Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Larger birds in south and east of Riyadh

I'm still trying to catch up on blogging birding events since so much has gone on recently.  This one looks at the larger birds seen when Lou Regensmorter, Mansur Al Fahad and I birded south and east of Riyadh on November 8th.

This was the day that collectively we saw the largest number of species (66) in central Arabia in one day since I arrived in the country. I have already blogged about the small birds and the eagles. This is the last blog about that day. There is a species list at the end.

 Little egret with two cattle egret

There are members of the heron family at Al Hair all year round. However most species have greater numbers in winter with the exception of black crowned night heron which seems to go south.

When we found a large flock of white egrets our first reaction was they were likely to be cattle egret. However as we approached closer to their roost it became obvious that most were little egret.  It was only later in the day that we also saw a large flock of cattle egret at Al Hayer too.

 purple heron

Purple heron usually keep themselves well hidden so we count ourselves lucky to have seen one perched out openly on a tree at wadi Hanifah north of Al Hayer. Their overall numbers seem constant all year round but there is probably some churn.

 squacco heron

Squacco heron is a heron species whose numbers may be higher in winter. This is in stark contrast to the Tabuk area, 700 kilometres north where local birder Viv Wilson tells us that their numbers drop.

northern lapwing

In the pivot fields at Al Hayer was a flock of brown necked raven which we see occasionally. At this time of year if they are in the area they are normally involved in a war with any birds of prey. They will bravely mob almost any sized raptor.

Last year for about 4 months in winter, the pivot fields played host to a flock of about 100 northern lapwing. On November 8th we counted about 30 in the same place for the first time this winter.

 northern shoveler with a coot
After leaving Al Hayer we headed north east to the wetlands and lake next to the Riyadh cricket grounds.  The lake had more activity than we had seen on the previous two occasions. The usual coot and little grebe had been joined by about 10 ferruginous duck and a single northern shoveler in another part of the lake system.

 European teal

Two male mallard were present elsewhere in the lake. Sterling work by Lou and his spotting scope identified three European teal too.

 green sandpiper

On leaving the lake we made the very short trip to the wetland. There were no spur winged plover this time. A marsh sandpiper was the most exciting wader seen. We don't get too many.  Green sandpiper were also present.

little stint with little ringed plover

And although there aren't strictly larger birds, they fit the narrative, several dozen little stint and ten or so little ringed plover were also at the wetland. Indeed the number of little stint is one of the highest I have seen in my time in central Arabia.  

The full list of birds seen on November 8th is compiled by Lou Regensmorater and is presented below:

Northern Shoveler
Namaqua Dove
Pallid Swift
Eurasian Teal
Ferruginous duck
White Throated Kingfisher
Little Grebe
Common Kingfisher
 Squacco Heron
Little Green Bee-eater
Grey Heron
Blue Cheeked Bee-eater
Purple Heron
Daurian Shrike
Little Egret
Southern Grey Shrike
Western Cattle Egret
Brown Necked Raven
Crested Lark
Marsh Harrier
Pale Crag Martin
Long legged Buzzard
Sand Martin
Greater Spotted Eagle
Barn Swallow
Steppe Eagle
Graceful Prinia
Eastern Imperial Eagle
Willow Warbler
Lesser Whitethroat
Common Coot
Common Myna
Northern Lapwing
Little Ring Plover
Black Bush Robin
Kentish Plover
Common Snipe
Isabelline Wheatear
Black-winged Stilt
Northern Wheatear
Marsh Sandpiper
Desert Wheatear
Green Sandpiper
Red-tailed Wheatear
Wood Sandpiper
House Sparrow
Common Sandpiper
Spanish Sparrow
Little Stint
Indian Silverbill
Red Avadavat
Rock Pigeon
White Wagtail
Eurasian Collared Dove
Tawny Pipit
Laughing Dove
Streaked Weaver


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