30 Jul 2015

Anderson's Rock Agama - Tanoumah

Whilst birding in the Tanoumah area in June 2015 I saw many Anderson's Rock Agama Acanthocercus adramitanus most of which were sitting on top of boulders and rocks showing off their incredible blue colouration. They allow close approach and are very photogenic with the below photos taken in the Tanoumah Cliff area just to the north of the city. The species is endemic to the Arabian Peninsula, where it is found in west and south Arabia, from Taif (Saudi Arabia) in the north to Dhofar (Oman) in the east. Its range includes Oman, Yemen, and south western Saudi Arabia and is the most common species of Agama in Yemen. It is also common in Saudi Arabia where it occurs on rocks in mountainous areas and is found to around 2,000 metres above sea level. Populations can be found on vertical rocks, rock steps and amongst boulders often in the vicinity of water. They can occur in precipitous wadis surrounded by dense vegetation, with the animals usually seen on the top of boulders. They do not however require water, obtaining moisture from their insect prey.
Anderson's Rock Agama

Anderson's Rock Agama

Anderson's Rock Agama

Anderson's Rock Agama

29 Jul 2015

Details of Crab Plover breeding behaviour - Farasan Islands

Mohammed Shobrak sent me a paper recently with some very interesting information about breeding Crab Plovers on the Frarasan Island. The details below are taken from the paper Almalki, M, Shobrak, M, AlRashidi, M, dos Remedios, N & Székely, T. (2014). Sex differences and breeding ecology of a burrow-breeding shorebird, the Crab Plover Dromas ardeola. Wader Study Group Bulletin 121(3): 169 – 176. The Crab Plover Dromas ardeola is endemic to the Indian Ocean basin and breeds on islands around the Arabian Peninsula. Unique among shorebirds, it nests in an underground burrow where it lays a single white egg and feeds one chick. Molecular sexing of DNA samples of 66 adult Crab Plovers indicated that 26 were males and 40 were females. Males had significantly longer bill, wing and tarsus lengths than females, confirming previously published reports on sexual size dimorphism in Eritrea. Observations of molecular-sexed adults at four nests showed that both parents fed the chicks; however, females brought food to the nest-burrow more often than males (67.6% of all cases). The temperature inside active nesting burrows was relatively stable at 35.0 +/- 0.18°C (n = 11 nests) regardless of ambient temperature just outside the burrows. This suggests that burrows serve a purpose in incubation as well as in defence from predation. In the colony, adults were seen to prevent chicks from multiple burrows from leaving the nest when their own parents had left the colony, confirming a helper breeding system. Also interesting was the day/night cycles in chick feeding routines, with higher provisioning rates during the daytime than at night.


28 Jul 2015

Common Myna – Dhahran Hills

The Common Myna Acridotheres tristis is an introduced species that is common in many areas of the Kingdom and breeds in many large towns. They first appeared in the Riyadh area in1984 and in the Eastern Province after 1990 but are now very common including in Dhahran where birds can be seen in large groups and also breed feely. Birds have slowly spread northwards and can now be seen throughout the country. There is one other type of Myna present in the Kingdom and that is the Bank Myna Acridotheres ginginianus that was also introduced and can be seen in Saudi Arabia almost exclusively in the Riyadh area. The photograph below was taken in Dhahran Hills on my local patch where they are plentiful and can be seen daily.
Common Myna

27 Jul 2015

Wadi Thee Ghazal

Whilst in Taif Phil and I went to Wadi Thee Gazal. We were going to spend longer there but got delayed by the good birding at Wadi Waj. We thus arrived at about midday the worst time to arrive as the temperature rises quite high here even though it is in the mountains. Wadi Thee Gazal has excellent cover and good birds are regularly seen here. We saw only a few decent species but these included both Shining and Nile Valley Sunbirds as well as Arabian Warblers and Yemen Thrushes. Quite a number of Arabian Wheatears and Black Bush Robins were about and a few Namaqua Doves were flying around. This was another locality where we saw good numbers of Arabian Serins and they could often be located by their loud contact calls.
Black Bush Robin
Black Bush Robin
Namaqua Dove
Namaqua Dove
Nile Valley Sunbird
Nile Valley Sunbird
Shining Sunbird
Shining Sunbird

26 Jul 2015

Both sub-species of Arabian Babbler – Sabya

Whilst birding the Sabya area in summer 2015 I came across Arabian Babblers in nearby areas with different bill colours. In the filed guide to the region it says these are different subspeics with the yellow-billed birds the Yemen race. HBW, however, does not mention bill colour as a distinguishing feature between the races, so I do not know which is correct. The bird with the dark bill was seen at Phil’s Fields and the one with the yellow bill at Sabya Waste Water Lagoons only about ten kilometres away.