Saturday, 13 October 2012

Roller and redstart at Al Hayer

After visiting Wadi Awsat and Dirab on Thursday, Mansur al Fahad and I headed to Al Hayer. Although we visited the water's edge (seeing common snipe and moorhen) and a couple of pivot fields (mostly yellew wagtail), a third pivot field proved a goldmine for larger passage birds.

All we needed to do was walk along the line of the pivot bars for a few minutes for our sightings.

blue cheeked bee-eater

There were a few blue-cheeked bee-eater in the field resting. On the pivot bar was a European bee-eater (though the picture is of one on a wire next to the road).

European bee-eater

As we moved down the field, there was a resting European roller. It was the first one I had seen this autumn and the first time I have managed a photo of one since arriving in Saudi Arabia.

European roller

European roller has more subdued colours in autumn than in spring. Furthermore the sub-species which breeds in Iraq and Iran is more subdued anyway so this bird was not brightly coloured.


On the same pivot bar was a hoopoe which allowed close approach. This made me think it was a recently arrived and tired migrant.

squacco heron

Cooling itself under the spray of the same pivot was a squacco heron.

resting barn swallow

Finally there was a group of resting barn swallow on the pivot.  A small number of yellow wagtail were also in the field.

greater spotted eagle

Elsewhere at al Hayer a greater spotted eagle flew over.

second view of greater spotted eagle

They are common in migration and a few over-winter too.  However equally as interesting was the sighting of four lesser kestrel over a pivot field and minutes later two common kestrel.

third view of greater spotted eagle

The final evidence of a continuing passage was a common redstart in an acacia tree.

common redstart

This was not the end of our marathon birding day. We went on to the outskirts of the small town of Heet where we saw sand partridge run up the escarpment, two fan-tailed raven overhead and more blackcap and a barred warbler in the acacia.

Heet is turning out to be the place to see passage warblers.  It also houses pharoah eagle owl. It is also the only place in central Arabia with a baboon colony. Apparently it was started when an expat released his pet baboons into the wild on leaving the country. They have now thrived into a troop of 30.

I am sure I will be visiting Heet again and I'll try for pictures next time.

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