Thursday 2 January 2014

Late December in the Diplomatic Quarter

I managed to snatch half an hour or so's birding at the Diplomatic Quarter (DQ) last week while looking for a reported pied kingfisher. I didnt find it and I vowed to visit there again for longer.

I did so last Saturday morning.  

I headed out towards the DQ's stream on foot from Fazari square. However before I even got there the birding was interesting.

desert whitethroat

Most sylvia warblers make a sort of rattling sound and I heard it. After looking around, a desert whitethroat was obligingly perched out in the open. 

other profile of a desert whitethroat

Indeed many birds were tamer than is generally the rule in Saudi Arabia. Laughing dove made no attempt to fly away from me.

two laughing dove

A white eared bulbul let me walk straight past it from about a metre away.

white-eared bulbul

The hypocolius were not quite as accommodating but they made up for this with shear numbers. As I have said before, the DQ must be one of the best places anywhere to guarantee to see them in winter.


When I finally arrived at the stream I was met by a mobile flock of bank myna. They are only found in this small area in the whole country. The most I had seen before was 6 at the DQ the week before. Here I saw 54 mynas most or all of which were bank myna though I can't rule out a few were common myna

Fifty four myna

I still haven't managed to see them in clear sight. They seem to keep to the shadows. 

bank myna in the shadows

Another bird which was only seen perched in the shade was a white throated kingfisher. This was the only type of kingfisher seen at the stream. There was no pied kingfisher which was my main reason to visit.

white-throated kingfisher in the shadows

There were plenty of birds with an affinity for water about. Four grey heron spent much time perched on a house being built over-looking the stream. 

grey heron

As on my last visit a couple of weeks before a lone little egret was observed which could have been the same one.

little egret

The moorhen here are a little tamer than most in Saudi Arabia.


Every time I have ever visited the DQ in winter I have come across green sandpiper.

green sandpiper

I heard bluethroat the last time I came but this time I got good views of two. One is shown below. It is a first winter female with very little colour on its breast and throat of any kind. It had a strangely clean look.

immature female bluethroat

Grey wagtail are uncommon in winter in central Saudi Arabia but I have seen quite a few this year close to water including at the stream in the DQ.

grey wagtail

There was a good cross section of non-water birds too.

black bush robin

Black bush robin and little green bee-eater were found in the bushes and trees near-by.

little green bee-eater

There is a large group of palm trees near the stream. Except for the palms on the stream's bank it normally isn't very productive for birds other than white-eared bulbul and laughing dove (a.k.a palm dove).

rose ringed parakeet

This time however there was a noisy group of rose ringed parakeet roaming the area and returning to the palms from time to time.

white spectacled bulbul

The DQ is one of the few places in the city along with the Intercontinental Hotel and one of the Holiday Inns where all three types of bulbul in Saudi Arabia can be readily found. 

Nevertheless, this was the first time I had seen all three so close together at the stream. I had only seen red-vented bulbul in an ornamental garden elsewhere on the DQ before.

red vented bulbul

Away from the palms the dominant dove was collared dove.

collared dove

Although I failed to see pied kingfisher, the diversity of birds in a compact area made the birding worthwhile.

Tomorrow I am going on a long trip to Khobar on the eastern coast for a completely different type of birding. The next blog will report on that.

I would like to wish every one a Happy New Year and thank all those who visited the blog in 2013.

The list of top ten countries who have supported me over the years has changed once again. I am particularly grateful for the surge of interest among American and UAE readers.

1.  United States   (+3)

2.  Saudi Arabia    (NC)

3.  United Kingdom  (-2)

4.  Libya       (-1)

5.  Russia    (NC)

6.  Germany   (+1)

7.  Bulgaria   (-1)

8.  United Arab Emirates  (+4)

9.  France   (+1)

10. Canada   (-1)

List of birds seen at the DQ
Grey heron
Squacco heron
Little egret
Common moorhen
Green sandpiper
Laughing dove
Collared dove
Feral pigeon
Rose ringed parakeet
White throated kingfisher 
Little green bee-eater
Grey wagtail
White spectacled bulbul
White eared bulbul
Red vented bulbul
Graceful prinia
Desert whitethroat
Black bush robin
Bank myna
Common myna
House sparrow


  1. Lovely images I particularly like those Desert Whitethroats, great photos :)

  2. Thanks Ashley though I am more of a birder than photographer. Cheers Rob