28 Jan 2015

Finally the bird – Taif Euphorbia Forest

As mentioned in a previous post, Phil Roberts and I went to the Taif area in the mountains in western Saudi Arabia to look for Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak. This was the last regional endemic species for us both o see in the country and as it had been seen in the area a few times in the last couple of years including in November 2014 we thought we would have a look. We were unsuccessful at the location where they had been seen most recently possibly due to the inclement weather of strong winds and low cloud cover and also failed to see them at Wadi Thee Ghazal where a bird had been photographed by a camera trap set for Arabian Leopard in 2012. Lou Regenmorter had mentioned to me that he had found a Euphorbia Forest near to Taif with mature Euphorbia’s so we went to look here. We found the site that had a hillside with many mature Euphorbia’s, a tree especially liked by Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak. The trouble was the trees were growing up a steep hillside and this meant we had to climb up the hillside to get good views of a wider range of the trees. A look from the raod could not locate any birds so we moved up the hill when Phil saw a bird near the ground below a Euphorbia. I then saw a second bird nearby but the distance was too far for photography and soon the birds flew off. The species in unmistakable and the golden patches in the wing very clear, but the views were brief and distant. Despite a long search of the area we could not relocate the birds meaning we have already set up another trip to the area to look again in the summer of 2015. One good point is this is a new location for the species so it looks like they cover a wide area around Taif, although are scarce and difficult to see. We worked very hard in the field from dawn to dusk with only a brief view of the birds as a reward but at least we did finally see the species in the Kingdom. Birds in nearby Oman appear relatively easy to photograph when seen and Lou got a few photos of the ones he saw in Saudi Arabia last year so we are hoping on the next trip we will have better weather and are able to get a few photos. We also saw a few other good birds including the regional endemic Yemen Serin and Yemen Linnet.
Tristram's Starling
Tristram's Starling
Tristram's Starling
Tristram's Starling
Desert Lark
Desert Lark
Yemen Serin
Yemen Serin

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