Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Miserable weather, good birding at Mansouriyah

Friday was the first time in my life that I birded wearing a surgical mask. There was a day-long dust storm and I followed local advice about what to do when outside.

Visibility was poor and most people would probably have postponed their birding. I am glad I didn't as I will explain over the next two blogs.

female common redstart

I spent the first hour of my birding day (which started very late) in the Mansouriyah area just south of the city.  

I soon came upon an extremely tame common redstart. I found it was unwilling to fly away. Indeed it even approached me, allowing good photos on a day with miserable visibility.

same common redstart in a tree

This unwillingness to move or fly away was not reserved to the common redstart. It was a common feature of many of the birds on Friday. So the poor visibility was compensated for by the ease of approach to the birds. I suppose the birds don't like dust in the air just as much as people.

third view of common redstart

A warbler favoured the same tree as the common redstart except when the local white cheeked bulbul bullied them it and the redstart out from time to time.

However it kept returning to the same tree and so allowed me prolonged views.

female blackcap

It turned out to be a female blackcap. This was the first one I had seen in Saudi Arabia although I saw two more later in the day.

second view of female blackcap

I got another addition to my Saudi list a few minutes later when I was checking the birds on the wires. As well as the laughing dove and collared dove there was a solitary female rock thrush. This was a lifer as well as a local list addition.

female rock thrush

You may recall that Mansouriyah is the place where I had glimpsed a Ruppells weaver about three weeks ago. This is special because the main weaver in the Riyadh area is streaked weaver and there has been doubt Ruppells weaver is here at all.

male Ruppells weaver

Well, I finally photographed a male Ruppells weaver directly above the nest that Lou and I found three weeks ago. What is more I found too more nests a little further away and heard another male weaver in that area.

Other notable occurrences were the incessant noises of the local common myna which were suddenly punctuated by the beautiful sound of European bee-eater starting from far above and then louder and closer. Happily, these bee-eater came down to ground level and started hawking for insects over the adjacent fields. 

There is more about bee-eaters in the next blog.

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