Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Spring in the south Arabian desert

This is the second mid-week blog looking back at spring in central Arabia. The pictures are again thanks to the wildlife photographer, Abdullah Amrou.

Today we are looking at Shehatiyah. It is 230 kilometres south of Al Kharj and 285 kilometres south of Riyadh. The "hamlet" is on the edge of the Dahna sand desert. There is a high water tank supplying a watering hole for passing Bedouins. There are also 5 or 6 abandoned houses and a few acacias.

In an earlier blog, I posted some pictures by Abdullah from 
Shehatiyah showing part of the autumn passage. His pictures today look back to spring. Together they give a rare insight into the passage in the southern Arabian desert.

All the birds below are undoubtedly passage birds which have been lucky enough to find the only water and shade for many kilometres.

European nightjar in spring

This autumn, Abdullah photographed a European nightjar at this location. Remarkably he had previously photographed one at the same place in spring. This is shown above.

barn swallow

Barn swallow pass over the south Arabian desert in great numbers. This one stopped off for a rest.

rock thrush

Helms guide says rock thrush breeds in much of the north of the Middle East and is found on passage throughout the region but is not common. Winter records are known from Oman and Yemen from where this bird was quite possibly returning.

turtle dove

At the same place, Abdullah has snapped a turtle dove. Turtle dove breeds in all of the north of the Middle East and in a few places in the southern half where is there is farming (including Riyadh!).  I don't think it is known accurately where these turtle dove spend the winter but it is assumed to be in Africa south of the Sahara alongside birds originating in Europe.

Isabelline wheatear

The final bird that Abdullah sent me from this place is an Isabelline wheatear. It looks a bit thin. This is the only bird that might have wintered at Shehatiyah (plenty winter further north near Riyadh) but it probably came from further south.

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