The original idea for this trip came from discussions with Roland Stieger in Chamonix, France during 2000. Roland had been working with Prince Bandhar al Faisal for many years pioneering climbing activities in the Asir province of SW Arabia. Truda Oder had accompanied Roland on two occasions and had an interest in the birds of this area. Realising its potential for a bird tour, MPE spent some time with Truda and Roland in March 2001 discussing the possibility of going out to Saudi in November 2001. This was at the personal invitation of Prince Bandhar who has supported the idea of limited eco-tourism to this region of Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately with the events of September 11th the Saudi authorities felt it was too risky for us to go out to Saudi at that time. The trip was rescheduled to the spring, politics permitting. Our plan was to visit as many different habitats as possible focusing on the endemic species of Arabia, and the Afro-tropical region bordering the Red Sea.
Our base for the week was to be Abha the capital of Asir province. Abha lies at an altitude of 5.000 feet asl and in the heart of the Asir mountains. It is connected by air to both Jeddah and Riyadh. JG was also invited to join the trip. We were escorted at all times by Mubarak our interpreter and guide, together with our two drivers. We had 2 Land Cruisers at our disposal. By the end of the trip we had made 3 very good friends who worked tirelessly to find us sites and birds.
Western birders seldom visit this country, as tourist visas are not available. Saudi Arabia is a deeply religious and conservative society and any newcomer should be made fully aware of cultural sensitivities. The country has some stunning scenery including a relatively unspoilt and rich coastline rising up a breathtaking escarpment to the juniper covered Asir Mountains aloft. Ten of the eleven Arabian endemic species are on offer; only Yemen Accentor fails to make it over the border. SW Saudi Arabia shares many species with neighbouring Yemen but has the advantage of offering the same great variety in a much smaller area. For the time-starved birder this means more hours in the field and less in the car or on the plane. The area can be covered comfortably in an eight-day trip. We hope to run the first organised birdwatching tour to the area in Spring 2003. Our trip managed to record all ten endemics; remarkably all were available within a half hour journey of our hotel in Abha
We encountered few difficulties once we had arrived at Abha but the police did question John and myself when they found us birdwatching at the beach in Jizan. An uneasy situation was easily resolved once we revealed both the purpose of our trip and the name of our sponsor. It has to be remembered that the whole concept of looking at birds through binoculars is totally alien to the majority of Saudi people and as there are no western tourists we did rather stand out. On the whole the Saudi people were most hospitable and in no way did we feel pestered or threatened.
The road network is excellent with fast and well made up roads connecting the major towns. The use of four-wheel drive was only necessary for driving up wadis and on the track leading down the Raydah escarpment. All the hotels we stayed at provided good fresh food with the Abha Palace Hotel being an exceptional gastronomic delight! The Arabic coffee with dates is only a slowly acquired taste!
The weather throughout the trip was good. Hot and sunny in the Asir Mountains with pleasantly cool mornings. In the Tihamah plain it was very hot and humid and birding after 11.00 proved very unproductive and difficult especially away from shade. It only rained for short periods on two evenings at Abha.
There is little in the way of dangers and we felt very safe while travelling around. The usual vaccinations are required and one must consider taking anti-malarial tabs if travelling to Jizan. None of us bothered for this trip and the only site we encountered insects bites were Malaki Dam Lake and Tanumah. Bottled water and other soft drinks are freely available. The alcohol free beer was OK.
The drinking of alcohol is a serious offence punishable by a prison sentence. The use of drugs carries the death penalty! Saudi customs dictate modest dress at most times. This usually meant long trousers at airports and hotels. The showing of bare flesh by women is frowned upon. Outside of the towns we could dress as we pleased.
Many thanks to all those who supplied us with information prior to our trip especially Richard Porter, Mike Jennings, Peter Castell, and Mohammed Shobrak, this proved invaluable. A special thanks to Roland Stieger for initiating the project and his company CFR for supporting us. Thanks must also go to all those in Saudi Arabia especially Prince Bandhar al Faisal Ibn Abdul Aziz for supporting our trip financially and our two dedicated drivers who never complained about the early starts and furnished us with their humour. And finally to our companions Truda and Mubarak without whom the trip would not have been successful.
Left Manchester on early morning BA flight to join Truda at Charles de Gaulle connecting with a Saudi Airlines flight to Jeddah. Arrived Jeddah 20:00. Overnight in Jeddah.
Saturday 4th May
Caught 06:20 flight to Abha arriving at 07:30. Mubarak met us at the airport and transferred us to the Abha Palace Hotel. A quick breakfast and straight into the birding at the Juniper covered Raydah escarpment. Yemen Thrush, Yemen Linnet and Bottas' Wheatear were all seen very easily. Returned to hotel for late lunch and left with Mubarak for Wadi Mahalah, a site he thought might hold a few birds. This was a very productive site with migrants and resident birds in abundance. Here we recorded our first Arabian Wheatears, Arabian Waxbill and Arabian Serins, together with some afro-tropical delights such as Grey headed Kingfisher and Ruppell's Weaver. Two pairs of Plain Nightjars calling and displaying rounded off a fantastic first day.
Sunday 5th May
A 04:30 start for Raydah proved to be a good move. We had noticed footprints of galliformes on the road down the escarpment the day before and had a hunch that the early morning might tease out one of the partridges. We were not wrong and were rewarded with great views of a couple of parties of Arabian Partridge feeding at the trackside. An exploration late morning of the Tala valley road produced one of only three Asir Magpies recorded. Lunched back at the hotel and slept for a couple of hours. Late afternoon visit to a wadi close to the centre of Abha (5km wadi) The vegetation here was mainly scattered Acacia scrub. This proved to be another excellent little site with plenty of migrants and our first Amethyst Starlings. We then carried on to Wadi bin Hashmal for birding until dusk. We were now into more desert like habitat and recorded our first Nile Valley Sunbirds and our only Scrub Warblers. A Nightjar giving tantalising glimpses at dusk was either Plain or Nubian - sadly it refused to call!
Monday 6th May
Left Abha at 06:00 for Jizan Stopped in the foothills for African Grey Hornbill and then, attracted by standing water, we spent a very fruitful couple of hours in a roadside lowland wadi which was buzzing with migrants and the commoner breeders A 10 minute stop at a roadside colony of Weavers 9km N of Sabya revealed a different (more twiggy) nest and soon 5 Arabian Golden Sparrow were on the list! Arrived Jizan at 11:30 and checked into the Al Hayat Gizan Hotel. (The Atheel looks better). A quick look at the beach whilst our drivers lunched and slept added our first Sooty Gulls, Saunders Terns and Brown Boobies followed by our only brush with the police! Set off early afternoon for Malaki Dam Lake. A fantastic oasis for birds. Birded until dusk.
Tuesday 7th May
Returned to Malaki Dam Lake and spent the morning birding here and in the surrounding scrubby desert, hot springs and at Wadi Jawah which lies a km further up the road. Left when heat became oppressive and headed north for Shuqaiq via Jabel Faifa. This latter site is supposed to be good for birds. We found it highly cultivated and terraced but worth the trip for the views and Yemen style housing. Arrived at Shuqaiq mangroves and checked into the comfortable and clean hotel at Al Horaidah. This was brilliantly located and overlooked the inland bay and shrimp farm. An excellent site where the main attraction was our first and very obliging Crab Plovers; six in total..
Wednesday 8th May
Left hotel at 06:00 and headed north towards Al Birk, stopping en route wherever we found suitable viewing positions or tracks into the mangroves. A party of twelve Chestnut bellied Sandgrouse raced the car momentarily before coming down in some arid cultivation and giving themselves up. Note the chestnut belly is difficult to see when the birds are grounded. Kevin Haigh who lives in Saudi had given us a map detailing a good offshore island and mangrove bay which, after many false starts and heated arguments, we finally located.. The whole coastline was very productive. We had magnificent views of Goliath Heron, White cheeked, Crested, Lesser crested and Saunders' Terns. A good selection of passage waders and both White eyed and Sooty Gulls kept us on our toes for much of the morning. A brief excursion inland up Wadi Haly (nr Kayid) in the heat of the day was not very productive. Left the coast at midday for Abha via Muhayil. A roadside stop just north of Khamis Al Bahr in the foothills produced two very obliging Tawny Eagles. Wadi Muhayil (our name only) 6 km before Muhayil is an outflow from a reservoir and looks to have constant flowing freshwater. This proved to be another excellent site with extensive clumps of Euphorbia. We found our first Hamerkops here along with plenty of Bruce's Green Pigeons and a Golden winged Grosbeak for one fortunate individual. We did not have long at this excellent site as our drivers needed to get back to Abha. We eventually arrived back at the sumptuous Abha Palace Hotel at 19:45.
Thursday 9th May
A leisurely morning searching for the "missing" endemics. John and I had thought that the area at the top of Raydah escarpment might produce Philby's Partridge. We had previous heard chukar like calls at dawn and Truda and I had flushed an Alectoris sp from the top of Al Saba park a few days earlier. We were not to be disappointed and found a superb Philby's Partridge calling from a garden wall! It would seem that this species occupies the niche of more barren open areas at higher altitudes whereas Arabian prefers the denser juniper woodlands. Returned to hotel for late breakfast. In the afternoon we paid a short visit to Prince Bandhar at his palace before revisiting Wadi Mahalah and then ending the day at Raydah in a fruitless search for nightjars and owls.
Friday 10th May
05:00 start for Raydah and then on to 5k wadi until 10:30. More great birding; a large passage of European Bee-eaters proving the highlight. Gambaga Flycatcher and Amethyst Starling were particularly numerous at this latter site. Left after lunch for Tanumah and arrived at 16:00. Stayed at basic but well positioned hotel overlooking the spectacular cliffs. Birding immediately around the hotel was very productive, with our first Arabian Woodpecker and another Philby's Partridge. The day was capped off with superb views of 2 Spotted Eagle Owls that perched on the streetlights adjacent to the hotel. African Scops Owl was also heard but sadly only seen by John.
Saturday 11th May
Dawn birding around the hotel at Tanumah. Videoed Arabian Woodpecker feeding young plus had clinching views of the tricky Yemen Serin on cliffs below hotel. En route stopped at Shallal al Dahna. Yet another excellent wadi despite the fact that the waterfall at this site was dry. A large pool at the base of the cliff attracted many birds to drink. This was only the second of two sites where we recorded the magpie. Left at 9:20 arriving at 11.10, in time for lunch at the Abha Palace. Our last visit was to a small area south of Abha (Wadi Masman). This wadi overlooked the escarpment and had fantastic views of the Asir Mountains. A fitting end to the trip!
Departed on the evening flight from Abha to Riyadh to connect with the overnight flight to Paris. Arrived Paris early morning and connected to BA flight arrive Manchester midday.
Raydah Escarpment Reserve
A first class site 15 km from Abha signposted off the Al Sooda road. The site is a very steep west-facing slope with crags. The climate can be cool and wet. The escarpment supports a more or less intact forest of mainly Juniperus excelsa with Olea europa on the uppermost slopes. Lush more deciduous vegetation occurs on the lower slopes.
This site holds most of the endemics with Yemen Linnet andYemen Thrush being particularly common. This was the best site for Arabian Partridge, and Yemen Warbler. Other good species here included African Paradise Flycatcher, White breasted White-eye, Brown Woodland Warbler, Olive Pigeon, Dusky Turtle Dove, Tristrams Grackle, both Brown necked and Fan-tailed Ravens and Palestine Sunbird.
The area at the top of the escarpment held Philby's Partridge, Arabian Serin, Botta's Wheatear, Pale Crag Martin, and Long billed Pipit. The surrounding cultivated fields were worth exploring and held Woodchat and the felix race of Stonechat. A minimum of two visits is required at this site.
A well-vegetated wadi approximately 10km north of Abha, reached by taking a track from the football stadium. This had standing water and attracted many species.
Highlights here over 2 visits included: Arabian Wheatear, Arabian Serin. Black bush Robin, Grey headed Kingfisher, Ruppell's Weaver, Gambaga Flycatcher, Cinnamon breasted Bunting, Plain Nightjar, Masked Shrike, Long billed Pipit, Arabian Babbler, Little green Bee-eater, Arabian Waxbill and African Silverbill. Tanumah and Shallal al Dahna.
Tanumah lies about 100km north of Abha and is connected by a fast and good road. It lies in area of broken granite hills covered with juniperus and acacia. Shallal al Dahna contains one of a few semi permanent waterfalls in the country and a pool. This area contained all the species seen at Raydah along with Asir Magpie and Arabian Woodpecker. At Tanumah Philby's and Arabian Partridge were seen along with both Arabian and Yemen Serins. Being less steep this site offers somewhat easier birding than Raydah. Griffon Vultures breed on the cliffs adjacent to our hotel. The added bonus was the crippling views of Spotted Eagle Owls and African Scops Owl.
Shallal al Dahna was a delight with the water pool attracting many species. Arabian Wheatear, Cinnamon breasted Bunting and Little Rock Thrush were all breeding. A further sighting of Arabian woodpecker, two Asir Magpies and a Hamerkop were a bonus. This was also one of the best sites to see the endemic Hamadryas Baboon Papio hamadryas, which is relatively abundant in the mountains. Other species recorded here included Brown Woodland Warbler, Arabian Waxbill, Pale Crag Martin, Red rumped Swallow, Long billed Pipit, Yemen Thrush, Little Swift, and Brown necked Raven.
Malaki Dam Lake and Wadi Jawah
A large lake at the edge of the Asir foothills, 15km directly east of Abu Arish. It is fed by four main wadis. At high water levels this lake spreads to c.10km2 . To the north the reservoir is bordered by basaltic lava plains and several rocky outcrops which form the edge of Wadi Jawah. The surrounding acacia and salvadora scrubland is interspersed with tamarix. The surrounding hills are grazed and cultivated.
Malaki Dam Lake
The Lake and its surrounding area have one of the highest diversities of breeding birds in Arabia. Many of the species are of Afro-tropical origin. This, together with the fact that it is on a main migration route, account for the large number of species recorded. Highlights here included: Abdims Stork, Pink-backed Pelican, White Stork, Squacco Heron, Glossy Ibis, Black shouldered Kite, Tawny Eagle, White-winged Black and Whiskered Terns, Spotted Thick-knee, Lichenstein's Sandgrouse, Abyssinian Roller, Helmeted Guineafowl, White throated Bee-eater, Rufous Bush Robin, Black crowned Finch Lark, Bruce's Green Pigeon , Red eyed Dove, White browed Coucal, African Silverbill, and Nile Valley Sunbird.
Other species recorded here but not seen by us include Bateleur, Gabor Goshawk and Nubian Nightjar.
An area of mangrove on the southern Red Sea shore c.20km north of Shuqaiq. A shallow bay with a large intertidal mudflats, and stands of mangrove Avicennia.
There is a local shrimp farm with pools attracting many waders. The birds here were typical of many of our roadside stops between this site and Al Birk. The bay was however our best site for Crab Plover and held good numbers of Lesser crested Terns and Pink-backed Pelican and Terek Sandpiper. The adjacent shrimp farm held good numbers of passage waders and Sooty Gulls together with two Slender- billed Gulls
Red Sea coast - Al Birk.
The whole strip of coastline was excellent for birding. Long sandy strips of shore interspersed with stands of mangrove and muddy bays. Offshore are many small islands with breeding terns, probably Goliath Heron and perhaps Crab Plover. The whole coastline was shallow with magnificent coral reefs. The adjacent inland areas were a mixture of sandy and stony desert with scattered acacia.
Coast near Al Birk
Key birds seen along this stretch of coast were Goliath Heron, Brown Booby, Sooty and White eyed Gulls. Crested, Lesser-crested and Caspian Terns were fairly widespread. Both Saunders and White cheeked Terns were common. The mangroves held both Clamorous and African Reed Warbler. Greater Flamingo, Pink-backed Pelican and Western Reef Herons were fairly common.
The area was also good for passage waders with both Greater and Lesser Sandplovers seen. Terek Sandpipers and Turnstones were common along with Kentish Plovers. The desert area held Black crowned Finch-Lark and Chestnut bellied Sandgrouse.
Brown Boobies, Al Birk
Goliath Heron, Al Birk.
White throated Bee-eater
This small but excellent site 6km south of Muhayil was well vegetated with euphorpis and figus trees. It had constant flowing water and subsequently attracted many species. Highlights included Bruce's Green Pigeon, Hamerkop, Golden winged Grosbeak, White browed Coucal, Grey headed Kingfisher, White throated, Little Green and Blue cheeked Bee-eaters, Little Bittern, Black crowned Night Herons, Black Bush Robin, Blackstart, Desert Lark, and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting.
Asir Mountains below Muhayil
Systematic Bird List Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) Recorded at Abha lake and Malaki Dam lake in good numbers, singles at Wadi Muhayil and Wadi Mahalah. Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster) Frequently seen on Red Sea coast with many birds perched on offshore rocks at Al Birk. Pink-backed Pelican (Pelecanus rufescens) Up to 20 birds at Malaki Dam lake. 30+ at Shuqaiq mangroves. Odd singles at other Red Sea sites. Common Teal (Anas crecca) Single bird at Malaki Dam lake on 6/5Northern Pintail Anas acutaUp to 4 birds at Malaki Dam lake. Garganey Anas querquedula1 bird at Malaki Dam lake with Pintail Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) 1 at Malaki Dam lake on 6/5 and 4 at Shuqaiq shrimp farm on 7/5. Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) Up to 3 birds at Malaki Dam lake 6/5, 7/5 Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus rubber) 1 at Malaki Dam lake on 6/5. Singles or pairs in Al Birk area. Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor) 10 birds flew south just north of Al Birk Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) Recorded in small numbers in the Tihamah plain with up to15 at Malaki Dam lake and 14 at Shuqaiq Western Reef-Heron (Egretta gularis) Fairly common on the coast around Al Birk Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) Maximum count of25 at Malaki Dam lake on 7/5. A few on the coastal strip. Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath) 1 superb immature seen just north of Al Birk seen on two occasions. Reported to breed on flat island 2km off shore 9km south of Al Birk Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) 3 Malaki Dam lake on 6/5, 1 on the 7/5 at 1 at Al Birk. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) Common at Malaki Dam Lake. Elsewhere singles only Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) 2 at Abha lake on 4/5. Up to 10 at Malaki Dam Lake Striated Heron (Butorides striatus) 1 at Jizan. 2 Al Birk. Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) 1 Wadi Mahalah on 4/5. 10+ at Wadi Muhayil on 8/5 Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutes) 1 bird at Wadi Muhayil on 8/5Hamerkop Scopus umbretta2 at Wadi Muhayil on 8/5. 1 at Shallal ad Dahna on 11/5 Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) 2 at Malaki Dam Lake on 7/5 Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) Up to 45 at at Malaki Dam Lake on 7/5. 4 Shuqaiq mangroves 7/5. 2 Al Birk area.8/5 Abdim's Stork (Ciconia abdimii) 2 came into Malaki Dam Lake on 6/5 evening and subsequently departed to the south. White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) 1 at Malaki Dam Lake on 7/5. Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) Singles at Malaki Dam Lake on 6/5and 7/5. 1 at Shuqaiq mangroves on 8/5. Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) Singles at Malaki Dam Lake on 6/5 and 7/5. Black Kite (Milvus migrans) Common throughout in small numbers. Highest densities in Abha. Eurasian Griffon (Gyps fulvus) 20+ at Tanumah breeding on cliffs below hotel on 10/5. Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) 1 at Raydah on 5/5. 2 at Wadi Masman on 11/5. Marsh-Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)1 fem Malaki Dam Lake on 6/5. Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus)1 fem Malaki Dam Lake on 7/5 Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus) 1 Raydah escarpment on 4/5. Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax) 1 at Malaki Dam Lake on 7/5. 2 adults together in Asir foothills en route to Muhayil. Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) Recorded in small numbers at various localities in the Asir. Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) Up to 40 birds at Malaki Dam Lake on 7/5and 14 on 6/5. Philby's Partridge (Alectoris philbyi) 1 seen and 2 heard at Raydah on 9/5. Singles at Tanumah on 10/5 and Wadi Masman on 11/5. This bird seen in more open habitat away from Juniper trees. Heard at dawn from upper slopes of Al Saha Park above the escarpment. Arabian Partridge (Alectoris melanocephala) 10+ on road at Raydah on 5/5 early morning. 1 Tanumah 11/5 Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) Counts of up to 130 on Abha lake on 4/5 with small numbers at Malaki Dam Lake Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 2+ on Abha on 4/5 and 5/5. Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) 2 at Shuqaiq mangroves on 7/5. Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) 2 at Jizan on 6/5 2 at Al Birkon 8/5. Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)1 at Jizan on 6/5. 1 Al Birk on 8/5. Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 1 of the long billed eastern race at Al birk on 8/5. Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus) 1 at Al Birk on 7/5. 6 on 8/5. Common Redshank (Tringa tetanus) 3 singles recored Al Birk. Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis)1 Shuqaiq mangroves shrimp farm on 7/5. Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) 2 Malaki Dam Lake on 6/5. Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) Fairly common all expose muddy shores up to 7 birds Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) 30+ Shuqaiq mangroves 7/5 2 wadi en route to Jizan, singles Malaki Dam Lake and Wadi Muhayil Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) Small numbers recorded with 35 Al Birk including one flock of 20 in mangroves areas and 4+ Malaki Dam Lake Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) Common in coastal areas. Red Knot (Calidris canutus) 2 Jizan 6/5 and 2 Al birk 8/5. Sanderling (Calidris alba) 10+ Jizan 6/5 and similar numbers at Al Birk. Little Stint (Calidris minuta) 20+ Shuqaiq mangroves shrimp farm 7/5, 12+ Al-Birk.8/5 Dunlin (Calidris alpina) 1Jizan was the only sighting 6/5. Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) 10+ Jizan 6/5. Common in Al- Birk area 8/5. Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) 4 Shuqaiq mangroves 7/5. 2 Al-Birk 8/5. Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola) 6 birds together at Shuqaiq mangroves 7/5. 1 Al-Birk 8/5 Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis) 3+ Malaki Dam Lake 6/5 and 1 on7/5. Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) 2 Jizan 6/5. 2 Al-Birk 8/5 Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) 2 Malaki Dam Lake on 6/5 and up to 10 birds Shuqaiq mangroves 6/5. Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) 4 Malaki Dam Lake 6/5 and 7/5. European Golden-Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) 2 Jizan 6/5. Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) 1 Jizan 6/5. 1 Shuqaiq mangroves 7/5, 2 Al Birk 8/5 Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula). A few records in coastal areas with max count of 10 at Jizan on 6/5, 1 Wadi Muhayil 8/5 Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) Commonly recorded in coastal areas Lesser Sandplover (Charadrius mongolus) The commoner Sandplover with max count of 5 on 8/5. Greater Sandplover (Charadrius leschenaulti) 2 birds with lessers at near Al Birk on 8/5. Spur-winged Plover (Vanellus spinosus) 2 at Malaki Dam Lake on 7/5. White-eyed Gull (Larus leucophthalmus) 1 fine adult was the only record at Al Birk on 8/5. Sooty Gull (Larus hemprichii) The commonest gull species along the coast. Recorded at all sites. Max daily count of 30. Heuglins Gull (Larus fuscus heuglini) 1 adult Jizan on 6/5 was the only record Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) 1 Jizan on 6/5 Slender-billed Gull (Larus genei) 4 adults Shuqaiq mangroves on 7/5. Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus) Up to 10 birds at Malaki Dam Lake 6/5and 7/5. 5+ birds Shuqaiq mangroves 7/5. White-winged Black Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus) 10+ Malaki Dam Lake 6/5 and 5+ on 7/5 Gull-billed Tern (Sterna nilotica) 1 Malaki Dam Lake 6/5, 2 on 7/5, 6+ Shuqaiq mangroves 7/5 Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia) 14+ on coast around Shuqaiq 7/5 4+ Al Birk area. Crested Tern (Sterna bergii) 15+ Al Birk 8/5 Lesser Crested Tern (Sterna bengalensis) 20+ en route to Shuqaiq. 100+ Shuqaiq mangroves and 30+ Al Birk area. White-cheeked Tern (Sterna repressa) 20+ Al Birk area 8/5 Saunders' Tern (Sterna saundersi) 10+ Jizan 6/5, 10+ Shuqaiq mangroves 7/5, and 10+ al Birk area 8/5 Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus) A party of 12 birds seen close to the road en route to Al Birk on 8/5 Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse (Pterocles lichtensteinii) 4 at Malaki Dam Lake 7/5 Rock Dove (Columba livia) Widespread Olive Pigeon (Columba arquatrix) Seen in very small numbers at Raydah with max count of 4 on 4/5. A very shy bird and difficult to observe Dusky Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia lugens) Fairly common at Raydah and Tanumah Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis) Widespread resident at all altitudes. Not in areas occupied by Streptopelia lugens Red-eyed Dove (Streptopelia semitorquata) 1 seen at Malaki Dam Lake on 7/5African Collared-Dove (Streptopelia roseogrisea) Common around Jizan and Malaki Dam Lake Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis) Fairly common around savannah habitats in the Tinamah maximum count 30+ in Wadi en route to Jizan. Bruce's Green-Pigeon (Treron waalia) Seen in suitable habitat with a preference for fig trees. Maximum count of 20+ at Wadi Muhayil on 8/5. White-browed Coucal (Centropus superciliosus) Up to 6 at Wadi Jawah on 7/5 with 1 seen+ heard Wadi Muhayil 8/5. African Scops-Owl (Otus senegalensis) 1-2 birds heard and one seen at Tanumah 10/5. Spotted Eagle-Owl (Bubo africanus) 2 superb birds seen well perched on street lights of hotel at Tanumah 10/5 Plain Nightjar (Caprimulgus inornatus) 2 pairs calling and displaying at Wadi Mahalah 4/5. 1 Nightjar sp. Seen at Wadi bin Hashbal. African Palm-Swift (Cypsiurus parvus) Common in the Tihamah Alpine Swift (Apus melba) 1 at Wadi Muhayil 8/5 and singles recorded at other sites around Abha. Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus) Recorded in small numbers at Malaki Dam Lake and Shuqaiq mangroves. Swift Sp. 2 large all dark Swift sp. Seen over Raydah on5/5 and 1 10/5. These appeared to be the same size as Alpine with fast powerful flight. The possibility of an isolated population of Mottled Swift Tachymarptis aequatorialis could not be ruled out. Little Swift (Apus affinis) Common around Jizan and small numbers recorded throughout. Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala) Up to 6 birds at Wadi Mahalah. Also seen at Wadi Muhayil . Away from the Asir mountains fairly widespread. White-throated Bee-eater (Merops albicollis) Up to 15 birds at Malaki Dam Lake 6/5. Fairly widespread elsewhere in the Tihamah. Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis) Recorded in small numbers at all altitudes. Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus) 20+ in Wadi en route to Jizan on 6/5. 2 Wadi Muhayil 8/5. European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) Passage observed in small numbers with the exception of 200+ overhead and feeding in 5k Wadi. Abyssinian Roller (Coracias abyssinica) Max count 4 Wadi Jawah 7/5. Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops) Common resident African Grey Hornbill (Tockus nasutus) 10+ descending the escarpment on the Jizan road 6/5 were the only sightings. Arabian Woodpecker (Dendrocopos dorae) A pair feeding young at Tanumah on 10/5 & 11/5. 2 at Wadi Masman and 2 Shallal al Dahna 11/5 African Paradise-Flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis) 2-3 birds recorded lower down the escarpment at Raydah on 4/5, 5/5. Indian House Crow (Corvus splendens) Only recorded at Jeddah and Jizan. Feral populations Black-billed Magpie (Asir)Pica pica(asirensis) Scarce with a single bird at Tala valley wadi 5/5. And 2 at Shallal al Dahna 11/5.This bird is superficially identical to Pica pica. Its call is very different being a mournful prolonged screech. A potential split by some authorities. Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis) Common in suitable habitat. Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhipidurus) Commonly recorded in the Asir mountains. A flock of 27 at Tanumah on 11/5. Eurasian Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) 1 female inland from al Birk area. 8/5. 1 wadi Mahalah Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) 1 Wadi Mahalah 4/5, 2 Wadi bin Hashbal 5/5. Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus) 1 Wadi Jawah 7/5. Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor) 1 bird only en route to Jizan 6/5. Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) 1 Raydah on 9/5. Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus) The commonest Shrike recorded, with max count of 5 at 5km wadi 9/5. Little Rock-Thrush (Monticola rufocinereus) Common at Raydah and Tanumah Yemen Thrush (Turdus menachensis) Very common at Raydah. Less so at Tanumah and recorded at Shallal al Dahna Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) 2 birds seen at Raydah (JG) 4/5. Tristram's Starling (Onychognathus tristramii) Widespread residentAmethyst Starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster) Widespread in small numbers at sites in the Asir mountains. Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) Recorded at Jizan where common. Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) Recorded in Wadi en route to Jizan at least one bird of the darker eastern race. 2 at Shuqaiq mangroves with 7+ in mangroves near Al Birk. Gambaga Flycatcher (Muscicapa gambagae) Commonly recorded in all wadis in the Asir mountains. Rufous Bush-Robin (Cercotrichas galactotes) 3 Wadi Jawah 7/5. Black Bush-Robin (Cercotrichas podobe) Widespread resident in Tinamah. Also recorded at Wadi Mahalah. Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) Odd pairs seen in Asir mountains Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) Common passage migrant in the Wadis and in coastal areas Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) 6+ in total all in the Asir mountains Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) felix 6+ of the "felix" race observed on the approach roads to Raydah 4/5 Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)1 Al Birk area 8/5. Arabian Wheatear (Oenanthe lugentoides) Common in the Asir mountains where recorded in stony scrub and semi cultivated habitat usually in pairs with full grown young at Wadi Mahalah Botta's Wheatear (Oenanthe bottae) Less common than the above. A total of 7 sightings all in the Asir and showed more preference for semi cultivation. Blackstart (Cercomela melanura) Pairs recorded at Wadi bin Hashmal, Jizan road, Wadi Mahalah and Wadi Muhayil Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) Fairly common passage migrant. Pale Crag-Martin (Hirundo obsolete) Recorded commonly on approach roads to Raydah and at Shallal al Dahna/ Tanumah. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) Common and widespread. Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica) 10+ on Raydah, 20+ Tanumah common and widespread. Yellow vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus xanthopygos) Common and widespread. White-breasted White-eye (Zosterops abyssinicus) Fairly common in the Asir mountains. Not confined to Juniper. Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticola juncidis) 1 on 6/5, 3+ 7/5 at Malaki Dam Lake Streaked Scrub-Warbler (Scotocerca inquieta) 2 Wadi bin Hashmal 5/5 Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis) Small numbers recorded at sitesin the Asir mountains and in the Tihamah. Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) 1-2 recorded at Wadi Mahalah 4/5 and 9/5 Eurasian Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) 2 en route to Jizan. African Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus baeticatus) What was presumably this species very common in mangroves near Al Birk. Much paler than field guides suggest. Song distinctive, soft more rhythmic and less varied than reed warbler. Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris) Singles at Wadi Mahalah on 9/5 and 5km Wadi 10/5. 1 Shallal al Dahna 11/5 Clamorous Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus) 2 Malaki Dam Lake on 6/5. Al birk mangroves on 8/5 and Wadi Mahalah on 10/5. Olivaceous Warbler (Hippolais pallida) 10 + in total mainly in Asir wadis but 1 in wadi en route to Jizan 6/5 Upchers Warbler (Hippolais languidi) 2 in wadi en route to Jizan on 6/5. Brown Woodland-Warbler (Phylloscopus umbrovirens) Recorded commonly in Juniper forest at Raydah, Tanumah and Shallal al Dahna. 1 away from Juniper at 5K wadi 10/5. Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) A few migrants recorded in wadis. Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) 1 in wadi en route to Jizan. Yemen Warbler (Sylvia buryi) Fairly common in Juniper forest both at Tanumah and Raydah. Many easily located as in song from tops of Junipers. Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) Very common passage migrant at most sites, presumably northern populations. Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) 3 Wadi bin Hashmal 5/5. singles elsewhere in the Asir. Barred Warbler (Sylvia nisoria) Fairly common passage migrant in the Tihamah. Arabian Warbler (Sylvia leucomelaena) Widespread in small numbers. 6+ at 5km wadi on 10/5 was highest count. Arabian Babbler (Turdoides squamiceps) Fairly common in small numbers at most wadi sites Black-crowned Finch-Lark (Eremopterix nigriceps) Single in flight between Jizan and Malaki Dam Lake. 2 at Malaki Dam Lake 6/5. Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti) 2 birds recorded at Malaki Dam Lake7/5 and Wadi Masman 11/5. Single at Wadi Muhayil 8/5Crested Lark Galerida cristataSmall numbers recorded in cultivated areas. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) Common resident. Arabian Golden-Sparrow (Passer euchlorus) 5 recorded at nesting colony between Abha and Jizan from main road north of Sabya .6/5. 2 Malaki Dam Lake on 7/5 Arabian Waxbill (Estrilda rufibarba) Small number recorded at Wadi Mahalah on 4/5, 6 at 5K wadi 10/5 and Shallal al Dahna on 11/5 African Silverbill (Lonchura cantans) 2 at Wadi Mahalah on 4/5 20+ at Wadi Jawah on 7/5. 8+ Shuqaiq mangroves 7/5. Black headed Wagtail (Motacilla feldegg) 6+ at Wadi Mahalah on 9/5. 1 Shallal al Dahna 11/5 Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) A superb lutea at Wadi Muhayil on 8/5. 4+ beema in fields on approach road to Raydah on 4/5. 20+ flava wags at Malaki Dam Lake on 6/5, 7/5. 2 cinerocapilla in wadi en route to Jizan an 2 Shuqaiq 7/5. Long-billed Pipit (Anthus similes) Common resident. Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis) A single bird in wadi en route to Jizan Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus) A single sum plum. At Wadi Mahalah on 9/5 Ruppell's Weaver (Ploceus galbula) Very common resident and recorded at many sites. Nile Valley Sunbird (Anthreptes metallicus) Common at low altitudes but recoded as high as Abha at 5km wadi. Palestine Sunbird (Nectarinia osea) Common resident the only sunbird at altitude Shining Sunbird (Nectarinia habessinica) Less common than the above and tending to be a lower altitudes. Olive-rumped Serin (Serinus rothschildi) The commoner Serin most often seen in pairs at various sites in the Asir mountains. Always near trees. Yemen Serin (Serinus menachensis) Only definite sightings were 2 at Wadi Mahalah on 9/5 and a pair at Tanumah 10/5. Always recorded in more barren rocky habitat. Golden-winged Grosbeak (Rhynchostruthus socotranus) A single bird seen briefly (TO) at Wadi Muhayil 8/5. This site was full of Euphorbia, this species preferred habitat. Yemen Linnet (Carduelis yemenensis) Extremely common resident in the Asir mountains especially Raydah and Tanumah. Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana) A single male at Tala valley on 5/5. Cinnamon-breasted Bunting (Emberiza tahapisi) Fairly widespread resident most sightings in the Asir mountains with max count of 10+ at 5K wadi on 10/5.