Saturday 15 June 2013

Buntings on Jebel Lawz

Jebel Lawz is the highest point in north west Saudi Arabia. The top is one of the two coolest places in the kingdom in summer (Mount Souda near Abha is the other). It is definitely the coolest in winter where snow regularly occurs.

The Important Bird Area (IBA) write-up makes you believe it is an area of steppe with chukar, golden eagle and lammergeier highlighted.

My birding friend from Tabuk, Viv Wilson and I made a trip up towards the top on Thursday. I was very surprised what we found. The landscape is indeed semi-desert leading to steppe as you climb. The only common birds en route are desert lark, white crowned wheatear with the odd kestrel, laughing dove and pigeon. Scrub warbler was seen at 1500 metres.

However the bird life changes dramatically above 1800 metres. 

The avifauna abruptly becomes more like that of a country like Lebanon or further north.  Here on Thursday the temperature never went above 28C whereas in Tabuk it had been 40C. Its not surprising the birds are more Meditterranean than in the rest of Saudi Arabia.

Its clear that the area has been much under-birded. We saw several warblers and other birds which should not be there in summer and I am seeking confirmation about one in particular which may not have been seen in Saudi Arabia before. I will post on them and the other birds once I have more concrete information on identifications.

In the meantime, here is a taster....

male black headed bunting

Black headed bunting is reported as a rare passage bird in Saudi Arabia and yet it was found on Jebel Lawz. The maps show it's summer range as no closer than northern Israel.

black headed bunting with cereal in the background

The wadi it was in had plenty of grass and cereal seeds (see picture). Taken alone, this bird might appear a vagrant but taken with the other  "Meditterranean" birds seen there it seems to be part of a pattern.

Incidentally black headed bunting is the 297th bird on my Saudi list.

road sign for the mountain turn off

More expected, a pair of striolated bunting were seen in the same wadi which incidentally held some small pools of permanent water.

striolated bunting

I won't be reporting about the other avifauna of this area until I have some firmer identifications. However there is plenty to say about my Friday trip to Duba on the coast which can come first.

In the meantime, I'd like to think Viv Wilson for providing the bird pictures which I have horribly enlarged and cropped!

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure there is quite a lot of changes in Summer, Winter and breeding ranges in KSA - especially with more resident and 'migrant' birders such as yourself....

    Laurie -