Tuesday, 13 March 2012

New place on the edge of Riyadh

Over the past few months, I have been passing a promising looking green area at the edge of the city on the way south towards my regular birding areas.  

On Friday I stopped off and found it was very interesting.

cattle egret with sheep

Hidden behind some factories just off the main south road is a green area. It's close to the Riyadh river and appears to be mostly pasture for sheep with some small scale arable farming too. This is an unusual habitat so close to Riyadh. I have high expectations for the future. 

pasture land

The resident flock of sheep was being followed around by five cattle egret, a very rural scene.

part of the irrigation system

The irrigation system must be a magnet for birds especially if it is in use in summer.

black bush robin

In the rows of trees and bushes were several black bush robin and to my surprise I saw my first rufous bush robin in Saudi Arabia. This was a full two weeks ahead of the earliest date in the main historic record.

Unfortunately for me, it jumped over a small wall which ran along and inside a row of trees. By the time I had gone round the other side of the hedge to look for it, it had disappeared.  

One of the question marks about this bird is whether it breeds in the Riyadh area. My Helms guide shows it does on its map but the two historic records didn't see it in mid summer.

Turkestan shrike

There were two fields of what I think is rape seed.  While walking past one, I accidentally flushed a common quail which went further into the rape seed. I obviously didn't stand a chance of seeing it again. This was my second encounter with common quail since arriving in Saudi Arabia. The last one was in a pivot field some 20 kilometres further south.

The only other bird I spotted in the rape seed was a Turkestan shrike.

woodchat shrike

On the edge of a pasture where it bordered some reeds I picked up yet another woodchat shrike which is passing through. They are turning out to be quite common passage birds. I still have'nt seen a red-backed shrike which must start passing through soon.

pied wheatear

The pastures were heavy with pied wheatear and smaller numbers of Isabelline wheatear.

common myna

Meanwhile occupants of the rows of trees included common myna and laughing dove.

graceful prinia

I have mentioned before that recently the graceful prinia appear more exposed. I wonder if its because its spring or just because I am better at spotting them. I find everything is graceful about them about from their voice.

front view of graceful prinia

The air was busy with birds. It has more than its fair share of little green bee-eater.

little green bee-eater on a wire

Barn swallow numbers were high too.

barn swallow on a wire

However the most obvious feature of the skies were the birds of prey. I was in the area around midday so the air was warm enough for even the larger ones to be out and about.

steppe eagle

There were three large eagles in the sky which loitered.  I took the one with a wider wing span to be a steppe eagle and the two with narrower wing spans to be greater spotted eagle

greater spotted eagle

All three birds were adults which are quite difficult to separate when looking into the sun.  However the more numerous bird was black kite which looked dwarfed against the larger eagles. I will comment more about the kites in my next blog.


  1. Did you note what subsp the Bush Chat was?

    Laurie -

  2. Laurie,

    Sorry didn't see him for long enough. However they are supposed to come through in droves in about two or three weeks time. I'll certainly get my chance then