30 Jun 2021

Naif Palace – Jubbah

Tucked away among the palm groves of Jubbah stands the museum (under a sign ‘The Monumentel (sic) Palace of Naif’), gardens and home of Naif Ateeq Al-Shammari. Naif is the direct descendent of the young emir of Jubbah who extended the fabled desert hospitality to Lady Anne Blunt & with her husband Wilfrid  Blunt. Lady Blunt was the granddaughter of Lord Byron and arrived in January 1879 on their visit. The smoke-blackened room where they sipped coffee is still there. On one of its adobe walls hang two framed and faded photographs of Lady Anne and two copies of her watercolors of the Nafud. Alongside are pictures of other notable visitors who have passed that way. The palace is now a museum with a wide ground floor divided into seven parts of different areas, comprising approximately 2165 pieces.







28 Jun 2021

Pharaoh Eagle Owl - Ushaiqer

I found and photographed a Pharaoh Eagle Owl near Ushaiqer, north-west of Riyadh, an uncommon species found in the Saudi Arabian deserts, with this one found under some tall plants growing in a stony desert area. The Pharaoh Eagle Owl is distributed throughout much of North Africa and the Middle East, where they are found in arid habitats, including open desert plains, rocky outcrops and broken escarpments and jabals, mountain cliffs and wadis.







27 Jun 2021

Birding Wadi Grosbeak

This wadi located near Taif is a site where I have seen Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak on two occasions in previous years but unfortunately not in recent visits. Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak is the scarcest endemic in Saudi Arabia and the most difficult to see. We again failed to locate it on this visit but did see a few good birds including Arabian Green Bee-eater, Arabian Wheatear, Red-breasted Wheatear, Arabian Serin, Arabian Woodpecker, Yemen Linnet, Yemen Thrush and Streaked Scrub Warbler. I hope the species is still present in the area as this is the only area where birds have been seen in the Kingdom in recent years.

Arabian Green Bee-eater

Arabian Serin

Streaked Scrub Warbler

Arabian Wheatear

Arabian Wheatear - male

 

26 Jun 2021

Birding Jabal Ibrahim

I visited Jabal Ibrahim recently, the first time I had been to the location. This massive Jabal is located between Taif and Al Baha in the western mountains and is an excellent site for birds. The habitat looks very good and held some good birds, such as Black-crowned Tchagra, Arabian Serin and Arabian Partridge. Other good birds seen included Long-billed Pipit, Abyssynian White-eye, Palestinian Sunbird and Gambaga Flycathcer. We also saw a few migrants such as Upcher’s Warbler and plenty of lizards that were mainly Anderson’s Rock Agama.

Arabian Sunbird

Upcher's Warbler

Gambaga Flycatcher


 

Old Ayoon Heritage Village

Old Ayoon Heritage Village or Uyun Al-Jiwa translates to "the valley of ponds" and it derives from the water ponds which used to surround the area. Human occupation is Uyun Al-Jiwa dates back at least to prehistoric times as attested to by the Thamudic inscriptions carved on rocks of the area. The historical village has been renovated in parts and is a collection of old mud houses built with adobe, clay, and mud. 












 

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