02 April 2014

Baboons & Swifts – Taif

A long weekend in Taif, in the west of the Kingdom meant we could see a few birds that are not seen in the Eastern Province. One evening we went to the mountain area of Taif and found plenty of swifts. There were a few Alpine Swifts flying around the highest areas but the majority of swifts were Little Swifts with a minimum of fifty birds present. This is a species I have only previously seen once in the southwest of Saudi Arabia at Malaki Dam Lake near Jizan. This area also had plenty of Hamadryas Baboons a species with a restricted range in the foothill of east Africa and western Arabia. The numbers we saw here were much lower than at Baha or Abha further south on the country but the animals were much tamer and friendlier. These Baboons are fed continually by the local people and look fat and healthy with a number of small young with mothers as well as adult males seen. The area to see the Baboons and swifts was just down the road from the major cable car station near the Ramada Inn hotel. This area is a good raptor migration watchpoint but none were seen whilst we were there.

The cable car ride takes about 15 minutes each was and costs 80 SAR for an adult and 40 SAR for a child return. The family really enjoyed the views and we saw the old pathway that used to be used hundreds of years ago for taking livestock down the mountain, below us from the cable car. There were tens of Tristram’s Starlings on the way down and a number had learnt how to hang onto the bottom of the cable cars and get a lift up the mountain, which was very amusing to see. Apart from this we saw a few rose gardens, as Taif is famous for its roses that are tuned into expensive rose perfume and rose water, as well as a few old watchtowers build of stone.