Saturday, 17 March 2012

On land in spring

There is a very old sign on the Al Hayer-Kharj road saying "Birds ringing Centre". Apart from the dubious grammar, the site is no longer functional as a ringing centre. However, the sign is a useful landmark and as I will show in later blogs the site of the centre proved to be very interesting.

Lou and I started our Thursday afternoon birding in the Al Hayer area near the centre.

rufous bush robin

The area is popular with Saudi families for picnicking but not in the middle of the day when the temperature is 36C. There are plenty of trees and bushes. It makes an attractive picnicking site.

Lou and I had only walked into the picnicking area for about 3 minutes when we walked into four rufous bush robin each in its own bush. Last week's failure to get a photograph of one was immediately forgotten.

Incidentally they appear to be here very early this year according to historical records.

weaver and sparrow nests

Also in the picnicking area, we came across a new weaver's nest next to a sparrow nest. This is close to where the fire took place last year and wiped out all the nestling streaked weaver and some of the adults. As I understand it they prefer colonial nesting but if there numbers are low they nest differently.

common redstart

After walking for a while through the picnicking area we peered over the fence into the facility which used to be the Birds ringing centre. Its cordoned off and is well kept and well watered. The shade was a magnet for common redstart and there was also a masked shrike. I have seen a very small number of masked shrike in the winter but most are passage birds. 

masked shrike

When ever I see a pied wheatear which is more deeply coloured on its breast than the average, I am ever hopeful it might be a cyprus wheatear. Even though it would be much more unlikely in central Arabia than in the south west.

This one was within the fences of the old ringing centre.

pied wheatear

I am better at knowing what to look for now. Unfortunately the back shot of this one revealed a less than average width of black band across its back. Its mostly white. However a cyprus wheatear actually has a wider black band than the average pied wheatear. I'll keep looking!

second view of the pied wheatear

I returned to the centre on Friday and will blog about what I saw then. All I will say now is that I left there happy.

white and yellow wagtail

As well as the rufous bush robin, one of the other bird I had expected to see on Thursday was yellow wagtail.   It is mostly passage bird at Al Hayer though some winter at Kharj a little further south and indeed breeding has been recorded there. But at al Hayer, I hadn't seen a single one all winter. In the largest accessible pivot field the water was being sprayed and it looked the best place to try our luck. Sure enough the large number of white wagtail were peppered with a smaller number of yellow wagtail. Most looked to be either flava or fledegg.

tawny pipit

I am always on the look out for pipits other than tawny pipit. I'll photograph and research anything a bit different. This one has a face like a long billed pipit and was greyer on top than the average tawny pipit. However its underparts were disappointingly plain and light so it didn't fit a long billed. I have yet to conclusively see a long billed pipit in central Arabia though I met them in the south west.

greater spotted eagle

Looking up rather than down, there are still large birds of prey in the area. This greater spotted eagle flew over near the pivot field.

Finally lets not forget the white cheeked bulbul. As other come and go they carry on their residential business.

white cheeked bulbul

The next blog looks at birds we saw on Thursday with an affinity to water.

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