Last Friday, I went to “the edge of the world”. This is the name given to the Tuwaiq Escarpment and the land directly below it, west of Riyadh. Its quite popular for day tripping locals and expats who drive out on the Mecca road westward. They indulge in walks and many other outdoor activities such as quad bike racing.
My reason for going there was different. I have a small list of nemesis birds- that is birds I should have seen in KSA but haven’t yet despite considerable effort. One bird on this list is hooded wheatear. It is a rare resident of central Arabia apparently on or near parts of the Tuwaiq escarpment. I spent two or three hours at the edge of the world looking for it. And I failed despite the diverse terrain available and intensive searching.
However I did see five other types of wheatear in an area of high density for this family. These included three different red tailed wheatear. This is the largest total of them I have ever seen in one day. There are indications that they are more numerous in KSA this winter compared with last year.
Probably the most abundant wheatear, certainly outside the fodder fields was desert wheatear, often accompanied by desert warbler by the way. Although I did see a desert warbler accompanying a red tailed wheatear too! This is the first time I have ever seen a desert warbler with a different wheatear as a partner.
Isabelline wheatear were nearly as common as desert wheatear.
In the drier more rocky areas there were two more types of wheatear.
I came across three white crowned wheatear and all were juvenile.
The final wheatear and I only saw one was mourning wheatear. So hooded wheatear still remains a nemesis bird for me. Maybe I’ll have more luck the next time I visit Tabuk in north west Saudi Arabia which is the other place recommended to find it.