Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The river banks at Al Hayer

On Saturday morning, I made one of my irregular visits to the pivot field area south of Al Hayer. In my first two years in Riyadh I visited this area about twice each month.   In a sense it could be seen as my "local patch". However in the past year, the frequency has dropped to about twice every three months as I travel more.

Nevertheless it was a welcome return. There has been a lot of development recently and the Riyadh river seems to be continually changing course as reeds are burnt and earth moved.

I decided to concentrate on the edge of the water rather than spend too much time in the pivot fields themselves.

common kingfisher

A early surprise was the sight of a common kingfisher. One or two are known to winter near the fields every year but I wasn't expecting one to still be around on April 19th. 

purple heron

The birding had started well but before seeing it, a purple heron rose up at the very start as I walked along a new stretch of the river.

rufous-tailed bush robin

Near-by, on some scrub land between the river and the nearest field I witnessed my first rufous tailed bush robin of spring.

European collared dove

I only ventured into the near-by field trying to follow a streaked weaver. During my very short stay in  there I only saw crested lark and European collared dove.

new course of the river

As I returned to the river, I accidentally flushed three common snipe.  Further along near the river's edge were several red-throated pipit.

red-throated pipit

From the river I could see five cattle egret resting on the pivot bar in the middle of the field. While watching these, a black crowned night heron flew past me.

cattle egret

There was much more streaked weaver activity in the reeds at the far side of the river.  I saw 4 nests close together and i am sure there were plenty more out of sight.

male streaked weaver

Unfortunately this was a place where four fishermen were fishing. Sadly two hours later they had produced a barbeque which made the reeds catch fire and a very large area of reeds and tamarisk were burnt down almost certainly destroying all the nests. At least 50 black crowned night heron which I hadn't previously seen flew up into the air to avoid the smoke and fire.

I saw two similar fires last spring. This act made me angry and sad in equal measure. 

female streaked weaver

Further up stream I came across more weavers' nests so at least the whole population wasn't wiped out. The picture of the female above is from that different group.

squacco heron

In the same area were three squacco heron who like the ones in Jubail the day before were in complete summer plumage.

graceful prinia

There are lots of tamarisk and other bushes in this section but I failed to see many warblers who must be passing through at the moment. I can only think that the high temperatures are forcing them deep into cover during the day. Nevertheless the local graceful prinia were braving the heat and I also briefing saw my first barred warbler of the spring.

red avadavat

I have noted before that the exotic birds such as streaked weaver and red avadavat almost disappear from this area in winter only to reappear in spring. I believe they find more densely bushed areas up stream. Both are back in numbers. Red avadavat was easy to see. The males have started to gain some of their breeding plumage since my last sighting two weeks ago but they have a long way to go. However you can start to see why one alternative name is strawberry munia.

young moorhen

In contrast moorhen have been busy breeding since late January.

Turkestan shrike

As the heat steadily rose towards midday, fewer and few birds were disclosing themselves. Turkestan shrike perch out in all heat so one of these could be seen. A black bush robin was seen fleetingly.

grey heron

Something must have disturbed a grey heron which rose up unexpectedly. This was one of the last birds I saw before ending around 11.30 with temperatures still rising.

Strangely I didn't see a single bird of prey all the time at al Hayer. This must be a first.

kestrel at the Riyadh cricket club lake

The only one I saw was at the lake near Riyadh cricket club on the way out towards Al Hayer when I had travelled out with Bernard Bracken who spent the day there.

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