. Recent work (Pons et al 2013) has shown African Scops Owl, represents a very distinct lineage and is well differentiated phylogenetically, morphologically and vocally from O. s. senegalensis. As a result it has been recommend to elevate it to species status, as Arabian Scops Owl Otus pamelae. The reasons for this are this southern Arabian taxon is highly divergent from African senegalensis (uncorrected-p mitochondrial genetic distance = 4%). The song of pamelae is very different from that of Eurasian Scops Owl O. scops and Pallid Scops Owl O. brucei but more similar to that of African Scops Owl O. senegalensis. It nevertheless differs from the latter’s song in being higher pitched, sounding ‘scratchier’ and having more prolonged notes; the song sounds two-parted, due to the much quieter first note. In terms of biometrics, results clearly suggest that pamelae is longer winged and longer legged than mainland African populations of senegalensis. In comparison with populations of O. senegalensis in continental Africa, Arabian pamelae is distinguished in being paler overall, with less distinct streaking over the underparts and a less obvious whitish line on the scapulars. Arabian Scops Owls possess several diagnostic genetic and phenotypic characters and it is therefore consider the most appropriate taxonomic treatment is to recognize Arabian Scops Owl as a species and not as a subspecies of O. senegalensis as it was originally described based solely on morphological data. This change means that Arabian Scops Owl becomes a new Arabian endemic, found in South-west Saudi Arabia, South-west Yemen and north-east to southern Oman and African Scops Owl is now no longer found in Arabia but instead occurs in parts of Ethiopia, Eritrea & Somalia.