Saturday, 19 January 2013

Rhawdat Khuraim in winter

Rhawdat Khuraim is an oasis 80 kilometres north east of Riyadh. It proved to be an excellent place for passage birds when visited last spring.

desert whitethroat

So we visited it again, this time obviously in winter to see what it might hold.

landscape at Rhawdat Khuriam

In many ways it was a bit disappointing.

problematic desert whitethroat 

Only two warblers were seen. These were desert whitethroat and Asian desert warbler

problematic desert whitethroat takes off

Desert whitethoart was  very common though we spent far too long trying to identify one particular bird before realising that its abberant colour around the throat was probably caused by it getting too far into some dust.

dirty faced desert whitethroat

The most common bird by far was house sparrow followed by white eared bulbul and collared dove. Laughing dove and rock pigeon were also present.

house sparrow

One really positive about Rhamdat Khuraim is that it is the easiest and most guaranteed place in central Arabia to see Arabian babbler. There are often seen close to picnickers too.

Arabian babbler

The only lark seen was crested lark which was flocking in quite large groups. It only does this in mid winter in these parts.

Other birds near-by were desert wheatear often accompanied by Asian desert warbler and a single Isabelline wheatear which rarely winters north of Riyadh.

adult or near adult Eastern Imperial eagle

Lou and I were discussing with each other why we hadn't seen any birds of prey over the oasis with its supply of passerines, pigeons and many gerbils. We were hypothesising that the cold morning temperatures might be cramping their style, when just as we were leaving the park we came across an adult or near adult Eastern Imperial eagle.

second view of Eastern Imperial eagle

The two white stripes on its shoulders are useful characteristics to help identification. Strangely the pictures in the Helms guide show these stripes on the perched bird but they have been missed off the pictures of adult and sub adult birds in flight. 

third view of Eastern Imperial eagle

Almost all the Eastern Imperial eagle I have seen in KSA have been juveniles. This was a welcome exception that made the visit to Rhawdat Khuriam a much better experience than it would have been without. 

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