25 Jul 2016

Blue Pansy – Bani Saad

Butterflies belonging to the family Nymphalidae are few in number of species in Saudi Arabia although are quite conspicuous. They include Blue Pansy Junonia orithya that is a migratory butterfly and they appear sporadically, produce one or more local broods of offspring, and then disappear again until their next invasion. Their success in establishing themselves temporarily within the region depends very much upon their powers of adaptation and choice of larval food-plants. Whilst birdwatching the Bani Saad area near Taif I came across a number of Blue Pansy butterflies although most were very worn and appeared to be at the end of the life cycle. Although obvious when their wings are outstretched, they are well camouflaged with folded wings.
Blue Pansy

Blue Pansy

Blue Pansy

Blue Pansy

24 Jul 2016

Looking for Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak – Wadi Grosbeak

Phil Roberts and I went to Taif in the hope of seeing Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak. We went to a wadi where we had located birds in summer 2015 and hoped to get some better photographs than we managed the previous year.  The area we went to was about 130 kilometres south of Taif where there are a few good looking valleys with fields and trees. We got to Bani Saad just after first light and spent most of the day checking suitable areas of habitat looking for the species. We managed to find a number of good looking valleys with fields and trees and one of these we were lucky enough to find a juvenile Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak. The bird was initially located by its odd contact calls and stayed in a dead tree. We managed to get a few photos before the bird flew off. More searching was conducted and we found a second bird some distance from the first perched on some overhead wires but no photos were obtained of this individual. Plenty of other species were seen in this valley including Arabian Woodpecker, Long-billed Pipits, Arabian Wheatears, Little Rock Thrushes, Little Swift and three Bruce’s Green Pigeons.
Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak
Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak
Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak
Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak
Arabian Serin
Arabian Serin
Arabian Wheatear
Arabian Wheatear

23 Jul 2016

Small Copper – Bani Saad

Whilst birdwatching in the Bani Saad area near Taif in the west of the Kingdom I came across a good number of Small Copper butterflies Lycaena phlaeas shima in various locations. The Small Copper is a fast flying butterfly that, once settled, is unmistakable with its bright copper-coloured forewings. The upperside forewings are a bright orange with a dark outside edge border and with eight or nine black spots. The hindwings are dark with an orange border. The undersides are patterned in a similar way but are paler. The black spots on the forewings are outlined in yellow and the dark colouring is replaced by a pale brownish, gray. The hindwings are the same brown/grey colour with small black dots and a narrow orange border. It is widespread and common across Europe, Asia, and North America, and also found in North Africa south through to Ethiopia.        
Small Copper

Small Copper

22 Jul 2016

Arabian Wheatear – Taif

Whilst birding the Taif area recently I saw plenty of Arabian Wheatears at many different sites including Wadi Grosbeak, Wadi Thee Gazelle and Wadi Waj. The Arabian Wheatear Oenanthe lugentoides is a rather scarce resident of the south-west highlands, but is also found in Oman, Palestine and Yemen, mainly in rocky, bushy sites but is widespread on the Jebal Souda plateau, Wadi Tale’a, Pipeline Road, near Farshah, Gara’a and Tanoumah as well as the Taif area. In 1987 it was recorded more frequently than present so the species may have declined slightly, with disturbance not thought likely to be the reason as it is often associated with gardens and regularly breeds near human sites. They nest in holes in terrace walls and feed largely on insects. They are common in the upper reaches of the Raghadan Forest and the upper parts of the Golden Tulip valley in Baha.
Arabian Wheatear

Arabian Wheatear

Arabian Wheatear
 
Arabian Wheatear

21 Jul 2016

Arabian Skittering Frog in Wadi Thee Gazelle - Taif

Whilst birdwatching a wadi in Wadi Thee Gazelle we found a few pools of water with hundreds if not thousands of small frogs present as well as other pools with tadpoles. The excellent rains of spring 2016 have made many suitable pools for the frogs to breed which they have done in abundance. This is the first time I have seen this frog in Saudi Arabia and they turned out to be Arabian Skittering Frog or Arabian Five-fingered Frog Euphlyctis ehrenbergii a species of frog in the Dicroglossidae family found in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. It has previoulsy been treated as a subspecies of the Skittering Frog Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis, but is now considered as a valid species. The frog is restricted to areas of permanent and temporary water in the Red Sea coastal region of Yemen and Saudi Arabia. An aquatic species, it can also be present in irrigated area where it is extremely common or abundant. It has an altitudinal range from sea level to 2,400 metres above sea level and lays its eggs in water. The species may aestivate during the dry season, meaning it spends the hot or dry period in a prolonged state of torpor or dormancy.
Arabian Skittering Frog

Arabian Skittering Frog

Arabian Skittering Frog