Monday, 30 March 2015

And then the rains came!

Went out to my usual haunt at Al Hayer last Saturday (21/3/15) to see what impact the rains during the past week had had on the area.  By UK standards the rain was nothing spectacular but desert regions are not really able to deal with rain very well so the first thing I noticed as we travelled down was the level of flooding in all of my usual walking areas. The Riyadh river had broken its banks in several places and had flooded large areas of the farmers fields and roadside areas.  I started birding around 6:50am and while it was an enjoyable day as usual the humidity levels were high which made it heavy going, as did the almost constant walking in knee deep water, but ever your intrepid reporter I soldiered on!!

A view of the lower field with a small flock of Cattle Egret feeding in the flooded area.

And the road up to the farm.  This does not really do it justice as the river was not just flooding the area but actively flowing through it.  Farm Hands were all about as there was nothing much they could do until the waters receded.

graceful prinia (Prinia gracilis)

The water did not bother the Graceful Prinia one little bit and they were out in force today singing to the world.

laughing dove (Stigmatopelia senegalensis)
As always there were a great number of Laughing Dove in the area.  These are lovely birds but very skittish.  Not a problem in itself but they make such a racket flying off that they frighten all the other birds around too.  Now that does not make me happy at all!!

streaked weaver (Ploceus manyar)

Another very common sight at the moment is the Streaked Weaver which are in just about every bush and tree in the place.

little green bee-eater (Merops orientalis)

After an hour or so walking about the area I sat for a bit to take in the tranquility of the place.  I must have been sitting very quietly because this Little Bee Eater landed right beside me and just sat there watching me for a few moments.

black scrub-robin (Cercotrichas podobe)

Moments after the Bee Eater left this Black Scrub Robin landed on the same bush and proceeded to sit there and watch me too.  Don't know what it was I was doing but I think I got it right today, whatever it was!

bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)
On a mound of dirt this male Bluethroat was bouncing about, there were a fair few of these about today though I sense the numbers are going down a little on the past few weeks.  This is a member of the red spotted race (L. svecica svecica ) the other race has a white spot in the blue throat instead of the rusty red on this one.

common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
Taking full advantage of the wet conditions was the Common Moorhen, presumably enjoying a drink of Sprite.  Such a shame really that this country is treated like a rubbish tip by many of its residents.

Spanish sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis)
In all of the bushes there were vast numbers of Spanish Sparrow, which were clearly breeding in good numbers at the moment.  Some trees have as many as 20/30 nests and as you approach the noise is deafening, at least till you get very close when everything goes really quiet. 

house sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Closer to the farm buildings are a good number of House Sparrows also breeding around the area is good numbers.

Indian silverbill (Lonchura malabarica)
Indian Silverbill, a few about but not huge numbers

white-throated kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)
Also enjoying the expanded watercourse was a pair of White Throated Kingfishers, these were chasing each other among the trees and bushes by the roadside and I am not sure if they were a pair or squabbling over a piece of territory.

barn swallow (Hirundo rustica)
The local Barn Swallows were still busy gathering lining for their nests, more on this a little later.

turkestan shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
Surveying his little patch was this Turkestan Shrike watching for a passing meal.

cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis)
Also enjoying the new wetlands was this Cattle Egret.  These guys are around here most of the time and are commonly seen in the fields when the sprinklers are operating.  I counted 69 of them in a small area in the lower field today.  There was also a Little Egret wandering around among these guys but I was not able to get a decent photo of it.

wood sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
Taking advantage of the protection of the flock of Egrets were about a dozen Wood Sandpipers, these were remarkably relaxed about my presence only occasionally glancing in my direction to see where I was.

black-winged stilt, (Himantopus himantopus)
Joining the throng were a couple of Black Winged Stilt.  I could only see two but the grass was long so there may have been a few more about.  I am not sure if these are breeding in the area, I have spotted a small number of them almost every week for the past month or so.  I did see them breeding at the Cricket Club last year and maybe as that has now almost totally dried up, they may have moved here instead.

chiffchaff, (Phylloscopus collybita)
In one particular area the Chiffchaff appeared to be literally dripping from the trees.  I can only assume that its a small flock that are making their way north. It was difficult to count as they flitted in and out of the trees but I guess there were at least 20 in the same small area.

greater spotted eagle (Clanga clanga),
This shot is unfortunately at a bit of a distance and I could not get any closer but I am pretty sure it is a Greater Spotted Eagle which I have seen in the distance around here on a number of of occasions recently.

marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
As always the Marsh Harrier was about, this one coming down for a drink in the flooded fields.

I'm checking on this one

Barn Swallow Update.

Continuing my little vigil at the site of the Barn Swallow nests I found this week that the chicks from two of the nests had fledged but probably over the last day or so as they were all still hanging around.  In one case I noticed what looked to me like the parents trying to chase them off as they kept coming back to the nest, in one case making several sneaky approaches through a slightly open window close to the nest.  In all from these two nests I am pretty sure there were 8 fledglings.  There is plenty of food about at the moment with bugs everywhere so there is more than enough to keep them going as long as they can steer clear of the array of predators about the place. 

In two of the other nests one or two of the eggs had hatched but by the look of them they had only just done so, the remainder of the nests still had eggs being attended by the parents. 

What will be interesting over the next few weeks is whether any of the pairs try a second brood.  I know, from being around this nest site slightly later in previous years, that they are generally empty by the end of March so we will see.  It may be that they do not like the heat later in the month as it is climbing rapidly now as we approach summer and keeping nests cool may be an issue for them (34 to 36 degrees C and climbing at the moment).

As a little sidebar, the laughing dove which had taken over one of the old nests was sitting all through my visit.  I guess there must be an imminent arrival there soon.

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