Monday, 2 April 2012

The old road to Dirab via Al Hayer

Directly south of al Hayer is an old village where wadi Hanifah meets the back road to Dirab. I find the village more picturesque than most of the settlements even though it appears a little bit dilapidated.

I birded near the village and on the back road to Dirab on Thursday. While in the village area, I spent most of my time birding along the Riyadh river and a small off-shoot of it.

The land is shaded by a small palm plantation which meets the river bank where there is more natural cover. The walk in the shade was welcomed!

On one of the trees abutting the river, I saw my first streaked weaver from about two months. You may recall I have mentioned  that last year's main weaver colony was burned and many young killed in an accidental fire. It was good to see a survivor and I hope the numbers can recover.

streaked weaver

The Riyadh river cuts through a gorge here and there are escarpments either side. I always look at them closely 


This time I was a little disappointed, seeing only rock pigeon which soon disappeared when a steppe eagle made a brief appearance.

steppe eagle

Meanwhile back in the shaded areas, white cheeked bulbul were numerous. They seem to adapt to almost any vegetated terrain.

white cheeked bulbul

Similarly at the moment there are very large numbers of red-tailed shrike. The one below is a Turkestan shrike seen in a shaded area. We get both types of red-tailed shrike in the winter but the numbers are really swollen at the moment. 
Turkestan shrike

In the local off shoot of the Riyadh river, I accidentally flushed two common snipe but luckily one flew only a short distance and I saw him land. Near-by I also displaced a grey heron which unfortunately moved off a greater distance.

common snipe

The stonechat population has now decreased significantly as the wintering population and passage birds have largely moved on. However I saw one looking comfortable here possibly because it is so shaded and cool.


Contrary to popular belief not all siberian stonechat have large white collars. It depends on the sub-species. However this one certainly did!

woodchat shrike

As I walked back to the car into the open I came across another woodchat shrike which is obviously a common bird on passage.

We then drove off towards Dirab. The road is in the middle of a wide, valley with hills either side.

We stopped at one small wadi which I had visited before to investigate. At the bottom of the wadi were a flock of white cheeked bulbul and house sparrow among other birds. However I like this place because each time I have visited it there have been white crowned wheatear.

white crowned wheatear

Once again they were there. I will talk more about them in my next blog.

Looking up into the sky, I could see three brown necked raven high in the air. 

brown necked raven

Looking up the wadi there was a different sight. I noticed three warblers dancing between the bushes. I couldn't work out what they were so I started climbing the wadi towards them. Each time I moved they also moved up a bush or two.

lesser whitethroat

In the end I climbed virtually to the top of the wadi but it was worth it. All three birds proved to be lesser whitethroat. The two pictures of of different birds. the one above is in a bush to the side of the wadi on the slope. The one below shows a lesser whitethroat poking its head out of a bush at the top of the wadi where it mets the escarpment. I would have been pretty upset if I had made all the effort without identifying the birds.

second lesser whitethroat

After finishing we the wadi we pressed on to the outskirts of the farming district of Dirab. This area has been a bit disappointing ever time I have visited it. In the first field were only barn swallow, house sparrow, white cheeked bulbul, crested lark, a couple of pied wheatear and more interestingly one blackstart

crested lark at Dirab

I didn't visit any more fields in the area as it didn't feel like it was going to generate much. 

You live and learn.

pied wheatear

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