Sunday, 30 October 2011

Fodder fields east of Al Hayer

The last stop on our birding trip on Thursday was at a recently cut fodder field further downstream of the lagoons in wadi hanifah.

There are a dozen or more fodder fields in this area. All are watered by giant (up to 500 metre long) rotating water sprinklers. I know theses types of field well. Several government farms in Libya use the same system to put farms in unpromising locations including in the middle of desert. I also know the birding in them can be very, very good. 

blue-cheeked bee-eater on a wire next to a fodder field

The field we chose had been cut since my visit last week. Above it were two brown-necked raven flying but it was the smaller birds that caught our attention.

Scattered throughout the field were several blue-cheeked bee-eater on the ground jumping up every now and again to catch an insect. 

There was a flock of Indian silverbill in the bushes next to the field and a northern wheatear sheltering from the heat under another bush. There were also a few yellow wagtail foraging in the field.

However the  most interesting sight was a mobile mixed flock of small birds - alternating between foraging in the cut fodder and returning to the safety of one particular bush. At first sight it looked like the flock was just a mix of house sparrow and Indian silverbill.

streaked weaver next to a fodder field

However on closer inspection, the flock was more mixed and more interesting than that. We think there were one or two Spanish sparrow in the mix and there were definitely several streaked weaver!

Streaked weaver had been reported several years ago in the Riyadh area but some (of the very few people who comment on this area) had surmised it may have died out. Well it hasn't!

The bird photographers in the area have told me Ruppell's weaver, indigenous to east Africa, is a summer breeder here in very large numbers. It disappears, so they say, in September (and presumable migrates towards east Africa). However streaked weaver is an Indo-Malay bird and perhaps it doesn't migrate from Riyadh.  

All the weavers we saw looked like the one in the photo. It is like the female looks all year round but I understand that males outside the breeding season take on a similar look.

The moral of this story is look closer at your flocks of sparrows. You never know what you might find.

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