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

4 Dec 2018

Scarce Stalker - Judah

Whilst out looking for owls at night near Juadh we came across a beetle resembling the nocturnal Scarce Stalker Ocnera hispida. This is the first time I have seen this beetle in the Kingdom and the below photo was taken with a high-power flash and 600mm lens.

2 Dec 2018

Rufous-capped Lark – Talea Valley

Rufous-capped Lark Calandrella eremica was recently been split from Blandford’s Lark Calandrella blanfordi. The reasons for the split include genetic differences as well as in its smaller size. Its lower rump and uppertail-coverts are or only slightly shaded rufous vs strongly rufous. It is much paler above, including the colour of the crown and shade of buff and brown streaking and colour of flight-feathers. It has greatly reduced dark markings on the 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 are far less striking. The bill is generally much paler. There are two subspecies recognized. C. e. eremicafrom southwest Saudi Arabia and Yemen and C. e. daaroodensis from northeast Ethiopia and northern Somalia. The Talea’a Valley is near Abha is in the Asir mountains in southwest Saudi Arabia and is a large upland wadi with stony ground and acacia trees growing in the bottom. The valley is hot and dry. We normally arrive at the location at around midday as we have previously been at the nearby Raydah Escarpment but this time we went to the location before first light. We managed to find a very small wet area, the only wet area we saw all weekend. We sat down nearby and waited to see what may come down to drink. After a short while, a large group of Rufous-capped Lark, containing at least 30 birds, appeared and although at some distance allowed a few photos to be taken. We normally see this species in the summer when they are in full breeding plumage or with juveniles, but mid-October was a period where we had not seen them before and their plumage was much changed from the summer. This species is not easy to locate in the Kingdom and a lot of hard work and searching is required to find birds but they are certainly worth the effort.
Rufous-capped Lark Calandrella eremica

Rufous-capped Lark Calandrella eremica

Rufous-capped Lark Calandrella eremica

Rufous-capped Lark Calandrella eremica

Rufous-capped Lark Calandrella eremica

Rufous-capped Lark Calandrella eremica

Rufous-capped Lark Calandrella eremica

Rufous-capped Lark Calandrella eremica

Rufous-capped Lark Calandrella eremica

Rufous-capped Lark Calandrella eremica

Rufous-capped Lark Calandrella eremica