Sunday, 24 January 2016

Swallows Return Al Hayer 23116

I missed last week due to work so was quite keen to get back down to the patch to see what had been happening.  The grass in the lower field had been cut and there were a lot of guys about collecting the hay bales, in addition there were diggers on both sides of the river trying to shore up the areas that were flooded after the recent rains.  So much noisy human activity was not appreciated by the birds so things got off to a slow start.

The House Sparrows were about and not too bothered by the noise.  Good numbers of them were to be seen high in the branches of the trees so I assume its breeding time again.

The White Eared Bulbul were about in fine voice too and also looking like they were starting to pair up.  That said seeing them in pairs is not unusual at any time of the year.

Seeing a Black Scrub Robin in the area is not that unusual, although this week there were 6 or 7 of them about which is a little unusual I think.  Nice birds but hard to photograph as they prefer to stay in the trees only coming out from time to time.

A couple of Stonechat were about again today.  This one was in a slightly different position this week as his favourite bush had been cut with the grass.
His female companion was at the other end of the field!
Another was spotted a bit further along the walk.

A small flock of Myna were still about making a hell of a racket this week as they went about their business.

I eventually got a photo of a Bluethroat having missed several opportunities earlier in my walk. This one actually threw me for a bit and I began to believe I had a different bird, thankfully some kind folk on Bird Forum helped clarify things for me.  Its funny how the mind works when doubt gets in there.

Our little family of Moorhen were still feeding around what was left of the marshy area in the lower field.  This had dried up a lot since the rains flooded the area but they were still happy.

I struggled for quite some time to get a decent photo of the Little Green Bee Eater getting more and more frustrated, then as I was looking at another bird, this guy just plonks himself straight in front of me.  You gotta love this past time lol.

Right in the corner of the lower field beside the pumping station was this little Common Kingfisher.  I'm not sure if it is the same one as I spotted a couple of weeks ago in the middle field but nice to see anyhow.

The White Throated Kingfisher was by far the more common of the Kingfishers around the area today.  There were four individuals that I spotted and maybe more spread all over the fields.
In the fields at the other side of the river close by the farmers house was the little flock of Desert Finch which I saw a couple of weeks back.
This beautiful Purple Heron was only about 20ft away but obviously thought I could not see him.  They are normally in the air and long gone well before you get anywhere near them.  A number of Grey Herons were also seen on site today but I failed to get a single usable photo of any of them.
Other members of the Heron family however were about in very large numbers.  The Cattle Egrets were feeding happily in the  fields by the sprinkler bars.  I counted 80 but there were at least 3 large flocks that flew over earlier heading for fields further south.

There were also a good number of Shrikes about with both the Daurian and Turkestan seen in reasonable numbers.  Across the full length of my walk.

Once again too the Grey Shrike was present this time on the sprinkler bars near the main road.  This one seems to be here fairly regularly.  I'm not very well up on Shrikes but I'm sue there is some territorial thing going on here.

Another old friend that always comes out to see us on walks if the Crested Lark, once again there were good numbers of these about but many more heard than seen.

When walking around the middle field I noticed a couple of Barn Swallows performing their fantastic aerial display as they caught flies on the wing and this reminded me to go over to the farm on the other side of the river just to see if they were going to use the same breeding spot as last year.  Its still three weeks earlier than I spotted them breeding last year so I thought maybe it would be still a bit early.

However, when I got around to the nest site I found there were a dozen or more birds in the area and some were gathering mud from a pool in front of the building where they nest.  There was a lot of human activity with diggers and vans all over but it did not seem to bother them too much.

I entered the building (with permission) and the birds were working on 3 of the nests so it certainly appears they plan to breed.  There were no eggs in any of the nests yet but will keep an eye to see how that develops.

By the way I hope to have an article published detailing my records of the first confirmed evidence of Barn Swallows breeding in the Arabian Peninsula.  It will be in the spring edition of Sandgrouse for members of OSME

Look them up at and join up, it only costs a few quid a year and they are doing great work in the region.

Anyhow also seen but not photographed were a number of eagles, Greater Spotted I think but they were very far off and a Hoopoe which evade me until I was in the car on the way back.

As I have said several times in the past, another great days birding, Al Hayer rarely disappoints. 

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Pied Kingfisher row at Al Hayer 191215

Those sharp eyed among you will notice these reports are a little out of sequence at the moment, apologies but its me trying to catch up following my away trip in December.

Took a short walk around Al Hayer the week before I headed off for the Christmas break.  As it turned out there were a few surprises in store.

This Masked Shrike was a bit of a distance away and the other side of what was a raging river so could not get closer.  Its interesting that every time I see these birds here they are at this same tree.  When the water levels drop I will certainly take a closer look at what it is may be attracting them.

Meanwhile out in the fields were a small flock of Northern Lapwing on stopover for refuelling on their way north.

Our little friend the Graceful Prinia was out and about in great numbers again today.  Always a little camera shy though, you really do have to grab shots when you can with these guys.

There were also a couple of Daurian Shrike about.  This one was merrily preening in a tree by the roadside.

The Brown Necked Raven arrived for the feast in the fields.  In all I counted about a dozen around the fields.  Always nice to see, well for me anyhow, I'm not sure the other birds are overly keen on them. 

A white Throated Kingfisher in the bushes by the road.  There were three or four of these guys about today spread over the length of my walk (about 4km I think)

The Stonechat was in his usual place.  This is the third year that I found these guys in the same small area of the lower field.  I think they like the little perch this plant provides.

The Common Kestrel was in the lower field this week.  

Another bird that has a favourite perch is the Purple Heron.  Unfortunately the area for 100m or so in front of where he was is flooded so I could not get a lot closer.  Not, mind you, that I get that much closer even when its dry.  

Not a great shot but there were a small group of five Common Snipe in the grass but the edge of the river.  It always a thrill to see these birds as they can be a bugger to spot at times.

An Green Sandpiper found feeding near to where the Snipe were spotted.  Need to check these out further.

A group of eight Squacco Heron were spotted in the field feeding in the grass.  

and by the waters edge was a young Greater Spotted Eagle.  It seemed ok with my approaching but then another birder got out of his car and walked towards it, end of approach!  I must say I was surprised today by the number of birders around Al Hayer.  I saw five cars while I was there.  I was the only one on foot but was nice to see interest growing.

A few meters away from the Eagle was a flock of about ten Black Winged Stilt.  They were pretty wary and did not hang around long, not sure if it was me or the large bird of prey a few meters away.

My Spotted Eagle again with a fairly regular annual visitor, the Osprey.  Its partner was sitting on the sprinkler arm about 40m away watching proceedings
Osprey on the Sprinkler.

Meanwhile a Grey Heron, glided gently by.  I am not sure where it landed as I did not see it again after this.

OKOK rubbish shot of the week by far, but definitely a record shot so I am loading it.  This Pied Kingfisher was one of three that flew immediately overhead as I walked down along the reed line in the lower field.  I was not quick enough to catch them as they passed but thankfully this one perched on the sprinkler arm.  There were four of these I spotted at Jubail a few weeks ago and I understand from friends up there that there are ten or more in the area, but seeing more than one in Riyadh is quite unusual. I also note that a birder photographed one at Al Kharj about 60k further south about a week later. But then, I think this year is different. 

A bit of a distant shot of some Common Moorhen.  These are fairly common in the reeds and around the river, although you more often hear them than see them.  They suffer quite a bit from hunters so in this area are very wary of humans.  In the marsh areas of the lower field there appears to be a small family of them that are out and about each time I visit.

The White (Pied) Wagtail are about in good numbers today.  This one was in the lower field along with one or two others. but when I got up to the middle field which had recently been ploughed there were dozens of them about.  

The Spur Winged Lapwing (Plover) was also about in reasonable numbers.  This one and 4 or 5 others were feeding in the lower field but I spotted about thirty flying overhead and many more when I got to the upper fields.  They usually hang about for a couple of weeks before setting off on their journey north. 

This is a much less common little guy, the Meadow Pipit (I think).  You see these occasionally around the area but never in and great numbers.

The Common Myna were about in reasonable numbers today.  These three were also feeding alongside the Lapwing and the Moorhen in the lower field marsh.  Also in this Pic is a lone Collared Dove.  There were about 40 of these in the upper fields but I could not get close to them at all.

There were about 12 to 14 of the Myna in a little flock that appear from time to time throughout the year around the fields.  Much larger numbers can be seen further up river around the bridge at Al Hayer. 

Just thought I would end todays report with a young Shrike.  No particular reason other than it was just sitting there looking cute lol.

A great days birding what with the Pipit, the Pied Kingfishers and Ospreys, to mention just a few. I know some folk see home patch birding as a bit boring but in a place like Al Hayer it rarely is.  There are a couple of birds I have left un-named for a bit, I am still checking these out and will get back to you.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Al Hayer 1-1-16

First trip out to the old patch in the new year proved to be an interesting outing.  As ever I was accompanied by a few White Cheeked Bulbul for most of the walk along the reeds.  In many places the river is still pretty high so some largish detours were needed at times but it did bring in some interesting birds.

As always the White Cheeked Bulbul were everywhere to be seen.  In reality there were not that many of them but they seem to follow you as you walk along.

A slightly more unusual sighting this week is the Masked Shrike, even more unusual was the sighting of a second one close by.  This is the 3rd or 4th time I have seen these in the same bush this winter, I am beginning to wonder if maybe they might like to pair up.  Of course I am assuming they are a pair, did not get a good look at the second one so not sure of its sex.  You can be sure I will be spending a lot more time there in the next few weeks just in case.

Close by the Laughing Dove above landed.  Not sure if it was the angle of the sun or a camera trick but looking a bit flushed lol.

This is not a brilliant shot but as I rounded the corner and entered the field there was a patch of marshy ground.  I spotted 25 or more Black Winged Stilt feeding in the mud, plus one Squacco heron sneaking away into the background.  I did try to get closer but they spotted me and departed.

In the same piece of marsh were a collection of 22 Snipe also feeding. They did their little hiding in the grass tricks before also flying off.  Later when I was further down the road I saw some come back, one of these days I'll get a portable hide and wait for them.

One bird which bizarrely did stay put a lot longer is this Little Egret.  It could clearly see me yet let me get quite close.  Its a lot of fun when a bird lets you get close.  Feels like its trusting you... which of course its not!!  Flew off moments later!

I had to return to the road to get around a flooded area and there was a familiar racket above my head.  There were 25 to 30 Common Myna flying to and from the power cables overhead.

A very distant shot this one but all I could get of the Osprey.  I was down here a couple of weeks ago and there were two of these feeding in the swollen river, today only one that I saw and he was very wary.

Out in the field taking advantage of a fast growing flower was a Stonechat.  He used this flower as a base to scan the surrounding area of low grass, making the odd dart into the sky to catch prey before returning.

While standing by the sprinkler I observed a Grey Heron fly past and then take a broad gliding circle around me before landing in the swollen river.  He stopped there for a few moments before spotting me and flying off again.  Was great to watch mastery of flight though, on his approach to this spot he glides about half a meter off the surface of the water for about 10 or 15 meters before pulling up to make a perfect landing.

While watching the Grey Heron I heard a familiar cry behind me and turned to see the White Throated Kingfisher perched on the arm of the sprinkler.

Then on the clay bank behind where the Grey Heron had been was a very big Little Egret.  It was a little difficult to judge the height but looked as big as the Grey.  

Crossing over the road that runs between the lower field and the upper ones I spotted a small flock of 10 to 12 Spur Winged Lapwing.  A flock of about 20 of these had flown over some time earlier so I expect the others had found somewhere else to land.

All over, as always, were the Graceful Prinia.  Probably the noisiest of all the birds in the area, certainly relative to their size.  They are only slightly larger than a Wren but have the voice of a giant.  

On the other side of the pond a small flock of 10 to 15 Desert Finch were happily feeding on some seeds that were scattered about on the ground.  I have never seen this many of these guys around before, they normally show up in 1's or 2's.

A tiny bit further along this Common Kingfisher was perched above the pond ready to pounce on an unsuspecting fish.

On the opposite side of the fields by the roadside there is a piece of waste ground and almost every time I walk over that far there is a Grey Shrike.  I am pretty sure this was a relatively young one which is always a good sign.

About half way through my walk I began to think that there were no Little Green Bee Eaters about at all, but as I got to the far side of the field I found 6 perched feeding by launching themselves off the power cables  by the roadside.  Always a joy to see these gorgeous little birds.

I saw about 5 or 6 Crested Lark along the trail but there were far more that I could hear out in the grass.  They sing and call to each other as you walk along but are very adept at hiding in the relatively short grass.

Finally perched on the sprinkler was a Common Kestrel.  I almost missed him as initially he looked like a part of the device but a bit of movement soon revealed which piece was not the sprinkler.  I watched him for quite a while but could not get to the other side of him to get a better photo so I'm afraid your stuck with this semi profile.

All in all a very nice morning out, plus the cool wind made it a lot more comfortable than usual in this area.