Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A morning at Riyadh Cricket Club

On Saturday morning I was up before dawn to go out to an old haunt close by the Riyadh Cricket club.  The area is an old flooded quarry and I spend many a long day there watching the Little Grebe for one of my course projects.  Unfortunately this site has lost its water feed and I think there is little hope it will be there next year as its dropped a further 2 meters since I was here in April and it is now a shadow of its fomer self.  Still that is the way of the world.

I am pleased to say that despite the reduction in water level the numbers of birds at this site is still pretty impressive.  Water area is a little over 10 acres now yet I counted over 85 Little Grebe and 30 or more Coot plus a variety of other water birds and waders in the middle of the desert.

As we arrived we noticed a small flock of ducks (laybe 25) heading into the distance in their classic V shaped formation.  Unfortunately they were too far off to make out but a wonderful sight heading off into the sunrise.

I walked around the flat area to the east of the quarry and spotted a small flock of house sparrows, laughing dove and a pair of Blackstart in the trees, I did hear some crested Lark but did not see them until, a while later.

blackstart (Cercomela melanura)

I headed down to the lake and immediately was accosted by the Black Winged Stilt who effectively defend the area.  Every time someone comes or a bird of prey arrives they take to the air screaming warning calls.  I have often seen them mobbing the local Marsh Harrier, their long legs being very effective weapons when required

black winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

Luckily they were only warning of my arrival rather than going on the attack.  Right in the middle of the smaller lake, as it is now split by a causeway, were a group of Little Grebe, clearly still asleep, although some were stirring and having their morning bath.

little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

I also began to notice the Pale Craig Martins (or Rock Martins), one or two at first but soon there were dozens flying about catching the bountiful crop of insects.  You will have to excuse the picture but it was the best I could capture as these little devils are fast.

pale crag martin (Ptyonoprogne obsoleta)

Over by the waters edge feeding away under the feet of the Black Winged Stilt were a host of Kentish plover who darted about from spot to spot catching invertabres on the mud with their little beaks

Kentish Plover
Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)

Beside these was one of the heavyweights of the beak world a single Common Snipe,  I have seen this on every visit here and I believe there is another one about, although i did not see it today. 

common snipe (Gallinago gallinago)

Getting photos of these guys is a bit of luck without telephoto lenses as they tend to be very wary and are very adept at seeing you before you see them.

In the larger lake there was a much larger congregation of Little Grebe a large number of which did an impressive walking on the water type flight to nowhere when they saw me. At the far side were a number of Eurasian Coot which were feeding happily.  It is strange how these two water birds live side by side in the lake but keep to their own little areas, it is almost like gangs with their territories.

Eurasian coot (Fulica atra)
 At the side of the lake and in the trees in the surrounding areas were a good number of Little Green Bee-eaters, I counted 8 to 10 some of which were paired up.  There certainly was enough for them to eat at the minute as bugs were everywhere.

green bee-eater (Merops orientalis)
As always in this area there was the White Cheeked Bulbul hanginig about, howver, unlike previous visits to the area, this guy was literally the only one I saw.  Normally there are dozens.
white-eared/cheeked bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis)
As I made my way further around the lake I disturbed a Grey Heron who flew off to one of the more inaccessible spots on the lake, I did not see any others
grey heron (Ardea cinerea)
One thing I flushed several times were a small group of 7 Spur Winged Lapwing (or plover) which then took off and flew a circuit around the lake before landing.
spur-winged lapwing or spur-winged plover (Vanellus spinosus)
Later I witnessed the arrival of the local Marsh Harrier, coming looking for breakfast I assume.

marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
A small flock of Rock Pigeons were present of the quarry walls and seem to be resident in the area.  
rock dove/pigeon (Columba livia)
Graceful Prinia were about in small numbers and could be heard singing everywhere although this is the only photo I managed to get of this active little warbler.
graceful prinia (Prinia gracilis)
Away from the lake were a reasonable number of Crested Lark (although I only saw 2), this guy was perched on top of a rock singing his heart out.  I managed to capture some of his song on tape and will load it to a new songs area, once I manage to get uploads working.
crested lark (Galerida cristata)
Also away from the main lake were a few Black Bush Robin

Black Bush Robin (Cercotrichas podobe)

At the far side of the lake I spotted a Moorhen, apologies for the poor shot, it was very far away and by that time the conditions were not great for photographs.  There were two in total which I was a little sad about because there had been about 15 last time I was here. I hope they got to somewhere safe.

Eurasian common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus chloropus)

Final photo of the day is a little Stint of which there were a fair few about, feeding on the musdy areas of the lake.

little stint (Calidris minuta) (or Erolia minuta),


Little Grebe
Rock Dove
Grey Heron
Laughing Dove
Western Marsh Harrier
Green Bee Eater
Common Moorhen
Crested Lark
Eurasian Coot
Pale Crag Martin
Black Winged Stilt
Barn Swallow
Spur Winged Lapwing
White Eared Bulbul
Kentish Plover
Graceful Prinia
Little Stint
Black Scrub Robin
Common Snipe
House Sparrow

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