Lying c.15 km west of Abha, the site is a very steep west-facing slope with crags, falling from 2,700 to 1,600 m in less than 3 km. The soil is very thin. There are permanent streams and the climate is generally cool and wet, the area being frequently cloud-covered. The escarpment supports a more-or-less intact forest, predominantly Juniperus excelsa, with Olea europea on upper and north-facing slopes and more deciduous trees (Nuxia, Ficus, Acacia) lower down and in valleys and gullies. The bottom third and south-facing slopes are often dominated by Buddleja and by tree aloes Aloe sabaea and other succulents. Bee-keeping is a common human activity and there is moderate to heavy use of the area for recreation.
Possibly the most important compact site in Saudi Arabia for south-west Arabian endemic, and other, woodland species. See box for key species. Other breeding species include Accipiter badius (1-2 pairs), Aquila verreauxii, Columba arquatrix (probable), Streptopelia lugens, Treron waalia, Otus scops pamelae, Monticola rufocinereus, Phylloscopus umbrovirens, Terpsiphone viridis, Zosterops abyssinicus and Pica pica asirensis. There may be a considerable raptor passage through the area, and many Sylvia (especially S. atricapilla) stop off on migration. Many warblers winter, especially Phylloscopus collybita.
The site is an established NCWCD Special Nature Reserve with two rangers, but there is no control over livestock grazing, vehicular access and road maintenance. A road recently bulldozed along the steep slope requires frequent clearance due to continuing rock fall, and spoil from this has destroyed large areas of forest. Soil-water retention is probably reduced by the road, and most Juniperus are in poor condition. A small, previously abandoned farm within the reserve has been reoccupied, and this may encourage illegal agricultural development.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Raydah escarpment. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 09/07/2020.