Saturday 2 June 2012

Wadi Namar

Thanks to Lou for finding a new birding venue in the Riyadh area through his company contacts. The new place is Wadi Namar.

It is a wadi with natural water flow from the Tuwaig escarpment and runs west to east. It meets Wadi Hanifah (which runs north to south) where much of my birding in the Riyadh area has been done.

The eastern end of Wadi Namar has been dammed and forms a permanent reservoir. The area is heavily landscaped for picnicking locals to make use.

Yesterday, Lou and I birded the upper, western section of the wadi a couple of kilometres away from this.

oninge of several blackstart in the wadi

We started birding towards the top end of the wadi and headed down. At the top end water was scarce. Nevertheless the birds included blackstart though even here the ubiquitous house sparrow was the most common.  

a lake part way up the wadi 

On the floor of the wadi were several desert lark seen at different points. In my opinion there were at least two sub species and this caused me some confusion for a while.

young desert lark begging for food

The birds at the top end were very sandy (see the pictures above). These are probably the sub species azizi. The birds further down were much greyer, the back were plainer but the wing feathers more patterned. I now put these down to the sub species deserti. As the two sets of birds were so different, I investigated the possibility that the sandier birds might be Dunn's lark.  Although they have slight streaks on the head and a slight mottling on the back, these features are not vivid enough for Dunn's lark. I have concluded they must be desert lark.

desert lark mother has food

Other notable birds in the upper reaches were white crowned wheatear which is one of my personal favourites. These were seen at two different locations. Howeve,r despite the escarpments on both sides of the wadi and a major search by both of us, no hooded wheatear was seen. This bird has eluded me since my arrival in Saudi Arabia though it is said to be present in the central area.

white crowned wheatear

As you go down the wadi the size and frequency of water bodies generally increases. One such body which was fairly deep held 25 black winged stilt and a few little ringed plover. These are the two waders which have been documents to be perennial breeders in this part of the country. The tamarisk surrounding this water body contained a small number of eastern olivaceous warbler and an unidentified acrocephalus warbler was also heard.

Here and elsewhere near-by, white cheeked bulbul was quite numerous. We were very surprised to see a single yellow vented bulbul too. Little green bee-eater peppered our route down.

black winged stilt with little ringed plover

From half way down the wadi there is a continuous stream which sometimes broadens out. In a year of decent spring rains like this year, it is almost certainly permanent. 

We searched hard for moustached warbler which is said to be a local breeder by some sources. However like the hooded wheatear it eluded a serious search. If it is in the region, it must be lying low. During our search we picked up a few reed warbler instead. 

The third bird in our targetted search was turtle dove. And this too eluded us. There were plenty of collared dove and laughing dove. None of the birders in recent years have seen one in central Arabia. I seriously doubt it still breeds here.


Also further down the valley there were more and more variety of water birds. Moorhen is once again common but shy. There were a small number of grey heron and at least one but probably two little bittern.

In the reservoir itself at the eastern end of the wadi, a lone coot was swimming in the middle heavily outnumbered by domestic white ducks. 

I just wish I had known about this place during the winter and passage seasons. 

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