Nevertheless, this didn't stop me visiting my local patch at al Hayer yesterday.
I went with first time birders, Dr Manssour Habbash and his brother Mohammed. They have assured me they enjoyed it! and I must say it was an interesting day for me too.
adult black crowned night heron
We spend most of our time in the pivot fields. There was no time to investigate the wooded areas or much of the water course. However, we still managed 24 species and I got another addition to my Saudi list. More about this later.
Before we got to the pivot fields, I spotted some cattle egret en route in a tree. We stopped off and found not only 4 cattle egret in one tree but 4 black crowned night heron in two neighbouring trees.
juvenile black crowned night heron
One of the black crowned night heron was a juvenile. The night heron were a lucky find. They are much shyer than cattle egret and often well hidden. I have also usually found them difficult to approach.
We made a second stop on the way to the pivot fields. This time on the banks of the water course. This yielded a dispersed group of about ten moorhen, and also three little ringed plover, little green bee-eater, a black bush robin and assorted doves. The most interesting sightings were a flying flock over the reed beds of about 30 little egret and a separate flock of ten grey heron.
barn swallow, sand martin and pale crag martin
When we finally arrived at the fields, the most immediate and obvious birding feature was the presence of many hirundines hawking for insects the over the fields. A big majority were barn swallow. However on close inspection there were sand martin and the odd pale crag martin among them too.
This was the first time I had positively identified sand martin since my arrival in Saudi Arabia. It becomes number 227 on my Saudi list and shows I can still add to the list through birding my local patch though this is getting harder and harder.
more yellow wagtail
Suddenly a large number of yellow wagtail went into the air flying in all direction. And it wasn't us or a near-by kestrel which caused the panic.
pallid harrier - top side view
Out of nowhere a harrier swooped down on the loose flock. I don't know how it failed to take a wagtail but it did. I suppose it was still to young to hunt properly but it really should have scored.
pallid harrier - underside view
pallid harrier side on view
The broad pale collar and brown neck of a juvenile pallid harrier is apparently the easiest way to distinguish between them.
greater short toed lark
Once the calm had been restored, I took a closer look at the wagtails and noticed that there was a second species in amongst them.
There were at least three greater short toed lark. This was the first time had seen them at al Hayer even though my guide book has them as summer breeders.
Adding to the diversity, on the pivot bars two blue cheeked bee-eater were seen. In another moment two collared pratincole flew up before rapidly landing in another part of the field and out of sight.
Finally, a special thanks to Manssour for driving me out to al Hayer.