Saturday 1 December 2012

A wet day at Al Hayer

On Wednesday it rained all through the night.  The rain held off from 7.30 until 1 pm on Thursday when I was birding in Al Hayer. However my birding finished with a soaking until 3pm. A quarter of the typical year's rainfall had fallen in less than a day.

There were a number of consequences of the cloud cover, dampness and coolness. The most obvious one was that most birds were active throughout the day. I'll write about the exceptions later. 

All my birding was done on foot so after seven and a half hours I am fitter than before.

spur winged lapwing

I very rarely see spur winged lapwing at Al Hayer though they are common in the farming district of Kharj 35 kilometres away. They prefer wetter fields and perhaps that's why I saw one on Thursday.

part of the lake complex at Al Hayer

Like last winter there is a mobile flock of northern lapwing around. Last year there were about 100 but so far I haven't counted above 30 this season. They are very jumpy and even more difficult than spur winged lapwing to get close to.

northern lapwing on the move

I have never seen so many collared dove on the fields. They clearly like the cooler weather. There were hundreds.

hundreds of collared dove were on the pivot bars

I have seen moorhen venture on to the fields before either.They usually stick close to the water's edge.

Moorhen in the fields

Likewise both purple heron and grey heron were in the fields at times too. I am sure there is food reason behind all this.

Purple heron in a field

I also saw single little egret and cattle egret on Thursday but no squacco heron this time.

grey heron

Bluethroat are usually most active in the open near dawn and dusk but on Thursday they were viewable in the open all the time.

Bluethroat on the move

Many small birds were more active and more easily seen. I have blogged previously about roaming avadavat and Indian silverbill flocks.

house sparrow with some Spanish sparrow

A highly mobile flock of sparrow surprised me a little. From a distance I took them all to look like house sparrow but behaving like Spanish sparrow. On close inspection through my binoculars the flock was usually mixed.

white throated kingfisher

Another high profile bird on Thursday was white throated kingfisher. This was the second time running that I have observed so many. Now I am wondering if the resident birds have been reinforced during the winter with migrants or whether the breeding season here was very successful.

Marsh harrier in a field

With so many small birds around, there were lots of marsh harrier on patrol including two males.

Desert finch

Other notable birds were desert finch and little green bee-eater. I understand that desert finch has only populated the Riyadh area in recent years (from further north).

Little green bee-eater

While most birds were more active on Thursday, a few were less common than usual. I only saw one wheatear all day. It was a soaked desert wheatear perched on a high bush. The cool air wasn't good for eagles and a distant view of a resting greater spotted eagle was my only sighting all day.

greater spotted eagle

I saw 37 species during the day all within walking distance of each other since all my birding was on foot.

Little green bee-eater
Cattle egret
Daurian shrike
Grey heron
Turkestan shrike
Purple heron
Aucheri  grey shrike
Little egret
White eared bulbul
Marsh harrier
Crested lark
Greater spotted eagle
Graceful prinia
Common kestrel
Common myna
Northern lapwing
Spur-winged lapwing
Black scrub robin
Common snipe
Green sandpiper
Desert wheatear
Rock dove
House sparrow
Laughing dove
Spanish sparrow
Collared dove
Red avadavat
Pallid swift
White wagtail
White throated kingfisher
Desert finch
Common kingfisher

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