Monday, 29 August 2016

First time to Wadi Hanifah

I have been looking around for other local sites to visit in relation to a small project I have been working on and noted Wadi Hanifah coming up in records from time to time I looked it up on the map and it looked like it might have some potential as it part of the Riyadh River, plus it was close to the city.  I decided to take a closer look so set of at 6am on August 27th.  Unfortunately I had injured my back over the weekend so could not do my usual long walks but found some nice stuff nonetheless.

The term Wadi means a dry river bed and at the northern end of my walk it certainly lived up to its name.  The area had a landscaped appearance with trees and some bushes spaced out along the channel where the river would run.  On done side is a fairly busy road and above that a high sandstone cliff and a very high wall with small castle keep like structures dotted along it.  I think this was to keep rocks from the cliff falling on the road.  The cliff at the first location was about 50 meters high and made of a kind of sandstone rock common around here.  It has a layered appearance with vertical cracking which makes it look like a layered cake.  Some of the cracks were quite big and I could not help thinking they would be ideal places for owls and rock dove to nest.  On the opposite side were more high walls behind which were date farms.  I have a feeling that this whole area could get pretty lively when the weather turns and we get rain.

I had literally just arrived and was stepping out of the car when I spotted a red beak in trees.  On closer inspection I found a Rose Necked Parakeet perched on a branch and within moments had spotted another 5.  Wonderful birds though, as with their cousins in the South of England, not natives to Saudi Arabia.  As with a number of birds here they originate from cages from which they were either released or escaped.  In any event they appear to be doing well, who knows  maybe in ten years or so there will be ten thousand of them like there are in London.

This site is certainly one for Hoopoe viewing.  I spotted at least 10 along the length of the wadi.  Most looked like relatively young birds and they allowed fairly close approach by comparison with those at Al Hayer.  I think I saw more of these today than I have over the past three years.

Lurking about the place were a small number of Collared Doves.  You do see quite a few of these around Riyadh but never in large numbers.

Another very common sight along the Wadi was the Common Myna which were everywhere.  I can't remember the count exactly but there were 40+ in the couple of miles I travelled today.

This weaved nest in interesting and is similar to a couple I saw in a tree about 60 meters away.  They were similar but hanging by a string of grass from the branch.  There are definitely some weavers breeding about the area and not the usual Streaked Weavers we see at Al Hayer.  This is an altogether different type of nest.

As I approached the flyover I spotted a number of birds feeding on the seeds of the long grass stems.  They all flushed but thankfully stopped in a tree only a short distance away.  A nice little flock of Indian Silverbills.

As is always the case when your birding, you go on one side of the river the birds are all on the other side!  I noticed this guy having a dust bath and watched for a while.  A very nice Rufous-Tailed Scrub Robin.

I flushed this Squacco Heron from the trees by the side of the Wadi.  Only got a fleeting photo before he disappeared
As always there was a good number of White Eared Bulbul about the area.

and large numbers of House Sparrow.

This is my first trip to the area and certainly will not be my last as there are a number of things I want to follow up, like the owner of those nests for a start.  There is a lot more of the Wadi than the bit I managed to navigate today so will be back!  :)

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Return to the Patch

After a couple of months absence I finally got to return to Al Hayer on August 20th to see how things were going there.  I was excited to see what had changed around the place.  The very first think I noticed is the virtual silence, when I was here during the breeding season there was noise everywhere, Birds singing, defending territory and all the accompanying racket.  Now all is still with the exception of the Kingfisher screeching across the lake and Moorhen noisily diving for cover.  In any event there was a nice selection of birds about the area.

As you will soon see, dear reader, I was experimenting with camera settings and well, the odd one worked but...

On the lake there were a couple of Moorhen feeding and keeping away from me.  This adult and juvenile headed straight out for deeper water as soon as they spotted me.

while in the quarry on the other side of the embankment was a pool covered in algae with what turned out to be almost 50 Moorhen (the tiny black dots).  As I got closer they did make a din as they scattered for the cover of the reeds.

In the distance were a couple of Grey Heron just perched lazily on a dead tree.  There were not very many of these about today.

Today was the day of the Squacco!!  I lost count at 40 around the place.  all over the lake in every available perch there was one or two.  Safety in numbers was not in vogue though as I could not get close to any of them.

The surprise of the day for me was the White Throated Kingfisher.  On a normal day you might see one or two around the area while on your walk but today I am certain I saw 6 (or maybe 8, not sure if two were double counts).  This is certainly the most I have seen here at one time.

There were a dozen or so Little Grebe on the lake spread out in two's or threes.  As ever they were quite shy and retiring.

Another little surprise was this Yellow Wagtail.  I did not expect to see any of these for some time yet but here he was feeding at the waters edge.

Green Sandpiper? Need to check, will get back to you on this.

Nearby were a couple of Little Green Bee Eaters making occasional lunges into the sky to capture the unwary bug.

And a small number of Namaqua Dove.  I am not very well up on the behaviour of these birds but I could have sworn this pair were courting, do they breed this late in the year I wonder?

A pair of Juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron were perched on a branch in the middle of a small pool, they did not seem too bothered by my presence, though I could not get close as there is a 30m cliff by the edge of the pool.  This definitely being a place where nobody will hear you scream, I decided to put up with a distant shot.

Duck in the Distance!, Pretty sure it is a Mallard

There were a considerable number of feral and Rock Dove flying about the place and a small umber of Collared Dove.

I have not seen very many Wheatears around this area for a long time, maybe they are stopping over in different areas of the farms but anyway it was nice to see this one, I think its an Isabelline Wheatear.
As I made my way back I came across this Grey Shrike in the trees, Its a little difficult to see properly but I think it was a Lesser Grey Shrik

As I mentioned, not many will hear you scream if you fall foul in this place, a proper stark lunar landscape.

In addition to the above there was a flypast of 25 or so Cattle Egret and 5 Black Winged Stilts.  There were also a good number of Barn Swallow zipping about the place and both White Eared Bulbul and Crested Lark to be seen around the site.

After about 4 hours I had to abandon my walk as the heat was taking its toll, over the past two months, I have become a soft northerner again lol.  A really enjoyable tour all the same :)

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Widdop Resevoir.

While at home in June I managed to visit a number of different areas in out locality.  It rapidly became clear that I was only scratching the surface of what is in our area and a brief scan over the maps and a search of the Birds of Lancashire highlighted a huge number of possible sites to visit.  So I got started.  My first visit was to Widdop Reservoir, Calderdale, West Yorkshire, a small lake around a mile and a half long.  OK its a tiny bit over the county line but a nice spot in Yorkshire but I won't hold that against it ;).  On the day I visited it was overcast but mostly dry which made for a reasonably comfortable walk.   Just looked it up on my browser and found the attached youtube vid., there are some fabulous looking boulders about which I think attract the rock climbing community, though on the day I was there were only 2 cyclists.

As you might have guessed from this there was some work going on at the dam end of the reservoir.

Virtually every tree in the place had a very active Goldfinch and that the southern edge there was a flock of 15 or 20 of these chasing each other around the bushes.

Yes I know its not exactly a bird but I have not seen many frogs about so thought I would share the image.  I'm no expert on these things but I think its a Common Frog.

A couple of Sandpipers were feeding around the edge of the lake though all were very difficult to get anywhere close to.  They were also very noisy.

I only spotted a single pair of Blackbirds at the lake, they were close to a small group of houses at the southern end and seemed to be pretty settled in that spot.

I was watching a flock of around 35 to 40 Canada Geese who were feeding by the lakeside when I thought to myself, look closely, there might be something else in the flock.  Sure enough a pair of Greylag Geese were right in the middle.
A small breakaway group of Canada Geese at the north end of the lake.

All around there were Meadow Pipits singing in the brush but I really only got a good view of this one, if you listened to the video above you can hear them, and lots of other birds,

A moth I spotted in the grass while on my walk, I am still looking into what it is but a lovely looking thing.
Another Sandpiper.

Overhead there were a good number of Barn Swallows and I did manage to get some photos which I will load up as soon as I can.  This was my first visit here and I did not have a lot of time, there is definitely a lot more out there so its on the cards for another few visits when I get back.

© Bernard Bracken

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Martin Mere a walk on the wild side

My visit to Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust site at Martin Mere was long overdue, its only an hour or so from where I live in the UK so was about time I got a visit in.   In an earlier blog I shared a collection of photos from the display side of the operation.  However, there is also a long walk on the Mere side of the operation which has 5 or 6 specially built hides where you can view the wildfowl out on the wetlands from the relative comfort of a sheltered building.  If anything this was more exciting to me than the display birds allowing very good views of a whole host of wild birds.   I would encourage anyone to pay it a visit, it is worth the £11 entrance fee.  So on with the birds;

This map gives you an idea of the site layout, to the left are the display pens while running right up the centre and out to the right is a long path with the observation points dotted along.

Right in front of the first hide I entered was an artificial nest site which was being used by the Black Headed Gull and a single chick.  There were a good number of chicks around the site but then it was mid June.

A slightly closer view of one of the Black Headed Gull chick.

All over the site were good numbers of Moorhen.  These were also in the display area, I am not certain if they are actual exhibits or have wandered in there knowing they will get fed!

Snoozing Black Headed Gulls.

There were quite a few Eurasian Wigeon around the site

And a heck of a lot of Shelduck, I love the gelled hair look on this one, -- the wet head is not dead lol.

A visit to petty much any water in the UK will get you a Coot for your list.  At the far end of the path I noticed one of these building a nest which surprised me as I would have thought they would have been finished or very nearly by this time of year.

A duck I had not seen before is this Northern Pintail.  There were quite a few of these around the site, a nice bird, although nicer when they have their feathers smoothed back.
And another view of this lovely bird.

I thought this was a Starling, but will have to go back through the photos again as I'm not sure now I look again.

Scattered all over the area were small groups of Northern Lapwing which were feeding in the wetlands.  I discovered a large flock of these up on the Lancashire Moors on another outing, more of that anon.

At the far end of the long path I was sitting in one of the hides when this guy just casually walked in to pinch seeds dropped from the feeders.  The Pheasant is a fairly common sight around the county, though usually a little more wary.

A bird you don't often see at the feeders is a Greater Spotted Woodpecker.  They are reasonably common around the area but I must confess this is the first time I saw one this close.

The Chaffinch is an absolutely gorgeous bird and very common around the area.  They are very regular visitors to the feeders both here at Martin Mere and at those I have out at home.

There was a single pair of Mute Swans taking it easy by the waterside.  I thought there would be more about but maybe they are out in some of the inaccessible areas of the Mere.

Over the entire site I saw about a dozen Oystercatchers feeding out in the shallows, another very pretty bird.

As with all of the places I visited over the past few weeks there was a small number of Greylag Geese to be see, ok well 2 in this case.

A couple of Grey Heron were also on site although a little shy.  For the entire time I was there they stayed in the reeds.

There were a good few Tufted Duck around the pools.

At one end of the mere was a nesting Great Crested Grebe, its mate was swimming about the pond where the nest was.  At the main hide beside the entrance to the park were a small group of 5 juvenile Grebes unfortunately I did not get any printable photos of these zebra coloured youngsters.

A fine specimen of a Little Egret, I took about 20 photos of this bird but this was all that was usable.  It had spotted a small fish in the water and was running up and down the shoreline trying to catch it.. result 19 blurred photos!

A Goldfinch at the feeder.  Again a fairly common bird around this area but really pretty don't you think?

A common Woodpigeon putting his best foot forward.  When I was young I used to thing these were Cuckoos because of the cooing sound they make.  Of course that lasted until I heard a real Cuckoo which it turns out sounds nothing like these lol

A cute little Robin also taking a turn at the feeder.

Almost the last bird I saw on my walk was a Great Cormorant which was busily preening outside one of the hides.

As I mentioned before I had not been to Martin Mere before but would certainly recommend it. Other birds seen were a small flock of Avocet and a single Turnstone.  All in all a really fun day out.

© Bernard Bracken