25 Jan 2021

Jahwat Ibn Tali

Jawat Ibn Tali is a large group of old historic stone buildings on the left side of the main road through the Talea Valley if driving through from Abha. They are well preserved and are lit up at night. You can view them from the side of the main road, as there are good places to pull off safely and take photographs.




23 Jan 2021

Blue Pansy - Tanoumah

Whilst birdwatching the Tanoumah area I came across a Blue Pansy Butterfly Junonia orithyawhich is native to Africa as well as parts of Asia and Australia and is also called the Eyed Pansy in Africa and in Australia the Blue Argus. Butterflies belonging to the family Nymphalidae are few in number in Saudi Arabia although are quite conspicuous. They include Blue Pansy that is a migratory butterfly and they appear sporadically, produce one or more local broods of offspring, and then disappear again until their next invasion. Their success in establishing themselves temporarily within the region depends very much upon their powers of adaptation and choice of larval food-plants. The adults occur in open areas, often sitting on bare ground. This species has a stiff flap and glide style of flight and maintains a territory, driving away other butterflies that enter it. The upperside of the forewing for the male is black to dark brown with a whitish sub-apical band, two orange and two blue bars in the cell, and two post-discal eye-spots. The hindwing of the male is brilliant blue with orange post-discal eye-spots. The female is similarly marked but with a much duller hue. Underneath, both sexes are grayish brown with cryptic orange/brown markings and have eye-spots similarly placed as on the upperside. 



21 Jan 2021

Brown-necked Raven – Wadi Ad Dewasir

The Brown-necked Raven occurs throughout the desert belt of the Old World from Cape Verde Islands east through Africa and Arabia to Kazakhstan and western Pakistan. They are a common resident breeder in Saudi Arabia and have been seen on the Farasan Islands as well as the Rub’ al-Khali and is commonest in the central and western regions of the Kingdom. As a result, it was not surprising to see many birds in the Wadi Ad Dewasir area, central Saudi Arabia, when we visited. They are normally not easy to approach and get photos of so the below attempts were my best efforts so far. On the trip back to Dhahran, many birds were seen along the road close to Wadi Ad Dewasir, presumably looking for road kill.








19 Jan 2021

King Jird – Wadi Grosbeak

Whilst birding Wadi Grosbeak I came across a few King Jird Meriones rex. The animals were seen near their burrows, but luckily, one remained above ground for some time allowing some photographs to be taken. The King Jird is endemic to Arabia and occurs in the highlands of the southwestern Arabian Peninsula, from near Mecca in Saudi Arabia south to near Aden in Yemen. In Saudi Arabia, the species has been reported from 1,350 to 2,200 metres above sea level. This Jird lives in large burrows amongst bushes, preferring raised areas bordering agricultural land. It is active in the evening and early morning. It lives in burrows which it shares with other rodents and lizards. They are reported as common throughout their range. Although I have seen the King Jird on a number of occasions they are difficult to photograph as they are normally seen briefly disappearing down their burrows.
King Jird

King Jird

King Jird

King Jird

King Jird

King Jird

King Jird



17 Jan 2021

Birding the lake area – Dhahran Hills

The lake area in Dhahran is now large as additional water is being pumped into it. It has started to attract good numbers of herons with Little Egret, Great Egret, Grey Heron, Squacco Herron and Cattle Egret all in good numbers. Great Egret is the scarcest of all the egrets but up to seven have been seen in the last few weeks. In the early morning hundreds of Great Cormorant come to the lake to wash and catch the large numbers of Talapia fish present, but are very nervous and do not allow close approach. Common Black-headed Gulls also arrive in good numbers in the early morning but then generally hang around all day. A single Black-necked Grebe and Common Kingfisher have been present for several weeks but again do not allow you to get too close. Several terns are also present which is a little surprising as the lake is a long way from the coast with Gull-billed Tern, White-winged and Whiskered Tern all present, mainly in the evenings.

Common Black-headed Gull

Black-necked Grebe

Black-necked Grebe

Common Kingfisher

Great Cormorant

Great Cormorant

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern


Whiskered Term

Whiskered Term

Whiskered Term


15 Jan 2021

Guineafowl – Jabal Fayfa

Whilst birding the Jabal Fayfa I saw a Guineafowl butterfly Hamanumida Daedalus. The guineafowl butterfly, is a butterfly of the family Nymphalidae and only member of the genus Hamanumida. It is found in the Afrotropical realm (Natal, Swaziland, Transvaal, Mozambique, Rhodesia, Botswana, tropical Africa (dry lowland areas) and southwest Arabia). The wingspan is 55–65 mm for males and 60–78 mm for females. Adults are on wing year-round, with peaks in midwinter and summer. The larvae feed on Combretum and Terminalia species. This was the first time I had seen this butterfly in Saudi Arabia.
Guineafowl

Guineafowl

Guineafowl

13 Jan 2021

Two invasive species becoming commoner – Dhahran Hills

Whilst birding the Dhahran Hills area recently I came across good numbers of both House Crow and Common Myna. House Crow is native to the Indian Subcontinent but has spread around the Indian Ocean by self-colonization, often hitchhiking on ships and is most often found near port cities It was first recorded in Saudi Arabia in 1980 near Dhahran and is a uncommon breeding resident in the Kingdom although locally common in certain areas such as Dhahran. Numbers appear to be increasing with up to fifty birds seen together on occasions. Common Myna is one of the world’s three most invasive bird species; it was first recorded in Saudi Arabian cities in 1984 and has since established large self-sustaining populations. In Saudi Arabia it has a status as a common breeding resident









11 Jan 2021

Hamadryas Baboon – Jabal Fayfa

Whilst birding the Jabal Fayfa and Raydah Escarpment areas of Saudi Arabia we came across a number of Hamadryas Baboon Papio hamadryas. The Hamadryas Baboon is the northernmost of all the baboons and is distinguished from other baboons by the male’s long, silver-grey shoulder cape (mane and mantle), and the pink or red rather than black face and rump. They are large monkeys with a dog-like face, pronounced brow ridges, relatively long limbs with short digits, rather coarse fur, and a relatively short tail. The male is considerably larger than the female, often twice as large, and has a heavy silvery-grey coat, bushy cheeks, and large canine teeth whilst the juvenile and females are brown, with dark brown skin on the face and rump. Males may have a body measurement of up to 80 cm and weigh 20–30 kg; females weigh 10–15 kg and have a body length of 40–45 cm.  The tail adds a further 40–60 cm to the length, and ends in a small tuft. They occur from north-eastern Africa, mainly in Ethiopia, but also eastern Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and northern Somalia as well as the Arabian Peninsula, in Saudi Arabia and Yemen where it is the only native non-human primate. In Saudi Arabia they inhabit arid sub-desert, steppe, hilly areas, escarpments at elevations of up to 3,000 metres requiring cliffs for sleeping and finding water. They are primarily terrestrial, but will sleep in trees or on cliffs at night. An opportunistic feeder, it will take a wide variety of foods, including grass, fruit, roots and tubers, seeds, leaves, buds and insects. The female usually gives birth to a single young with the new-born having black fur and pink skin, and is suckled for up to 15 months. Each adult male controls a small group of females (a harem) and their young, and remains bonded with the same females over several years, aggressively ‘herding’ any that wander, and retaining exclusive mating rights over the group. The females will often compete to groom and stay close to the male, and it is the male who dictates the group’s movements. The Hamadryas Baboon is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Recent studies have suggested that the population of Hamadryas Baboons in Arabia colonised the peninsula much longer ago than previously thought, and shows a considerable amount of genetic variation compared to the African population.
Hamadryas Baboon

Hamadryas Baboon

Hamadryas Baboon


9 Jan 2021

Saudi Arabia’s largest ever gathering of Black-necked Grebe - Uqair

Whilst birding the Uqair area on the edge of the Arabian Gulf with Phil Roberts in late November, I came across a large group of Black-necked Grebes. Phil had is scope with him and after confirming their identification and number totaling over one hundred birds we scanned the entire visible bay. We found several more groups and smaller numbers scattered around and estimated the total to be well over 500 birds. The birds were very active feeding and diving so an accurate count was impossible. They were also mainly well offshore and did not approach the coast itself whilst we were present. Large numbers of fifty or more have been recorded in the Half Moon Bay area 50 kilometres north of this record, but no numbers as large as this have been noted. Our previous largest group was 192 birds at an inland lake at Dawmat Al Jandal, Jouf province in the northwest of the Kingdom in January 2019. This is the largest ever gathering of the species in Saudi Arabia and they may stay throughout the winter.



7 Jan 2021

Robber Fly – Jabal Ibrahim

Whilst birding the Jabal Ibrahim area of the western mountains I found a Robber Fly on the ground. I have seen Robber Fly in Saudi Arabia previously but not this particular type. The Asilidae are the robber fly family, also called assassin flies and have 7000 described species. They are powerfully built, bristly flies with a short, stout proboscis enclosing the sharp, sucking hypopharynx. The name "robber flies" reflects their notoriously aggressive predatory habits; they feed mainly or exclusively on other insects and as a rule they wait in ambush and catch their prey in flight. Many Asilidae have long, tapering abdomens, sometimes with a sword-like ovipositor. Larvae generally seem to live in soil, rotting wood, leaf mould and similar materials.
Robber Fly

Robber Fly

5 Jan 2021

Saudi Arabia largest ever gathering of Lesser Flamingo - Jizan

Whilst birding the coast just south of Jizan we saw a huge flock of Lesser Flamingo’s totaling over 1600 birds. The species was a vagrant to Saudi Arabia until a year ago but with good numbers have been seen in the last two years, maximum flock size of 200 birds. With this enormous gathering, the largest flock ever to be recorded in the Kingdom, they are now a scarce visitor. There are a number of nests present in the area that were made by the Lesser Flamingos, the first breeding attempt for the Kingdom but no young or eggs have ever been seen so breeding has not be confirmed yet. The large numbers of birds may be due to the large-scale disturbances in Yemen pushing them into Saudi Arabia?
Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo