Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Thumamah escarpment

For the second half of last Thursday's birding trip, Lou Regensmorter and I ventured up to the top of the Tuwaiq escarpment north of Riyadh. In part we were looking for the elusive hooded wheatear which is one of my nemesis birds. In part this was a speculative look at a potentially new birding place.

the view from the top of Tuwaiq escarpment

There were large numbers of black and white wheatears about. However they were all either Eastern mourning wheatear or more commonly white crowned wheatear.

Eastern mourning wheatear

We begin to speculate whether hooded wheatear can co-exist with white crowned wheatear. The latter bird is very territorial in the breeding season and can be aggressive even towards birds as big as laughing dove.

Eastern mourning wheatear flies off

Eastern mourning wheatear is only a winter visitor (from Iraq and neighbouring areas) and was being tolerated by the white crowned wheatear.

Other birds of note at the top of the escarpment were crested lark and desert lark. Spanish sparrow and white eared bulbul were also present in the bushes and trees in the plateau's shallow wadis.

long legged buzzard

There was also a long shot that we would see Egyptian vulture which has historically been sighted here. Now there is some question whether they are here any longer. Instead the birds of prey riding the thermals over the slopes turned out to be long legged buzzard

Another eastern imperial eagle

On our travels from Rhawdat Khuriam to the escarpment we spotted a second Eastern Imperial eagleAnd at the end of the day just before sunset we went down off the escarpment to the bottom where we were treated to a mad scramble up the hill by a couple of sand partridge.

Given that our permission to visit a particular diary farm never came through, Lou and I will probably be doing some more speculative birding again tomorrow.

Visits to other parts of Saudi Arabia are in train too.


  1. Hi Rob, I saw my only Hooded Wheatears close to where you were looking (I think!) I was very close to a gate leading into the fenced-off part of the escarpment (I tried to find it on Googlemaps but can't zoom in very close, 25.2634, 46.6273 coords may be close) Will see if I can find some old video-footage. Tom

  2. Here is some very poor video of the bird mentioned above

  3. Tom ,I am glad you are still taking an interest in these parts. I'll follow up your coordinates but the dynamics around Thumamah have changed and so have some of the birds. The main reason is that the dairy farm closed 5 or 6 years ago and that land is now taken over by the city of Riyadh and is a family gathering place with tents. However the rest of the estate is wild and camels and goats are still banned to give the gazelles good grazing. I hope the hooded wheatear are not affected by all this. Afterall they are supposed to like dry conditions! Rob