Monday 27 August 2012

SW Saudi Arabia trip report part 4 - south of Baha

On the afternoon of August 19th, Brian James and I advanced to the furthest point south on our birding trip in south west Saudi Arabia.

We travelled through Buljurashi down to the mountain village of al Farah approximately 90 kilometres south of Baha, off route 15.

There were short stops at the side of the road on the way down and a stop on the edge of Bujurashi on the way back up to Baha.

cinnamon breasted bunting

On the way down there were plenty more signs of cinnamon-breasted bunting in the open rocky areas and white throated robin in the cover.

white spectacled bulbul

One bird I haven't mentioned in the whole trip so far is white-spectacled bulbul (a.k.a yellow-vented bulbul). This is a very common bird all down the west side of Saudi Arabia and the area south of Baha is no exception.

The isolated farming village of al Farah was particularly interesting. We lingered on the edge of the village watching unidentified pipits, the first pipits of the tour. Just as the scope came out, locals fired off some fireworks left over from recent Eid celebrations which unfortunately scared the pipits off. Were they the ill-identified African pipit known in these remote areas? We will never know. More pipits were seen near Taif at the end of our trip and there is more on them in the last blog of the series.

violet backed starling

The village held much more interest too. Yemen linnet abounded.  However, in a cluster of trees in a garden we came across the first violet-backed starling I have ever seen. This lifer was sure evidence of the Afro-tropical influence of this southern area. (I later saw a second violet-backed starling near Bujurashi on the way back north that day).

Ten minutes after seeing the first violet-backed starling, while walking past another cluster of trees - this time fruit trees, a Bruce's green pigeon flew out. This was a second lifer in one village and another Afro-tropical bird. 

Elsewhere in the village there was a dusky turtle dove, a lifer for Brian.

Palestine sunbird

On the way back towards Baha, we came across an area with lots of a yellow flowing plants (see above). This was a magnet for Palestine sunbird and there was briefing sighting of another black bush robin in the near-by prickly pear.

common whitethroat

There was a little less sign of western palearctic migrants than in other areas apart from the seemingly ubiquitous white throated robin but when we looked carefully in the road side bushes common whitethroat was evident.

Arabian warbler

Indeed the main warblers appeared to be not the western palearctic migrants but the both endemic Arabian warbler and the less common endemic yemen warbler. The former is much lighter than the latter and relatively easily separated.

After this trip the only Arabian endemic I haven't seen is yemen accentor which is said not to be present in Saudi Arabia anywhere. It would be nice to prove this point wrong and I suspect some of the mountains south east of Jizan on the border are the places to go.  

This will have to wait for another trip. in the meantime the next blog looks at the birds seen at the highland Ash Shafa near Taif at the end of this trip. 

There is lots to review including pipits as trailed earlier.

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