Saturday 16 November 2013

Al Ghat

Riyadh is on a plateau at about 600 metres. If you travel north, north west or north east the plateau drops 200 metres down an escarpment. Along the bottom there is a farming area stretching over 100 kilometres. 

When Bernard Bracken and I visited Buraidah on Friday we went down the escarpment at al Ghat. However we briefly birded the area at the top on the way out and the bottom on the way back.

On the way out at the top we came across two eagles sitting about 30 metres apart near the main road.

steppe eagle

By habitat and time of year my first reaction was steppe eagle. However the gape was short on both eagles and the second bird was very light coloured.

second steppe eagle

Apparently the gape can be short especially with orientalis sub species sometimes called western steppe eagle

However the nostril is always peanut shaped and so the first bird is certainly a steppe eagle after all.

The second lighter bird was photographed further away so the nostril shape isn't clear but is probably a steppe eagle by shape and built.

Thanks are due to Tom Conzemi for his analysis.

Greater spotted eagle would be darker anyway though the rarer (in these parts) lesser spotted eagle was a possibility I considered.

white wagtail at al Ghat

A service station at the top of the escarpment provided the other venue near Al Ghat on the way out. Here a waste water pool and reed beds acted as magnet for some birds.  We saw collared dove, laughing dove, house sparrow, a common redstart, white wagtail and an Eastern mourning wheatear at this spot. The common redstart was not the only late passage bird seen on Friday as my next blog will tell.

On the way back from Buraidah we had about 25 minutes birding a farm with a cut fodder field, some palms and low scrub. 

male blue rock thrush

Being just under the shadow of the escarpment, the sighting of a blue rock thrush was no real surprise though it was next to a field rather than up a hill side.

Asian grey shrike (aucheri)

An aucheri Asian grey shrike was close by. In such a small patch there was quite diversity of species.

Indian silverbill

A flock of Indian silverbill were in nearby low reeds. House sparrow were in the bushes.

Siberian stonechat

Two Siberian stonechat were on raised stalks.

crested lark in front of Eastern mourning wheatear

No less than three Eastern mourning wheatear were crowded in some scrub land and seemingly tolerating each other though not a desert wheatear which was chased off. We think they were attracted and sustained by flies on four animal carcasses.  

Eastern mourning wheatear

The main field itself held crested lark, collared dove, laughing dove and a small number of bimaculated lark which made a short appearance at the edge helping my identification of it.This is only the second time I have seen it in Saudi Arabia where it winters in the northern third of the country. The other place I have seen the species was at Zulfi which is only about 35 kilometres away.

white cheeked bulbul

Other birds there were white-cheeked bulbul mostly in the palms, chiffchaff in the Tamarisk bushes and graceful prinia in all types of low bush.

The location and habitat as well as the variety of species observed in such a short time leads me to conclude this area is worth a more serious look rather than a short stop on a longer journey.

The next blog looks at what was seen at our main destination: Buraidah.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I hope you are ok with all that rain.

  3. That link just take you to your personal dating/development site, quite what that has to do with birding only you know?

    Laurie -