Tuesday 22 November 2011

Harvesting and sowing crop at Al Hayer

On Friday I made a short trip to the fodder fields south east of Al Hayer. I saw a very large flock of cattle egret on the move. Actually I counted roughly 100 birds which had been my previous estimate as to the size of the cattle egret population in whole greater Riyadh area.

cattle egret over a fodder field

What had attracted them was a newly-sown fodder field which was being watered.

watering a newly sown field

I thought it strange that they all lined up on the edge of the field in the adjacent grass. I can't speculate why they did this other than to note the adjacent grass had been soaked by the sprinklers before the sprinklers had moved off towards the middle of the field. 

cattle egret on the edge of the field

Lo and behold a very large flock of northern lapwing landed in the field just in front of the advancing sprinklers. I wonder if the sound of the water near-by cause worms and insects to head to the surface before it "rains".

some of the northern lapwing flock

The northern lapwing flock also contained about 100 birds. 60 odd are shown in the picture above which didn't capture them all.

The version of the Helms guide for birds of the Middle east that I have describes them as wintering Turkey and Iran, rarer to central Arabia.  Yet I saw them two days running in places 50 kilometres apart. Certainly the watering of desert areas is changing breeding, migration and wintering patterns just as I observed in Libya.  

Incidentally I checked for other types of lapwing among the flock but none were present.

northern lapwing and collared dove in the field

The northern lapwing were very flighty and there was no cover so my pictures are all unfortunately from long distance. 

Interspersed on the ground with the lapwing were plenty of collared dove. Close inspection of one or two of my pictures shown that at least some of them were African collared dove. We get both Eurasian and African in the Riyadh area. Incidentally I don't really understand why there were no laughing dove there?

white wagtail

The most numerous bird in the field however was white wagtail. I failed to see any yellow wagtail among them nor have I seen any yellow wagtail since I arrived. I am beginning to conclude very few must winter here.

newly cut field

The adjacent field had just been cut and was also thronging with white wagtail. Although they were obviously more difficult to see. Once again I failed to see any yellow wagtail.

standing kestrel in newly cut field

The strangest phenomenon for me was seeing six kestrel scattered about the field standing on the ground. I thought at first they might be harassing the wagtails but I think they were just hunting for large grubs in a way I haven't seen before.

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