Saturday 17 December 2011

The road to Dirab

Yesterday, Clive Temple and I visited the farming community of Dirab which is a recommended birding venue on

We took the back road from Al Hayer to Dirab but instead of birding the farms, we birded a couple of refuse sites!

I will explain why this happened.

It all started out according to plan. As we drove along the back road, we stopped to observe a flock of brown necked raven which had gathered at a  picnicking site with left over refuse. This proved to be a harbinger for the day.

black kite near Dirab

Our next stop, a few kilometres along the road was when Clive spotted several black kite at a large farm. 

As we headed further west, near Dirab, I spotted a white crowned wheatear at a quite small refuse site.  This was my first sighting of this bird in Saudi Arabia. 

young white crowned wheatear

When we stopped to look we found at least one adult and one young white crowned wheatear. However the site had much more than this.

desert lark

The refuse site was by the side of the road with an escarpment behind it. It is clearly ideal territory for desert lark. The one above was very confiding. 


There was also a pair of blackstart at the site.

one of the hoopoe

The most abundant bird at the refuse site however was hoopoe. There were at least 8 present. This is a wintering group because resident birds hold a territory.  They were more flighty than the other birds. When they felt threatened they flew part way up the escarpment, returning when calmed. 

white wagtail

At least one white wagtail and two blue rock thrush were also present. 

blue rock thrush

The blue rock thrush above is not one of those seen at the first refuse site. Actually we saw yet another on a wall by the side of the road on the return journey towards Al Hayer. This proved easier to photograph.

To finish the roll call of birds at the site, there were several little green bee-eater and one desert wheatear

Travelling west from the refuse site, we found that the farms in Dirab were generally not accessible to the public unlike those south of Al Hayer which I normally visit. So we headed back east on the same back road that we had come out on.

We found that about 6 kilometres east of the first refuse site that there was another which we had missed on the way out. This was speculatively birded since the first site had been so successful.

Like the previous refuse site, it too had a couple of white crowned wheatear and blackstart. This time there was also a mobile flock of house sparrow and another flock of white cheeked bulbul darting around near-by trees and bushes. 

mourning wheatear

More excitedly, this second  refuse site was home to a mourning wheatear. Apparently this is only a winter visitor to central Arabia probably through dispersal from north west Saudi Arabia.

desert lesser whitethroat

The second site also differed from the first site by desert lesser whitethroat encouraged to be there by the more abundant natural vegetation (even though my picture shows one in a man made situation!)

Before finishing my comments on the refuse sites, I must return to the black kite seen at the beginning of the day. Near the second site, extremely high in the air was one of the black kite soaring with a young imperial eagle which completely dwarfed it.

Heading further east near the town of Al hayer, we crossed the Riyadh river at a stretch of the river that I haven't birded before. This was brief stop but long enough to see a wintering wryneck in a bare tree. 

grey heron at the bridge crossing the Riyadh river

The wryneck was an unexpected bird to see ending a day where we birded unexpected places.

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