Wednesday 5 March 2014

Yanbu royal commission corniche

On Saturday, Bernard Bracken and I birded straght out of the hotel in the royal commission-run part of Yanbu.Other ideas for birding were precluded by Bernard's early travel arrangments.

Nevertheless I have no regrets about staying local.

Ruepells weaver

We walked from the hotel to the corniche near the Movenpick hotel and back. By our recent standards this was leisurely birding.

Before moving more than 300 metres from the hotel we had seen the cosmopolitan nature of the birds within this garden city. As I said in the last blog, Yanbu has been coloised by Ruepell's weaver and is probably the furthest north they breed on the east side of the red Sea.

We chased a flock of Indian silverbill around while failing to get photographs. Mostly a bird of central and eastern Saudi Arabia, it has colonised gardens in Jeddah and Yanbu to the west. 

rose ringed parakeet

Yet another colonist is rose ringed parakeet. Three were seen right outside the hotel.

white spectacled bulbul

White spectactled bulbul is within its natura range but the density is artifically high as is the vegetation.

green sandpiper

After about 40 minutes we reached the coast. There has been a lot of attempts at landscaping here. A re-landscaping project complete with earth movements is taking place in the middle of the area we visited. The Movenpick hotel is just to the north of it and parkland then mangrove to the south.

Just in front of the area being re-landscaped is a man-made inlet. It yielded little but a lone green sandpiper and a white wagtail near-by.

white wagtail

Things got much more interesting when we walked along the coast in the area which is being re-landscaped. 50 metres out to sea there is an island called either oyster island or harbour island depending on the map you read.

grey heron

We strained our eyes, binoculars and cameras to see what was on the isalnd's shore facing us. There was a lone grey heron and plenty of gulls.

The gulls appeared to be mostly large white headed gulls and mostly Caspian gull. Among them were four ternas which were all gull-billed tern. Incidentally they were in breeding plumage.

gull billed tern

Further along that island as we walked south we saw an osprey. That means that every time I have been to Yanbu I have seen one or more.


Ironically, on this part of the walk, the best birds turned out to be on coast next to us. This was despite all the effort we put into looking towards the off-shore island rather than straight in front of us. 

common kingfisher

On our side a common kingfisher was seen ahead of us on posts on two occasions.

Caspian plover

A ringed plover was walking along with the beach with another plover which on close inspection turned out to be a Caspian plover.  Note its long legs and elegant, dainty look. 

I have only observed Caspian plover twice in Saudi Arabia. The first sighting was a flock in November in Wadi Dawasir. The second was here. Neither place is within the range marked out in the main regional guide. However Gary Bletch who birded in the Yanbu area in the years around the Millennium also reported them in Yanbu in early March.

desert wheatear

On our side we also came across a northern wheatear, desert wheater and Siberian stonechat in among the distrubed earth and rubble.

ringed plover seen near the Caspian plover

Walking further south thearea which is being re-landascaped finally meets up with parkland where many families were picnicking.

It was on the edge of the re-developing area on the beach that a large number of water birds had gathered. We took great care not to disturb them as moved close to them.

ruddy turnstone, white eyed gull and more

The birds inlcuded Heuglin's gull and black headed gull. It was also the first and only place at Yanbu where we observed white eyed gull which incidentally out numbered sooty gull among this group.

There were waders in the group too. Most noticeably they included ruddy turnstone and ruff.


After observing this mixed group for a while we headed further south along the coast. We walked briskly through the picnickers towards the mangroves.

ringed plover

Nothing eventful was seen in this family area though it would have been improper to linger there. We did notice some ringed plover in long grass which we thought was a strange place to see them. Kentish plover were also running around the sandy parking areas.

striated heron

There used to be many more mangroves at Yanbu but now they are split into three separete sections albeit now protected areas. The smallest of the three sections was south of the parkland on the corniche. It was the one we visited. This was our last major stop but time spent there was brief. 

A second striated heron of the weekend was observed there.

The waders seen were mostly ruddy turnstone and common redshank.

common redshank

Mangrove reed warbler was easily heard and eventually seen.

great cormorant on passage

As time was short, we had to briskly walk back to the hotel from the mangroves with bird watching not being the intent. Nevertheless, that didnt stop us spotting a small flock of great cormorant high in the sky flying fast northward with no intention of stopping.

This was stark reminder that the main passage is about to begin.

No comments:

Post a Comment