Monday, 13 February 2017

Wadi Hanifah in early February

Returned to Wadi Hanifah for a short trip last weekend and had quite an interesting visit (4/2/17).  The Wadi is close by the Diplomatic Quarter of the city and very much a manicured area.  I started out about 6:30am with a small number of fairly common birds, but as I have said many times you never know what surprises are in store...
The temperatures were well down on the norm for Saudi Arabia and I think this is the first time ever I had to wear a jumper while birding, although within an hour or so of dawn it was warming up nicely.
This area is a fairly popular picnic site for locals, although I have not seen many at the times I am there.  They all tend to arrive in the evenings.

On each of the turrets that are spaced out along the wall of the Wadi were small flocks of Feral Pigeons.  There are significant numbers of these around

Along with their cousins the Collared Dove and the Laughing Dove.  These birds love to live in close proximity to city dwellers as the remnants of the picnics make for easy pickings.

Close behind the Pigeons and Doves are the Mynas' which also like the leftovers from our picnics.

The House Sparrow were present in good numbers, although not as many as I have seen here in the past.

and from time to time a few Spanish Sparrow appeared in the bushes.

One bird I have not seen in the area for quite some time is this Grey Hypocolius.  On the day there were about 10 to 12 f them around the area in small groups

I did make several attempts to get a photo of the male birds to but they proved too quick and all the photos of those were blurred.

Our old friend the White Eared Bulbul were in most of the bushes and were busily feeding and I think pairing off, as I saw many getting together in pairs on branches.

However, there was also a pair of Spectacled Bulbul.  So far I have seen a number of these at every site I have visited around Riyadh this year, in years gone by it was unusual to see one as they are more common in the south and west of the country.  But maybe things are becoming more to their liking here in the Central Region.

One bird I have never come across in the Central Region before is this Ruppell's Weaver.  These are fairly common in the south and west but not generally found here.  Could this be a new development or simply a bird that has escaped from a cage somewhere?
In addition I flushed a Grey Heron early in the morning but it was still too dark to get a photo, later there was a Squacco Heron which also flushed.  A number of Ring Necked Parakeets flew over screeching as they went and as we left the area I spotted a single White Crowned Wheatear.

See every day has its surprises even if it is a fairly short mornings walk!!

© Bernard Bracken

Monday, 6 February 2017

Khobar 27/1/17

As I will soon be leaving Saudi Arabia I decided to try to get around to visiting some of the sites I have been to over the past 4 years.  This weekend we took the long drive towards the gulf coast to Khobar to see some seabirds.  Unlike my last visit here last summer it was cold with temperatures only around 14 degrees centigrade when I arrived around 8:30 am.  Not that I was upset, it is far easier to walk in 14 and 42!!

Al Khobar water tower is one of the main landmarks on this coast along with the King Fahd Bridge joining Saudi Arabia to Bahrain.  This is an impressive landmark towering 90m above the city and hosts a restaurant and observation area along with its primary water tower function.  Impressive eh?

Almost immediately after arrival I got some lovely views of Great Cormorant which were present in large numbers, some were molting to their breeding plumage.  This one is in classic feather drying pose as unlike many water birds Cormorants do not have waterproofing and have to get out from time to time to dry off.

I think these are probably the avian version of a submarine swimming very low in the water.  In addition to the Great Cormorants there were a small number Socatra Cormorants out to sea on the shallow water markers but I could not get any useful photos of them. 

There were a small number of Grey Herons around the place today although as ever they were quite difficult to get close to.
The most common member of the Heron family seen around the place was the Western Reef Heron, a good deal smaller than the grey but nonetheless impressive.

The Western Reef Heron comes in a variety of colours, the Dark Morph and the light morph as seen here.  There is an intermediate type also seen which I think is a hybrid of the two.

There were a small number of terns along the Corniche like the Lesser Crested Tern.

And rather a lot of Greater Flamingo, as always the Adults were segregated from the juveniles (above). 

Common Redshank were pretty much all over the place today.  Dispersed in small numbers but everywhere.

As were members of the plover family with the most abundant being the tiny Kentish Plover which is found in many areas of the Kingdom almost all year round.

Slightly less common but a handsome bird is the Grey plover.  There were a couple of dozen of these about today.

And last but by no means least the Ringed Plover which was scurrying about the tideline in search on food.

The Black Headed Gull were on site in huge numbers.  One of the many flocks I watched numbered a couple of hundred birds.

The Black Winged Stilt was another common sight today, I'm not sure why the gull in the background was giving one of them a ducking but it did not appear to bother any of the others too much.
A little fly by of some more Black Heads.
There were not that many land birds around today for some reason, I spotted a few Collared Dove and the ubiquitous House Sparrow were busy in the trees.  I did have a flypast of 4 House Crows but they were gone before I got a chance to take a photo.  

Along the pathway were a few Crested Lark picking at crumbs left by picnicking locals.
I am not certain about this gull.  I think its a Caspian Gull although the yellow bill with black tip and small red spot suggests Armenian.  The classification of many of the yellow legged gulls is far from clear with a number of different bodies either lumping or splitting the species.  For those who are interested in the challenges of this I attach an interesting article on the identification of Yellow Legged Gulls from British Birds magazine.

The cool conditions were much to my liking today and made life a lot easier for birding.  That said there is never a dull day when your birding here, always loads to keep the interest.

© Bernard Bracken