8 Mar 2021

Black-headed & Flava Wagtails – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area in late February I came across a good number of migrants including my first large numbers of Yellow Wagtails. Mid-February is the start of the spring passage for this species and Black-headed Wagtail feldegg and melanogrisia are often the first subspecies to occur with bema, flava and thunbergi following. The Black-headed Wagtail is part of the Yellow Wagtail complex a group of birds that are common spring and autumn passage migrants, sometimes in hundreds. Thy pass from mid-February to May and again from early August to mid-November with many races identifiable in the field including feldegg, melanogrisia, lutea, flava, thunbergi and bema. By April, flocks of more than a hundred birds are regularly recorded in cultivated areas. 

Black-Headed Wagtail

Melanogrisia Yellow Wagtail

Melanogrisia Yellow Wagtail

Flava Yellow Wagtail

6 Mar 2021

Hanging Trees with dead Stripped Hyeana & Arabian Wolf - Al Harajah

Whilst driving from Jizan to Najran, near Al Harajah, in the mountains we saw a Stripped Hyeana and an Arabian Wolf hanging from separate ‘hanging trees’. The use of ‘hanging trees’ to display the bodies of dead predators is widespread in Saudi Arabia and is also known in UAE and Yemen. Road signs and traffic signals are also used for the same purpose; many cases involve Wolf and Striped Hyaena Hyaena hyaena, as we saw but Caracal Caracal caracal, Rüppell’s Fox Vulpes rueppellii, Wildcat Felis silvestris, and Honey Badger Mellivora capensis have also been documented. Stripped Hyeana from southern Arabia are assigned to H. h. sultana and those from the north to H. h. syriaca, but characteristics are not sharply defined and the two forms are thought to intergrade in northern Saudi Arabia. They are widespread especially in the western Mountains where it has been recorded at several places especially south of Taif. In the northwest, it occurs in the Tabuk area, Jebel Al Lawz, Medina, Hesam (west of Tabuk), Jebel Madyen and Jebel Hijaz. It is also known from rocky areas near Riyadh. Declining sharply in all areas. Occurs in a wide range of habitats but apparently avoids extensive areas of loose sand. Needs rocky areas in which to site dens and that are not too far from water. Mainly active at night. They are routinely killed by poisoning, shooting and trapping. Traditional stone traps in the Hajar Mountains are called madhba indicating that their primary purpose may have been to catch Hyaenas. In parts of the region, there is a folk belief that witches ride Hyaenas, increasing their unpopularity. Other threats include loss and fragmentation of habitat due to quarrying for stone, tourist developments and expansion of settlements and roads.The subspecies of Arabian Wolf C. l. arabs occurs in the Arabian Peninsula and C. l. pallipes in Iraq and northern Arabia, with specimens intermediate in size recorded in Kuwait. The possible separation of these two forms has not yet been supported by genetic evidence. C. l. arabs is smaller with a less luxuriant coat. In Saudi Arabia distribution was formerly extensive, with confirmed records from all parts except the Rub al Khali and part of the northeast. Records are widespread except in Rub Al Khali with records from 12 protected areas. Wolves are considered rare in most places, however, in some mountainous areas of Saudi Arabia, local bedu regarded Wolves as numerous.

4 Mar 2021

Birding An Namas

Whilst birding the western mountains we visited An Namas an area where we had seen nests of both Arabian Woodpecker and Arabian Magpie previously. The area where we had seen these has been badly damaged by road building and neither nest was seen this visit. We did however see a single male Arabian Woodpeckeras wells a few other good birds including Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Arabian Wheatear and Gambaga Flycatcher. This entire area is very good for finding breeding Little Owl, which can often be seen on the roadside walls. The area is not marked as a breeding area for Little Owl in Mike Jennings Arabian Breeding Bird Atlas, but a good number of birds are present throughout the entire area to Billasmer at least.

2 Mar 2021

Abu Twoq Ancient Village Segid Island – Farasan Islands

Abu Twoq Ancient Village are a few diused old houses at the very far tip of Segid Island if crossing over from the main Farasan Kabir island by road bridge. There is a very small modern village at the ocation with the older buildings on the right hand side of the road as you enter the village. These buildings are made of stone/coral rock and give an idea of how life was many years ago on this island.

28 Feb 2021

Plain Nightjar – Abha area

Whilst birding the Abha area I found at least two Plain Nightjar. Originally one was flushed from a wadi bottom and flew a short distance to a raised rocky area. One trying to locate the bird it flew again and this time I managed to see approximately where it landed. Eventually I located the bird but it was well hidden and difficult to photograph. Later a bird was seen by my daughter, who said it had flown into a nearby tree, where I found it sitting on a branch. It later moved to another tree where better photographs were possible. This is the first time I have seen Plain Nightjar in the daytime. The Plain Nightjar is a migratory bird breeding in the summer in Saudi Arabia. They breed in Africa (from Mauritania to Eritrea and Somalia) as well as southwestern Arabia, with the Arabian birds wintering in Africa. It is an uncommon breeding migrant seen from Taif sout to Malaki Dam Lake in Jizan. They have been seen in dry, rocky, mostly bare hills with some scattered trees and scrub where they have been seen up to 2500 metres above sea level.