Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Urban birding in Riyadh

On Friday, Lou Regenmorter and I made it a day of city birding. In the morning, we visited al Waha compound in the north east of the city. After lunch there with a friend we moved on to the gardens and golf course of the Intercontinental Hotel.

a rainbow over Riyadh

It was an unusual day in the sense that it rained on and off. Riyadh only gets 95mm of rain in an average year but more than half of it usually falls in late March and early April. We have had light rain in about 5 days out of the last 14.

red-vented bulbul at al Waha

The two urban areas visited had a lot of communality in bird life. For example, both venues had the rare (for Saudi Arabia) red-vented bulbul alongside the extremely common white-cheeked bulbul.

chiffchaff at al Waha

Both venues had a selection of warblers and both sets were mostly found in the acacia trees and other natural vegetation. Ornamental trees were not fruitful for warblers. 

There were chiffchaff at both places. 

second chiffchaff at al Waha

However whereas we sighted also lesser whitethroat and common whitethroat at Al Waha, we saw an eastern olivaceous warbler at the Intercontinental. Eastern olivaceous warbler is the only mainstream warbler which commonly breeds in Riyadh's gardens and parks. 

hoopoe at the Intercontinental

Hoopoe was also seen at both places. The one above was on the golf course. 

common myna at the Intercontinental

Likewise common myna and laughing dove were also present at al Waha and the Intercontinental though we didn't see any collared dove at the hotel.

lake at the golf course

I can't recall seeing  either red-tailed shrike in a residential compound all winter or spring. They are certainly rare there obviously preferring more natural settings. On the other hand, masked shrike and to a lesser extent woodchat shrike are disproportionately found in parks and gardens. Both birds will be flying on north.

masked shrike at the Intercontinental

The masked shrike appears to be a first cycle bird rather than say an adult female. It was confiding and allowed close contact.

woodchat shrike at the Intercontinental

The woodchat shrike was an adult male with a beautiful deep brown head. Incidentally there is still no sign of any red-backed shrike in the area. 

rose ringed parakeet at the Intercontinental

There is a rule of thumb when it comes to rose-ringed parakeet. The larger gardens have them and the smaller ones don't. This rule held again. We only saw them at the Intercontinental.

yellow vented bulbul at the International

In general the larger Intercontinental had more species than al Waha too. We onyy observed yellow vented bulbul here.

pied wheatear on the fairway

Furthermore we only saw one wheatear all day and it was a pied wheatear on the fairway of the golf course at the Intercontinental.

Lou and I agreed that urban birding made a pleasant change. He compiled the list of birds seen below.

Species Place
Red-vented bulbul Al Waha / Intercontinental
White cheeked bulbul                 Al Waha / Intercontinental
Yellow-vented bulbul Intercontinental
Collared dove Al Waha / Intercontinental
Laughing dove                                          Al Waha / Intercontinental
Hoopoe Al Waha / Intercontinental
Common myna Al Waha / Intercontinental
Rose-ringed parakeet  Intercontinental
Rock pigeon Al Waha / Intercontinental
Red-throated pipit Intercontinental
Kestrel Al Waha
Masked  shrike Intercontinental
Woodchat shrike Intercontinental
Indian silverbill Intercontinental
House sparrow Al Waha / Intercontinental
Barn swallow Al Waha
Common swift Intercontinental
Black bush robin Al Waha / Intercontinental
Common redstart Intercontinental
Rufous bush robin Intercontinental
Chiffchaff Al Waha / Intercontinental
Common whitethroat Al Waha
Eastern olivaceous warbler Intercontinental
Lesser whitethroat Al Waha
Pied wheatear         Intercontinental 

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