19 July 2014

Plenty of Arabian Endemics at Al Mehfar Park – Tanoumah

During the weekend of 11-12 July, Phil Roberts and I went to the southwest of Saudi Arabia for a birding trip. This was a very busy and long weekend with little sleep as we were birding on foot all day and then looking for owls and nightjars all night. We birded the Al Mehfar Park area and I have already posted details of some of the bird we saw but we had a brilliant time at this new site. We spent the entire day there on the first day and most of the morning the second day and saw plenty of good birds including eight of the twelve Arabian Endemics that occur in Saudi Arabia including: Philby’s Partridge Alectoris philbyi, Arabian Scops Owl Otus pamelae, Arabian Woodpecker Dendrocopos dorae, Yemen Warbler Sylvia buryi, Yemen Thrush Turdus menachensis, Arabian Wheatear Oenanthe lugentoides, Yemen Serin Serinus menachensis & Yemen Linnet Carduelis yemenensis. The ones we failed to see were: Arabian Partridge Alectoris melanocephala, Arabian Waxbill Estrilda rubibarba, Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak Rhynchostruthus percivali & Arabian Serin Serinus rothschildi. We arrived at about 03:00 hrs and immediately started looking for Owls without success although located two Montane Nightjars on the road and in flight. As it started getting light we went to the more bare area of the site with large boulders in the hope of seeing Philby’s Partridge an Arabian endemic Phil had not previously see. We heard birds calling briefly but despite extensive searching failed to locate any. We did, however, see four Arabian Magpie Pica pica asirensis an endemic subspecies of Eurasian Magpie sometimes treated as a separate species and with population in danger of extinction with probably less than 500 birds left? Soon after this we found Yemen Warbler in the trees along with a drumming male Arabian Woodpecker, a species we would see three more of during our birding here. The most common species seen were Yemen Serin, a species we had previously not seen before, and Palestine Sunbird with over 100 of each seen. Gambaga Flycatcher was also common as was Yemen Linnet. A few Arabian Wheatears were located along the road along with Red-breasted Wheatears and Long-billed Pipits were also seen in this area in good numbers. Other interesting species seen included Violet-backed Starlings, Abyssinian White-eyes, Common Kestrel, Fan-tailed Ravens and a Barbary Falcon, another new species for me in Saudi Arabia. Two Dusky Turtle Doves were in the wooded areas but little else was seen here. In the late afternoon we returned to look for Philby’s Partridge and saw three birds on the cliff edge. We then located and photographed Arabian Scops Owl in the nighttime (see previous post) and the next morning we returned and saw four more Philby’s Partridges a little further along the cliff top although they remained at distance. All in all we had a great time here and I will certainly be returning to this area again, as it the best birding site in the area that I know off.
Arabian Magpie
Philby's Partridge
Yemen Warbler
Yemen Serin
Yemen Linnet - male
Palestinian Sunbird
Palestinian Sunbird
Violet-backed Starling
Common Kestrel
Abyssinian White-eye
Gambaga Flycatcher
Long-billed Pipit