19 Jul 2018

Desert Rose – Abha

Whilst birding the Abha area I came across a Desert Rose Adenium obesumin a crack in some boulders. Adenium obesum is a species of flowering plant in the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, that is native to the Sahel regions, south of the Sahara (from Mauritania and Senegal to Sudan), and tropical and subtropical eastern and southern Africa and Arabia. It is an evergreen or drought-deciduous succulent shrub (which can also lose its leaves during cold spells. It can grow to 1–3 metres in height, with pachycaul stems and a stout, swollen basal caudex. The leaves are spirally arranged, clustered toward the tips of the shoots, simple entire, leathery in texture, 5–15 cm long and 1–8 cm broad. The flowers are tubular, 2–5 cm long, with the outer portion 4–6 cm diameter with five petals. The flowers tend to red and pink, often with a whitish blush outward of the throat.
Desert Rose

Desert Rose

17 Jul 2018

Arabian Serin – Abha area

Whilst birding recently in the Abha area I came across a few endemic Arabian Serin Serinus rothschildi.This is a rather scarce resident of the south-west highlands occurring in scrubland and acacia sites, where they have been seen regularly on Raydah escarpment at Raydah Farm and at the farm at the bottom of the escarpment by the village. Birds have also been seen at Tanoumah as well as in the Raghadan Forest area of Al Baha and further north to Taif, where good numbers can be seen at certain times. They also occur in the lower elevation Tihama around Jebal Gaha where a few have been seen. In 1980’s it was recorded more frequently than now, suggesting a possible decline in numbers. 
Arabian Serin

Arabian Serin

15 Jul 2018

Kleinia odora - Abha

Whilst birding the Abha area I came across some Kleinia odora. This plant is found in Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen and Saudi Arabia and is distinguished by having succulent stems or leaves. It is common in low dry hills along coastal plains where it forms large clumps bearing dense clusters of cream or whitish flowers on the tips of the pencil-like stems. Kleinia odorais a succulent herb that grows up to one metre tall. The stems of the plant are terete, jointed, and are marked with dark lines that run from the bases of the leaves. The leaves are fleshy and 10–35 millimetres in length and the flowers are a pale yellow.
Kleinia odora

13 Jul 2018

Shining (Arabian) Sunbird – Raydah Escarpment

Whilst birding the Raydah Escarpment in June I saw a few Arabian Sunbird Cinnyris hellmayri. The birds were at the bottom of the escarpment near the village and dry wadi. It is normally treated as conspecific with Shining Sunbird Cinnyris habessinicus, but differs in males by having much-reduced and slightly duller red breast-band and more extensive and deeper blue reflectant uppertail-coverts. In females they differ by having much darker grey or grey-brown plumage. They are a larger size and have a different song. The Handbook of Birds of the World treat them as separate species with two subspecies both of which are found is Saudi Arabia. C. h. kinnearithat occurs in western Saudi Arabia from the southern Hijaz mountains south to the Asir mountains. The second subspecies C. h. hellmayrioccurs in the extreme southwest of Saudi Arabia in the Najran area, Yemen and SW Oman.
Arabian Sunbird Cinnyris hellmayri

Arabian Sunbird Cinnyris hellmayri

Arabian Sunbird Cinnyris hellmayri

11 Jul 2018

Arabian Red-capped Lark – Talea Valley

Arabian Red-capped Lark Calandrella eremicais a scarce medium-sized lark that occurs in a very limited number of sites in southwest Saudi Arabia. It had not been seen for many years until recently when some birds were found at Azeeza near Abha. In 2015 Phil Roberts and I found a number of birds, probably more than ten, coming down to drink at a small area of water in a stony wadi, in the Talea Valley. Whilst walking around this same area in late June I found up to thirty birds feeding on the dry and stony landscape including both juveniles and adults. These birds would also come down to drink at the only know area for water for miles around. Birds are obvious when seen as the adults have a rufous crown and sometimes erect their crown feathers to form a prominent short crest. Birds occur mainly on open grassland and bare ground, including stony areas. Generally found in wadis with occasional bushes and scattered trees in Arabia where it occurs mainly between 1800–2500 metres. Previously the Arabian Red-capped Lark Calandrella eremicawas treated as conspecific with Blandford’s Lark C. blanfordi, but differs in its smaller size; lower rump and uppertail-coverts not (or only slightly) shaded rufous vs strongly rufous; much paler above, including colour of crown and shade of buff and brown streaking and colour of flight-feathers; greatly reduced dark markings on underparts (i.e. blackish half-collar much less obvious, breast and belly only lightly washed buff vs strongly washed rufous), so white of throat and supercilium far less striking; bill generally much paler. Two subspecies recognized C. e. eremica from southwest Saudi Arabia southwards to Yemen and C. e. daaroodensisfrom north-east Ethiopia and northern Somalia.
Arabian Red-capped Lark - Calandrella eremicais

Arabian Red-capped Lark - Calandrella eremicais

Arabian Red-capped Lark - Calandrella eremicais

Arabian Red-capped Lark - Calandrella eremicais

Arabian Red-capped Lark - Calandrella eremicais

Arabian Red-capped Lark - Calandrella eremicais

Arabian Red-capped Lark - Calandrella eremicais