Saturday, 6 October 2012

Desert stop, 150 kilometres east of Riyadh

Lou Regensmorter and I went on a birding trip to eastern province this weekend. It was both of ours first visit there.

It was pretty intensive with 5.00am starts on both days. However the rewards were considerable.

We saw over 70 species. The number will be confirmed once the full list is made. I added 10 species to my Saudi list making a new total of 238. Several of these would be unlikely to be seen anywhere else. I also gained one new "lifer".

 European turtle dove

There will be a series of blogs acting as a trip report to follow. In the meantime I will whet your appetite by writing about a stop we made going out on Wednesday night and coming back on early Friday  evening.

To break the 400 kilometre journey up between Riyadh and Khobar where we stayed, we stopped off at one of the "desert access points" 150 kilometres east of Riyadh.

We were attracted to the place by the sparse grassland in the desert which looked ideal for sandgrouse.  Well, we didn't see them but there were two European turtle dove seen on the way out and one on the way back. This has been a target bird for some time. I had never seen it in Saudi Arabia.  I really never expected to see it in the desert!  These birds were of the local sub-species which distribution maps say might even breed in the area. Either way it was a great start to the weekend.

 Pied wheatear

The stop also had pied wheatear on both days. There was also a mourning wheatear on Wednesday and an Isabelline wheatear on Friday.

Daurian shrike

On Wednesday, going outward, we saw two Daurian shrike. Both were juveniles which makes identification a bit tricky but Daurian shrike has a weaker supercilium than Turkestan shrike at all ages. Since this one doesn't really have one at all it must be Daurian. One of them had made an impromptu larder complete with a recently killed passerine.

Asian desert warbler

On Friday, we saw two Asian desert warbler which spent most of their time finding shade in the trash near the desert access entrance. 

It was a fine end to the weekend's birding but what happened in between was the real story. This will follow.


  1. Great start,i waiting you for the rest of your report, I was in the east of the country since Monday, with 7 new species added to my list

  2. Mansur. it will be interesting to see if we saw the same birds. We had a rewarding time in both Jubail and Dammam/Khobar.