Wednesday 29 August 2012

August at al Hair

Having returned a couple of days before from a field trip to the south west, I met up with fellow birder, Lou Regenmorter last Friday to bird on my local patch at al Hair, central Arabia.

Birding in August in central Arabia is a hot business so it was an early start finished by 11am.

I didn't know what to expect because I arrived in Saudi Arabia in late September last year and missed the main passage.

I am glad we made the effort. We saw 40 species which is close to the highest number achieved in the area for half a days birding. Of course the numbers were enhanced by the autumn passage birds.

blue-cheeked bee-eater

There were three types of bee-eater in the air and on the bushes. The passage Blue-cheeked bee-eater and European bee-eater were as numerous as the resident little green bee-eater.

Little green bee-eater

Four types of heron were seen.

Purple heron

Purple heron, grey heron, squacco heron and black crowned night heron made up the quartet.

The status of these birds is complicated. Purple heron, grey heron and squacco heron are present all year round. However passage and wintering birds of these species are also seen.

part of a group of 7 squacco heron

Indeed the tightly knit group of squacco heron certainly behave like passage birds rather than the local residents which are generally less in the open and more loosely distributed.

Great reed warbler

Close to the group of squacco heron was a lone great reed warbler. This is the first time I have seen one in central Arabia and only the second in Saudi Arabia as a whole.  Its difficult to see why the helms guide second edition says its a local breeder but just maybe it is?  Again though, this openness looked like passage behaviour.

Streaked weaver

Graceful prinia was the only other warbler seen in stark contrast to my trip to south west Saudi Arabia where warblers were numerous.  Other obvious common residents were streaked weaver, house sparrow and Spanish sparrow. The latter was forming up into big flocks.

part of a flock of 35 collared pratincole

Things didnt get very exciting until we investigated the pivot fields. One had short growth and was being heavily sprayed. There was a pool in it where the water collected.   This was a fortunate magnet for water birds.

With slow approach and using Lou's scope, we worked out that the small pool and its environs were crowded with birds. Not only were they 35 collared pratincole there but also three ruff.  Last spring I saw only one single collared pratincole here.


They were joined with a small number of little stint, wood sandpiper and common sandpiper too.

mixed group of collared pratincole, ruff and common sandpiper

And the same watered field also contained more yellow wagtail in one place than I saw all spring migration at al Hair.

collared pratincole with yellow wagtail

After 5 or ten minutes watching the waders a spur winged lapwing appeared and raised the alarm (about us?) and the adult collared pratincole moved off leaving the waders and first year collared pratincole behind.

spur winged lapwing

Eventually the adult collared pratincole returned. The surprise for me though is that I have never seen a spur winged lapwing at al Hair but only the farming district of Kharj 60 kilometres way.

My local patch can still spring surprises.

List by Lou Regenmorter of the 40 species seen

Bee-eater, Blue-Cheeked
Bee-eater, European
Bee-eater, Little Green
Bulbul, White-eared
Dove, Collared
Dove, Laughing
Dove, Namaqua
Heron, Black-crowned Night
Heron, Grey
Heron, Purple
Heron, Squacco
Kingfisher, White Throated
Lapwing, Spur-winged
Lark, Crested
Martin, European Crag
Myna, Common
Pigeon, Rock
Plover, Little Ringed
Pratincole, Collared
Shrike, Isabelline (Daurian)
Shrike, Isabelline (Turkestan)
Shrike, Southern Gray
Silverbill, Indian
Sparrow, House
Sparrow, Spanish
Swallow, Barn
Thrush, Black Bush Robin
Thrush, Rufous Bush Robin
Wader, Common Sandpiper
Wader, Little Stint
Wader, Ruff
Wader, Wood Sandpiper
Wagtail, Yellow
Warbler, Graceful Prinia
Warbler, Great Reed
Weaver, Streaked
Wheatear, Isabelline


  1. Great work. I was there Saturday but it was not a good day because of strong wind.Where is this place ?Can you describe the address or GPS?did you enter alhair town and then with the slalom road?

  2. Mansur, Thanks for commenting. Yes you do go into Al Hair town and take any one of three turnings off left when in the town. Turn right at the end of any one of those roads at the edge of the town. They all link into the same road. Follow it until you meet the bedouin camp, turn left and travel through the bedouin camp on either side of you.

    The GPS is 24 degrees 21.6 minutes north, 46 degrees 56.2 minutes east. Rob

  3. Thank you.Already is the same way.But can you access to the farms which lies west of the road?