Saturday, 31 March 2012

On the move

On Wednesday afternoon, half the species I saw won't be here in a month's time. Some have already left. It's that time of year.

This blog looks at some of them seen near al Hayer.

grey wagtail at the lagoons

Grey wagtail is a rare bird in central Arabia mostly I presume because there is so little fast moving water. Two of them have managed to find a spot along the Riyadh river where there is white water. Even so they are only temporary visitors.

white stork over al Hayer

An even rarer temporary visitor apparently is white stork. I was privileged to see a flock of exactly 20 birds fly directly over my head at 5 pm. The time is important because they hesitated whether to land presumably for a night roost. I think they chose unwisely by deciding to travel on. The terrain is mostly desert between al Hayer and Iran. Either way its difficult to image a better stopping place.

ten of the birds circling over the field which I was next to

The two main historical recorders only saw a total of five white stork in central Arabia in total between them so my haul of 20 may be a record itself! 
pallid harrier over a pivot field

Another rare migrant was a pallid harrier seen in a pivot field next to the huge flock of Spanish sparrow written about yesterday. Like the white stork, It didn't hang around. 

common sandpiper

The lagoon area held green sandpiper and at least one of common sandpiper and little stint

little stint

Disappointingly the numbers of waders in the lagoons here has never been high. Perhaps the area is simply too disturbed by the comings and goings of people.

pied wheatear

The area is attracting new waves of pied wheatear. They and the Isabelline wheatear are destined to head north with the exception of a very few Isabelline wheatear are know to over-summer (but probably not breed).

Isabelline wheatear

I was a little bit surprised to still be seeing bluethroat. However there is a difference. All winter I have been seeing orange spot (for northern Europe) but the two on Wednesday were both white spot (cyanecula for south and central Europe). It seems possible that these are passage only and that the orange spots which winter here have gone.


I am still checking all the tawny pipit I see for an odd one. I have never seen a Richard's pipit but I am always on the look out. It will happen eventually as Saudi Arabia is a better bet than anywhere else I have birded recently.

tawny pipit

Historically this has been peak time to see red-tailed shrikes with passage birds supplementing the ones who wintered. This year is no exception. 

Turkestan shrike

There is no doubt that stonechat numbers are already dropping just as other birds are peaking.


Barn swallow numbers are much higher than just the summer breeders who returned a month ago. Judging by their exhaustion having fed themselves over a pivot field, this group  are migrants.

barn swallow

They are several waves of migrants due to start coming in the next week. The most abundant include spotted flycatcher and red-backed shrike. Both will be additions to my Saudi list and there is the prospect of less common ones too such as white throated robin. However the search for them will have to wait for two weeks since I am off to Jizan in the south west next weekend.

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