16 July 2024

Native Honey Bees – Abha area

Whilst birding a wadi near to a large dam near Abha we came across a wet area with hundreds of Honey Bee coming down to drink. I am not sure what Honey Bee it is but Apis mellifera jemenitica has been used in apiculture throughout the Arabian Peninsula since at least 2000 BC. Existing literature demonstrates that these populations are well adapted for the harsh extremes of the region with populations of A. m. jemenitica native to Saudi Arabia far more heat tolerant than the standard races from Europe. The indigenous race of Saudi Arabia differs from other subspecies in the region in some morphological, biological, and behavioural characteristics. Further taxonomic investigation, as well as molecular studies, is needed in order to confirm whether the Saudi indigenous bee populations represent a race distinct from A. m. jemenitica, or merely an ecotype of this subspecies.




14 July 2024

Birding Wadi Jizan Lake – Abu Arish

Whilst in the Jizan area, it is always worth going to Wadi Jizan Lake. This is a large wetland area, although sadly the water levels are dropping considerably, and habitat is becoming poorer for birds. As it is a large wetland, waders can often be seen in good numbers with Black-winged Stilt being common. In summer it is a good place to see Black-tailed Godwit and throughout the year restricted range species such as Red-eyed Dove and Zitting Cisticola can be found. Spur-winged Lapwing is also a regular species at and around the lake. We also found two Intermediate Egret, a species that is becoming a regular occurrence at the location.

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-winged Stilt

Red-eyed Dove

Red-eyed Dove

Spur-winged Lapwing

Spur-winged Lapwing

Spur-winged Lapwing

Zitting Cisticola


12 July 2024

African Openbill – Wadi Jizan Lake

Phil Roberts and I found an African Openbill at Wadi Jizan (Malaki Dam) Lake on 16 June 2024. A bird was seen for a couple of months up until March but has not been recorded since so it is difficult to know if this is the same bird that has been hiding from view or a different individual. A pair of this species was found on 3 September 2021 and was a new species for Saudi Arabia. Numbers increased to a maximum of 18 birds in summer 2022 decreasing to six in July 2022. Since then, one or two have been occasionally seen in the same area. It is a widely distributed species occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa and western regions of Madagascar, where it is common to locally abundant, although it has a patchy distribution.






10 July 2024

Pale Babul Blue - Tales Valley

Whilst birding the Talea Valley area near Abha I came across a group of blue butterflies on a wet area on the wadi floor. Some of them were Pale Babul Blue Azanus mirza a butterfly of the family Lycaenidae. It is found in the Afrotropical realm, including southwest Saudi Arabia. The wingspan is 20–25 millimetres in males and 21–25 millimetres in females. Its flight period is year-round but mainly between September and March and its host plant where the larvae feed is mainly Acacia. It is the back butterfly n the below photo.



08 July 2024

Helmeted Guineafowl – Wadi Jizan Dam Lake

Whilst birding Wadi Jizan Dam Lake very early morning 16 June Phil Roberts and I came across a group of up to eight Helmeted Guineafowl Numida Meleagris feeding on a grassy area near the lake shore. The birds were later heard calling in a nearby area of thick scrub and trees. The species is a widespread breeding bird in sub-Saharan Africa (formerly also in northern Africa). Outside Africa, it is a rare breeding resident in the Asir Tihama in south-western Saudi Arabia and (possibly) in Yemen. The birds in Saudi Arabia appear to be small and dark blackish coloured and have a thick reddish bill with pale tip, small helmet, medium sized cere bristles, limited blue skin and completely blue roundish wattles. The helmet appears smaller than on any other subspecies. Despite the morphological differences noted above compared with African populations, the Arabian population has not formally been named as a subspecies, but it is possible/probable the Arabian birds belong to a different, as yet undescribed subspecies. 






06 July 2024

African babul blue – Talea Valley

The  African babul blue is the commoner and larger of the babul blue butterflies with a wingspan of 18-28 mm, females are typically larger and a light bluish-brown while males are a pale lilac-blue. The African babul prefers drier habitats, such as coastal areas, river valleys, grasslands, stony hillsides, steppe, and semi-desert. Host plants are represented by members of the acacia family (Mimosaceae), as well as medicks (Medicago spp.). It occurs in Morroco and in non-European Africa, in the Middle East and in India. The distribution of the dark, branded spots on the underside hindwing is unique. Neither sex has a tail. This species flies March through August, the flight is active and close to the ground.



04 July 2024

Some good birds – Talea Valley

Whilst birding the Talea Valley in late June, an area of the Asir mountains, north of Abha, I photographed a pair of Arabian Woodpecker Dendrocopos doraeat. The Arabian Woodpecker is an uncommon but widespread resident of the south-west highlands, where birds are usually associated with acacia trees but can be found in a variety of wooded habitats. It is classified as near threatened and the population is considered to be relatively small and is decline owing to cutting and lopping of trees for charcoal, firewood and fodder, in parts of its range. They are often located by their loud call. Also in the valley was an African Pipit, which probably breed in this area as we see them every visit to the valley as we do Rufous-capped Lark, of which we only saw two on this visit.

Arabian Woodpecker

Arabian Woodpecker

Arabian Woodpecker

African Pipit

African Pipit

Rufous-capped Lark


02 July 2024

Common Zebra Blue – Abha

Whilst birdwatching the Abha area in the Mountains of south-western Saudi Arabia, I came across a number of small butterflies using a damp area in a dry wadi bottom. These butterflies were mainly Common Zebra Blue Leptotes pirithousa butterfly of the family Lycaenidae. It is also called Lang's Short-tailed Blue. It is a small butterfly with a wingspan of 21–29 mm in males and 24–30 mm in females. The uppersides of the wings are purple bluish in males, bluish-brown in female. The undersides are dark beige striped with white lines. The hindwings show marginal orange and black spots and two small tails. These butterflies fly from February to November depending on the location and are regular migrants.