Monday, 13 February 2017

Wadi Hanifah in early February

Returned to Wadi Hanifah for a short trip last weekend and had quite an interesting visit (4/2/17).  The Wadi is close by the Diplomatic Quarter of the city and very much a manicured area.  I started out about 6:30am with a small number of fairly common birds, but as I have said many times you never know what surprises are in store...
The temperatures were well down on the norm for Saudi Arabia and I think this is the first time ever I had to wear a jumper while birding, although within an hour or so of dawn it was warming up nicely.
This area is a fairly popular picnic site for locals, although I have not seen many at the times I am there.  They all tend to arrive in the evenings.

On each of the turrets that are spaced out along the wall of the Wadi were small flocks of Feral Pigeons.  There are significant numbers of these around

Along with their cousins the Collared Dove and the Laughing Dove.  These birds love to live in close proximity to city dwellers as the remnants of the picnics make for easy pickings.

Close behind the Pigeons and Doves are the Mynas' which also like the leftovers from our picnics.


The House Sparrow were present in good numbers, although not as many as I have seen here in the past.

and from time to time a few Spanish Sparrow appeared in the bushes.

One bird I have not seen in the area for quite some time is this Grey Hypocolius.  On the day there were about 10 to 12 f them around the area in small groups



I did make several attempts to get a photo of the male birds to but they proved too quick and all the photos of those were blurred.



Our old friend the White Eared Bulbul were in most of the bushes and were busily feeding and I think pairing off, as I saw many getting together in pairs on branches.



However, there was also a pair of Spectacled Bulbul.  So far I have seen a number of these at every site I have visited around Riyadh this year, in years gone by it was unusual to see one as they are more common in the south and west of the country.  But maybe things are becoming more to their liking here in the Central Region.

One bird I have never come across in the Central Region before is this Ruppell's Weaver.  These are fairly common in the south and west but not generally found here.  Could this be a new development or simply a bird that has escaped from a cage somewhere?
In addition I flushed a Grey Heron early in the morning but it was still too dark to get a photo, later there was a Squacco Heron which also flushed.  A number of Ring Necked Parakeets flew over screeching as they went and as we left the area I spotted a single White Crowned Wheatear.

See every day has its surprises even if it is a fairly short mornings walk!!

© Bernard Bracken



Monday, 6 February 2017

Khobar 27/1/17

As I will soon be leaving Saudi Arabia I decided to try to get around to visiting some of the sites I have been to over the past 4 years.  This weekend we took the long drive towards the gulf coast to Khobar to see some seabirds.  Unlike my last visit here last summer it was cold with temperatures only around 14 degrees centigrade when I arrived around 8:30 am.  Not that I was upset, it is far easier to walk in 14 and 42!!




Al Khobar water tower is one of the main landmarks on this coast along with the King Fahd Bridge joining Saudi Arabia to Bahrain.  This is an impressive landmark towering 90m above the city and hosts a restaurant and observation area along with its primary water tower function.  Impressive eh?



Almost immediately after arrival I got some lovely views of Great Cormorant which were present in large numbers, some were molting to their breeding plumage.  This one is in classic feather drying pose as unlike many water birds Cormorants do not have waterproofing and have to get out from time to time to dry off.

I think these are probably the avian version of a submarine swimming very low in the water.  In addition to the Great Cormorants there were a small number Socatra Cormorants out to sea on the shallow water markers but I could not get any useful photos of them. 



There were a small number of Grey Herons around the place today although as ever they were quite difficult to get close to.
The most common member of the Heron family seen around the place was the Western Reef Heron, a good deal smaller than the grey but nonetheless impressive.


The Western Reef Heron comes in a variety of colours, the Dark Morph and the light morph as seen here.  There is an intermediate type also seen which I think is a hybrid of the two.

There were a small number of terns along the Corniche like the Lesser Crested Tern.



And rather a lot of Greater Flamingo, as always the Adults were segregated from the juveniles (above). 





Common Redshank were pretty much all over the place today.  Dispersed in small numbers but everywhere.







As were members of the plover family with the most abundant being the tiny Kentish Plover which is found in many areas of the Kingdom almost all year round.



Slightly less common but a handsome bird is the Grey plover.  There were a couple of dozen of these about today.



And last but by no means least the Ringed Plover which was scurrying about the tideline in search on food.


The Black Headed Gull were on site in huge numbers.  One of the many flocks I watched numbered a couple of hundred birds.

The Black Winged Stilt was another common sight today, I'm not sure why the gull in the background was giving one of them a ducking but it did not appear to bother any of the others too much.
A little fly by of some more Black Heads.
There were not that many land birds around today for some reason, I spotted a few Collared Dove and the ubiquitous House Sparrow were busy in the trees.  I did have a flypast of 4 House Crows but they were gone before I got a chance to take a photo.  





Along the pathway were a few Crested Lark picking at crumbs left by picnicking locals.
I am not certain about this gull.  I think its a Caspian Gull although the yellow bill with black tip and small red spot suggests Armenian.  The classification of many of the yellow legged gulls is far from clear with a number of different bodies either lumping or splitting the species.  For those who are interested in the challenges of this I attach an interesting article on the identification of Yellow Legged Gulls from British Birds magazine.
https://www.britishbirds.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/article_files/V90/V90_N01_02/V90_N01_02_P025_062_A004.pdf


The cool conditions were much to my liking today and made life a lot easier for birding.  That said there is never a dull day when your birding here, always loads to keep the interest.


© Bernard Bracken


Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Al Hayer Bridge 21-1-17

Spent morning around the bridge at Al Hayer.  The plan was to spend an hour or so there and move on but as you will see I got side tracked by a nice bird.

Around the area there are the steep sided cliffs if the Wadi and all along these are considerable numbers of Rock Pigeon which circle about a lot first thing in the morning.

There were also good numbers of Eurasian Collared Dove.  I am not that fond of these birds and their cousins the Laughing Dove because they flush noisily when you are still 40 or 50 meters away and disturb all the other birdlife in the process.

A single Blackstart sat on the wall of one of the factories close to the bridge.  I may be imagining it but I wonder if this is the same one I keep seeing in the same place each time I visit, I doubt it but who knows. 

One of the many Laughing Dove about the site this morning, beautiful bird but a pain for birders.

There are always a lot of White Eared Bulbul around this area as the bushes and trees are very much to their liking.

A little more unusual are the Spectacled Bulbul.  There were two on site today but there were also a few at Salbuk and AlHayer fields over the past few weeks.

Last time I visited here there were 3 White Throated Kingfishers flying about, only one was found on this occasion.

Not sure if I should bother even showing this but you can just make out a Moorhen disappearing into the reeds.

And close by was a single Bluethroat which stopped for a short while then flew off along the river.

As I was walking back to the car a bird flew over which was a little different, it subsequently landed in a tree a short distance off.  The Sparrowhawk is a young bird and I think is the same one I saw further up river towards the end of last year.

Another shot of the Sparrowhawk. 

There were a small number of Grey Heron visible around the site today but I only got this flypast to prove it.  This area is rapidly becoming overgrown with reeds so it is becoming more fifficult to spot birds along the river.

There was only a small flock of Common Myna around the place today, visits towards the end of last year found dozens of them.  I assume they had moved off to other areas along the river.

A distant shot of a Graceful Prinia.  As always there were dozens of these in the area though most were recognised by sound rather than sight.

There were good numbers of both House and Spanish Sparrow in the area.

And a single Marsh Harrier flew over literally as I was getting into the car (or maybe it is a Greater Spotted Eagle).  The weather was very cool and overcast so distant shots were all a bit drab today.


As I said I meant to move to another area but spent quite some time looking at the Sparrowhawk.  Also spotted was a single Kestrel which flew over very early.

Birding is always fun when you spot something that keeps your attention for a long while. :)





Sunday, 22 January 2017

Al Hayer Lakes 14-1-17

I took a walk around the lakes to the south of Al Hayer fields (see map in locations tab) this morning.  The weather was clear but cold but it seemed not to bother the birds, especially he Herons, which were about in very large numbers today.


The morning sunrise was quite pretty over the desert this morning.  Weather was quite cool for here at about 14 degrees.  Yes I know from the snow based areas of the north that does not sound cool but believe me in the crisp dry air it is :)


Anyhow almost straight from the car I spotted this little Mourning Wheatear perched on a bush around 200m away.



A little further along perched on top of a local landmark was a single Purple Heron and a Grey Heron, as you can see they use it a bit for this purpose.  All in all I think I will label this day, the day of the Herons as they were by far the most numerous bird around

A beautiful Purple Heron a little closer
This photo did not come out as well as I had hoped but all the specks along the horizon are Grey Herons.
Luckily for me some of them decided to land a little closer to where I was and I got this photo which has 27, but that was only a fraction of what were about.  In addition there about 10 Squacco Heron, 5 or 6 Little Egret and a dozen or so Purple Heron around the lakes.

Will get back to you on this one, still researching this young gull.  There were a few gulls about today but this one was by far the biggest.



All along the lake were small numbers of Black Winged Stilt, I think in total I saw about 20.  They do breed on the lake so I assume some of them will be staying here to raise young.

A single Bluethroat perched on top of a reed.  Another couple of birders I met tell me that there were a couple more of these up around the fields area.

The lake area remains a good place to spot the White Throated Kingfisher and I spotted four here this morning.  I found a pair of these breeding here last year and maybe they will do the same this year.  They will not use the same burrow this year though, it was washed away by a recent flood.



The numbers of Little Grebe have been gradually increasing on the lake over the past couple of years. When I came here first there were only a couple about but this week I spotted 10 pairs.  These also breed in the area so I expect the numbers will rise over the next few years.


A small group of Ferringous Duck were spotted flying overhead heading north.  I managed to get this photo of them but this was the last I saw of them on the day.

And a single Spur Winged Lapwing on a flypast. 

The White or Pied Wagtail were around in good numbers chasing each other across the tops of the sand banks.

This bird confused me, clearly a duck with a very large bill, although not really the colouring for a Shoveler.  Perhaps a female.  I am opting for Shoveler as there is nothing else with quite as big a bill, even if this photo does not show it very well. 

There are not very many trees and bushes at this end of the river so its not really the best spot to be looking for Black Bush Robins, nevertheless two seemed to find enough to their liking o be in this area today.

This looked like a relatively young bird and there were three that I spotted in the area, the Greater Spotted Eagle is fairly common around here at the moment.
This certainly won't win any photography competitions but is clear enough to show a female Marsh Harrier perched on a rock.  In all I spotted two of these around the lakes today.


A small flock of 12 Cormorants were happily feeding on the far side of the lake, they are just starting to get their breeding plumage.



In addition to the big gull there were a few Black Headed Gulls about too, but only 3 or 4 in total.




For most of my walk I noticed a lack of Little Green Bee Eaters around, but as I drew closer to the fields I noticed a small flock of 5 or 5 in a tree together.

The Crested Lark is a constant around this area, you are almost guaranteed to see at least one and even if you don't see it you will certainly hear it as you walk along.




This Turkestan Shrike was the only Shrike I spotted today but then I did not manage to get down into the fields very much as there were workmen all around trying to create some new drainage ditches.


Other birds I did not get useful photos of were a good number of Barn Swallows and Rock Martins plus the ever present White Eared Bulbul and Graceful Prinia which were everywhere.  The number of Common Moorhen are increasing on the lakes as are the number of Coot. 

Another lovely days birding at Al Hayer.


© Bernard Bracken