Sunday, 1 February 2015

Al Hayer in the New Year

I have been away for a few weeks and did not get to do any birding at all so it was with some delight that I finally got back to the home patch to see what had been going on.  Fresh into the new year on 3/1/15 I headed off to do my usual walk.  The morning was about 8 degrees so pretty cool for Riyadh and it was noticeable that many of the birds were not very active, can't say I was feeling terribly active myself if I'm honest.  Anyhow moments into the field I was met by 3 Black Bush Robins all foraging under a tree.  They were very active given the cool conditions.

black scrub-robin (Cercotrichas podobe)

Not far away were a group of about 5 or 6 White Eared Bulbul which were going about their business in the trees and alongside them was a fair number of Laughing Dove, both fairly common around here and pretty much permanent residents.  Further along was the family of Eurasian Coots which again are pretty much based in this locality.

common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

I counted 8 of these on the day.  A relatively small flock of about 35 Streaked Weaver was merrily feeding on the remains of the crop at the field edges.  Nothing like the 700 plus I saw a few weeks back but they seem to be a constant around the area now.  Helm Guide lists these as not in the country and those that are are classed as escapes.  I wonder when an escape actually moves to becoming part of the local fauna?  These guys have certainly settled in.

streaked weaver (Ploceus manyar)

Out in the field where the stubble of the crop is all that remains the White Wagtail was much in evidence I think over the day I counted more than 30 of these.

white wagtail (Motacilla alba)

Also in the same field were a few Northern Lapwing, not nearly as many as I saw a few weeks back but still nice to see. 
northern lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

Joining them in the feast was a small flock of Myna which mainly fed together away from most of the other birds.

common myna (Acridotheres tristis)
I was not able to get to the usual riverside verge as the area was still flooded following rains some weeks ago but could look into the high hedges and spotted a pair of Purple Heron on a bush.  These have been in the same place for a couple of months now so will watch for a nest appearing a bit later in the year.

purple heron (Ardea purpurea)
In all I saw 9 of these including this pair, most were flying off into the distance, which is where I usually spot them on my visits, maybe they are roosting in the reeds and head off to their feeding sites in the morning.  Or maybe they just don't like me much :).

purple heron (Ardea purpurea)

My usual view :).

Also around in large numbers again were the Eurasian Collared Dove.  Across the three fields I counted about 65 of these.

eurasian collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto)

As always there was the Grey Heron which sat on the sprinkler as usual and watched me approach, only letting me just about into camera range before taking off.  Despite knowing these birds since childhood there is something special about seeing one that I can't properly describe.  Just love them!

grey heron (Ardea cinerea)

In a pool under where the Heron sat was this little guy, the Common Snipe.  Rob Tovey once remarked to me that he wished he could, just once, see one of these guys before he saw us.  This chap certainly saw me long before I saw him but decided to hunch down in the grass and hide.  

common snipe (Gallinago gallinago)

He did not move as I got closer and I thought this could be the chance to get a really nice picture.  However, as always fate intervened and a farmer drove between us in his pickup driving the bird away.  Ho hum, maybe another day.
One bird who definitely did stop for a photo was the Stonechat who basically watched me all the way along the field finally popping on to a bush close by to have is photo taken.  Actually I counted 13 of these along the field,

european stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)
Though very few as cheeky as this one. This species were originally lumped into one called the Common Stonchat but recent research indicates that there are potentially 5 separate species of Stonechat although as with all things in Ornithology, not everyone agrees.  In Saudi Arabia I think we have two, the European and the Siberian, the above being a female European. Interestingly my Helm Guide does not show either of these as occurring in the Riyadh area at all.

And here is the cousin, Siberian Stonechat on a stopover in Riyadh too

Siberian stonechat or Asian stonechat (Saxicola maurus)
Both very smart looking birds in my opinion. 

turkestan shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)

As always around the area were a couple of Turkestan Shrikes which invariably perch on a high point watching for prey, a little like mini raptors. 

brown-necked raven (Corvus ruficollis)
Two birds I have not seen very much at all this past few months are a pair of Brown Necked Raven.  These were far more common in the area in the past.

little green bee-eater (Merops orientalis)
As ever the Little Green Bee Eater were out and about.  Numbers were a little lower than usual this week but I put that down to them being at other points along the river.

crested lark (Galerida cristata)
Another old friend of the area is the Crested Lark which is always about.  I actually only saw this one but there were lots about in the field.  They are definitely one of those birds, like the Graceful Prinia, that you hear a lot more than you see, especially if the grass is more than 4 or 5 inches high.

marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
One bird that was very evident standing in the grass was this Marsh Harrier which stood here for ages just watching me.  At first i thought he had a kill but it turned out not, he was just standing thee!!

namaqua dove (Oena capensis)
Another common sight in this area is the Namaqua Dove, one of the cutest of the Dove family in this area (in my humble opinion).  There are a couple of pairs of these at the far side of the fields adjacent to the main road.

house sparrow (Passer domesticus)
As ever, the little House Sparrows were out in force, oddly I did not see much of their Spanish cousins this week on my travels.  All in all a nice morning in the fields of Al Hayer.

Species List


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