29 Jun 2020

Indigofera spinosa – Abha

Whist looking around the Abha area I came across a dry sandy wadi with a number of Indigofera spinosa. This species has a native range from Egypt to Tanzania as well as the Arabian Peninsula. Indigofera is a large genus of over 750 species of flowering plants belonging to the pea family Fabaceae. They are mostly shrubs, though some are small trees or herbaceous perennials or annuals. Most have pinnate leaves. Racemes of flowers grow in the leaf axils, in hues of red, but there are a few white- and yellow-flowered species. The fruit is a legume pod of varying size and shape.
Indigofera spinosa

Indigofera spinosa

27 Jun 2020

Arabian Sunbird – Raydah Escarpment

Whilst birding the Raydah Escarpment recently I saw a few Arabian Sunbird Cinnyris hellmayri. The birds were at the bottom of the escarpment near the village and dry wadi. It has previously been treated as conspecific with Shining Sunbird Cinnyris habessinicus, but differs in males by having much-reduced and slightly duller red breast-band and more extensive and deeper blue reflectant uppertail-coverts. In females they differ by having much darker grey or grey-brown plumage. They are a larger size and have a different song. There are two subspecies both of which are found is Saudi Arabia. C. h. kinnearithat occurs in western Saudi Arabia from the southern Hijaz mountains south to the Asir mountains. The second subspecies C. h. hellmayrioccurs in the extreme southwest of Saudi Arabia in the Najran area, Yemen and SW Oman.
Arabian Sunbird

Arabian Sunbird

Arabian Sunbird

Arabian Sunbird

25 Jun 2020

Tobacco plant Nicotiana glauca – Wadi Thee Ghazal

Whist looking around Wadi Thee Ghazel, near Taif I came across a wadi with a number of Tree Tobacco plants Nicotiana glauca, growing. This is a species of wild tobacco who’s leaves are attached to the stalk by petioles. It grows to heights of more than two meters and is native to South America but it is now widespread as an introduced species on other continents, such as the plants I saw. The plant is used for a variety of medicinal purposes with leaves used as a poultice to treat swellings, bruises, cuts, wounds, boils, sores, inflamed throat, and swollen glands. It contains the toxic alkaloid anabasine and ingestion of the leaves can be fatal.
Tobacco plant

Tobacco plant

23 Jun 2020

Four young Red-wattled Lapwing & adults – Jubail

After seeing Red-wattled Lapwing in Jubail I went back in the hope of locating and photographing the young birds. We found one adult quite a distance from the others but could not see any young birds. We then found an adult in its normal location but only a single youngster was seen. We were alittle worried the others may have fallen victim to a predator but on the way back we relocated the second adult this time with the other three young. The birds appeared to have doubled in size in a week and look to be doing well. We also saw an adult in a different location but cannot rule out this was one of the parents moving some distance, although as both parents were looking after young the bird may have been a third individual.


21 Jun 2020

Solanum incanum – Talea Valley

Whist looking around the Talea Valley in the Asir Mountains of southwest Saudi Arabia near Abha I came across an erect bushy leafed shurb one metre high and slightly spiny. Some spines are on the mid-rib of the grey-green velvety leaves. It had large pale yellow smooth round fruits. This species is widespread in the Hijaz and Asir mountains.
Solanum incanum

20 Jun 2020

Birding in the mountains - Abha

Abha is in the mountains of the southwest of Saudi Arabia where the weather is much cooler and wetter than other parts of the Kingdom. As a result, many different species of birds, animals and plants live in the area that are not seen in the area where I live in the east of the country. My last trip to the area allowed me to see and photograph a few species I do not see very often including Arabian Babbler, Little Rock Thrush and Little Swift and as I was there in the breeding season Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Gambaga Flycatcher and Grey-headed Kingfisher. Another bird I photographed was Laughing Dove, a common bird throughout the Kingdom and seen daily in Dhahran where I live.
Arabian Babbler
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting
Gambaga Flycatcher
Grey-headed Kingfisher 
Laughing Dove
Little Rock Thrush - juvenile 
Little Rock Thrush - adult
Little Swift


19 Jun 2020

First breeding record of Red-wattled Lapwing for Saudi Arabia – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area in early June, after Covid-19 lockdown was eased in the Kingdom, Phil Roberts found a breeding pair of Red-Wattled Lapwing with four chicks about a week old. The following weekend I went and we re-found the birds, but I only saw one youngster. Red-wattled Lapwing is scarce species in Saudi Arabia with records from Riyadh, the Empty Quarter and the Eastern Province. In the Eastern province it is regarded as a scarce passage migrant and winter visitor although records are becoming more common with over twenty birds seen together at Shaybah in recent years with others near Hofuf, Jubail and Dhahran. There have been a number of suspected breeding birds seen but no actual confirmation of the species breeding in the Kingdom until now. This species is a resident breeder at wetlands in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait, and is gradually colonizing westwards.







17 Jun 2020

Datura innoxia – Raydah Escarpment

Whilst birding the bottom of the Raydah Escarpment I came across some Datura innoxia. It is a tuberous-rooted, subshrub that typically reaches a height of 0.6 to 1.5 metres. Its stems and leaves are covered with short and soft grayish hairs, giving the whole plant a grayish appearance. All parts of the plant emit a foul odor similar to rancid peanut butter when crushed or bruised, although most people find the fragrance of the flowers to be quite pleasant when they bloom at night. The flowers are white, trumpet-shaped, 12–19 cm long. They first grow upright, and later incline downward. It has very spiny hanging fruits. Its leaves are not grazed as it is highly poisonous even to man. It is a very widespread plant in the country considering it is an introduced species and although its distribution is patchy it is often common where it is found.
Datura innoxia

Datura innoxia

15 Jun 2020

Desert Owl - Abha

Whilst looking for owls in the Abha area we came across a number of Desert Owl. They were calling loudly, but at some distance from our location, but eventually after some time came close enough and allowed us to take some nice photos. This was the first time I had seen the species in the Kingdom so was a great nights birding. This species is an uncommon breeding resident in Saudi Arabia, which is patchily distributed across most of the Kingdom but rare in the Eastern Province. They prefer areas with rocks and limestone cliffs faces containing crevices but have also been seen in granite and basalt regions, including lava fields in Harrat al-Harrah Protected Area. They are nocturnal feeding mainly on rodents, small reptiles, birds and large insects. 
Desert Owl

Desert Owl

Desert Owl

Desert Owl

Desert Owl

Desert Owl

Desert Owl

Desert Owl

Desert Owl

Desert Owl

13 Jun 2020

Pale Mexican Prickly Poppy – Raydah Escarpment

Whilst birding the bottom of the Raydah Escarpment I came across some Pale Mexican Prickly Poppy Argemone ochroleuca growing by the side of the wadi bottom. This location is near Abha in the Asir mountains of southwest Saudi Arabia. The Pale  Mexican Prickly Poppy is a species of poppy originally from Mexico but now widely naturalized around the world including Saudi Arabia. It is an extremely hardy pioneer plant that is tolerant of drought. They grow up to one metre tall and have sticky yellow sap.
Mexican Poppy

Mexican Poppy

Mexican Poppy


11 Jun 2020

Long-billed Pipit - Abha

Whilst looking for Arabian Red-capped Larks I came across a few Long-billed Pipits Anthus similis. This is not an easy bird to photograph so I spent some time trying my luck without too much success. They are a common breeding resident in Saudi Arabia with three of the nineteen recognized subspecies occurring in Arabia, including A. s. arabicus, which is endemic to Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE and Yemen. They only occur in the southwest highlands, in Saudi Arabia, from the Yemen boarder northwards to Taif, above 1500 metres normally on stony areas or in upland grass fields with bushes and trees.  Small numbers have been seen in the past in the Eastern Province in winter, probably from Iran but I have not seen any in the time I have been birdwatching this area. 
Long-billed Pipit

Long-billed Pipit

9 Jun 2020

Euphorbia cactus – Raydah Escarpment

Whilst birding the bottom of the Raydah Escarpment I came across a large area of Euphorbia cactus. They grow up to one metre and have 3-5 angled thick and fleshy stems, with spines along the margins. They occur in southwest Arabia from Dhofar in Oman through Yemen to southwest Saudi Arabia where they mainly occur on rocky mountain slopes. Extracts of the plant is used locally for treatment of skin conditions such as boils, ringworm and skin ulcers and toothache. Care has to be taken when using as they contain diterpenoids which can cause intense inflammation of the skin on contact and have both tumour producing and anti-tumour activity.
Euphorbia cactus

Euphorbia cactus

7 Jun 2020

Streaked Scrub Warbler - Abha

Whilst birding the Talea Valley recently I saw a pair of Streaked Scrub-warbler Scotocerca inquieta on some rocks alongside a quite deep wadi. They are a common breeding resident of the western part of Saudi Arabia. There are two subspecies that are endemic to Arabia: S. i. buryi is found in southwestern Saudi Arabia and western Yemen (which this one is) and S. i. grisea is found in western Saudi Arabia, eastern Yemen and Oman. They mainly occur in rocky and mountainous areas where they often occur on rocky wadi hillsides with bushes. They are seen in pairs or small family groups and are active during the daylight hours catching their favoured insect prey.
Streaked Scrub Warbler

5 Jun 2020

Aloe castellorum – Talea Valley

Whilst birding the Talea Valley we came across a number of large flowering
Aloe castellorum. This is a medium-sized aloe with solitary rosettes of up-turned pale green leaves that have green spines that darken with age. Unbranched flower spikes rise about 60 centimeters above the leaves bearing waxy greenish-yellow flowers that at first point outwards as buds then lie flat against the spike when open. This is a drought resistant species found in the highlands of Saudi Arabia and Yemen. 
Aloe castellorum

3 Jun 2020

White-throated Bee-eater – Raydah Escarpment

Whilst birdwatching the bottom of the Raydah Escarpment I came across a few White-throated Bee-eaters. This is a migratory species moving from winter quarters in Africa (Liberia to Uganda) to breeding locations in southwest Arabia including Saudi Arabia as well as the Sahel region of Africa. They are scarce breeding migrant below 1600 metres, mainly nesting in dry acacia bush country, wadis or cultivated areas with earth embankments and scattered trees. They are similar to other bee-eaters in the fact they catch flying insect during sorties from an obvious perch or during continuous flight. They are active during the day and are seen as pairs in early spring and occasionally family parties of several birds, including helpers, during the early summer. All Bee-eaters are beautiful birds but these are in my opinion particularly attractive due to their long tail streamers and plumage.
White-throated Bee-eater

1 Jun 2020

Umbrella Thorn Acacia tortilis – Talea Valley

Whilst birding the Talea Valley we came across a number of large flowering
Umbrella Thorn Acacia tortilis. It is a common species in Saudi Arabia and it thrives in semi-arid and arid zones particularly where sandy substrate is present. Among the many species of acacia, Acacia tortilis is a major component of the vegetation of the, mountains, coastal and inland plains of Saudi Arabia. The flowering period varies between years and locations, related to the climatic conditions. They are an extremely important plant for honey production in the Asir region. A. tortilis is very distinctive and easily recognised, with the characteristic mixture of long straight spines and shorter hooked ones combined with spirally twisted or contorted pods. Over most of its range the characteristically flattened crown has given it the popular name of Umbrella Thorn; however, this is usually not the shape in the subsp. Raddiana which occurs also in Saudi Arabia. Generally, the foliage is smaller than in many acacias, and the whitish flowers in small round heads are also characteristic, though this is a feature shared with other Acacia species.
Umbrella Thorn Acacia tortilis

Umbrella Thorn Acacia tortilis

Umbrella Thorn Acacia tortilis