Sunday, 16 November 2014

Yemen serin at Tawi Atair

On Thursday afternoon I made my fourth visit to the sinkhole at Tawi Atair. Each time before I had failed to see any Yemen serin. This is the only place outside western Yemen and south west Saudi Arabia where it is known.

This is a highland bird in those places which likes cool temperatures. The sinkhole provides the same temperatures.

I had speculated that my best chance to see it was in winter or the Khareef season when it is cooler.

Temperatures have dropped considerably since early November. Sure enough I meet a flock of 10 Yemen Serin on the building next to the coffee shop at the sinkhole.

two Yemen serin on the building

I was just about to go home having even descended 30 metres down the hole to look for the birds.

There was a mobile flock on Ruepell's weaver with a couple of cinnamon bunting associating. I watched these and got out the car to look closer. If that flock hadn't have arrived I would have gone.

The cinnamon breasted bunting flew off and I tracked them to behind the coffee shop. It was then that I realised there was a second flock near them and it was Yemen serin. It was precisely 4.30 pm so an early morning start is not a necessity to see this bird. 

yemen serin

This is a bland bird which I know from the Abha area of Saudi Arabia. The flock I saw there didn't bother with trees and neither did this one.

frontal view of a yemen serin

Several of the birds spend time hanging to one of the walls and I tried to work out why.

Yemen serin hanging to the wall

One idea I have is that they were trying to take out minerals such as salt which had leached out.

Yemen serin apparently licking or chipping the wall

I have Ruepell's weaver to thank for persuading me to stay.

Ruepell's weaver at Tawi Atair

Other notable birds at the top were a pair of Arabian wheatear which I have seen on every visit. 

female type Arabian wheatear

I had never seen an African paradise flycatcher at the sinkhole before but one was there too.

The next three blogs cover what I saw on Friday which turned out to be an eventful day.


  1. Interesting. I hear these birds avoid trees. Is this your experience? I saw some drab little finches in gardens in Sana'a, which were perching in trees, so they must have been Arabian Serins.

    Good to hear about your rapidly increasing list, and looking forward to the next instalment(s).

  2. Thanks for the comment. I envy that you have been to Sana'a presumably in safer days. To answer your question, I haven't seen them in trees but I know some people have including at Tawi Atair. I think its a preference rather than a hard and fast rule. I think your finches in Sanaa could have been either. Rob

  3. I think if they were frequenting city gardens, they would have been Arabian. Unfortunately I didn't even have binoculars at the time - it was purely a city break. A very special place and I'd love to go back, but it'll be a long time before I get another chance.