Friday, 23 March 2012


Following the sand storms of the past few days, it rained a little in Riyadh on Wednesday and again yesterday.  It was also very cool for this time of year. 

I found birding at 18C and a light drizzle a very pleasant experience when I visited some pastures on the outskirts of Riyadh yesterday morning.  

Incidentally, I have discovered the pastures are in an area called Mansouriyah. This district was wilder in the 1990s and many of the old records come from there. It's now landscaped in most places but the pastures retain some of the old birding promise.

I only stayed an hour en route to Al Hayer. However I was pleased enough.

pale throated pied wheatear

The main reason for my pleasure was a sighting of a pale throated pied wheatear. This is a rare variation. Some people speculate it results from pale throated black eared wheatear genes getting into the pied wheatear gene pool. The two species are known to hybridise where their breeding ranges overlap in Azerbaijan and northern Iran. So it's quite possible that's where this bird is heading.

female Daurian shrike

It was obvious here that the red-tailed shrike density was higher than in winter and this pattern was repeated elsewhere during the day. The wintering birds are being supplemented by passage birds from north east Africa on their way to central Asia. I think the cold spell in Riyadh has come as a shock to them. Both red-tailed shrike I photographed looked very cold!

male Turkestan shrike

Both the Daurian shrike and the Turkestan shrike are in their breeding plumage.

woodchat shrike

Once again there was a woodchat shrike in the neighbourhood. I don't know whether it was the same one as last week. He looked cold too.

Little green bee-eater

On the wires were collared dove, laughing dove and little green bee-eater. No sign there of any blue cheeked bee-eater which are known to pass through the area in spring starting about now.  You'll have to wait for a couple of blogs to find out if I saw them elsewhere during the day.

common myna

No sign either of any black kite this time although it was probably too early in the morning for them even if they are still about.


  1. Rob,

    The 'vittata' Pied Wheatear looks like a great bird. Good find and good photo as well. I have been looking for this sub-species in the Eastern Province but no luck so far.


  2. Jem,

    I just looked at the records of Pers Anders Bertilsson. He saw 3 vittata out of 220 pied wheatear while he was based in Riyadh.

    Keep looking! or maybe they just don't head your way.

    Cheers Rob