Sunday, 29 April 2012

Land birds at Hassa marshes

The marshes near Hofuf in the Hassa area were as rich in birds as I had hoped. This blog looks at some of the land birds seen. I'll blog on the water birds later. 

I have already mentioned the large numbers of clamorous reed warbler and graceful prinia present. However the majority, but by no means all, of land bird species seen were passage birds whereas those two are resident.

spotted flycatcher

One of the passage birds which gave me greatest pleasure was spotted flycatcher. There were several at the marshes in the bushes. I hadn't seen this species all passage until last week. Even then the one I saw was skulking in set of bushes. At Hofuf, it was different. They were out on open perches, catching and returning to the same spot as usual. Clearly their passage is a late one in this region.


Though spotted flycatcher is a known regular passage bird in Saudi Arabia, whinchat is quite rare. I was lucky enough to see one at the marshes. This is another addition to my Saudi list. It is another late passage species.

common redstart

One bird of the most regular birds this passage has been common redstart. I have been surprised that the main historical reporters didn't seem to see it as commonly as I am.

northern wheatear

Perhaps surprisingly there were a small number of late wheatears. And there were only two species: northern wheatear and Isabelline wheatear

Isabelline wheatear

I counted only two or three trees over two metres tall in the area though there were plenty of bushes. This probably restricted the type and numbers of warblers.  On the other hand the nature of the cover made it quite easy to see them if they were present.

lesser whitethroat

This lesser whitethroat doesn't look in great condition but it has reached a good place from which to recover with lots of food and water. 

common whitethroat

The only other warbler type seen was common whitethroat. The one above gave me very good views.

ortolan bunting

Near-by was a loose flock of ortolan bunting. I have seen a lot of this bird in the last two weeks.

marsh harrier

The only bird of prey was a solitary marsh harrier though I did also see my first cuckoo in Saudi Arabia. I have a picture of the cuckoo which is a record shot but I pulled it from the blog because of its poor quality. This is another addition to my Saudi list.

Other passage birds which didn't get photographed were barn swallow and European bee-eater. The former was very numerous.

rufous bush robin

Of course, there were summer and resident birds too. Although rufous bush robin was obvious, I didn't find a single black bush robin. I understand they become scarcer the further east one goes in Saudi Arabia.

Finally crested lark is once again present. More surprisingly I also observed a single lesser short toed lark.  Was it a strangle from a wintering population or does it breed here?

The bushes I mentioned earlier in the blog were ideal look-out points for shrikes. Shrikes were plentiful. I'll blog about them tomorrow. They included one I hadn't seen in Saudi Arabia before.

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