Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Flooding Continues in Riyadh

Back down to Al Hayer again this weekend (16/4/16) to visit my friends and perhaps see a few new ones along the way.  Unfortunately the are was pretty badly flooded and what was a normal walk across the edges of the fields was a knee deep trudge through the sodden area.  Many of the birds had the same experience as I did and took off to somewhere else for the day.  That said, Al Hayer never fails to turn up something interesting;
This little bird I have not seen around here for quite some time but it spent a little time in my company today and was a joy to watch.  The Rufous Tailed Scrub Robin is supposed to be a fairly common visitor the the whole of Saudi Arabia, but I have not seen one at all in the area for over 2 years.  Maybe looking in the wrong place. 
 Its cousin the Black Scrub Robin is a much more common sight around this early being pretty much resident all year round.  I normally see one or two about on almost every visit to the area.  This week however there were 8 or more around.
 Also in evidence everywhere today were the Willow Warbler which were in most bushes and trees.  Very active little visitors to the area.

 As always the Laughing Dove were about in great numbers.  These are very pretty little birds and they were joined by small numbers of their cousins the European Collared Dove and Rock / Feral Pigeon.  These are a delight to see but can be a pain for the birder as they flush with so much racket that they scare off everything in the place.  Still I guess if I saw some odd thing pointing a largish black thing at me I would scatter too.
 There were quite a number of Purple Heron about the place today both overhead and in the trees.  I rarely come here without seeing them and did see some young ones two years ago, though not this year so far.  Some of these says I'll come across the place they have selected to breed.
 Back in force this week are the Streaked Weavers who definitely are breeding in the area.  Its odd but I find their nests very difficult to find until after they have left them when the materials they use to weave them dries out and turns white.
Males are much easier to spot than the females as they have that bright yellow head but both have bright yellow in their plumage.

 As ever the Crested Larks were about in good numbers, you get to see a dozen or so every trip but hear far more as they have a very distinctive song.
 The House Sparrow is usually seen a lot closer to human habitation but there were quite a lot out in the fields today.
They were also quite happy to spend time in the same bushes and trees as their close cousin the Spanish Sparrow.
 As always the Graceful Prinia were putting on their very vocal performances for anyone who wanted to listen.
 I only saw one Namaqua Dove today, I think they may have moved off for a while to avoid the flooding.
 There was, however, a small flock of maybe 10 to 15 Indian Silverbills around, as I mentioned before I hardly saw any of these last year so they are making a welcome return.

 The Common Myna are usually about in small flocks of 5 or 6 birds, but today there was just the one!

Another solo visitor was this Little Egret, fishing in the flooded field.

A couple of Grey Heron flew over early in the morning but I only got a distant shot and did not see them land at all.  In addition there were a dozen or so Bar Swallows feeding in the fields.
I spent a little less time than usual on this trip as to be honest the temperatures have gone up dramatically plus a few hours wading through sodden areas and soaked fields is bloody exhausting when its 40 degrees.  Still a nice little collection of birds.  As I said at the start, this area never fails. 

©Bernard Bracken.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Return to the home patch

Returned to Saudi Arabia in early April and headed to my home patch at Al Hayer (9/4/16) to see what had been happening.  Obviously the first thing you notice is the change in temperature which was quite a few degrees warmer than when I left at the end of February.  There had also been quite a bit of rain in the preceding weeks so large areas of the fields and surrounding areas were badly flooded.  Still it proved to be an interesting day nonetheless even if I did end up knee deep in water at times.
I am not sure if this is a male feeding a female trying to win her heart or a parent feeding a younger bird.  However,
looking at the pair of them together on the branch I think it is a pair of adults.  I expect I will be corrected if I got that wrong.

The Streaked Weavers are about in large numbers and are starting to nest in the reeds.
It may be just my imagination but there definitely appears to be far more females to males in the area.  I wonder if there is any real basis for this view, will watch that a bit more closely.

Also about in large numbers are the House and Spanish Sparrows who are also breeding in the trees around the area.  Standing by one particular tree I could hear the young in the nests.
I haven't seen that many Indian Silverbills about for quite some time and this week there were only a few.
I did not manage to see any Grey Heron on the ground but there were a good number flying over.
As always the Graceful Prinia were in fine voice around the area.  These are one of those birds that you hear a lot more than you see.  But there were a good number of them about the place.
A surprise visitor to the area was the Pied Kingfisher.  There has been one of these about the place for the past month or so, I'm not sure if its the same one but hopefully it will stay the area, though it would be very welcome.
Another surprise sighting was the Red Avadavat.  I had not seen a female about before, its generally the males I notice in Autumn.
Another two regulars about the place are the Laughing Dove and White Eared Bulbul.  Lots and lots of these about.
The Black Scrub Robin were not about in great numbers, that said there were a few more than usual.

A visitor from distant climes was the Yellow Wagtail.  Thee were 6 or 7 of these feeding on seeds in the low scrub.  I am guessing these had only just arrived because they were so intent on feeding that they hardly noticed me at all.
There were a good few Purple Heron about but most were flying over.  This one stopped on the sprinkler arm for a while before flying off.

This little chap was feeding in the scrub by the side of the fields.  I'm not great on Warbler ID but I am reasonably sure its a lovely Willow Warbler.
Squacco Herons were in the grass by the flooded areas and not very helpful to the poor birder trying to get a photo, still eventually managed to get this.
Also got treated to a flyover from a pair of Black Winged Stilt which are always around in small numbers here.
Then a catch of the day for me.  I had not had a good view of a Redstart, previous ones were only quick views as they disappeared into the trees.  Was delighted by this.

Finally I spotted a couple of Pipits in the stubble of the upper field, I have been through the books a good bit trying to work out which one and I think its a Meadow Pipit.
Other birds seen were a small number of Barn Swallows and Feral Pigeon/Rock Dove out in the fields.  A great day out and nice return outing.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

A day out at Bempton Cliffs

I spent the 29th of March at Bempton Cliffs RSPB Reserve in Yorkshire.  The hope was to see a broad range of seabirds and I have to say it did not disappoint, although there wey fewer species about that I had hoped.  The reason, well I arrived at exactly the same moment as storm Katie, up to 100mph winds on the cliff face and horizontal rain.  A fantastic day for birding and taking holiday snaps.  Anyhow many of the smaller bird species had far more sense than me and headed out to sea away from the tempest.  I did see one Shag, one Cormorant and a single Puffin, all heading out to sea at great speed.  Still I did get some photos to share, so I hope you like Gannets ;).

Despite the peaceful look of this lot there was a raging storm coming over the top of the ridge, yet they were quite happy sitting there, probably having claimed their breeding spot.
This guy hung in the air just over the ridge Gannets are not generally known for their hovering abilities but when conditions are right...
The bird nearest had just arrived back on the ledge and I watched them have a little bill fencing session, its a kind of welcome home of one partner to another.  Shortly after they settled down together for a rest.  Some were spotted mating on another ledge.
This one is on its way back to base with some nesting material ready.
A final shot of one of these fantastic birds sailing by, as I mentioned, you would never know the winds were extremely strong.

Also preparing for the breeding season were a couple of thousand Kittiwakes, some of the ledges I saw them starting to nest on were little more than 7 or 8 cm, but they were defending it with all their might.
You must admit though, they are lovely birds?

This was a really lucky shot as I only saw two of these all day and both were moving very quickly.  The Fulmar is a first for me, not seen one before, the first of three firsts for my day out.

A couple of shots of Herring Gulls , there were a fair few of these about but nowhere near as many as Gannets or Kittiwakes.
Herring Gull Number 2.
A couple of immature gulls were also about.  I am not very good on young Gulls but I am reasonably sure they are both Herring Gulls too.

Immature Herring Gull number 2.

On the way back to the car I spotted an old friend from Saudi Arabia, the Pied or White Wagtail.  While watching him, my second of the day flew up from the grass, a beautiful little Skylark.  Sorry to say no photos, he was too quick for me.
My third first of the day, a lovely little Tree Sparrow of which there was a whole bush full.  Behind the centre's car park were a collection of bird boxes, almost all of which were occupied with Tree Sparrows.

Also in the trees was a small flock of Goldfinch, unfortunately it was getting a bit dark so it is not a great photo but lovely birds.
Just a final parting shot before I left, this little Chaffinch was almost totally surrounded by Tree Sparrows.  The weather on the day was horrific and a lot of what I had hoped to see wee off out to sea but I will definitely be going back as it is a wonderful site and there is always the centre with hot tea, coffee and soup should the temperatures be a bit challenging.