04/18/11

South Africa (ZA)   Exploration birding in Saudi Arabia - Day 1  -  Categories: Around the Region  -  @ 11:51:56 am

Week 15 - 15 and 16 April 2011, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

My family have returned to South Africa for Easter, so Abdulrahman Al-Sirhan and I planned an exploratory trip to the central northern region of Saudi Arabia around Artawiyah. I was suprised at how painless the border formalities were at Salmi in the SW of Kuwait - no need to even exit the car. Images by Mike Pope


Whilst waiting for Abdulrahman at the Kuwait Zoo, I found a female Black Redstart

Black Redstart

and a stunning lutea Yellow Wagtail backlit for a little creativity - ok, that was the best angle I could get on the bird

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

Once border formalities were over we headed toward Hafr Al-Batin (named after Wadi Al Batin, I presume). About 50km before we turned off the tarmac and followed GPS to a tributary wadi where Pharoah Eagle Owl was found by Abdulrahman in January 2010. We finally found the wadi and quietly explored it on foot, flushing a single Pharoah Eagle Owl that we didnt see, until it flushed. Clearly, this quiet isolated wadi is its territory and we were well pleased in finding it again

Pharoah Eagle Owl

We couldnt relocate the owl, so explored the wadi system and amazingly found another two magnificent owls. Could this be a pair and the first bird seen, last seasons offspring?

Pharoah Eagle Owl

Pharoah Eagle Owl

Pharoah Eagle Owl

Pharoah Eagle Owl

Just as we were driving out of the wadi a fawn coloured bird caught my attention as it flew across the wadi and landed - Desert Lark, my first target species of the trip. We had 4 birds and watched two of them square off against each other - mating courtship or territorial posing?

Desert Lark

Desert Lark

Desert Lark

Before reaching the main road, we heard the stunning call of Hoopoe Lark, it was easily located as it launched itself into the air after each medley in an impressive display flight, that was not easy to capture

Hoopoe Lark

Hoopoe Lark

Hoopoe Lark

At the side of the main road, we came across this unlikely group of Cattle Egrets and a single Squacco Heron, literally in the middle of the desert with no sign of water anywhere close

Cattle Egret and Squacco Heron

We passed through Hafr Al Batin and headed to Artawiyah across some interesting landscape including some red dune habitat. Before Artawiyah we detoured into the desert to explore some interesting habitat that Abdulrahman had seen using Google Earth. It was an interesting stop as the available cover provided shelter and food for many passing passerines. We saw two Icterine Warblers that werent co-operative for photographs and this Humes Whitethroat, that proved also to be elusive

Hume's Whitethroat

We also found Barred Warbler and Common Whitethroat, but by far the most abundant were the Willow Warblers on passage. At first their colouring confused us, as they had a pale pinkish hue with very little yellow on many of the birds. It was only whilst editing the images, did I discover that the pink hue was the dust from the shrubs that they were feeding on

Willow Warbler

Willow Warbler

Willow Warbler

Willow Warbler

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