Rufous-capped LarkCalandrella eremicawas recently been split from Blandford’s LarkCalandrella blanfordi. The reasons for the split include genetic differences as well as in its smaller size. Its lower rump and uppertail-coverts are or only slightly shaded rufous vs strongly rufous. It is much paler above, including the colour of the crown and shade of buff and brown streaking and colour of flight-feathers.
It has greatly reduced dark markings on the underparts (i.e. blackish half-collar much less obvious, breast and belly only lightly washed buff vs strongly washed rufous), so white of throat and supercilium are far less striking. The bill is generally much paler. There are two subspecies recognized.C. e. eremicafrom southwest Saudi Arabia and Yemen andC. e. daaroodensisfrom northeast Ethiopia and northern Somalia.
The Talea’a Valley is near Abha is in the Asir mountains in southwest Saudi Arabia and is a large upland wadi with stony ground and acacia trees growing in the bottom. The valley is hot and dry. We normally arrive at the location at around midday as we have previously been at the nearby Raydah Escarpment but this time we went to the location before first light. We managed to find a very small wet area, the only wet area we saw all weekend.
We sat down nearby and waited to see what may come down to drink. After a short while, a large group of Rufous-capped Lark, containing at least 30 birds, appeared and although at some distance allowed a few photos to be taken. We normally see this species in the summer when they are in full breeding plumage or with juveniles, but mid-October was a period where we had not seen them before and their plumage was much changed from the summer.
This species is not easy to locate in the Kingdom and a lot of hard work and searching is required to find birds but they are certainly worth the effort.