And one of the most common in the valley is hoopoe. You can't fail to see it especially in the wooded areas. Like in the Riyadh area, they could be resident, passage or wintering.
As I promised in an earlier blog I said I would post a photo of a larger group of baboons to show you why birding at the top end of the valley needs to be done carefully.
some of the baboons
The photo above shows some of the baboons present in a deserted car park of a large supermarket just after dawn on last Friday morning. During the day they spread out from there including in the valley I birded!
There was no care needed finding Tristram's starling. The one above was on top of a delivery van at the hotel with several others on the hotel itself.
I find the best way to see them is in early morning or towards dusk near 3 or 4 storey buildings. In the day they must move further away from people.
a flying Tristram's starling
The endemic Arabian woodpecker wasn't too difficult to find either once I had heard its drilling sound. Like most woodpeckers it seems to prefer large dead trees. And in the valley there are only about four. I just scanned the nearest one and there were two Arabian woodpecker on it.
Male Arabian woodpecker
The above bird is male. You might just be able to see the very edge of its red nape which was turned away from me. My Helms guide describes the male as olive-brown (with red nape) and goes on to say the female is drabber. How can you get more drab than olive-brown?
Female Arabian woodpecker
I actually think the male has a little more white in the wing. I found this a better distinction than drabness.
fan tailed raven
All day, both days there were several fan-tailed raven flying overhead. I also saw two brown necked raven too. In flight they are easy to tell apart. The fan-tailed raven's tail is ridiculously short compared with the body size.
The fan-tailed raven resting above was at the point where the wilder upper valley gives way to cultivated middle valley.
cultivated area in the middle valley
Very little of the middle valley was watered unlike the exceptional field above. Most fields were fallow but rich with seeds. I presume March is a lull in the growing season. However the fallow fields and near-by bushes and trees were thronging with birds (most as already described in previous blogs).
One of the bushes there held a red-tailed shrike which I believe is a Daurian shrike. I have had lots of practice with these birds in the Riyadh area all winter. Saudi Arabia is clearly a major wintering place for this bird as well as on the fly route for those who choose to fly on and to winter in north east Africa.
Near-by I saw my only two birds of prey in the valley (though there was a lot of action in the plains near the airport on my way home, shame I had put my binoculars way). The first one was a kestrel and the second was a much larger bird probably a buzzard which will have to remain unidentified. I flushed it from a tree by walking pass it without noticing it until it had starting flying off.
yellow vented bulbul
The final bird of this series of blogs is the yellow-vented bulbul. It was everywhere as is usual in western Saudi Arabia.
Other than the baboons, the other striking piece of wildlife was the blue lizards that I had seen before on my trip to Najran (some 300 kilometres away "as the brown necked raven flies"). The good news is I have finally found out what it is called. Apparently its a hadramaut agama. I don't know more about it than that except it is quite beautiful.
The next blog looks at the birds I saw on Thursday back on my local patch. Two new birds were added to my Saudi list that day and both were passage birds. The next month or so will be be very interesting.