Sunday, 31 March 2013

Fascinating birding at Al Ula

Viv Wilson from Tabuk has been doing some fascinating birding in the north west of Saudi Arabia while I was away on holiday.

He spent a weekend down in the Al Ula district which is 400 kilometres south east of Tabuk. I suspect not too much birding has been done in this area before.

lappet faced vulture

Al Ula is a farming district very close to the much better known Madain Saleh. Madain Saleh is one of Saudi Arabia's best tourist attractions. It was built by the same civilization as Petra in Jordan and is arguably better! because it has less visitors and a more serene feel. 

A joint birding and cultural weekend in the area has lots of attraction. Go to Al Ula mostly for the birds and Madain Saleh mostly for the culture.

I am envious that Viv saw and photographed a lappet faced vulture there. This bird has so far alluded me in Saudi Arabia.

male hooded wheatear

Looking through his photos, Lou Regenmorter alerted Viv to a male hooded wheatear. Indeed it doesn't look like it was a one-off as he also photographed a female. The Helms guide map for this species doesn't have it within 200 kilometres (it says it's much further north). That's the beauty of birding in under-birded areas. You make new discoveries.

female hooded wheatear

Just like at Petra you can see Sinai rosefinch close to the monuments. Friends who visited there have reported this to me before.

Sinai rosefinch

I don't have Viv's full list of birds seen but from his pictures there were marsh harrier on passage in the area and the fields at Al Ula look good for passage passerines such as yellow wagtail.

yellow wagtail

I found the glimpses of Viv's trip fascinating and I have made a mental note to visit Madain Saleh. 

Thanks to Viv for letting me show these photos which have all been cropped from his originals.

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