Thursday 14 November 2013

A gull in Riyadh

My walk to work isn't really active with passage birds anymore this year. However they have been some highlights and one very big surprise.

The big surprise was the presence for two days early this week of an immature slender-billed gull in the holding pool.

Gulls of any type are really rare in the Riyadh area and this was the first of any type I have seen. I can't find any other records of it either.

slender-billed gull

As well as between two and six black winged stilt being present at the holding pool most days, the single green sandpiper has been around on and off for over a month now.

green sandpiper

I caught it washing itself just after dawn one morning this week. It's certainly looking like it will try and stay the whole winter.

grey wagtail

After a gap of about one month, I have seen two grey wagtail back at the holding pool over the past two days. White wagtail have been there much of that time. Grey wagtail is an uncommon winterer in central Arabia.

wryneck on November 5th

Meanwhile back in the gardens of the university's experimental farm, the dismantling is continuing. The farm is being relocated. However the process is slow and a wryneck appears to be attempting to stay the winter there.

The bird is very shy and I can only find it at dawn and dusk when it seems to go to the same tree. It is always well hidden. I first saw it on the evening of November 5th and it was seen again on November 6th and just after dawn on November 12th.

a well-hidden wryneck on November 12th

Most wryneck are passage birds but this is the third I have seen in the winter months near Riyadh including one in late December two winters ago.


As the farm gets dismantled, the native trees are some of the first to go. Yet I have found these are the ones with the most variation in birds. The one the wryneck can be found in at dawn and dusk is one such case. 

second view of chiffchaff

A chiffchaff has also picked out this tree to spent a lot of time.

white-cheeked bulbul

White-cheeked bulbul and little green bee-eater regularly perch there.

black bush robin

This black bush robin was photographed underneath the same tree.

I am going to miss this farm when it closes and so will the birds.

Tomorrow I am on a day trip north to Buraidah with Bernard Bracken. My next blog will report back. 


  1. Rob

    Slender-billed Gull is a great record. There are very few records from inland and I still have not seen one on my local patch at Dhahran which is much close to the sea than you. Well done - shows keeping looking at the local area pays off eventually.


  2. Jem, very kind remarks. Your jack snipe was an excellent find too