Friday 16 March 2012

Outskirts of Riyadh

Yesterday,I returned, this time with fellow birder Lou Regenmoter, to the newly found pastures just south  of Riyadh.

We spent an hour and a half there before moving on south to Al Hayer. It was the hottest day of the year so far. It reached over 35C.  However this didn't seem to hurt bird activity as much as we might have expected. 

Daurian shrike near the rape seed fields

The numerous water channels across the fields probably helped keep bird activity up. 

This is clearly a good place to see birds of prey at this time of year. The four or five first cycle black kite were there again. Last week I also saw a greater spotted eagle and a steppe eagle

Imperial eagle

This week the additional birds of prey were an Imperial eagle and a pair of kestrel.


Among the smaller birds, the most interesting find was a male Rueppell's weaver. This bird is common in western Saudi Arabia but very rarely seen in central Arabia. The two main historical recorders in the area saw only one between them. Ironically that one bird was seen 20 years ago very close to where this one was.

weaver's nest

Lou and I searched for 5 or 10 minutes in the vain hope of seeing it a second time so I could photograph it. However Lou did find a newly built weaver's nest. This caused me to research weaver nest building this morning. Apparently the nests are built by males often before they attract a female. So its quite possible that this is a lone bird.

The main weaver in this area is actually streaked weaver but it suffered a massive blow last year when a bush fire destroyed the main colony with young inside the nests. I am hopeful they will re-colonise over the years perhaps from Kharj where another colony has been recorded.   

common myna

In other activity, common myna were very noisy. Hoopoe came to drink in one of the channels.


There were far fewer wheatears in the fields although I did see both pied wheatear and Isabelline wheatear.

white wagtail

There was no sign of the rufous bush robin I had seen there the week before though black bush robin were around.

After finishing at the pasture fields, Lou and  I headed to Al Hayer to seek out rufous bush robin and passage birds. The next blog will tell you how we got on.

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