Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Looking for endemics in the Asir Mountains

Last week I flew down to Abha in the Asir Mountains in Saudi Arabia mainly looking for some of the 10 Arabian endemic species found in Saudi Arabia.

I started by driving from Abha to the so-called 'hanging village' of Habalah. I saw several black kite on the way and my first endemic South Arabian wheatear on a wall in a small village. Two Tristram's starling flew in too with their characteristic wolf whistle calls.

Trimstram's starling (female)

It takes a steep cable car to get down to Habalah village, and I figured cable cars were better shared with friends and some gluvine. On the slopes just outside the village I found my second endemic a single arabian serin. Also in the woodland were white-breasted white-eye and palestine sunbird.

Palestine sunbird (male)

I spent the next two days mostly on Mount Soudah, Saudi Arabia's highest mountain at 3,000 m. The scrubby parkland near the summit provided excellent birding particularly in the afternoon when the mist started to roll in. I found several flocks of another endemic yemen linnet and there were about 40 yemen thrush. A single yemen warbler skulking in a bush with a brown woodland warbler was the fifth endemic I found and a covey of 13 arabian partridge made the list six for the weekend.

Also in the park I flushed several cape hare.

Yemen linnet

On the lower slopes I found several raptor including a common kestrel, a dark morph long-legged buzzard and four steppe eagle that at one point were soaring below me.

Steppe eagle (juvenile)

On the lower slopes of the mountain the endemic hamadrayas baboon was fairly easy to find by the roadside in small groups.

Hamadryas baboon

____________ FULL LIST ____________

9 February 2012, Habalah
1 Common kestrel
2 Steppe eagle
20 Rock dove
2 Black redstart
1 White-breasted white-eye
1 Arabian serin
2 African rock bunting
2 White-spectacled bulbul
25 Palestine sunbird
25 Fan-tailed raven

10 February, Abnha Dam
4 Grey heron
12 Coot
4 White-spectacled bul bul
1 White-breasted white-eye
1 Graceful prinia
1 Fan-tailed raven

9 - 10 February, Mount Soudah
7 Steppe eagle
1 Eastern imperial eagle
1 Long-legged buzzard
13 Arabian partridge
12 Black redstart
6 South arabian wheatear
1 Hoopoe
2 Barn swallow
1 Rock martin
1 Laughing dove
1 Green bee-eater
26 White-spectacled bulbul
2 Tristram's starling
27 Arabian babbler
2 Siberian stonechat
3 Palestine sunbird
1 Brown woodland warbler
1 Yemen warbler
46 Yemen linnet
52 Yemen thrush
70 House sparrow


  1. Hi Clive

    You have seen some nice birds in Asir Mountains and Wadi Hanifah,Hair, South of Riyadh. I wonder if you could guide me to go bird watching in both places. I will be visiting my parents in Riyadh between 1 - 15 April 2012 and planning to go to Asir Mountains, Dammam and Hair.

    I just started visiting your blog. I am sure I will see some more nice photos and bird lists soon.

    I posted a list of birds I have seen in Saudi Arabia during my last three visits (2010-2011). Please have a look at http://birdwatchinglog.blogspot.com/
    under Junuary. There are some photos for birds in London area too in my blog.

    Best Rgards


  2. Hi Mohammed, sorry I've only just seen this post, apologies as it's now too late (and hot!). Happy birding.