Thursday, 20 October 2011

Lagoons near Al Hayer

Today, I visited the lagoons near Al Hayer. They are about 15 kilometres further downstream of Wadi Hanifah (and its artificial Riyadh river) from the area I have previously visited.

The lagoons are actually the part of the wadi which are normally recommended for (the few) birders (who come to Riyadh ) to visit. So in a sense I have been holding back. Although, I have no regrets over birding the more upstream areas first.

Apart from the birds today, what was most surprising is that I bumped into three bird photographers and furthermore they told me that they had just seen another British birder.

This must surely be a record occurrence! 

Of my new acquaintances, I must thank Ahmed, the Saudi bird photographer in particular for showing me some of the best sites in the area.

a thirsty and hungry dunlin

The landscape here is different from upstream. The fast flowing river is replaced by a number of lagoons with slow moving water and narrow waterways. All of them seemed to be occupied by large numbers of moorhen

I was not surprised to see waders in this habitat but I was surprised that the first one I saw was a dunlin.  He is very lucky indeed to find water in the middle of the desert and so far from the coast. I know some dunlin will venture inland but this is in extreme. He was very thirsty and continually eating and drinking. I was very happy to see him fly off to another area after staying a good hour in one place. The short flight makes me think he will survive.

one of the "lagoons"

In the same lagoon, a little later, I came across a flock of five little ringed plover which some sources say even breed here.

little ringed plover

The same array of herons and egrets were seen as further up stream though  I was captivated by seeing cattle egret perched in numbers on three adjacent leafless trees.

cattle egret

I won't repeat focussing on all the passage or wintering birds I had seen before up stream either. However there were some new ones!

One was spotted crake. I accidentally flushed one when I unknowingly walked past it today. 

Isabelline shrike

I was pleased to see a couple of isabelline shrike (having seen Turkestan shrike before).  I don't know yet whether any of either will stay all winter.

white wagtail

On the road out of Riyadh  (on a well-water traffic island) I saw my first yellow wagtail since arriving here.  This was followed by sightings of white wagtail at the lagoons.


Another non breeding (I presume) visitor  was a sparrowhawk. This adds to my growing list of birds of prey seen in the area. A female marsh harrier was the only other one today though I did also see a family group of fan tailed raven (which is a "lifer" for me).

barn swallow

The final (presumed) visitor on passage or wintering were barn swallow. Though I have seen them before, this time they were present in very large numbers. They were attracted to a near-by alfalfa field which had been cut this morning.  I have seen this attraction many times before while in Libya.


Among the residents (camels excluded) my most notable achievement today was to get better photographs of Indian silverbill which seemed to be more common here than upstream. 

Indian silverbill

For a small bird they seem to have a lot of character.

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