I have visited the southwest highlands many times this year and have managed to take a few reasonable photos of Yemen Warbler a species that is not so easy to photograph. Yemen Warbler Sylvia buryi is a common, but local, resident of the south-west highlands in bushy areas especially on the Raydah escarpment, and slightly less frequently in similar habitats on the Jebal Souda plateau and areas around Tanoumah and Al Baha as far north as Wadi Thee Gazelle near Taif.
In 1987 it was recorded more frequently than in 2010, especially on the plateau area. It is native to south-west Saudi Arabia and west Yemen and is a rather plain-looking warbler with a large head, short wings and a long tail. Both sexes are sooty-grey to dark brown above, with a darker head, especially around the eye and a distinctively white iris, contrasting with the dark orbital ring. The dark upperparts are clearly demarcated from the pale underparts, which are white on the throat and buffish on the belly, with a dull apricot patch between the legs.
It is classified as vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2006 and has a population of less than 10,000 mature birds. They have a slow song that is quite loud as well as a thrush like warble and are very active, almost always in pairs where they search for insects in the centre of thick acacias, frequently hanging upside down. Their flight is weak and low, with an upwards swoop when landing on a branch. In Saudi Arabia, this species is found mostly within well-developed Juniperus woodland between 1500 & 2900 metres above sea level. They nest in bushes or trees, normally at a low height and breed from March to July. Their diet consists primarily of insects, but fruits will also be taken when available.
Jem Babbington is a keen birder and amateur photographer located in Dhahran, Eastern Saudi Arabia where he goes birding every day. Jem was born in England and is a serious local patch and local area birder who has been birding for almost forty years and has birded in more than fifty countries. Jem is learning to ring birds in Bahrain as a perfect way to learn more about the birds of the area. Saudi Arabia is a very much under-watched and under-recorded country.