30 August 2022

Birding Al Namas

Most birders birding the Asir go to Tanoumah for their birds driving through Al Namas, but Al Namas has some good birds to offer for those who stop. There are a number of small valleys inland from the main road that are well worth exploring. These hold the most northerly Arabian Magpies as well as Arabian Woodpecker and Arabian Partridge. Some of the less easy to see warblers are plentiful here including both Yemen Warbler and Arabian Warbler. Little Owl can be seen as can other woodland birds such as Little Rock Thrush with both Grey-headed Kingfisher and White-throated Bee-eater using the tall trees as lookout perches for their prey.

White-throated Bee-eater

Yemen Warbler

Yemen Warbler

Yemen Warbler

Little Rock Thrush

Little Rock Thrush

Little Rock Thrush

Arabian Warbler

28 August 2022

Birding Wadi Tarj

Wadi Tarj is a location close to Tanoumah with a dam and reservoir. The water areas are quire disappointing on our visits but the valley with acacia and wet pools holds lots of birds of various species. We spent a morning and an afternoon birding this location and saw a few Gambaga Flycatcher, African Silverbill, White-spectacled Bulbul, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Arabian Warbler and Palestine Sunbird. Crested Lark, Eurasian Hoopoe and Long-billed Pipit were actively feeding on the ground with Arabian Green Bee-eater catching plenty of food in the air along with a few Little Swifts and Pale Crag Martin. Grey-headed Kingfisher were common, one of which caught a small snake, and Arabian Babbler and Ruppell’s Weaver were also about in small numbers. On the way out we located an adult and juvenile Arabian Wheatear.

Arabian Wheatear

Arabian Wheatear

Palestine Sunbird

Gambaga Flycatcher

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting

White-spectacled Bulbul

26 August 2022

Grey-headed Kingfisher with young – Wadi Tarj

Whilst birding Wadi Tarj in the Asir mountains recently we found at least three pairs of Grey-headed Kingfisher. One pair was feeding two freshly fledged young that looked like they had just left the nest as their flight was very poor and short distance (top three photos). The young were being fed by both adults that were bring food, mainly beetles to the youngsters. We found a number of holes in the sand backs that could have been Kingfisher nests but did not examine them too closely in case of disturbance. Grey-headed Kingfisher of the subspecies H. l. semicaerulea, breeds only in southwestern Saudi Arabia, Yemen and western Oman and appears to winter in Somalia. In Saudi Arabia it has a status as an uncommon breeding migrant with around 1,500 migrating across the Red Sea from Africa to breed in the southwest Saudi Arabia, making it the most common kingfisher in the Kingdom. It mainly occurs below 2,300 m in the foothills and highlands in thick acacia scrub, woodland edge, bushy areas around cultivated fields, often near watercourses and marshy areas. It feeds mainly on insects, especially beetles, grasshoppers and locusts where it hunts by waiting on a perch before dropping suddenly onto prey below. 

25 August 2022

Graceful Prinia – Wadi Tarj

I was birding Wadi Tarj when I heard a Graceful Prinia singing some distance away. The bird sounded very different to the birds we see in Jubail and Dhahran in the Eastern Province which we have identified as Delicate Prinia. These birds have a much slower call and after making some recordings and looking at the sonograms, look like Graceful Prinia of the subspecies yemenensis. This is the subspecies Shirahi and Svenson say should be in the area. I managed to get a couple of relatively poor photos of the singing bird which are shown below. 

Delicate Prinia - Dhahran

Graceful Prinia - Wadi Tarj

24 August 2022

First site record of Black-winged Kite - Sabkhat Al Fasl

Whilst birding the Jubail area near Sabkhat Al Fasl on 19 August 2022 I came across an adult Black-winged Kite. It was sitting on a post but I did not see it before it flew and only then noticed it. It only flew a short distance and landed on a roadside lamppost where I managed to take a poor photo of it before it flew again. The bird shows the typical underwing patter of the eastern subspecies Elanus caeruleus vociferous a subspecies that occurs from Pakistan east to southern & eastern China, Indochina and the Malay Peninsula. This is not surprising, as all records from the Eastern Province of the Kingdom have been of this subspecies. This is the first record of this species for the site, but was not too surprising as they are spreading rapidly and becoming more common. The first record for the Eastern Province was only found on 17 April 2012, but since then has become more common with birds seen in almost every month and every year since the first record. A juvenile, able to fly, was found at Khafra Marsh a couple of years ago, in the presence of two adults suggesting breeding may have occurred. Rather than being a vagrant to the Eastern Province its status has changed to an uncommon visitor.

23 August 2022

Ringed Egyptian Nightjar – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area this summer the number of Egyptian Nightjars have been increasing with a maximum so far of 20 birds seen. Some of these birds allow vey close views as they sit out in the open of the rough tracks. Most birds sit on the track but as the car needs to get past the birds on the narrow track they sometimes fly a short distance and settle again allowing their legs to be seen briefly before thy settle back down. On 19 August I saw a bird with a metal ring on its right leg and managed to get a photo showing part of the ring number. I know Abdulla AlKaabi has ringed Egyptian Nightjars in nearby Bahrain over the last few years, and as other ringing in the region is very limited, I suspected it may be one of his birds. On contacting Abdulla, he confirmed it was one of his birds as below:

Egyptian Nightjar

Ring Number: LR07627

Ringing date: 6-May-2021

Ringing place: Bahrain

Age ringed: Pullus

Ringer: Abdulla AlKhaabi

Finding date: 19-Aug-2022

Finding place: Jubail

Finding condition: Bird found alive and photographed

Duration: 470 days

Distance: 173 km

Direction: 319 deg (NW)

Finder: Jem Babbington


Abdulla has ringed 43 birds as chicks since 2013, with this being the first recovery. It is interesting to know if some, or all, of these birds come from Bahrain after breeding to moult or if they breed in the local area. We will keep a more careful eye on the possibility of other ringed birds being present know we know they may occur, and can hopefully build up a better picture of their occurrence.

22 August 2022

Long-billed Pipit – Wadi Tarj

 Whilst birding Wadi Tarj in the summer I came across a couple of very confiding Long-billed Pipits. This species has proved not so easy to photograph for me over the years so the below photos were very pleasing. Long-billed Pipit is a resident breeding species in Saudi Arabia with the subspecies occurring being A. s. arabicus, which is endemic to Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE and Yemen. Its status in Saudi Arabia is a common breeding resident, where it occurs in the southwest highlands, south from Taif, above 1,500 metres on mountainsides and rocky highland terraced fields with grassy areas, bushes and trees. It moves to lower altitudes in winter. 

20 August 2022

Abu Arish Waste Water Pools – Abu Arish

The Waste Water Pools at Abu Arish are good for birds due to the combination of water and shrubs. It is probably the best location in the Kingdom for getting good views of White-browed Coucal which can be seen best in the early morning when they sit on the top of trees and shrubs calling. Birds can be seen throughout the day but tend to disappear into cover as the temperature rises. Another species that is always seen at this location is Nile Valley Sunbird. Both males and females can be seen but they are not too easy to photograph as my average shot below shows. Another common species here is Namaqua Dove, which can be easily photographed at close range as they do not appear to be frightened of people. Water birds are less in number in the summer but we saw plenty of breeding plumage White-winged Terns as well as a few Glossy Ibis and Western Cattle Egret. Little Grebes are also very common on the water but not much else was seen.

White-browed Coucal

White-browed Coucal

White-browed Coucal

White-browed Coucal

White-browed Coucal

Nile Valley Sunbird

Namaqua Dove

Namaqua Dove

Glossy Ibis