15 Apr 2021

Faraid Edhabah – Najran

Of particular importance is the recently proven continuation of rock art production and reverence of specific motifs in the precinct. Animal depictions include camels, cattle, deer, ostrich, gazelle, lion, horses and dogs. In addition the country’s south rock art offers many female figures, which are rare in northern part of Saudi Arabia. The female figures are shown normally with their arms upraised, male depictions are shown holding spears and shields instead. For the first time we can see hunting scenes with spears and arrows piercing animal bodies, which in the northern part of the country are absent. The Jabal al Kaukab and Jebel al Qara area are the richest rock art sites in the Najran area. In total the Najran area offers over 6,400 human and animal depictions including over 1,800 camels and 1,300 human representations. Fighting over scarce resources is an important ancient way of survival, but surprisingly these scenes are rare in Saudi rock art. These depictions have only been found in the Bir Hima area showing men fighting each other. The females in Bir Hima at two meters are slightly taller than life size. They feature no faces or breasts, but show pronounced hips and thighs. Their hair is hanging to the waist and often braided again with ringlets or metal tips. Later during the Bronze Age females are depicted next to horse riding men and battle scenes. Throughout the Arabian Peninsula female figures are easily recognisable, because they are always shown with their arms raised. The depiction of body armour seems to occur in more recent examples of rock art, especially in Bir Hima where human and horse armours were seemingly depicted. 

13 Apr 2021

Some good migrants - Jubail

Whilst birdwatching the Jubail area in early April, we found a number of good migrants for the area. Several wintering birds were seen including juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle and Greater Spotted Eagle, which normally depart the end of March and early April. Great Cormorant is a species that is a wintering bird but numbers now say throughout the year. This species was rare in Jubail but is now commonly seen. An adult Black-crowned Night Heron was a good bird although they are now being seen each year with the chance they breed in the wetlands now a distinct possibility. Waders were about in good numbers with Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Kentish Plover, Wood Sandpiper and Greenshank seen in good numbers. Smaller numbers of Terek Sandpiper, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Common Snipe and Ruff were also seen. The first European Bee-eaters of the spring were seen and several Whiskered Terns joined the regular Caspian and Gull-billed Terns. Both Turkistan and Daurian Shrikes were seen with Turkestan the commoner of the two. A single singing Savi’s Warbler was also heard along with many Clamorous and European Reed Warblers. One adult and a juvenile Great-black Headed Gull remained on their normal flooded area with several Steppe Gulls with them. 

Common Snipe

European Bee-eater

Common Cormorant

Little Ringed Plover

Terek Sandpiper

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern

11 Apr 2021

Bir Hima Archeological Site (Himā Cultural Precinct)

Petroglyphs are images and symbols engraved into the surface layers of rock faces and boulders. They are found worldwide and provide unique and valuable information on humans and their environment, reaching from the pre-Neolithic period up to today. In Arabia, as in many other regions, petroglyphs were usually engraved into dark rock varnish coatings on sandstone surfaces, which – at least initially – provides a strong contrast to the exposed lighter rock and creates images with strong artistic impact. Several hundred Palaeolithic and Neolithic sites are situated in Saudi Arabia. These include Bir Hima north of Najran, which is an Early Lower Palaeolithic or Oldowan site with added discoveries of chopper or pebble tools used for carving. One of the largest rock art complexes in the world, the Himā Cultural Precinct is located at the western boundary of the Rub’ al Khālī (the Empty Quarter), about 80 km north of the southern city of Najran. Although many outlying rock art sites stretch over a distance of about 130 km, the main concentration, the actual cultural precinct, extends over 55 km north to south, with the small settlement of Himā at its southern end. It includes the eastern mountains of the Jabal Qara massif and Jabal al-Kawbab, extending north as far as the road east from Yadamah. The exploration of the Himā Cultural Precinct is not complete but several hundred sites have been located and registered. The property is the subject of a current nomination for World Heritage listing. Its cultural manifestations include, besides the extensive rock art corpus, thousands of rock inscriptions, found in various scripts, such as the al-musmad alphabet of 29 letters, Aramaic-Nabatean, South Arabian scripts including Thamudic and even in Greek, as well as Islamic. There are also countless stone structures, especially tombs and cairns. 

9 Apr 2021

Spotted Crake - Jubail

Whilst birdwatching the Jubail area in early April, we found a Spotted Crake on the edge of a large wet puddle and took the below photographs. Spotted Crake is an uncommon passage migrant with a few birds overwintering in some years. It is probably an overlooked species, due to its secretive nature with birds in spring from late February to mid-May and in autumn occurring from September to December but mainly in October and November. The Birds of the Riyadh Region (Stagg 1994) says they are a spring and autumn passage migrant, passing late February to mid-May with main movement occurring in April. Return passage extends from late August to early November, peaking in October. Sightings have increased considerably with the increase in wetlands in the region with up to 30 in a day being seen in April along the Riyadh watercourse. These numbers have not been seen in recent years although birds are still seen quite commonly at the correct time of year.

7 Apr 2021

Qaal’at Al Muwayh al Qadim (King Abdulaziz Hunting Lodge)

Qaal'at Al Muwayh al Qadim, otherwise known as the King Abdulaziz hunting lodge, is concealed behind a low ridge of hills and is alongside a salt plain which is itself bordered by one of the many lava flows in the area. The hunting lodge itself was originally a black lava stone caravanserai situated on Darb al Hejaz, the old caravan route from Riyadh to Taif. Later converted to its most recent use as a hunting lodge by King Abdul Aziz it is now abandoned as is the old village of Muwayh beside it. 



5 Apr 2021

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin – Jubail

Whilst birding Jubail we saw a very confiding Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin Cercotrichas galactotes a species that normally spends its time well hidden in vegetation. The Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin is an uncommon breeding migrant and uncommon passage migrant with birds arriving in late March and staying until late September or early October with most sightings during the first week of May. Birds of the Riyadh Region by Stagg (1994); mentions the species is a common breeding summer visitor, widespread throughout the region. Numbers in the Kingdom have increased significantly in recent years in the wake of expanding cultivation. The species has been seen in the huge desert of the Empty Quarter with one at Sabkha 40 on two days in suitable breeding habitat although this individual was more likely to have been a migrant as no song was heard.