Sunday, 18 November 2012

Birding around Taif

With so much birding going on in various parts of Saudi Arabia among the people who contribute to this blog and with excitements such as last weekend's ten sociable lapwing,  I am falling behind with my blog postings.

This blog reports part of Mansur Al Fahad's visit to south west Saudi Arabia at Eid. Today I am looking at his time spent on that trip in the Taif area.

 Tree pipit at Ash Shafa

Some birders go to Taif and are disappointed but others return time and time again. I think its all about knowing where to go. The highland Ash Shafa outside Taif is usually very productive and Mansur found it so too. Ash Shafa is the highest peak in the district and is well signposted and very popular with day trippers particularly in the summer.

While Mansur was there the autumn passage was still in full swing. He recorded his first ever tree pipit (although we saw several together three weeks later at Al Hayer).

 European roller at Ash Shafa

European roller migrate on a broad front throughout Saudi Arabia. His sightings matched others in Riyadh and further east near Damman at roughly the same time.
 Common redstart

Common redstart was also seen. It is unclear whether it was  wintering or still on passage. Some common redstart do winter in south west Arabia.

 Long legged buzzard

The resident birds include long legged buzzard. This species is arguably the third most common bird of prey in this part of KSA aside from yellow billed kite and common kestrel.

 Yemen linnet

Some of the Arabian endemics can be found at Ash Shafa. There is no need for birders from Jeddah to go all the way to Abha for Yemen linnet for example when it can be seen in a day trip.  I have already reported (with pictures) in a previous blog that Mansur saw red-breasted wheatear (a predominantly African species) here too.

 Common snipe

Finding other good birding spots around Taif is mostly a matter of knowing where the permanent or semi-permanent water is. The common snipe was taken at a pool between Ash Shafa and the city.

 White wagtail
The two best water sites are probably the dammed area near Al Farah which I know and one that Mansur has found called  Ghadir Albnat which roughly translates as Girl's water. Both are on the southern side of the city.

At Ghadir Albanat, Mansur saw a European roller, green sandpiper,common sandpiper, grey heron, black winged stilt, white wagtail,yellow wagtail and barn swallow.

 Green sandpiper

Acacia trees near water are often good places to see warblers. Mansur mentioned to see an Arabian warbler in one.

Arabian warbler

Thanks to Mansur again for taking the time to make stills from his video and allowing me to report on his visit. There is more to come on this trip to the south west in future blogs.


  1. Hi, great blog, enjoyed yr Libyan one too.
    Your photo of a Tree Pipit looks a lot like an Olive Backed to me...

    1. Good to see you back. By the way I have posted the picture on to get other opinions on the pipit.


  2. I do not think it's olive backed, it is tree pipit. Note the Clearly lines on back unlike olive backed that has a very faint lines

  3. Mansur, the two replies on birdforum support tree pipit but it does no harm to get new opinions.


  4. I thought OBP on the face pattern but do'nt know how variable the mantle colour is...

    Laurie -

  5. Laurie, thanks for your contribution. The birdforum consensus is that it is a tree pipit since the mantle of OBP is not streaked. Also the bird should be greener. It was pointed out that the face pattern is good for OBP but that it is within variation for tree pipit.