South Africa (ZA)   Exploration birding in Saudi Arabia - Day 2  -  Categories: Around the Region  -  @ 06:36:44 pm

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

We found clean accommodation in Zulfi when we arrived last night and after the noise and sleeping on a bed like a brick, we were ready to explore Zulfi by 5:30am. Zulfi town is situated in a valley below a small escarpment that could hold some interesting birds. Images by Mike Pope

However, we first tried to find a small desert lake, but alas it was dry. We did pick up 3 male Hen Harriers and this cracking pale phase Booted Eagle to start the day's birding

Booted Eagle

All Grey Shrikes were carefully checked, looking for the southern special - aucheri. Unfortunately all birds we did see were Steppe Grey Shrike

Steppe Grey Shrike

We found some good habitat that was protected by a fence and spent some time walking and exploring, with some anticipation of finding a rarity - which didnt materialise, but I enjoyed the habitat. We found good numbers of Common Redstart

Common Redstart

A couple of Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin

A long snaking line of "marching ants" ala Photoshop moving from one location to the next

Marching Ants

Many Libyan Jirds (I assume the same species as we get in Kuwait) enjoying the abundant food

Libyan Jird

More Steppe Grey Shrike - the flight shot clearly shows T5 and T6 tail feathers as white, which is one of the key id features for Steppe

Step Grey Shrike

Step Grey Shrike

We headed back to Zulfi, where we explored both the top and bottom of the rocky escarpment. Looking from the ridge over the town, we saw House Martin and two Pale Crag Martins, quite high against the light - so please excuse the poor images

Pale Crag Martin

Pale Crag Martin

Observing from a different part of the ridge, produced the bird of the day - this 'brutish' Alpine Swift which came over quite low, circled twice on a thermal and then disappeared

Alpine Swift

Alpine Swift

Walking through the gardens on the edge of the escarpement finally produced my second target bird - Black Bush Robin (a rarity which I missed in Kuwait last year) - an impressive bird

Black Bush Robin

Black Bush Robin

here we found the only Masked Shrike of the trip

Masked Shrike

We came across a mixed flock of both Ortolan and these Cinereous Buntings with both male and female

Cinereous Bunting

Cinereous Bunting

Exploring the base of the escarpment, we found Olivaceous Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Graceful Prinia and Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat

and two very skittish Green Bee-eaters

Green Bee-eater

By this time it was time to drive to Artawiyah to explore some of the old abandoned farms. We didnt add many new birds to the day's list, but did see Grey Wagtail, Spotted Flycatcher, Tree and Red-throated Pipit

Red-throated Pipit

and a single Wryneck


From here we headed back out into the desert to the Hume's Whitethroat location. Again we found Steppe Grey Shrike and it was this speficic bird the escaped our trap 3 consecutive times, as we tried to catch it to take measurements. Again this bird showing white T5 and T6 tail feathers

Steppe Grey Shrike

Steppe Grey Shrike

a male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush added a splash of colour to the desert landscape

Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush

in this habitat, we found another 2 Desert Larks

Desert Lark

By this time, it was time to start the long drive back to Kuwait and we drove slowly across the desert until we intersected with the road to Hafr Al Batin. Here we flushed a Turtle Dove that was roosting under a small bush. All in all this was an interesting trip and great to see some new birds and habitat different to what we have in Kuwait, including some dune landscape

Turtle Dove


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