Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Wadi Jufayr

On Saturday Lou Regenmorter and I explored a new area for us. It was Wadi Jufayr which is east of the Wadi Nisah. Both wadis are south west of the city below the man Tuwaiq escarpment.

We have found both steppe eagle and griffon vulture in winter at other places near the escarpment west and south west of the city before. 

It was no real surprise though still rewarding to find them again in this new spot.

Griffon vulture

We passed a set of chicken factories on the way to Wadi Jafayr. It was there in November when we met over 100 steppe eagle, an eastern imperial eagle and six griffon vulture clustered around one hillside. They have clearly dispersed since then.

second view of Griffon vulture

We only saw two griffon vulture all session and eight steppe eagle in ones and twos.

Steppe eagle and brown necked raven

The situation above may look peaceful but seconds later three more brown necked raven arrived. The four ravens then proceeded to mob the steppe eagle forcing it to move on.

field at Wadi Jufayr

Wadi Jafayr is an essentially east-west off shoot of the more north-south Wadi Nisah. WE started birding in earnest where the two meet. Here there are a couple of fodder fields seemingly turned over to camel grazing.

Tawny pipit

Here we saw some tawny pipit and of course plenty of white wagtail.

white wagtail

Again fairly typically for cultivated fields in the Riyadh area the two wheatears were Isabelline wheatear and desert wheatear with the latter often showing a marginal preference for the edges or just off field.

Isabelline wheatear

When we moved on down the wadi the terrain was quite different. It follows the escarpment and is clearly in a water table. All the way along are trees and bushes but unfortunately camel grazing has once again denuded the undergrowth and grasses. 

Eastern mourning wheatear

On the way we saw our only Eastern mourning wheatear of the day.

Red tailed wheatear

The trees and bushes held three types of warbler: scrub warbler, Asian desert warbler and desert whitethroat. There were also little green bee-eater, hoopoe, brown necked raven, black bush robin and more unusually for central Arabia, a black redstart.

A less unusual bird but still interesting was a very flighty wintering red-tailed wheatear. It wouldn't allow close contact so the photos were from distance. Nevertheless the rusty fringes at the tip of the tail are enough to show it is a red tailed wheatear and not a Kurdistan wheatear which does winter in Saudi Arabia but mostly in the west.

I am birding locally in the Riyadh area this weekend after so many trips away.


  1. Thanks Rob. Will try this birding patch on the weekend. :)

  2. HI Rob,

    This is amazing and would like to join if you are planning a trip on the coming weekend i.e Jan 24/25. I am a photography enthusiast and would like to live the experience. Have sent you a twitter message and would appreciate if you can reply

  3. MYRK, thanks for your comment which I have only just read. I get many requests to go birding but I need lots of notice and normally an introduction. I plan my trips at least 3 weeks ahead! Rob