Saturday 27 April 2013

Fields at Mithnab, Buraidah

The second part of my exploratory visit to Buraidah was to farmland.  I chose the Mithnab (variant spelling of Muznib) simply because it is the closest farming district in the Buraidah area to Riyadh (albeit 325 kilometres away!)

The corridor from Buraidah to Hail has the highest concentration of farms in the country and must be good birding because of that. And yet it is rarely visited.

I chose a farm almost at random near Mithnab and started birding. It had several fodder and wheat fields.

collared pratincole

I had a very successful and enjoyable time near and in two wheat fields, one of which had recently been harvested. I could see at a glance that it had attracted lots of birds but I was shocked to find out that 55 pratincoles were either on the field or next to it.

several pratincoles

I didn't have too much time as this was day trip but I soon realised that this was a mixed flock of pratincoles with both collared pratincole and black winged pratincole. Indeed I had not seen collared pratincole on such dry terrain on passage before. Maybe the black winged pratincole had some influence on selection.

the field with the most pratincoles

At least 5 of the birds were black winged pratincole. They had no white trailing edge, smaller tails and fully black under-wings. Though it has to be said that the dark red in the under-wings of some collared pratincole weren't always discernible to my naked eye from a distance (the camera did better on this).

black winged pratincole

Black winged pratincole is the 281st bird on my Saudi list.

ortolan bunting

These wheat fields held more surprises. Though there were many tens of ortolan bunting gorging on the seed spillage, I had'nt expected to see another cinereous bunting again so soon.

cinereous bunting

It was alone as most reported cinerous bunting on passage have been. Only one report I know of this year in the Saudi Arabia has involved two birds. I only saw my first one two weeks ago at the small farm on the way to work. 

European bee-eater, ortolan bunting and red backed shrike

Near the cinereous bunting were many birds of different species resting on a pivot cross bar. Indeed another theme of this farm was the number of resting birds more usually seen on the wing.

resting blue-cheeked bee-eater

As well as resting European bee-eater the dirt areas around the fields were littered with resting blue-cheeked bee-eater and barn swallow.

resting barn swallow

Once again I saw a whinchat, now viewed as a common migrant in my opinion.


However, its nowhere near as common as both red throated pipit and yellow wagtail which are often found together and were present in numbers in the harvested wheat field.

red throated pipit

As I said in the last blog, woodchat shrike are still commonly seen in central Arabia despite being among an early migrants. Lingering in central and northern Saudi Arabia seems to be the only logically conclusion as to what is going on.

woodchat shrike

The most common shrike in Buraidah over the whole day was actually red backed shrike. I can't remember seeing a single Daurian shrike or Turkestan shrike. This is in stark contrast to the Riyadh area and to Jubail (on the east coast) last weekend.

red-backed shrike

On top of two types of pratincole and a near threatened bunting, the birds of prey were a little bit more interesting than average too. Along with a marsh harrier and pallid harrier, a group of three lesser kestrel were hawking over the fields.

My conclusion about birding Buraidah is very positive. Why haven't I been there before?

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