Sunday, 22 March 2015

New born and a new species

This weeks trip to Al Hayer was exciting for a number of reasons which will  become apparent as the blog progresses.  I set out at 6:30am and headed south as usual.  It should have been 6am but the guy who drives me was in Mecca for the latter part of the week and overslept, as it happens it put me at a point in my walk where there happened to be a pair of Desert Finches just lounging about on a power cable. (March 14th weather dry and sunny)

desert finch (Rhodospiza obsoleta),
My Helm Guide does list them as breeders in the area, although maybe a little further south, but this was the first time I saw them here.
desert finch (Rhodospiza obsoleta),
Beautiful little birds with those powerful looking beaks and the little pink shafts along the side of the wings.  The area is ideal for these birds being primarily desert with water available only at the river.  These guys sat around for about 15 minutes I think, from the distance I thought the were a pair of laughing dove but soon noticed the differences.  A new species for me and a nice piece of luck 

white-cheeked bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis)
As always my trip was followed closely by the local White Cheeked Bulbul community which are just about everywhere and seem to follow you as you walk

bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)
In the undergrowth this little Bluethroat darted in and out onto the clearing beyond the reeds hopping along searching for food.  At this time of year there are always a good number of Bluethroat about in the reeds.
Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
At the other side of the small Lake there were a pair of Moorhen,  I did not see any chicks with these guys and am hoping that they are still alive (there were definitely at least 2 chicks last week)

Common Moorhen Chick (Gallinula chloropus)
Further along on my walk I came across this guy in a pool by the side of the field.  He only noticed me a few seconds after I took this shot and his siblings were long gone.  His parents, however, certainly did see me and I could hear them loudly barking to him to get hell out of here you idiot!!  I hope he takes heed in future, I love to get photos but doing that will shorten his potential lifespan a lot.

little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Also in the lake was a pair of Dabchick, or Little Grebe.  This was the best photo I could get as they are very nervous and vanish very quickly into the undergrowth when they see you.

graceful prinia (Prinia gracilis)

As ever the bushes were alive with the sounds of the tiny Graceful Prinia which punches way above its weight in the sound department..

Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)

Shrikes were as always present in good numbers and this Turkestan Shrike was happy enough to sit around for some photos.
hoopoe (Upupa epops)

Back in town for the past couple of weeks is the Hoopoe.  Looking a bit untidy as I caught it in the middle of a morning preen, nonetheless a beautiful bird and always lovely to see on my walks.

black scrub-robin (Cercotrichas podobe)

A bit of a distant shot of this Black Scrub Robin.  He has been perched on top of this tree for the past week or so but when I get anywhere near he disappears into the undergrowth below it and does not emerge again for a long time.  A bit anti-social I call it :-)

The Marsh Harrier was about again, in fact I think thee are 3 or 4 individuals in the area and they regularly patrol the reeds looking for prey.

streaked weaver (Ploceus manyar)
As was the case last week the Streaked Weavers were out in force in the reeds.  You could hear dozens of them but I only managed to get a useful shot of this male.  They are in breeding plumage and judging by their behaviour over the past week or two will be breeding here.  The Helm guide has these as mainly escapes and not shown in most of Saudi Arabia at all, however, from earlier posts on here it is clear they are here in very large numbers and I have no doubt are breeding too.

rock pigeon (Columba livia)

The Rock Pigeons are outnumbered here by both the Laughing Dove and often the Namaqua Dove.  I think they find life easier closer to the city and around the various dumps rather than in the open farmland. 
Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)

OK, I think this is commonly called a "record shot", so called because it kinda proves I saw them but the photo is absolutely rubbish, anyway this pair of Black Winged Stilts are based in the area and I think there are also a few more that are resident further along the river.

common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
This Common Kestrel has been seen regularly around the lower field quite a lot lately, always a joy to see.
Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
Poking his head out of the long grass was this Squacco Heron.  More or less in the same place as last week and just as difficult to approach but nice to see him again

white wagtail (Motacilla alba)
A regular visitor to the area at this time of year is the White Wagtail, there were not co many to be seen on today's walk.

crested lark (Galerida cristata)

Standing proud in the short grass was this Crested Lark, you can here literally dozens of these singing in the longer grass behind but rarely get to see them.

cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis)

The farmer was cutting his crop in the field close to the main farmhouse and this brought the Cattle Egret out in force,  I have taken a few wider photos to try to get an accurate count and on this occasion counted 35 birds

little green bee-eater (Merops orientalis)
As always out Little Green Bee Eaters provided a splash of colour to the days outing, this one had just captured a bug.

Also seen during the walk were a pair of Brown Necked Ravens and about 4 or 5 Pale Crag Martin which were flying around the farm building with the swallows.


barn swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Ah well, I think the picture speaks for itself really lol.  This nest and another close by have both 4 chicks and they all look to be in good health and growing rapidly.  There are a total of 13 nests in the building at the moment, 4 of which are not being used.  two, as the one above have chicks not too far from fledging, 6 have eggs (4 in each) and the final one is being build by a newly arrived pair.  There is a very good supply of flies of a number of different types.  Hopefully by the time I arrive next weekend there will be more hatched and these guys will have fledged.

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