Monday 8 April 2013

Painted snipe and Saudi Arabia

I have changed my planned sequence of blogs following correspondence last night with my friend and birding colleague Brian James. He has just returned from a 10 day trip to the south west. In my opinion, his findings were pretty special. He added over 20 species to his Saudi list including some very interesting birds indeed. 

He travelled down the coast to Jizan from Jeddah and saw such sought-after rarities as Goliath heron. He then travelled from Jizan to Abha and on to Taif. He was joined by another birder and friend, Lou Regenmorter for the second half.

Mike Jennings had reported painted snipe a couple of years ago at Sabya waste water lake (north of Jizan). It was seen by Brian and Lou. This was one of the more than 20 new species to Brian's and Lou's lists.

Painted snipe with black winged stilt at Sabya

Painted snipe is reported as a vagrant in Oman and UAE with no reference at all to Saudi Arabia or even Yemen in the guide books. However this "African" bird appears to breed at Sabya.

 Asir magpie

In another part of the trip, Brian and Lou seem to have found the epicentre of the population of the elusive Asir magpie at Shallal al Dahna near Tanumah, 100 kilometres north of Abha. They even saw two nests.

 African paradise flycatcher

African paradise flycatcher and griffon vulture are also present in the same area.

griffon vulture

Violet backed starling is a bird I have seen on previous trips to the south west and is reported by Lou and Brian as common in most upland and foothills.

violet backed starling 

In related news I heard yesterday through Mansur Al Fahad that sacred ibis is reported by experienced Saudi birder Abdullah Al Suhaibany to be breeding in the Jizan area. Like painted snipe this is another African bird with previous vagrant status in Saudi Arabia at best. How many more are there?  

Please visit Brian's blog at (you can go straight to it by clicking the link in the right side bar of this blog site) for full details of the species seen on the trip. And thanks to Brian for allowing me to post his pictures.

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