Friday, 13 May 2016

Al Hayer again, but maybe needing an X rating this time!

Travelled back down to Al Hayer again this weekend as its a mix of passage season and breeding season so there is lots going on about the place.  So on 26th of April I headed off and arrived around 6.30am.  The weather was warm but not as hot as of late.   As it turned out the day proved to be interesting for a number of reasons.  I am not sure I the final block of photos should carry an X rating but you can decide that for yourself.
I headed a bit further south than usual to check out a couple of small lakes.  At one point I turned and had this view of the area I normally explore, but from a slightly different angle.  This is the reed beds around the Al Hayer area.  A largish patch of green in the desert.
Everywhere the Graceful Prinia, White Eared Bulbul and Laughing Dove were going about their business as usual.  They are all very common in the area but have totally different personalities.

Early in the morning there are often single Purple Herons perched on the tops of trees.  There are relatively few tall trees around the area and these guys perch on the tallest.  I also saw a couple of Grey Heron flying south off in the distance, too far for decent photos.

Another regular around the area is the Black Scrub Robin which is usually found in the lower branches of trees and bushes except for early mornings when they perch on the treetops to sing.
I know, an absolutely terrible shot of a White Throated Kingfisher way in the distance.  I did follow for quite a way to see if I could get a better shot to no avail, he kept moving further away.  In any case I was pleased to see him as I have not seen any for a few weeks.
There were also a few Collared Dove around the area but few by comparison with the Laughing and Feral Doves which are always about in great numbers.
A visitor I have not seen around for some time is this wonderful Spotted Flycatcher.  This guy perched on a tree close by me and almost seemed as interested in me as I was in him.  Every now and again he would fly off but only to get another perch with a better view.
Another view of our friendly Spotted Flycatcher.
As regular readers will know I am no great identifier of warblers but I think this is a Great Reed Warbler. It was certainly a good deal bigger than the usual warblers around here.  Hmm, well appears i was wrong and there is a strong possibility this is a Basra Reed Warbler, thanks to Mansur and Jem for their assistance with this ID. Delighted now as these are not common here and a first for me :)
Flying over were a couple of Black Crowned Night Heron.  These come to the same area of reeds most years and i am pretty sure they breed there. Trouble is its right in the middle of the reed beds and virtually impossible to get to.

A little Green Bee Eater, or as Jem Babbington has reported recently, it has been renamed in some catalogues as the Arabian Green Bee Eater. There were a couple of these about today but not many.
On my way back to my usual patch I came across a couple of these guys in the trees.  I'm not sure what they are as yet, will update when I find out.  Cool, so the consensus on Bird Forum is a female Redstart.  I don't think I have seen one before. I have to say the jizz is right as is the eye ring but the rest looks almost nothing like any of the plates in my Id books.  Woohoo go birds :)
Another visitor I have not seen much recently is the Hoopoe.  This is the first one I have seen this year.
In stark contrast numbers are the Streaked Weaver which are back in the area in force. Literally hundreds of them around the reed beds;
This is just one small area of reeds for example.

As the fields are still flooded in places we are still getting some waders appearing in small numbers. This lone Sandpiper was feeding at one end of the flooded area with a couple more further down.
Curlew Sandpiper just coming into summer plumage, I could not get particularly close to these guys but was interesting to watch them for a while.
A small flock of Yellow Wagtails had stopped over to feed on the abundant seeds in the scrub area of the lower field. In all I counted 8 but there may have been more in the undergrowth.

Another regular, the Crested Lark were about in good numbers. Many were performing aerial acrobatics with a second bird in what I can only assume means there's love in the air.
I think this is one of four Willow Warblers the were out in the fields today.

I don't think that Indian Silverbills breeding in the area is exactly ground-breaking news but I got this sequence of shots which were interesting.

A flower for the lady perhaps? Wonder if she will like it?
Hmm, well she seems to like it.
Oh my, I seem to have invaded privacy here!!
Taking a look at the flower.
Not sure if they have fallen out now!!

Anyway, they both flew off a moment or so later so don't know if true love followed.

There are lots of different approaches to birding, some sit in cars and watch what happens from there, others travel huge distances to see their birds.  I mostly hang around the same area with the occasional away game, but I think you will agree, some days that pays dividends.

©Bernard Bracken.


  1. Bernard
    I think the warbler which you think Great reed back to Basra reed , note the very narrow bill and less worm body. Well done

  2. Really? Ill take another look and maybe put it up on bird forum for opinions. Would be delighted if it is as they are not that comm9n and a first for me. Hope all is well with you

  3. Bernard
    Ok you should make sure, generally the Great reed have thick and short bill , more worm color and more brown on the side of belly and large-size clearly from the rest of warblers , the basra has narrow bill , white belly and less worm color the size like the size of White cheeked bulbul , it's uncommon migrant through central Saudi Arabia.

    1. Mansur, I would like to contact you about a bit of birding research I am working on. Could you mail me on please