Monday, 19 November 2012

Birding around Baha

You don't have to be as selective in finding birding places in the Baha area as you do further north near Taif. The area is higher, wetter and greener.

Mansur Al Fahad found several places with good birding between Taif and Baha, in Baha and a little further south. He included  a visit to one of my favourite locations in Baha which is the valley next to the Golden Tulip hotel.

I have already posted about some of the "African birds" he found and two Arabian endemics , Arabian partridge and Philby's partridge which were seen (among other places) in my favourite valley in this region.

This blog runs through a selection of other birds that Mansur videoed in the Baha region. Indeed all photographs today are stills from his video.

 Ruepells weaver

Looking at some of the smaller birds first: Ruepells weaver was seen. This bird doesn't migrate but I think it probably thins out in the higher areas in winter. I found it with difficulty in Baha in February whereas Mansur had no suchproblem in October.

 long billed pipit

Baha is a good place to find long billed pipit. Indeed, there is some debate whether it is found outside the south west more generally. The main sub- species here is real quite dark on the breast and easy to separate.

 little rock thrush

Little rock thrush is quite common on slopes and geographies near and even inside Baha.

female northern wheatear
For much of the year, there are only two wheatears: red-breasted wheatear (see an earlier blog on African birds in the South West where Mansur photographed this bird near Taif) and south Arabian wheatear.

Other wheatears pass through in autumn and spring but there is uncertainty whether a small number of northern wheatear and Isabelline wheatear stay the winter.

 (south) Arabian wheatear

I have been birding with Mansur and have admired the way he can find scrub warbler so easily. He did it again near Baha. The sub species there is buryi.

 scrub warbler

Arabian serin is widespread in the upland areas. I ever saw it lower down in Najran on my visit there. This one was in Baha

 Arabian serin

The last of the small birds featured in this blog is cinnamon breasted bunting. Both this and the scrub warbler were seen on the high parkland at Al Mandaq 35 kilometres north of Baha

 cinnamon breasted bunting
Arabian babbler are more common in upland south west Saudi Arabia than in central KSA. Mansur found this one at the historic village "Thee ain" near Baha.

 Arabian babbler

I have reported in an earlier blog on Philby's partridge and Arabian partridge since then I have a conversation with Mansur about these birds and particular about Arabian partridge. We both agreed that we almost invariably see them at the top of valleys right next to sheer drops. Furthermore they simple dive over the edge and fly out of danger. Mansur's picture below is classic. Note the sheer drop behind.

 Arabian partridge

By contrast, Tristram's starling is quite used to people. Although it can be seen in rural areas, it is often better seen on the edge of towns and cities.

 Tristram's starling

Mansur's final bird is a male pallid harrier.  This is only seen in central Arabia on passage but a few winter in south west Saudi Arabia. This one at Baljurashi south of Baha may be one of them.

Pallid harrier

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