Monday, 26 December 2011

Lagoons at Wadi Thulaymah

On Friday, Abdullah Amrou took Clive Temple and me to Wadi Thulymah outside Al Kharj. This was one of three venues we visited in an action-packed day.

In recent years, two new waste water treatment works have been in operation in central Arabia. They have produced new "rivers" similar in many ways to the "Riyadh river" which flows through Wadi Hanifah. One of these new water courses flows through Wadi Thulaymah. 

Though Wadi Hanifah near Al Hayer has been extensively birded by the few birders who make it to central Arabia, Wadi Thulaymah is pretty much virgin birding territory. 

We started our birding at the far downstream end of the new Kharj river. Here the water has collected into about five crystal clear lagoons.  Indeed all the water in this wadi looks clear. I suspect the treatment works are ultra modern. 

Anyway,the lagoon habitat doesn't exist at Wadi Hanifah (though old records show something similar used to be present before the wadi evolved further). 
The good news is that the lagoons at Wadi Thulaymah were teaming with waders.

However even before we saw any waders, a long legged buzzard flew over head and "welcomed" us to the area. 

wood sandpiper

There are a few waders at Al Hayer. However Wadi Thulaymah's lagoons are ideal for them and the density of waders is much higher.  The lagoons held common sandpiper, green sandpiper, wood sandpiper and marsh sandpiper.

marsh sandpiper

This was the first time I have seen marsh sandpiper in Saudi Arabia.


There was more than just sandpipers. There were also a small number of ruff. Again this was the first time I have seen this bird in Saudi Arabia too. However it has been recorded in huge numbers at Al Safi dairy farm in the past. The front entrance to Al Safi farm is very close to these new lagoons so ruff is not a surprise. 

black winged stilt

Black winged stilt are resident birds in central Arabia and its must be highly probable that they will be at the lagoons all year even after the waders have gone.

little stint

The most abundant bird on the day was little stint. We counted at least 80 of them. When we looked carefully there were at least three temminck's stint among them and one dunlin. At least one ringed plover and two kentish plover were also present.

Temminck's stint

Later on in the day (very nearly dusk) we visited an area a few kilometres upstream of the lagoons. It was too late to bird properly but there is obviously a large clear lake. Although, we couldn't find a good vantage point because of extensive reed beds and a lack of time, we could see a high concentration of ducks. 

The majority were shoveler but there were also tufted duck and at least two pochard. These were the first tufted duck and pochard I have seen in Saudi Arabia.

Clearly, Wadi Thulaymah is worth more visits. 

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