Friday, 3 February 2023


Saudi Arabia hasn't really been on the birding map so far, with the first commercial tour last year by a UK company and numerous trip reports posted on CloudBirders by Greg Askew. But there's been a few private trips over the past year or so and there's some decent info out there! So I decided to go take a look after my Southern Oman tour and flew from Salalah to Riyadh via Doha, arriving at 10am on 20th January with Peter Nickless and meeting David Todd in the Arrivals Hall. 

What I would say right now is that it's important to understand how things work in Saudi and initial impressions were that things were just awkward. With building renovations at Terminal 2 making actually finding the car rental desk our first challenge and then computers at the Enterprise desk crashing, I was left to search around for another car. Eventually I was able to get a SUV from Sixt and we finally left the airport at 11.30am only to find the gas tank was practically empty and we had to turn around back towards the airport to find a petrol station! This gave us the opportunity to get some bits & pieces for lunch and then we headed about an hour north from Riyadh out into the vast desert to Rawdat Nourah. This is THE site to search for Arabian Lark (a recent split from Dunn's Lark) and we immediately headed off the tarmac across the sandy desert and began searching around the small shrubs present. It seemed pretty dead tbh and we drove and scanned.... and drove some more.... and scanned.... It's good fun driving 'off-road' and we covered a fair amount of ground, but we just couldn't find any Arabian Larks. They are meant to loosely associate with Bar-tailed Larks, and we did find a group of 4 or so TL's but had no joy. There were a few Temminck's Larks, the odd Crested Lark, an Asian Desert Warbler, a Great Grey Shrike and that was it. 

Asian Desert Warbler

Temminck's Lark

So with the sun setting fast we hotfooted it over to another area that was meant to be a site for Pharaoh Eagle-Owl, but it was right beside a busy road. It was dark by the time we arrived but we managed to find a track that took us away from the main road and the lunatic, crazy drivers. Sure enough, as soon as we arrived we could hear a bird calling but despite spending quite a while waiting and playing the odd call, it never moved from its position. So we drove up the road a bit and found another pull in away from the traffic and this time the calling owl flew behind us and continued calling from some distance away. We were patient and spent maybe an hour but the bird didn't come closer. 

So by now it was around 8pm and we had to drive back to Riyadh and find our hotel, which is another story in itself. Despite using Booking.Com the hotel didn't honour our booking and we had to find somewhere else, which was fortunately another hotel just further down the street. And then finding somewhere to eat took ages. Actually this was a theme during our visit, and it seems that an actual restaurant where you go in and sit down to eat is quite rare! Well it was in the places we looked! And that was our first day. We were all pretty tired by the time we got to crash out tonight.

No comments:

Post a Comment