Monday, 16 January 2012

Lagoons south of the pivot fields

In my search for new birding opportunities in the Riyadh area, I walked south of the pivot fields near Al Hayer on Friday.  The Riyadh river here is inaccessible by road and so has no picnickers to disturb the quiet. Though as will become apparent later in the blog something else did.

This is an area of lagoons and slow moving water. For the moment at least, it is my new favourite birding place in the Riyadh area.

male namaqua dove

There is a country lane for the first part of the walk south into the lagoons. The few trees sticking out of the reeds are worth watching for resting chiffchaff, graceful prinia, collared dove,  namaqua dove, laughing dove, little green bee-eater, white cheeked bulbulindian silverbill  and sometimes even streaked weaver (not seen on Friday but the start of the lane was visited before).


The reeds house many of the same species (but not the doves or bee-eaters) and also bluethroat.


As elsewhere on the Riyadh river, moorhen are plentiful.

white cheeked bulbul

There are two extremely large fields near-by which are private land. I didn't bird watch these but the odd white wagtail, which probably spend most of the day there, visit the river to drink. A prolonged wait at the waters edge would almost certainly yield other drinking field birds if you have the time and patience.

white wagtail

If you have even more time than this then this is a good place too to try to differentiate between African and Eurasian collared dove. The Riyadh area is one of the few places in the world where the ranges overlap. And this particular stretch of the Riyadh river is awash with collared dove.

collared dove

The exposed trees are a good place to photograph birds which spend a lot of time in the reeds. They are so much easier to see and focus on than in the reeds.

graceful prinia

Two incidents occurred while I was in the area which caused birds to scatter and to give me a temporary opportunity to see them in the open. One incident was natural, the second was not.

marsh harrier

In the first, a marsh harrier moved in close. Then tens of small birds panicked. Indian silverbill, spanish sparrow and graceful prinia scattered in all directions.

purple heron

The second incident was caused by a hunter's gun. This was the first time I had heard one so close since arriving in Saudi Arabia. My understanding is that it isn't legal nevertheless it happened.

This time it was the larger birds who panicked. Suddenly 5 purple heron, which I hadn't seen because they were hidden, were in the air. They flew in five separate directions. Lots of doves took to the air too.

common teal

It all happened so fast but I also counted one little egret, seven common teal and one black stork in the air at the same moment. There were more species I am sure but I couldn't look everywhere at once.

Clive, Abdullah and I had seen three black stork a little further south two weeks ago. This incident gave me a chance to see one of them again!

I really want to see them grazing. The two very large private fields probably offer a good chance. I wonder if I can get permission to visit them?


  1. When I was birding in UAE a few years back falconers would put up the birds from the sewage plant by firing a gun, allowing their falcons to sight their prey. Could it be the same situation?

  2. Lovely finds you got there!
    I love the Graceful Prinia!

    Btw. please let me know if you want me to change your location on the NBN google map :)