15 January 2012

Shedgum Escapment

I went  past the Shedgum Escarpment on Wednesday, which is a very large flat topped escarpment formed out of Limestone and has been noted as a good place to see White-crowned Balck Wheatear as well as a few other speciality birds including other wheatears and Trumpeter Finch a little later in the year if it has been a good season for them. These are two species I have not seen in Saudi Arabia, and my limited time at the site, where I only reached late in the day after working all day in the field meant they are still two species I have not seen in Saudi Arabia.
Shedgum Escarpment

Shedgum Escarpment
Shedgum Escarpment
We arrived at the escarpment from the top as Shedgum drilling fluids plant were we had been is situated up here. The area does not look like your on the escarpment as it is very flat, until you get to the edge. We pulled over in a lay-by here to look at the views and I saw a couple of Wheatears. They looked interesting and I got out of the car to try to photograph them. After walking around for a few minutes I managed to creep up on one bird and take a couple of photographs and they turned out to be Isabelline Wheatear.
 Isabelline Wheatear

Isabelline Wheatear

I stopped briefly to check a dried up valley that is obviously where a lot of water runs off the escarpment after rain. The valley had some sparse vegetation that was still green including a number of large thorn trees that presumably have very deep roots to tap the water.
Shedgum Escarpment Valley
Whilst driving to the valley I saw two Pale Crag Martins flying about, and they looked like they were prospecting for a good nesting site as occasionally they would land, look around and fly off again. This is not a common bird in Saudi Arabia and breeds on the Jebals and escarpments of the country in small numbers. This is the first time I have seen the species in Saudi Arabia but then again this is the first time I have birded and escarpment like this whihc has very spectacular scenery and is something a little different to the normal desert areas we usually bird. There are a couple of lay-bys where you can pull off the road and the views are great so let's hope I can go back there again one weekend to see if I can see a few more birds.
Pale Crag Martin

Once I reached the valley I got out of the car and walked up towards the massive escarpment face. At first like all good desert birding it looked devoid of life but a quick scan around produced about three Eastern Mourning Wheatears perched on top of the large thorn trees or on the scree slopes. There was no sign of the hoped for White-crowned Black Wheatear but hopefully next time.
 Eastern Mourning Wheatear

Eastern Morning Wheatear
A small warbler caught my attention and some quick 'pishing' (imatition squeaking) caused the bird to become interested and give reasonable views allowing identification as Asian Desert Warbler. Its pale yellow eye and roufous in the tail where good identification features on the first brief views. The only other birds I saw on the walk were a single Brown-necked Ravern flying over and five Rock Doves on the escarpment edge.
Asian Desert Warbler