Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The warblers at al Baha

The valley I birded at Baha over the last weekend was teeming with warblers at least in the middle section in the cultivated areas. However these were mostly passage and wintering birds. For resident warblers I found that the upper part of the valley around 2000 metres was the better place.  

scrub warbler

I followed a pair of warblers around from bush to bush over stony outcrops before realising they were the resident scrub warbler.  I have seen this bird in Jordan and Libya before. I have now seen two sub species: inquieta in both Libya and Jordan (despite the Collins guide telling me saharae is the Libyan sub species)  and now buryi in Saudi Arabia. Buryi is even deeper coloured underneath than inquieta.

brown woodland warbler

Also up in the top valley was brown woodland warbler. I saw two in different places on separate occasions. I was helped by the fact it is an extremely loud bird for one so small. This Afro-tropical bird was yet another lifer for me.

The other main resident warbler is graceful prinia. This is not as common here as in my local patch near Riyadh and I never got a chance to take a picture. It is not found in the upper valley but was in the bushes near the cultivated areas in the middle valley.

It was in what I call the middle valley (around 1700 metres) where I saw the majority of the warblers. The place was teeming with chiffchaff. Many of them were eating seeds as well as insects. They seemed to be in a major drive to fatten themselves up presumably because they were just about to migrate. Indeed some were oblivious to my close contact because they were concentrating on eating.


One chiffchaff stayed in the open jumping from plant to plant for over 8 minutes. In the end I left him rather than the other way round. He is pictured above and in two pictures below.

second view of chiffchaff

He looked like a typical European chiffchaff however other ones were greyer and less colourful and presumably represented birds from further east.

third view of chiffchaff

There were also a smaller number of willow warbler which presumably are part way through their migration since they winter further south than chiffchaff. However, I cant be absolutely sure whether any winter in Baha because I wasn't there earlier.
willow warbler

The above bird look like a willow warbler.  It has a lighter bill than the chiffchaff, a broader supercilium and doesn't have a dark cheek. Furthermore its legs are a little paler though I think its an eastern sub species because the legs aren't pink.

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