Friday, 14 October 2011

Birding Al Waha compound in Riyadh

Yesterday, I did my first birding on a compound. I am grateful to my friend Damian, a fellow teacher formerly in Libya for the invitation to his compound.

Al Waha is probably one of the smallest compounds in Riyadh and is at its north eastern edge. There is no permanent water feature (the swimming pool doesn't count) but there are plenty of trees and bushes as well as frequent watering of gardens.

My birding was relaxed, uninterrupted and expectant. Compounds are known to  act as magnets for many birds and I was expecting to see them!

hoopoe with insect at Al Waha

It was nice to see a hoopoe virtually at the  start of my afternoon's birding. I had seen one the week before at Wadi Hanifah. This one was more amenable to photography even though I had to track it for a few minutes before it finally settled at the edge of the compound.

a view of the compound

Possibly the most notable noise during the afternoon (with the exception of at dusk) is the constant chattering of bulbuls. There is a high density of white-cheeked bulbul and they are easy to see in gardens and open spaces - everywhere!
one of the many white-cheeked bulbul

However, while the most numerous, there weren't the only bulbul present on the compound. I saw single red-vented bulbul in two places (though I can't be sure it wasn't the same bird). Both times it was associating with the white-cheeked bulbul.  My assumption is there is no independent flock of them.

red-vented bulbul

The generally held wisdom among the few birders who have reported on Riyadh is both species were originally escapees or introduced. Personally I can believe that the white-cheeked bulbul could be the result of natural range expansion. Either way, I am really happy to have seen red-vented bulbul so soon on arrival in Riyadh. I don't know how common it is since previous reports vary all the way from "common" to "rare". 

house sparrow

Along with white-cheeked bulbul the most numerous bird on the compound was the house sparrow. It was also the noisiest as dusk approached though quite quiet in the day.

With so many house sparrow around you could be forgiven for missing any other LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) on the compound. However, once the sparrows moved off one tree en mass one LBJ stayed behind.

booted warbler

This warbler is a booted warbler. It has the characteristic "boots" - pink legs with darker feet. Other features include the overall brown or grey-brown on top, buff flanks to the underside and a dark tip to the beak.  It's most western population breeds in southern European Russia south to Iran. Although most birds are said to winter in India its not surprising to see one directly south of (and closer to) its breeding grounds now that these islands of green (compounds and parks ) exist in a former desert.

black bush robin

I had to smile when I saw a black bush robin on the lawn of one of the houses in the compound behaving similar to its distant cousin the blackbird. 

common myna

A pair of common myna made their presence felt by making a loud  noises often mimicking including what sounded like a parakeet. I was disappointed to see them rather than the "real thing". I am told rose ringed parakeet is common on the larger compounds especially the largest one of all - the diplomatic quarter - in the west of the city.

collared dove

I can't finish my report on the compound without mentioning the Eurasian collared dove. They were plentiful and breeding (even in October). Both African collared dove and Eurasian collared dove are found in Riyadh but my close up encounters here gives me confidence these were Eurasian. The obviously sandy wings were one factor.

breeding collared dove

Al Waha has whetted my appetite and I will certainly bird more compounds . You won't have to wait long.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    Can you share your opinion about al waha compound. My sponsor has placed me there and I have been reading very negative comments. If you could email me that would be great because I am very underwhelmed and I am moving next month. I wanted to request a different place. My email is I would really appreciate it.