Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Al Hayer in transition

Saturday was one of those rare days when I had to work in the morning. Nevertheless in the afternoon, I made a quick getaway to go birding with Bernard Bracken at Al Hayer.

I had expected winter birds to be obvious and this was the case. Almost on arrival we observed a northern lapwing flock.

This is the third winter running that they have been present and I fully expect them to stay all winter. There were 30 or so birds and there numbers will rise in the coming weeks if previous years' patterns are followed.

some of the northern lapwing

In the bushes near the water the predominate warbler aside from resident graceful prinia is now chiffchaff.


This should be the pattern all winter.

greater spotted eagle

The wintering eagles have appeared too. Two greater spotted eagle were seen.

common kingfisher

Both resident white-throated kingfisher and wintering common kingfisher were observed.


However my expectation that there would be just winter birding wasn't fully realised. There were significant signs that the passage wasn't over despite the lateness in the year.

The first sign of this was a passing osprey flying over-head.

blue-cheeked bee-eater

A much bigger sign was the arrival towards dusk of about 40 blue-cheeked bee-eater which surely decided to stop off at Al Hayer for the night.

pied wheatear

While investigating the bee-eaters, I came across a female pied wheatear which was another piece of evidence that the passage wasn't finished.

I made a mental note that in fading light, this bird has some similarities with a whinchat.

purple heron

The purple heron could be resident, passage or wintering! We get all three.

Arabian golden sparrow

I paid some attention to the resident birds too. I spotted two male Arabian golden sparrow deep in a tamarisk bush. I suspect they go into sheltered spots in the winter to survive the relative cold. The local population came from escaped birds and is now apparently self-sustaining. However temperatures in Riyadh can be 10 degrees less in winter than in Jizan where they are native.

I have noticed similar behaviour with red avadavat though their chosen winter shelter is more typically dried reed beds rather than bushes.

little green bee-eater

Little green bee-eater are more dispersed in winter.

streaked weaver

Like Arabian golden sparrow, streaked weaver are also less commonly found in the fields at this time of year. They tend to aggregate on the tops of reeds.

Namaqua dove

Namaqua dove also seem to change their behaviour and are found more frequently in larger groups.

I will continue to visit Al Hayer from time to time over the winter but I have some more distant trips lined up including a return to Burayadh this Friday. Its only a day trip but it is further north than Riyadh. I wonder if the birding will be different?

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