Monday, 17 February 2014

Wadi Talea in the morning

Bernard Bracken and I visited the Abha area last weekend. On Friday, we intensively birded Wadi Talea which is half way between Abha and Jebel (Mount) Souda. The wadi is  roughly at an altitude of 2400 metres.

This blog describes what we saw in the morning.

juvenile Tristram's starling

We birded near the village of As Shat in the bottom of the wadi valley to begin with. Like most upland villages in the south west, there were plenty of Tristram's starling present. These were very tame. Indeed many birds in the valley were relatively tame which we took as a sign that no hunting takes place here.

adult Tristram's starling

Before we reached the village, in the early morning light, a small number of eagles began to stir. They had obviously roosted near-by.

steppe eagle resting

Although others, moved on, the one above actually didn't move in two hours from the same spot. It appears to be a steppe eagle though tawny eagle is an outside possibility as we were on the edge of its range. However from its pose and immobility I couldn't be definite.

second steppe eagle in flight

The others, which took to the air,  all proved to be steppe eagle. The dark bird above can't be a lesser spotted eagle which would be the other alternative by its white wing flash because it has 7 developed fingers.

third steppe eagle in flight

The lighter, younger bird above is also a steppe eagle. The barring in well-spaced and prominent which rules out tawny eagle.

Long billed pipit

A second bird gave us identification problems in the very early morning. A lone pipit sat up the hillside and impossible to get closer to.

second view of long billed pipit

All its features are consistent with long-billed pipit which is known resident of this area.

Arabian babbler

In the valley with the sun rising, birding became easier. Arabian babbler was easy to spot in several places.

white-spectacled bulbul

White-spectacled bulbul is found virtually everywhere in south west and central western Saudi Arabia even at these heights.

laughing dove

Other familiar birds included the occasional laughing dove and a small group of little green bee-eater .

little green bee-eater

I was surprised to see hoopoe in such a relatively cold area in winter.


Less familiar birds included Yemen linnet which were very common there, much more numerous than house sparrow for example.

Yemen linnet

Another south western bird seen in numbers was brown woodland warbler.The picture below is the best I managed of this flighty bird.

half-hidden brown woodland warbler

Graceful prinia is such an adaptable bird. It suffers the heat of mid-summer in Riyadh and the cold of mid-winter in the Asir highlands.

graceful prinia at dawn

Most of the better birds in Wadi Talea were seen in the second half of our time there. I'll write about that next.

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