18 July 2014

Flocks of Yemen Serins at Al Mehfar Park – Tanoumah

Yemen Serin Serinus menachensis is a scarce, but locally common resident breeder in the southwest of Saudi Arabia. It is restricted to highlands of the Asir from the Abha area north to As Shafa escarpment. This was one of my last two southwest Arabian endemics to see along with Arabian Scops Owl and despite extensive searching I had not managed to see one on my previous trips to the area. This trip turned out very differently with birds seen in good numbers at two different sites. The first birds seen were a group of more than thirty birds seen drinking water from a leaking water tank in the early morning of 11 July 2014. These birds then flew down into some nearby stony fields and were joined by more with at least 51 birds present. These birds were reasonably tame and allowed close approach even on foot, allowing some good photographs to be taken. Amazingly we saw another flock of 50 birds in another area of Al Mehfar Park and the next day 57 in a completely different area. We have made a conservative estimate that we saw 100 birds at this location. The location of Al Mehfar Park has plenty of the species favourite habitat of stony hillsides, rocky outcrops, cultivated fields and flat waste ground with scrub. Habitat and its flocking tendency are two ways of separating Yemen Serin form the similar Arabian Serin.