Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The walk to work

Just over a month ago I posted that I had discovered a very small experimental farm run by the local University's agriculture department and it is only a minor detour on my walk to work.

I vowed to visit it ever morning and evening whenever possible. This I have done. The most interested feature when I first visited was that three types of bulbul are resident: red vented bulbul, yellow vented bulbul and white eared bulbul.

In fact I have been spending about ten minutes there twice a day most days. The plan is to look out for passage birds which might drop in on this small oasis of urban greenery.


For the first three weeks I didn't see any passage activity. That changed about two weeks ago.

There was a sand storm over the night before last which continued on into  the day. I was hopeful when I set out yesterday morning that some passage birds might have been grounded. 

wryneck busily foraging

I nearly missed a well camouflaged bird as I walked round. It was a wryneck. Once I had seen it then it allowed close approach.

It was too busy foraging for ants to pay me much attention. 

male blue rock thrush

Still no warblers have been seen there. However three different blue rock thrush have landed. One was seen two days running.   

female blue rock thrush

The first passage birds seen and the most common so far are pied wheatear. Yet no other wheatear has been observed.   

pied wheatear

I don't think the description in the main regional bird guide book does justice to the variety of habitat that pied wheatear can occupy during passage.

a second pied wheatear

Two shrikes have been seen on the small farm so far. One is quite interesting because it looks like a karelini intergrade between a Daurian shrike and Turkestan shrike.  The head and mantle is concolourous like in a Daurian shrike but it is darker which is a known feature of the intergrade. The supercilium is broad and white like Turkestan shrike. The tail is near chestnut coloured rather than orange-red again a feature more of a Turkestan shrike.  

Turkestan shrike (karelini)

The other shrike was a woodchat shrike. It migrates on a broad front throughout Saudi Arabia and is usually the first passage shrike seen in spring.

woodchat shrike

I am not quite sure whether the final bird is passage or not. We have plenty of resident, wintering and passage hoopoe in the Riyadh area. I suspect this one was passage only because I observed it only once.


Except when I am on annual leave I will continue my work day routine searching for passage birds until at least the end of April. Surely some warblers will be among them?

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