Monday 13 January 2014

Muhayil north side of the wadi

I visited Muhayil in the south west of the country over the weekend. Muhayil is on the western foothills of the Asir mountains. It is in the Afro-tropical eco-zone where birding is always interesting and different to Riyadh in many respects.

I was hosted by my friend Shane Ngahere and am grateful for his hospitality. 

Other birding colleagues have in recent years given Wadi Muhayil mixed reviews. I understand this is because the fauna has been affected by not having a permanent stream any more.

However I found the town's birding to be good anyway.

Also Shane's contacts came up with a locality near-by which does have permanent water and had distinctive birding. Indeed it was where I added the 318th bird to my Saudi list. I'll write about there in the next blog. 

Meanwhile this blog looks at the birding I did walking straight out of the hotel on the north side of Wadi Muhayil within the town.

white browed coucal

A classic Afro-tropical bird of the Tihama (lowland) south west Saudi Arabia is white browed coucal. It was one of the birds seen directly outside the hotel and as it turns out also in three other locations around the town. It is clearly not uncommon here. 

Arabian babbler

One of the other larger birds seen on the north side of the wadi was Arabian babbler. Actually Muhayil has the highest density of this species that I have encountered in the whole of Saudi Arabia.

white spectacled bulbul

Other birds there were white spectacled bulbul and African collared dove. The latter bird is especially common.

African collared dove

Laughing dove were also present like in virtually every community in Saudi Arabia.

laughing dove

More similarities with the centre and west of the country though not the east was the presence of little green bee-eater and black bush robin

little green bee-eater

The sub-species of black bush robin is the same as in Riyadh too whereas directly  up the mountains to Abha from Muhayil there is a much duller brown rather than black sub species.

black bush robin

The variety of smaller birds seen outside the hotel showed considerable Afro-tropical influence. 

male Rueppells weaver

The most common smaller bird was Rueppells weaver.

Rueppells weavers

The breeding seasons for this bird vary considerably with altitude.  Though I don't yet know all the details, it appears that the lowland birds breed very early and new nests were seen this weekend. The males were in breeding plumage too.


Blackstart was a more surprising bird to see within the wadi as it is often thought of as a bird of dry places. 

male shining sunbird

Two types of sunbird were plentiful. There were both shining sunbird and nile valley sunbird.

Nile valley sunbird

The silverbill here were all African silverbill which were flocking.

African silverbill

Relatively few wintering birds were seen in this section and compared with all the other sites around Muhayil.

Daurian shrike

Daurian shrike and a Siberian stonechat were the only ones observed. 

Siberian stonechat

Other birds seen here included both fan-tailed raven and brown-necked raven, kestrel and graceful prinia.

A full list of all birds observed over the weekend will appear in a future blog. The next one will look at a water-bearing wadi from out of town.

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