Saturday, 12 July 2014

Last birding for a lark in Saudi Arabia

Yesterday was highly likely the last birding I will do in Saudi Arabia for a while.  My three year stint here is over this week and I will be in Salalah, Oman from September.

I thought it appropriate for several reasons to go birding for larks as my last event. One reason is that it is the name of the blog and a good second reason is that in the fierce heat of the central Arabian summer its one of the best options to actually see anything.

I visited the Buwaib escarpment, 100 kilometres north of Riyadh and birded both below it and on top of it in the early morning. There were just two stops and I walked around each for a long time. All birding was complete by 9.15 am when it was roasting.

thick billed lark

At the top, I came across two thick-billed lark, about 3 kilometres from where I had seen one in February. Lou Regenmorter and Brian James saw juveniles in spring. I haven't asked them the exact location but it is presumably in the same area. 

In February I had assumed the bird was wintering but evidence is piling up that at least some of these birds are resident.

thick billed lark with female trumpeter finch

My location was a grassy wadi within a stony terrain right next to the escarpment drop. The wadi was busy with birds. Most were trumpeter finch.

female and male trumpeter finch

I assume that the one non-adult male bird was an adult female as it has a slight rose colour to the bill not seen in juveniles. However I am not an expert with this bird.

trumpeter finch

The only other lark seen around the wadi was desert lark.

desert lark

The other species seen at the wadi were pale crag martin, little green bee-eater, house sparrow, blackstart, white crowned wheatear and a single namaqua dove.


The wadi at the top of the escarpment was actually the second stop. My first stop starting at about 5.45am was a flat extremely large field below the escarpment. This field is very green with lush but short grass in winter and spring and is a favourite picnic spot then. At the time of year it is a dried out plain but I could see hundreds of seeds.

the picnickers' plain in summer

Camels and cars are banned from going on the field but sadly the camel ban is ignored and was so even when I was there. Nevertheless I viewed the prospects for larks as high.

hoopoe lark

The lark density was indeed high. I came across hoopoe lark first.

second view of a hoopoe lark

Crested lark was not unexpected.

crested lark

The third species of lark was desert lark. the only one seen in both places. I was a little surprised at seeing it on the flat plain. I would have though the terrain was more accommodating for bar-tailed lark but it was not to be.

desert lark on the plain

The larks were sharing the plain with many tens of feral pigeon and a few laughing dove and collared dove. A single white crowned wheatear was also observed.

desert rat (gerbil)

There are several mounds in the plain. I suspect all have been created by gerbils.

I have enjoyed birding throughout Saudi Arabia and have seen 331 species even using the conservative Clements count. I will be back. There is still much to see.


  1. Enjoyed the posts from KSA, Rob and looking forward to new ones from the mountains, deserts and Persian Gulf.....

    Laurie -

  2. Laurie, thanks. Salalah actually has a lots of birds in common with the Asir highlands in Saudi Arabia but there will be new too. Rob

  3. When will you be in Bulgaria, Rob?

  4. Should be there this coming weekend. R