Monday, 24 March 2014

Lakeside views, Riyadh

On Saturday morning I tagged along with Bernard Bracken's trip to the lake near the Riyadh cricket ground. Bernard is taking a masters degree in ornithology and is studying the little grebe population at the lake at the moment.

I spent some time with him at the lake before wandering off into the hinterland to carry on with more general birding.

black winged stilt

The first thing I noticed was that the water level is still lowering. It has been for over a year now since the waste water from the industrial city has been diverted. It used to flow into a near-by field and seeped into the lake through rocks coming out as clean water into the lake. 

little grebe

At the moment, only the moorhen population has deserted the lake. Bernard counted 140 little grebe who so far have stayed on.

the lake

The black winged stilt population is very large currently. Whether this is because numbers are swollen by migrants or because the water levels are actually better for them than previously I don't know.

coot, black winged stilt, little ringed plover

Most birds are very timid and move straight to the far end of the lake as soon as anyone arrives. The coot are based there anyway. The distance was a big test of my camera and binoculars so the pictures aren't that good. Nevertheless I could make out there were plenty of little ringed plover and green sandpiper as well as a lesser number of ruff and common sandpiper at the far end on the mud flats.

little ringed plover, black winged stilt, ruff

The spur winged plover joined them as soon as we arrived even with caution. 

spur winged plover

In the pools at our end of the lakes, two species were a little braver. These were wood sandpiper and common redshank.

wood sandpiper

If you look at the main regional guide, you will see that it does not show common redshank in central Saudi Arabia. The map shows it closer to the coast. However, this is not the first time I have seen it at the lake. 

common redshank

After a while, some of the common sandpiper and green sandpiper drifted back across to us.

common sandpiper

A few other birds were seen over the water. A Siberian stonechat was resting on a metal rod.  Form time to time, barn swallow drifted over.

Siberian stonechat

An other bird was a marsh harrier which was immediately mobbed by black winged stilt and eventually forced off.  the little grebe didn't react at all. We surmise their defence would have been to dive if necessary.

Marsh harrier

While Bernard remained watching the little grebe, I moved off into the adjoining area. I'll blog about what I saw there next.

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