22 Jun 2021

Fayd Volcano Crater – Fayd

A large Volcano Crater can be found on the outskirts of Fayd. It is very large and quite impressive but not to the same standard as the Back& White Volcanos or Harrat Al Harrah. To get the best views of the volcano you need to drive along some of the tracks around the edge of the crater until you reach a gentle slope. Park here and climb up the basalt volcano edge until you reach the top and from here good views can be obtained of the scale and size of the crater.






18 Jun 2021

Fayd Fort – Fayd

Fayd Fort is located in Fayd a city located 120 kilometers east of the city of Hail. It is the third city of the old pilgrimage route “Darb Zubaidah”, after Kufa and Basra, and the largest station on the pilgrimage route used by millions of pilgrims for their once-in-a-lifetime Hajj journey to the holy city of Makkah. Saudi archaeologists have recently discovered underground aqueducts dating back to early Islamic period in this area along with bakery ovens, wash basins and a large number of architectural sites. The sites included an ancient mosque dating back to the early Islamic era, in addition to architectural units with several rooms, and architectural details buried between the exterior and interior walls of the fort. A service site for the ancient fort was also uncovered, with bakery ovens and wash basins found in channels that pass through the last underground square. Pottery utensils, and glass, stone and metal pieces were also retrieved. Foundations located in the northern part of the fort were built in regular forms using volcanic stones commonly found in the city. Some architectural forms and objects such as basins were also carved from volcanic rock. The presence of iron residues showed the objects may have been in the manufacture of glass and iron. The fort has been recently renovated but it was not possible to enter when we visited.





 

16 Jun 2021

Birding Talea Valley

Whilst birding the western mountains we visited an area near Abha called the Talea Valley. This is a very good birding location with several endemic species. We saw Arabian Warbler, Arabian Waxbill Arabian Wheatear, Arabian Woodpecker, Yemen Linnet and Yemen Thrush. I have seen Arabian Woodpecker in the area previously but the last few years despite many visits to the area I had failed to locate them again the the Talea Valley. We saw an adult male and also heard it calling but could not get close enough for good photos. Another species seen here previously, but nor regularly by me, is Arabian Waxbill. They were seen in flocks up to fifty birds mainly feeding on the seeding grasses, but again did not allow close approach. Apart from the endemic species other good birds can be seen in the valet and we located Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Hamerkop, Dusky Turtle Dove and Ruppell’s Weaver amongst others. We also saw a few interesting insects including Common Grass Yellow and Azure Skimmer.

 

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting

Arabian Waxbill

Arabian Waxbill

Hammerkop

 

14 Jun 2021

Al Shinanah Historical Tower - Al Rass

Al Shinanah Historical Tower is a really amazing slender 27 metre high mud-brick watchtower of Qassim traditional architectural heritage situated near Al-Rass. It is six metres in diameter at its base and 1.5 metres in diameter at the top. Al-Rass was one the main permanent water points in the centre of the Arabian Peninsula and was along a major trade and pilgrimage route. It is not certain if it was a watchtower or when it was built, with suggested dates ranging from the 12th to the early 19th century are proposed with 1699 the most commonly referred to date of construction. The Al-Shinanah Tower has witnessed many battles without being totally destroyed and has probably been partly rebuilt and is said to have been reduced in height from 45 metres to todays nearly 27 meters.










12 Jun 2021

Helmeted Guineafowl – Malaki Dam Lake

Whilst birding Malaki Dam Lake we came across five Helmeted Guineafowl in one location, with another two in a separate area. The Helmeted Guineafowl is a rare breeding resident in Saudi Arabia only found in the southwest of the Kingdom in the Asir Tihama up to heights of 600 metres. Birds favour rocky hillsides and wadis, with open spaces, shrubs, trees and small traditionally farmed fields where it can find food and water. Recent records of groups of birds have occurred in Wadi Juwa, Malaki Dam Lake, Abu Arish, Shuqayri and Wadi Muhayil. The species range and numbers are both suffering long-term reductions, mainly because of the removal of scrub and tree cover to generate more manageable fields for agriculture. Birds are also still occasionally shot and trapped but some protection has been afforded by a decree from a local Emir in the 1970’s and the NCWCD/SWA prohibiting the collection of eggs in 1987. Numbers appeared to be increasing slightly in the early 1990’s but unfortunately, this increase in numbers, if genuine, did not continue and numbers are again in decline putting the species in danger of extinction in Saudi Arabia. It is unclear from published data and field observations if the birds in Saudi Arabia have been introduced (many years ago) or are wild.
Helmeted Guineafowl

Helmeted Guineafowl

Helmeted Guineafowl

Helmeted Guineafowl

Helmeted Guineafowl

Helmeted Guineafowl

10 Jun 2021

Jebal Hibran – Hail

Jebal Hibran is situated along the southern border of the sand dune desert of Nefud Al-Kebir, to the west of Hail. It is part of a number of sandstone formations showing many different shapes and forms caused by erosion of the relatively soft rock. 









8 Jun 2021

Birding the Raydah Escarpment

Whilst birding the Raydah Escarpment recently I came across two species I had not seen there previously at the site. One was Grey Wagtail with a couple of presumably passage birds, seen on the roadside edge feeding on insects and the other a juvenile Pied Cuckoo at the bottom of the Raydah Escarpment below Raydah Village in one of the large wadis. This wadi area was also good for Grey-headed Kingfisher, African Grey Hornbill and Bruce’s Green Pigeon with up to ten of the first two species and a couple of the latter. Another good bird seen was a breeding pair of African Paradise Flycatcher with the female sitting on the nest with two newly hatched young and the male coming occasionally to feed her. The local family that owned the land showed us the nest but we did not stay long due to fear of disturbing the breeding birds, so not photos of the male were obtained. 

Pied Cuckoo

Grey Wagtail

Grey-headed Kingfisher

Bruce's Green Pigeon

African Grey Hornbill

6 Jun 2021

Barzan Palace Towers – Hail

Barazan Palace Towers are part of the heritage of Hail and were built during the reign of Mohammed Bin Abdulmohsen Al-Ali about 1808 and are still in their original form. It was completed during the rule of Talal ibn Abdullah (1848–68) and consisted of three floors and covered an area of more than 300,000 square meters. The ground floor featured the reception halls, gardens, and kitchens. The first floor housed diplomatic guests, and the second floor was occupied by the royal family. Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the founder of the third Saudi Kingdom ordered the Palace destroyed after he had ousted the last Al-Rashid emir from power in 1921. Today only one tower remains standing in the middle of the city giving an idea of the size of this building before its destruction.






4 Jun 2021

Birding Phil’s Fields - Sabya

Whilst looking for Harlequin Quail in Phil’s Fields, of which we found 18 birds, all females with the exception of two calling males we also saw a few other good species. These included specialties such as Zitting Cisticola and Singing Bush Lark which are probably easier to see at this location than anywhere else in the Kingdom. Good number of African Silverbill were located in the fields and nearby edges, often in small flocks and a few Arabian Babbler and Black Scrub Robin were seen on the field margins and surrounding scrub. White-throated Bee-eater were quite common with may juveniles seen both in flight and perched on the ground or small trees. The very high humidity and hot temperatures makes birding this area quite unpleasant but the species seen makes it a very worthwhile exercise.

White-throated Bee-eater

African Silverbill

African Silverbill

African Silverbill

Black Scrub Robin

Arabian Babbler

2 Jun 2021

Al Qishlah Palace – Hail

Al Qishlah Palace was built during 1943 during the reign of King Abdulaziz as a military barracks. It was built with two stories from clay, stone and wood and has eight cylinder defence columns and two large gates at the south and east sides, measuring 142.8 x 141.2 meters with 8.5m high walls. It has a total of 142 rooms, all of which face the internal courtyard, as well as a mosque with an uncovered praying area and a basement.