Sunday, 18 December 2011

Land birds in spring at Al Hayer

Its "mid week" here in Saudi Arabia again and so I'm posting some more photos with commentary from the wildlife photographer, Abdullah Amrou. This blog continues last mid week's look at birds seen in March and April. This time they are land birds seen near Al Hayer.

This is peak time for the spring passage and the first bird I am showing is Abdullah's shot of a rock thrush at Al Hayer.

Rock thrush is listed as only a passage bird in central Arabia, this one presumably returning from further south such as western Oman or Yemen.

rock thrush at Al Hayer

Apparently, European roller is a common passage bird at Al Hayer on its way to and from a long way south such as southern Africa. I look forward to seeing them next spring.

European roller

Yellow wagtail is very numerous on passage especially in the fodder fields. The main sub species seen at Al Hayer are feldegg and flava. Its feldegg which breeds in the north of Middle East region.  However, the bird above is a flava.

yellow wagtail (flava)

There are still wintering birds left in March and April. Stonechat is a common wintering bird though a few seen in these months could be passage birds from further south. 
male stonechat

I really struggle to tell the difference between all the sub species of stonechat. All the eastern sub species and European sub species can be found in Saudi Arabia so I should be getting a lot of practice. However from pictures alone and without without seeing a tail pattern, I really can't tell in most cases!

The bird above has more orange in its collar than any sub species described in Collins or Helms although I understand first cycle males of all sub species are more orange in the collar than true adults in spring. So it may be first cycle but that's as far as I can go.   

female stonechat

I think I have had more luck identifying the female above. Its throat is very pale and are only the eastern sub species are so pale in spring! So it is almost certainly one of the eastern sub species, more especially maura which is often called siberian stonechat

Turkestan shrike

Many Turkestan shrike winter in central Arabia and even more come through on passage. I find separating red tailed shrike easier than separating stonechat sub species.


As is the case in northern Libya where I previously birded, hoopoe in central Arabia can be resident, passage or wintering!


Most chiffchaff in Al Hayer are wintering birds. Once again I have struggled to work out the sub species. Just like the female stonechat, this could easily be from Siberia - a siberian chiffchaff.


Finally Abdullah has snapped a hypocolius. This wintering bird is probably best seen in the Intercontinental hotel gardens in Riyadh where it probably roosts. However, it can obviously be seen in winter and the beginning of spring in other parts of central Arabia including Al Hayer. I am indebted once again to Abdullah Amrou for this and all the other pictures.  

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