14 Dec 2018

Arabian Red Fox – Tanoumah

Whilst in Tanoumah in October Phil Roberts and I set up Phil’s trail camera and left it overnight to see if we could photograph anything interesting. We were hoping for Indian Porcupine or something rare but only managed a couple of Arabian Red Foxes Vulpes vulpes. One was taken in the daylight and shows and animal with its winter coat, as the temperature was only 22 degrees Celsius much cooler tha the 34 degrees Celsius we left behind in Dhahran where we live. I have not seen Arabian Red Fox in the southwest although we did get photos on a camera trap left overnight near Abha this spring. The Red Fox is currently regarded as a single species and has the widest natural distribution of any terrestrial carnivore, possibly any terrestrial mammal in the world. Its range spans approximately 70 million square kilometres encompassing much of Europe, Asia and North America and extending into North Africa, with an introduced population in Australia. The Red Fox occupies a wide variety of ecosystems, including forests, grasslands, deserts and agricultural and human-dominated environments. They are certainly very different to the Red Fox we get in the United Kingdom of which I am familiar, being much smaller and a very different colour. They also have much bigger ears and more fur between their toes, all things adapted for living in the hot desert conditions.
Arabian Red Fox


12 Dec 2018

Pale Agama - Tanoumah

Whilst in Tanoumah I found a lizard that looks like Pale Agama Trapelus pallidus hassi on a large roadside boulder and another on a dry-stone wall in the Tanoumah area. The species is normally found in rocky areas and open plains, preferring vegetation areas. This lizard has a medium-sized body up to 15 cm in length, with a tail up to 30 cm. The general body color is light gray, characterized with rhomboidal strikes on the back with dark rings on the tail. The head isrelatively large and triangle shaped. The limbs end with long sharp clawed fingers. Dorsal color sandy gray, back usually with 4 brown transverse bands; the band at mid-body is weakly defined or absent. Tail barred. Venter white; throat usually plain, sometimes with faint marks. Dorsal pattern becomes rather inconspicuous in adult males. In nuptial condition, the whole head becomes pale lead-gray in males, while in females it is suffused pale orange-red. Juveniles are sandy gray with a strong dorsal pattern.
Pale Agama Trapelus pallidus hassi

Pale Agama Trapelus pallidus hassi

Pale Agama Trapelus pallidus hassi

Pale Agama Trapelus pallidus hassi


10 Dec 2018

Yemen Warbler - Tanoumah

Whilst in Tanoumah the last few visits I have seen Yemen Warbler Sylvia buryi each time. The species is a common resident of the south-west highlands in bushy areas especially the area around Tanoumah and Al Baha as far north as Wadi Thee Gazelle near Taif. The species is local in its occurrence. In 1987 it was recorded more frequently than in 2010, especially on the plateau area. It is native to south-west Saudi Arabia and west Yemen and is a rather plain-looking warbler with a large head, short wings and a long tail. Both sexes are sooty-grey to dark brown above, with a darker head, especially around the eye and a distinctively white iris, contrasting with the dark orbital ring. The dark upperparts are clearly demarcated from the pale underparts, which are white on the throat and buffish on the belly, with a dull apricot patch between the legs. It is classified as vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2006 and has a population of less than 10,000 mature birds. They have a slow song that is quite loud as well as a thrush like warble and are very active, almost always in pairs where they search for insects in the centre of thick acacias, frequently hanging upside down. Their flight is weak and low, with an upwards swoop when landing on a branch. In Saudi Arabia, this species is found mostly within well-developed Juniperus woodland between 1500 & 2900 metres above sea level. They nest in bushes or trees, normally at a low height and breed from March to July. Their diet consists primarily of insects, but fruits will also be taken when available.
Yemen Warbler Sylvia buryi

Yemen Warbler Sylvia buryi

Yemen Warbler Sylvia buryi

8 Dec 2018

Bimaculated Larks – Jebal Hamrah

Whilst birding the Jebal Hamrah pivot irrigation fields recently with Phil Roberts, Phil located a Bimaculated Lark Melanocorypha bimaculateon the stony area aroud the pivot field. The bird was on the edge of the field in with a group of Lesser and Greater Short-toed Larks, but flew almost immediately. We moved to where it had landed and refound the bird. Knowing a Calandra Lark had been recently seen in Kuwait we tried to get some photographs to eliminate the chance of it being that species. In flight there was no sign of the required white trailing edge to the wing and a few flight shots seemed to back this up making the bird a Bimaculated Lark. The light was poor by the time we located the bird so the photos are not the best. The species apparently breeds in the Harrat al Harrah Reserve and is otherwise a scarce or uncommon passage migrant mainly in March and April as well as October and November throughout the Kingdom. Most records are from the Riyadh area with very few from the Eastern Province although Phil and I saw a flock of 40 in a pivot irrigation field near Nayriyyah 14 March 2013 and eight birds in a nearby pivot field 9 March 2018.
Bimaculated Lark

Bimaculated Lark

Bimaculated Lark

Bimaculated Lark

Bimaculated Lark


6 Dec 2018

Female Hooded Wheatear – Jebal Hamrah

Whilst birding the Jebal Hamrah with Phil Roberts recently we came across a wheatear at the bottom of the escarpment in a largish wadi. It lwas perched ontop of a large boulder in a slightly vegetated area at the foot of the escarpment. On closer inspection in became obvious it was a female Hooded Wheatear. These birds are quite distinct with their large size and long thin bill and the females have reddish tails with restricted black. They are a rare or scarce but widespread bird throughout the region and are most often encountered in barren, remote stretches such as those between Buwayb and Towqi in the Riyadh area and the Jebal Hamrah and Shedgum Escarpment areas of the Eastern Province. I saw a different female on the other side od the escarpment in March 2018 suggesting the birds may winter in the area although they could still be passage migrants. Further visits to the area may show more clearly their status in the region. Elsewhere in Saudi Arabia they are a rare but widespread breeding resident of Central Arabia and also occur at Najran, Northern Hejaz.
Hooded Wheatear

Hooded Wheatear