Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Al Hayer Bridge 21-1-17

Spent morning around the bridge at Al Hayer.  The plan was to spend an hour or so there and move on but as you will see I got side tracked by a nice bird.

Around the area there are the steep sided cliffs if the Wadi and all along these are considerable numbers of Rock Pigeon which circle about a lot first thing in the morning.

There were also good numbers of Eurasian Collared Dove.  I am not that fond of these birds and their cousins the Laughing Dove because they flush noisily when you are still 40 or 50 meters away and disturb all the other birdlife in the process.

A single Blackstart sat on the wall of one of the factories close to the bridge.  I may be imagining it but I wonder if this is the same one I keep seeing in the same place each time I visit, I doubt it but who knows. 

One of the many Laughing Dove about the site this morning, beautiful bird but a pain for birders.

There are always a lot of White Eared Bulbul around this area as the bushes and trees are very much to their liking.

A little more unusual are the Spectacled Bulbul.  There were two on site today but there were also a few at Salbuk and AlHayer fields over the past few weeks.

Last time I visited here there were 3 White Throated Kingfishers flying about, only one was found on this occasion.

Not sure if I should bother even showing this but you can just make out a Moorhen disappearing into the reeds.

And close by was a single Bluethroat which stopped for a short while then flew off along the river.

As I was walking back to the car a bird flew over which was a little different, it subsequently landed in a tree a short distance off.  The Sparrowhawk is a young bird and I think is the same one I saw further up river towards the end of last year.

Another shot of the Sparrowhawk. 

There were a small number of Grey Heron visible around the site today but I only got this flypast to prove it.  This area is rapidly becoming overgrown with reeds so it is becoming more fifficult to spot birds along the river.

There was only a small flock of Common Myna around the place today, visits towards the end of last year found dozens of them.  I assume they had moved off to other areas along the river.

A distant shot of a Graceful Prinia.  As always there were dozens of these in the area though most were recognised by sound rather than sight.

There were good numbers of both House and Spanish Sparrow in the area.

And a single Marsh Harrier flew over literally as I was getting into the car (or maybe it is a Greater Spotted Eagle).  The weather was very cool and overcast so distant shots were all a bit drab today.

As I said I meant to move to another area but spent quite some time looking at the Sparrowhawk.  Also spotted was a single Kestrel which flew over very early.

Birding is always fun when you spot something that keeps your attention for a long while. :)

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Al Hayer Lakes 14-1-17

I took a walk around the lakes to the south of Al Hayer fields (see map in locations tab) this morning.  The weather was clear but cold but it seemed not to bother the birds, especially he Herons, which were about in very large numbers today.

The morning sunrise was quite pretty over the desert this morning.  Weather was quite cool for here at about 14 degrees.  Yes I know from the snow based areas of the north that does not sound cool but believe me in the crisp dry air it is :)

Anyhow almost straight from the car I spotted this little Mourning Wheatear perched on a bush around 200m away.

A little further along perched on top of a local landmark was a single Purple Heron and a Grey Heron, as you can see they use it a bit for this purpose.  All in all I think I will label this day, the day of the Herons as they were by far the most numerous bird around

A beautiful Purple Heron a little closer
This photo did not come out as well as I had hoped but all the specks along the horizon are Grey Herons.
Luckily for me some of them decided to land a little closer to where I was and I got this photo which has 27, but that was only a fraction of what were about.  In addition there about 10 Squacco Heron, 5 or 6 Little Egret and a dozen or so Purple Heron around the lakes.

Will get back to you on this one, still researching this young gull.  There were a few gulls about today but this one was by far the biggest.

All along the lake were small numbers of Black Winged Stilt, I think in total I saw about 20.  They do breed on the lake so I assume some of them will be staying here to raise young.

A single Bluethroat perched on top of a reed.  Another couple of birders I met tell me that there were a couple more of these up around the fields area.

The lake area remains a good place to spot the White Throated Kingfisher and I spotted four here this morning.  I found a pair of these breeding here last year and maybe they will do the same this year.  They will not use the same burrow this year though, it was washed away by a recent flood.

The numbers of Little Grebe have been gradually increasing on the lake over the past couple of years. When I came here first there were only a couple about but this week I spotted 10 pairs.  These also breed in the area so I expect the numbers will rise over the next few years.

A small group of Ferringous Duck were spotted flying overhead heading north.  I managed to get this photo of them but this was the last I saw of them on the day.

And a single Spur Winged Lapwing on a flypast. 

The White or Pied Wagtail were around in good numbers chasing each other across the tops of the sand banks.

This bird confused me, clearly a duck with a very large bill, although not really the colouring for a Shoveler.  Perhaps a female.  I am opting for Shoveler as there is nothing else with quite as big a bill, even if this photo does not show it very well. 

There are not very many trees and bushes at this end of the river so its not really the best spot to be looking for Black Bush Robins, nevertheless two seemed to find enough to their liking o be in this area today.

This looked like a relatively young bird and there were three that I spotted in the area, the Greater Spotted Eagle is fairly common around here at the moment.
This certainly won't win any photography competitions but is clear enough to show a female Marsh Harrier perched on a rock.  In all I spotted two of these around the lakes today.

A small flock of 12 Cormorants were happily feeding on the far side of the lake, they are just starting to get their breeding plumage.

In addition to the big gull there were a few Black Headed Gulls about too, but only 3 or 4 in total.

For most of my walk I noticed a lack of Little Green Bee Eaters around, but as I drew closer to the fields I noticed a small flock of 5 or 5 in a tree together.

The Crested Lark is a constant around this area, you are almost guaranteed to see at least one and even if you don't see it you will certainly hear it as you walk along.

This Turkestan Shrike was the only Shrike I spotted today but then I did not manage to get down into the fields very much as there were workmen all around trying to create some new drainage ditches.

Other birds I did not get useful photos of were a good number of Barn Swallows and Rock Martins plus the ever present White Eared Bulbul and Graceful Prinia which were everywhere.  The number of Common Moorhen are increasing on the lakes as are the number of Coot. 

Another lovely days birding at Al Hayer.

© Bernard Bracken

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Salbuk 7/1/17

Decided this weekend to head north of Riyadh to Salbuk which has an area of wetland which is fed by a large cement factory.  I have not visited here for over a year so was interested to see what had changed.  Well the answer is quite a lot.  The water feed from the factory has not been in use for a while and the water lorries continue to take the water so the water levels have shrunk considerably since I was here last.  Large sections of the reeds have dies off and there is evidence of a fire burning all the bushes sometime in the not too distant past.  In any event I took a walk along the side of the area to see if I could spot much.  Almost immediately I spotted three Marsh Harriers sailing off into the distance.  It was still too dark to get photos and I did not see them again.

Speaking of pictures, the first few are a bit washed out because there was not enough light when I first arrived but right by where the car was parked I spotted a couple of Spectacled Bulbul.  Also spotted a pair of these in Al Hayer last week.  Not sure if they are moving about a bit but not really seen that many of these around here before.  Oddly I did not see any White Eared Bulbul here at all today.

An early visitor to he area is this Stonechat.  It was deep in the stubble of the old reed beds so focus was difficult.

There were a small number of Squacco Heron at the site today but there were also a smaller number of locals with shotguns so the birds were very wary.  I did manage to get a photo of them as they flew off as proof :)

I saw about a dozen Common Moorhen on my walk but there were certainly many times more on site as you could hear them in the reeds.  I see these birds on virtually every birding trip I go on, including my recent visit to Cuba but they never fail to impress.

There was a small flock of Little Stint on site, though with the exception of this guy I could not get near enough to get any sort of photo at all.  As I mentioned above there are a lot of shooters in this area so I guess the birds react to that to survive.  They don't know its a camera!

I am going with green sandpiper for this one but will look again in a bit, never been particularly comfortable telling the different sandpipers apart.

The White Wagtails were out in good numbers today with quite a few around the exposed pools and even more spotted flying overhead.

I spotted about a dozen or so Crested Lark around the area they seem to like the areas of wetland bordered by desert.

A pair of Little Egrets flew overhead heading south.  They did not stop in the area.

There were a couple of Daurian Shrike around today but I did not get close views of any of them

Another fleeting view of a bird was this Tree Pipit.  I think there were a few of them about but again I did not get close enough to get any decent views.

The Black Winged Stilt by contrast were not too bothered by me at all.  There was a small flock of 8 or 9 of these about on site.

I was not expecting these Rock Martins (or Pale Crag Martins) today and indeed almost missed seeing them altogether as they were swooping in to an area of sand hills which I would normally not spend much time looking at.  A nice bird to see though a bugger to photograph as the lag on the camera usually means you get a screen full of blue sky!!

I was glad I came to Salbuk today but was sad to see yet another of the small wetland areas going the same way as the cricket club on the other side of Riyadh.  I am not sure why the factory has stopped feeding the site with water but if it is not restarted then this area will return to desert in the not too distant future.

© Bernard Bracken