Tuesday 7 February 2012

River bed at Najran

Part of the plan while in Najran was to visit the dam which although unlikely to have had much water at this time of year, has a small park. 

However as is often the case in this part of the world my guide didn't remember or know that it was only open from 9 until 11 in the morning, and it was 2.30 in the afternoon!  Not to worry, we stopped off at the river bed just downstream of the dam instead.

yellow vented bulbul

What struck me immediately was how wide the river valley is. It certainly looked like, at some time in the year, it holds a mighty river. However in early February I think we were lucky there was even a trickle. Most of the rain, which incidentally falls on the mountain tops not on the eastern side, is in early summer. This area actually catches the very edge of the so called "Indian" monsoon.

What ever rain is channelled down here is enough to allow verdant vegetation in the wide and shallow river valley all year round. The bushes and trees were thronging with the sound of yellow vented bulbul and graceful prinia

the river bed

However close to the river there was a different habitat and a different set of birds - not much vegetation but plenty of mud flats. 

wood sandpiper

This helped me boost my list of Najran bird species by two. All down the trickle of a river were small numbers of wood sandpiper and green sandpiper.

green sandpiper

The odd white wagtail made an appearance too.

white wagtail

Meanwhile back on drier land among the trees, I spotted a couple of  Isabelline shrike. This is obviously another place, along with Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia where they winter. The Collins guide to birds of Britain and Europe maps them as passage only. This is another victim of under-reporting in the Kingdom.

Lots of little green bee-eater were in the trees too.

Isabelline shrike

More prosaically there were plenty of crested lark on the ground. Most were in pairs so the breeding season can't be far way.
crested lark

The valley housed other fauna too. I came across a lizard which I can't identify despite researching and a butterfly which I can.

Saudi lizard

The butterfly is a plain tiger. It is a relative of the monarch butterfly which my American readers will know. Apparently the plain tiger is only found on the wing in Arabia between October and April. In the summer months the butterfly is literally cocooned. 

Plain tiger butterfly

Finally I can't finish the blog without re-assuring people that there are indeed plenty of camels in Najran. However I think that just as many end up as food  as beasts of burden.

dark camels

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