Friday 28 October 2011

The dam at Al Hayer

Yesterday I went out birding early with Tony an accomplished birder from the UK.  It was an early start which allowed for birding in three different locations. Each location will the subject of a separate blog over the coming days.

Our first stop was a visit to the dam in wadi Hanifah just west of the town of Al Hayer. It was no mean achievement in finding it. Its not on a road and required good map reading skills (primarily by Tony!) and a trek with no guarantee that we would actually find the place.

Having walked past a small quarry and a palm plantation we found ourselves in a stretch  of wadi hanifah valley. As we walked upstream to the hoped-for location of the dam we passed through bushes thronging with white cheeked bulbul and graceful prinia (the smaller bushes in its case).

The sides of the valley got taller as we progressed and became escarpments.

Eventually we could see the dam ahead. 

Persian wheatear

Though we came for the dam, it turned out most of our best birding was done on the flat land just below the escarpments and on the escarpments themselves.  One of our early sightings was a wheatear on dry semi-barren land at the edge of the valley underneath an escarpment. It was well away from the lush vegetation in the middle of the valley.

After fully 15 minutes viewing of a well behaved bird and later by looking at reference books on return we now know for sure it is a Persian wheatear - a lifer for both of us (although I have seen the closely related Kurdish wheatear before).  Most likely it will stay the winter though it could be on passage towards south west Arabia.

view from on the top of the dam looking upstream (north)

As I said we didn't really explore the lush areas. The dense reedbeds in many places and the rising temperatures made it look too daunting. I can tell you there were several grey heron and a few purple heron in the area. Moorhen were plentiful.

The area south of the dam is slightly less dense and has more varied vegetation and would certainly be worth a look at in the future.

However, we made do with the escarpments and edges of the valley.  Blackstart were numerous here. Tony also saw a blue rock thrush which unfortunately I missed.

blackstart near the dam

A couple of desert lark were seen at the top of a ridge. This was my first sighting of this bird in Saudi Arabia. 

sand partridge

At one stage a flock of perhaps up to 20 sand partridge scrambled up the hillside.  This was another lifer for me. The second of five during the day.

The third was a glimpse of a white breasted kingfisher which Tony saw first. It was flying within the lush vegetation south of the dam. The other two lifers will be discussed in the next two blogs! 

resting greater spotted eagle

Near the dam we saw the first of a number of greater spotted eagle (which my photography doesn't do justice to) which we saw at other sites as well during the day.

greater spotted eagle in flight

We saw it again at the lagoons several kilometres south east of the dam which was our next stop and the subject of the next blog.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great place for birding. Wonderful collection of birds and photos.