Sunday, 4 March 2012

Buntings, finches and friends at Baha

This blog continues the report on last weekend's birding of a single valley in Baha, South West Saudi Arabia which yielded so many endemics and lifers.

In the same field in Al Baha, that I saw my first dusky turtle dove was another lifer for me. There was a flock of about six Cretzschmar's bunting. This bunting breeds on the Eastern Mediterranean coast, often at elevation, but winters either side of the southern part of the Red Sea. The farming areas of Baha look like a perfect wintering spot for this bird.

male Cretzschmar's bunting

The first bunting I saw was a female which I found looked quite similar to the ortolan bunting that summer near my adopted home in Bulgaria. However as soon as I saw a male I was in no doubt it was a Cretzschmar's bunting.

female Cretzschmar's bunting

In the same farming area and further up the valley I spotted several flocks of Yemen linnet over the two days I walked up and down the valley. This is another endemic but it wasn't the first time I had observed this bird. I saw one near Taif last November.

Yemen linnet

My best observation at Baha came near two large puddles in a built-up area where four or five of them perched near-by and occasionally dropped down to drink.
view of Yemen linnet from the back

Unlike the common linnet, Yemen linnet shows much white in the wing in flight which helps identification. The picture above shows part of the white flash on the wing.

Strictly speaking Abyssinian white-eye isn't related to the other birds featured in this blog.  White-eyes aren't closely related to any other bird family but this is as good a place as any to report I saw the first one in my life one some 25 metres away from the flock of Yemen linnet

Abyssinian white-eye

Like a large proportion of the world's settlements there are plenty of house sparrow in the city. Many are busy nest building and aiming to breed at the moment. 

house sparrow

Yet it was with one flock of house sparrow that I initially saw a lone Ruppell's weaver (before it went off on itsown). In fact it was the only one I saw all weekend. I think it is clear that they aren't very common in Baha presumably because the altitude isn't ideal.

Ruppell's weaver

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