Friday, 22 June 2012

A Wadi south west of Riyadh

A couple of weeks ago just before I left Saudi Arabia for the summer, Lou and I made one last trip out in the searing heat.

We visited one of the several wadis south west of Riyadh which run east-west through the Tuwaiq escarpment which is essentially a north-south feature. The wadi we chose is directly west of Dillam and some 100 kilometres away from Riyadh.

It looked promising in advance partly because google earth shown some greenery.

young blackstart

The wadi was a surprisingly wide valley with occasional small farms and some natural bushes.It rose extremely gently and we probably only gained 50-100 metres altitude from start to finish. The 4x4 that we had at our disposal was still tested by the road quality though.

Despite the heat there was some bird life!  The skies were thronging with African crag martin

The lower part of the valley had a resident flock of brown-necked raven while the top end had a flock of fan-tailed raven. Both the African crag martin and the fan-tailed raven were firsts for Lou but not for me unfortunately. My hopes of seeing any vultures or falcons were dashed too.

parent blackstart

Near the wadi base, possibly the most common bird was blackstart and they appeared to be mostly in family groups as befits that stage in their breeding cycle with the young ones not fully fledged.

yellow vented (white spectacled) bulbul

One of the most interesting features of the wadi was the predominance of  yellow vented bulbul over white eared bulbul. This is exactly the opposite situation to that in Riyadh and Kharj. Indeed it was the first time in central Arabia that I have seen this phenomenon.

All credit to the Helms guide to Middle East birds which has this distribution spot on.

desert lark finding shade

Hoopoe was spotted at one of the farms. The helms guide doesn't pick up the wider distribution for this bird though.

We saw fleeting views of lark all the way along the valley but it wasn't until we were leaving that one stayed still long enough for us to confirm or belief that they had been desert lark.

By midday even desert lark keep firmly in the shade.

second view of desert lark

Once again I was surprised that namaqua dove seem to venture out in the heat more than most other birds. Perhaps that explains why I often see them drinking too.

namaqua dove

On the way back we drove over the escarpment where wee saw virtually nothing! Its simply too exposed and not high enough to be cool. Winter. of course may be a different story.

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