Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Garganey and other water birds at Al Hayer

I birded the lagoons south of the pivot fields near Al Hayer on Friday. You may recall this is my new favourite birding area in the Wadi Hanifah valley. When I first found it three weeks ago I thought it had potential because it is away from picnickers and the habitat of slow moving water in lagoons was attractive to water birds.


Well I am now even more sure of its potential! 

I was meandering along the banks in an over-tired and correspondingly slow manner because I had very little sleep following my over-night flight back from Istanbul. Then, I heard a quacking noise and realised I was very close to a small flock on ducks on the water. Furthermore they hadn't seen me because of some serendipitous reed cover.

And one of the ducks was a garganey! This species tends to winter further south than all the other anas ducks.  Indeed there is not one record of it in winter in central Arabia by the two main observers (Tom Tarrant and Per Anders Bertilsson) from the past 20 years. 

garganey with shoveler

All the other members of the flock were northern shoveler. You can see how much smaller it is than its fellow anas cousin.

male northern shoveler

Three of the northern shoveler were female and one was male. I failed to get a shot of all the ducks together for fear of breaking cover. Each shot was snatched through a small gap in the reeds when the ducks swam into it.

distant purple heron

Otherwise life goes on for the other water birds, plenty of moorhen were around as usual. Both grey heron and purple heron are more densely found here than other parts of the "Riyadh river".  I did manage to glimpse one of the resident ferriginuous duck which have proved difficult to find. 


Plenty of bluethroat and graceful prinia were seen in the reeds or elsewhere near the water's edge.

common snipe

Just before sunset a very tired me caught sight of a common snipe out in the open on the water. 

I didn't only visit the water's edge on Friday. The next blog recounts the land birds in near-by fields. In my view these were equally as interesting.

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