Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Some small birds from south Riyadh

After a recount I can confirm Mansur al Fahad, Lou Regensmorter and I saw 67 species south of Riyadh last Thursday so it was even more of a record than first thought.

Today's blog looks at some of the smaller birds or passerines we encountered.

One of the very first birds seen early in the morning was male bluethroat who stayed out in the open for much longer than usual. He looked beautiful in the early morning light.

streaked weaver

On the other bank of the Riyadh river at the same place were a small group of streaked weaver.

single streaked weaver

Two summers ago their main breeding colony, with young, was destroyed in a bush fire. They were quite scarce this time last year. However they seem to have bounced back.  The second picture was taken later in the day at Al Hair whereas the first group were seen near Mansouriyah.

Their remote cousins, house sparrow and Spanish sparrow were seen in numbers on Thursday too. The resident breeding Spanish sparrow numbers are reinforced in winter. It was  obvious this process has begun. 


The wintering chiffchaff have started to arrive at Al Hair. A small number of willow warbler are still present. However the most interesting warbler event was hearing the calls of some type of reed warbler. European reed warbler  migrate south in every breeding place that have been properly studied. I know that in Libya (including on the Mediterranean coast) some were believed to stay the winter. However pioneering work by Jens Hering has proved that they are actually African reed warbler.  He has proved that this was not an isolated incident at one place. I would love to know what the situation is here in Riyadh. Just what am I hearing and are those summer birds really European reed warbler? 

tree pipit with white throated kingfisher

There were several pipits in the pivot fields. We took a long, long time trying to see if they were anything but tree pipit. In the end, we decided all the ones on the bars were.

tawny pipit

Around the edge of a field we saw tawny pipit too.

red-tailed wheatear (Persian wheatear)

Desert wheatear and Isabelline wheatear are now here in numbers. The former can often be seen in the same places as the tawny pipit whereas the latter is also often seen in the fields as well.

We are right on the western edge of the normal wintering zone for Persian wheatear a.k.a red-tailed wheatear.

second view of red-tailed wheatear (Persian wheatear)

I saw three last winter in widely differing places. The first one this year was spotted in the wetland near Riyadh cricket club as almost the last bird of the day.


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