14 Aug 2018

Southwest species – Talea Valley

Whilst birding the Talea Valley in summertime it is very hot quite hard work. A few birds breed in the dry and rocky wadi bottom but seeing anything is not that easy. The bright light and high temperatures here make photography difficult and as I almost always arrive at midday, as I go to the Raydah Escarpment at first light, it is even more trying. Good birds can be seen if you persist and below are a few southwestern specialities I saw on my last visit. Arabian Babbler can be seen occasionally as they keep in small flocks and call to each other to keep in contact. Abyssinian White-eyes can occasionally be located in the tall acacia trees in the wadi bottom. Scarcer birds are Dusky Turtle Dove and African Silverbills that come down to drink if there is any free standing water. Cinnamon-breasted Bunting is only present in summer and is not there in winter of spring so presumably moves to lower altitude as it is resident in Saudi Arabia.
Abyssinian White-eye
Abyssinian White-eye
African Silverbill
African Silverbill
Arabian Babbler
Arabian Babbler
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting 
Dusky Turtle Dove
Dusky Turtle Dove

12 Aug 2018

Snake-tailed Fringe-toed Lizard

Whilst birding recently in the Abha area I came across a number of Snake-tailed Fringe-toed Lizard Acanthodactylus opheodurus down a tree filled wadi. The lizards were very active even during the hottest part of the day and where always found near small low-lying plants with hard sandy soil. It is superficially similar to its larger congener Acanthodactylus boskianus, and was described officially in 1980. As its name suggests, this species has a particularly long tail and, in common with other Acanthodactylusspecies, the toes are fringed with scales adapted for running over loose sand. Like other lacertids, the body is long and cylindrical, and the legs are well developed, with the animal having a basic body colour of grey, with seven dark stripes running down the back and sides and a tail tinged red in immatures. They live in a range of arid habitats, including plains with relatively hard sand cover and low hills covered by dense bushes. It is a diurnal lizard and lives in burrows excavated out of hard sand where it remains concealed for all but a few hours of the day. Their burrows not only act as a shelter from predators but also provide refuge from extreme temperatures. The snake-tailed fringe-toed lizard is currently known from the Arabian Peninsula and several other countries in the Middle East, including Jordan, Kuwait and Iraq. 
Snake-tailed Fringe-toed Lizard

Snake-tailed Fringe-toed Lizard

10 Aug 2018

Bottom of Raydah Escarpment in summer

I was at the bottom of the Raydah Escarpment in late June and the number of birds was significantly less than in May. There were a lot less African Grey Hornbill and Violet-backed Starlings but White-throated Bee-eaters had arrived that were not present in early May. The number of Bruce’s Green Pigeons remained high and a few Ruppell’s Weavers were building nests. A single Black-crowned Tchagra was seen at a location where I saw my only other sighting in the Kingdom. Grey-headed Kingfishers were seen and heard a number of times with one bird allowing some reasonable photos to be taken of it. 
Grey-headed Kingfisher
Grey-headed Kingfisher
Grey-headed Kingfisher
Grey-headed Kingfisher
Bruce's Green Pigeon
Bruce's Green Pigeon
Bruce's Green Pigeon
Bruce's Green Pigeon
Long-billed Pipit
Long-billed Pipit
White-throated Bee-eater
White-throated Bee-eater
White-throated Bee-eater
White-throated Bee-eater

8 Aug 2018

Bosk's fringe-toed lizard – Abha area

Whilst birding recently in the Abha area I came across two Bosk's fringe-toed lizard Acanthodactylus boskianus both were near to vegetation of low-lying shrubs. This is the most widespread species of its genus as well as the largest Acanthodactylus species throughout its range, measuring 16-23 centimetres in total length, which includes all of Saharan North Africa and the Middle East including Arabia (widespread in Saudi Arabia), the Levant and Mesopotamia (including the Turkish border), as well as north- western Iran. It has a long, cylindrical body and well developed legs and is known as a fringe-toed lizard due to the presence of a series of scales on the fingers that provide traction for running over loose sand. The general body colour of this species ranges from darkish or silvery grey, to yellow or reddish brown, with seven contrasting dark, brown longitudinal stripes that run the length of the back. With age, these stripes generally fade away or become grey in colour. It frequents a range of stony and sandy environments and is sometimes common in rocky areas with some shrubs. They excavate burrows in hard sand, some of which are equipped with multiple entrances to allow quick retreats and act as a nightly resting place and as a refuge from periods of intense heat. They emerge from their burrows around mid-morning. It is a voracious predator and eats a wide variety of small insects and other invertebrates. 
Bosk's fringe-toed lizard

6 Aug 2018

Record count of Egyptian Nightjar – Jubail

Egyptian Nightjars are now an easily seen species during the summer months in the Jubail area but this year the numbers are higher than ever with sixteen birds seen. Birds generally turn up in early June and depart in late September with records of early and late birds occurring every year for the past few years. This year I have been away in the southwest of the Kingdom for much of the summer so this is my first trip to count them. Numbers have increased almost every year since they were first found in 2006. It is quite likely birds breed in the area or very nearby but I have not had any confirmation of this yet. The photos below show a number of different birds. You can get very close to them in the car without disturbing them as they are convinced their camouflage can hide them from anything.
Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian NightjarEgyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar