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. 

SNIPE
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),


SPECIES LIST FOR THE DAY.


Name
Number
Name
Number
Little Grebe
80
Rock Dove
8
Grey Heron
1
Laughing Dove
20
Western Marsh Harrier
1
Green Bee Eater
8
Common Moorhen
2
Crested Lark
2
Eurasian Coot
26
Pale Crag Martin
20
Black Winged Stilt
13
Barn Swallow
2
Spur Winged Lapwing
8
White Eared Bulbul
1
Kentish Plover
12
Graceful Prinia
2
Little Stint
6
Black Scrub Robin
2
Common Snipe
1
Blackstart
2
House Sparrow
20
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Lancashire Walk

Colne Water and Wycoller Beck


Just a little description of a walk I took on my last trip home to Lancashire, so different to the deserts of Saudi as at that time of year everything is green and vibrant.  This does not help trying to spot birds as they are easier to hear than see but enjoyable nonetheless. No Pics as I had not brought my camera but in some ways that was liberating as I just watched.

A trip back to the UK in late July allowed me the opportunity to visit my old patch which essentially follows a stretch of Colne Water from Coal Pit Lane parallel with the A6068 along the river, east for about 4 kilometers towards Wycoller along Wycoller Beck and back again.

Most of the walkway was put in as a recreational walk called Ferndean Way and was originally developed by the local authority in the mid 80's.



The walk took me along some walkways by the river and into a number of small areas of woodland. On leaving the house I immediately spotted a small group of Jackdaws (Coloeus monedula) gathering on a TV aerial making their familiar sqwaking noises.  A little further down the path I came to the feeders maintained by some neighbours.  These kind folk keep the feeders full all the time so attract a wide range of birds all year round.  Today there were some Great Tits (Parus Major) and some Blue Tits (Parus caeruleus) feeding on nuts.  A single female Blackbird ( Turdus merula ) took exception as I approached and flew off into the trees.

Further along in a field there were a collection of Crows in the distance feeding in the grass and a pair of Magpie (Pica pica) flew over.

Walking down Carry Lane I cross the bridge at Coal Pit lane hearing a lot more than I'm seeing thanks to a full covering of leaves on all of the trees and bushes.  I did hear a number of Great and Blue Tits working away amoung the foliage gathering food. 

I took the walkway across a field towards the river making my way to the small wood at the top of the hill.  I got to the first style and climbed over looking back to the trees I saw what I am sure was a Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) but did not get my binoculars up quick enough to be sure!! Not one for my eBird record then!!

Halfway across the next field I spotted a Carrion Crow (Corvus corone ) in a tree preening itself and a couple of Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) flew by, one alighting on a tree branch before spotting me and moving off rapidly.

Across the river there is an old friend, a common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) who resides at the end of the field, a male who makes a hell of a racket every spring when looking for a mate.  This guy has been in this same area for about 2 years as far as I can see. Unusual given that this is only yards from a pretty built up area.

Overhead I noted some House Martins (who nest in some buildings on the Trawden Road, B6250) and some Swallows buisily feeding overhead.

As I entered the little wood at the top of the hill I flushed another Pheasant, who scurryed off into the undergrowth.

Further down the hill I came across a couple of very active Great Tits and an even more active pair of Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes). They were chasing each other through the bushes and undergrowth and came really close at one point as I think they forgot I was there.

I crossed the B6250 and entered Ball Grove a  largish common area with childrens play area and nature walk.  There are two ponds in the the Grove the first quite large and filled with about 35/35 Mallard and usually a selection og gulls, although in this instance it was only Black Headed Gulls that were about. 

Further along I came to the second pond which normally has some Mallard and relatively tame Coot and Moorhen, this time however someone had decided to drain it so there was little water left and much of the reeds had begun to die off.  There were still a family of Coot there, two adult and two young ones.  I was watching a couple of rabbits feeding at the other side of the river when I noticed a Grey Heron standing in a tree about 15 ft off the ground, it was a young one and soon flew off but one of those things, I had not expected to see it there so missed it until the last moment.  It flew along the river for about 500m and landed in a field by the old walkway bridge. 

Crossing the bridge I watched some Jackdaws feeding in the fields and then spotted an adult Grey Heron standing in the middle of a field, adopting that fixed concentrated pose they do just before they strike.  I watched it for a while and it did make a couple of attempts, presumably at a frog, but failed each time. 

Crossing the river again I noticed a couple of Moorhen on the river but no sign of the Grey Wagtails that are normally found around the area.  A lone female Phesant was seen rooting around in grass tufts, almost invisible ue to her camoflaged colouring.  On reaching the road at School Lane, I had a call from home, back to reality. But a nice afternoons walk in the pleasant Lancashire countryside.



Monday, 15 September 2014

Salbukh 13 September 2014

To the north of Riyadh there is a waste water lake which primarily takes water from a local factory but is also used to off load waste water from tankers which arrive throughout the day from the city.  The area has been used for some time and there is a considerable growth of reeds across the entire area with some clear areas and areas of Tamarisk bushes.  There is quite a lot of fish which brings in fish hunters and some muddy shallows which bring in the waders.  The entire area is surrounded by desert.

Temperatures were a cool 28 degrees centigrade and there was a slight breeze which developed into a stronger breeze later and temperature rose to about 35 degrees before I left.

On arrival we saw a Moorhen disappearing into the reeds and while I heard lots of these thereafter I did not see any others, too quick for me I'm afraid.  That said I can't blame them as that morning I was outnumbered by hunters 8:1, so in a way its surprising I saw any birds at all.

All through the morning Yellow Wagtails were much in evidence.  There were a couple of subsecies represented and a few younger birds which did not quite have full adult plumage yet.




Yellow Wagtail (feldegg)


Young Yellow Wagtail (flava)

In all I spotted about 30 Yellow Wagtails all along the edge of the lake.
Larks were also about, though not is great numbers, the ubiquitous Crested Lark which have a habit of following you, perching on a rock or mound and watching what you are up to, I suppose here they replace the White Cheeked Bulbul at Al Hayer which I did not see at all at this site.


Crested Lark
 
Another I managed to get a shot of was the Great Short Toed Lark which popped down for a drink at a little mudhole.  This was a new bird for me and a handsome addition to the life list (thanks to Rob Tovey for helping with the ID).

Greater Short Toed Lark (thanks Rob)
All along the marsh were copious numbers of Blue Cheeked Bee-eater which were feeding in a small flock together.  Occasionally they stopped in a group on the power lines for a rest but were pretty active all morning.



Blue Cheeked Bee Eater
A little way out into the surrounding desert I noticed a pair of Hoopoe feeding on bugs and worms in the damp soil.



Hoopoe
And on a nearby reed was a woodchat Shrike that we have seen in this same location on a number of other occasions.


Woodchat Shrike


Woodchat Shrike
Waders were also about in smallish numbers including this very sedate Black Winged Stilt which was all alone, however on my way back I saw anothe 6 or 7 heading over to join him.

Black Winged Stilt
Two little ringed plover were buisy feeding away on the lake edge and were not at all bothered by me

Little Ringed Plover
The Kentish Plover were pretty common again this time, they were breeding last time we were in the area and we were given the old diversion technique by one as we must have been getting too close to its nest.  We followed the direction the bird was giving as that was the most certain to take us away from where its nest was.

Kentish Plover
None of the waders were present in large numbers the little Stint in the photo were all I saw around the site and the Wood Sandpiper numbered just two, still nice to see them both.

Little Stint

Wood Sandpiper

Cattle Egret were all over the place this time, in most instances in pairs but this relatively young looking one was monitoring the scene from atop a bush near the entrance to the area.

Cattle Egret
This Little Egret was boldly standing in an open patch by the lakeside.  Not a very prudent move considering the number of men with guns that were floating about.  On my way back I was preceeded by a pickup which stopped at this spot and did take a shot at something but I did not see any evidence that he hit anything.

Little Egret
There were also a good number of Squacco Heron in the air throughout the morning.

Squacco Heron on the move

As I walked out of the lake area again into the desert this little chap accompanied me.   Not seen one of these around the area recently as they were off on their travels.


Isabelline Wheatear
I did not get much in the line of warblers but I'm quite proud of Common Whitethroat, not often these sit still long enough to get a pic.

Common Whitethroat



The process of identification can be a painful one at times, though I generally get there by sticking at it or calling on more knowledgable friends. There is one more photo to come once I have worked out what it is.

Other species seen and heard but not quick enought to get photos included the Marsh Harrier which was always too distant to get a useful photo and a lot of quite boisterous Graceful Prinia, always too quick to scatter before the camera could focus. 




Species List
Species
Count
Species
Count
Little Ringed Plover
2
Hoopoe
2
Kentish Plover
6
Black Winged Stilt
6
Cattle Egret
6
Woodchat Shrike
1
Squacco Heron
10
Barn Swallow
35
Little Egret
1
House Sparrow
25
Marsh Harrier
1
Graceful Prinia
15
Laughing Dove
10
Little Stint
3
Blue Cheeked Bee-eater
11
Wood Sandpiper
2
 Yellow Wagtail
 30
 Common Whitethroat

A very pleasant morning :-)




Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Al Hayer Reedbed, Sept 6th 2014.

Set out about 4:45am to visit my local patch here in Riyadh.  The plan for the day was to do a short walk in one of the fields along the wetland by the river then to head up along the reeds on the other side to see what was about.  As you will see there was quite a bit as we are entering into the passage season with lots of palearctic birds heading south for the winter and thankfully passing our way in the process.

The first 15 or 20 minutes of any trip, I find, is really trying to get your eye in.  It generally takes me this long to get spotting properly so I focus on a lot of the easy to spot birds about and there were a nice variety today.  Immediately obvious were the Barn Swallow which are in abundance at the moment catching bugs and congregating on dead branches around the fields. In all I counted over 100 for the day in the areas I visited. 

Also there in good numbers were the African Silverbill and Spanish Sparrow. 
Spanish Sparrow

African Silverbill

 
As with last weeks trip there were a small group of mixed age Moorhen in wetland roughly about 2 juvenile to every adult but as I walked around the other side of the reeds later it became clear that there really had been a good crop of young this year in the area and I found myself flushing 4 or 5 at every stretch of water I passed.  I wonder how many of these will make it to adult moult as I heard the tell tale sound of shotguns in the distance.

Juv. Moorhen


As ever the Bulbul accompanied me and tagged each other to make sure I was always watched.

White Cheeked Bulbul

As I walked a little further alone the wetlands I came across three Whisker
Terns who just stopped in for a rest.  They were fairly approachable but within limits. They never flew very far and invariable returned to the same place. A couple of young Night Herons took off at a distance and two ducks did the same.  In many ways I was glad they did.  The way hunters are around this place right now, if I could get a photo, they could get a shot!!

Whiskered Tern

A little further I spotted a little bittern perched above the lake watching the fish (I know, need to get something with manual focus!!)

Little Bittern

The bushes were filled with Streaked Weaver and Graceful Prinia who made a terrible din when the gathered in significant numbers.  Across the upper field which had recently been cut there were flocks of weavers and sparrow flitting about feeding.

Streaked Weaver
Along the sprinlkers I noticed a single White Throathed Kingfisher, then another and another.  They were spread out along the sprinkler andwere prety passive while I was there.

White Throated Kingfisher

A small flock of Black Winged Stilt flew over, the photo is not great as they were heading straight for the sun but I think the long legs are a dead giveaway.


Black Winged Stilt
As I came closer to the road I spied a number of little Green Bee Eaters. they love to perch on things and fly sorties out to grab a bug then back to the perch.  Several times I saw then bash the unfortunate insect against the perch to disarm it before eating.


Little Green Bee Eater

I then headed up the road on the opposite side of the reed beds and the number of Laughing Doves seemed to increase dramatically, aided I am sure by the presence of a grove of palm trees which are all in full fruit at the moment.  Dates being a favoured food of the Laughing Dove at this time of year leading to the other common name for this species, the Palm Dove.
Laughing Dove


A little further along I came across this little chap, a spotted flycatcher perched on a fence post.  Insect numbers are pretty high in the area right about now and the insect eaters are making the best of it.

Spotted Flycatcher


Not far from these I notices a little black character resting on an old metal box.  The Black Bush Robin is seen a bit around the area but not in any great numbers.  I spotted another about 30 minutes later a bit further up the road.

Black Bush Robin

As I walked along I had this feeling of being watched and turned to see this chap sitting on a tree a few yards away.  As so often happens you both see each other at the same time so the moment the next move is made he's off, so I only got this shot of the beautigul Red Backed Shrike.




On the telephone cables all along the road was a collection of Green Bee Eaters, a good number of Laughing and Namaqua Dove and a White Throated Kingfisher, as it was startig to heat up these guys were spending more time resting.

Namaqua Dove

I walked on out into the hinterland where farming activity diminishes and the desert is king.  Over the other side of a sand dune I heard a lone song which was repeating over and over so I decided to investigate creeping up the dune towards the reed bed.  Thee perched on top of a reed was a single male Red Avadavat.  A beautiful little creature with his red body with white spots and darker wings.  He sang for a few minutes before moving a bit further away as I guess he did not like the strang character recording his song.  I should say a little earlier I spotted a few females on the other side.  It seems there is a little community of these around the area.

Red Avadavat (M)

Red Avadavat (F)


I arrived at what I call the kingfisher pond and alas our common kingfisher was not there (maybe later in the year) but I was treated to a show of 8 Squacco Heron and a single Cattle Egret all sitting in the bushes at the far side.  I expect they were resting waiting for the sprinklers to start down on the farm.

Squacco Heron and Cattle Egret


Further Along I came across another little group of Namaqua Dove and yet more Green Bee Eaters, as I walked along the river, which has dried out a good bit since the start of summer, I thought I spotted a couple of Sandpiper and when in chase.  Alas it was getting too hot and i could not go far.  But maybe next week!

As I returned to the car the farm hands had just started the sprinklers and I was treated to a show of Yellow Wagtails showering themselves in the fine spray and looking on a short distance away Crested Lark.


Yellow Wagtail
Yellow Wagtail
 
By the time I reached the car at about 9:50am the temperature had hit 44°C, way too much for this old Celt to be hiking about in, so we made for home through the chaos of Riyadh traffic.

Crested Lark
 
 
For me another good days birding in Riyadh town.:-)
 
Species List
 
 
Name
Count
Name
Count
Barn Swallow
100+
Spanish Sparrow
10
Squacco Heron
8
Whiskered Tern
3
Cattle Egret
1
White Throated Kingfisher
4
Spotted Flycatcher
1
Laughing Dove
21
Yellow Wagtail
11
Namaqua Dove
19
Black Bush Robin
2
Red Avadavat
8
Black Winged Stilt
8
Red Backed Shrike
1
Moorhen
15
White Cheeked Bulbul
24
Streaked Weaver
100+
Graceful Prinia
18
African Silverbill
16
Little Bittern
1
Night Heron
2
Little Green Bee Eater
22
Crested Lark
1
Yellow Wagtail (various subspecies)
15
 
 
 
 


© Bernard Bracken