Friday 14 December 2012

Outside Al Safi dairy farm, Kharj

It's often possible in KSA to get permission to go into some of the more interesting private property such as Al Safi dairy farm but it usually takes a lot of time and patience. 

Lou Regensmorter and I have only made preliminary enquiries as to how to bird inside the farm. However the birding near-by is often pretty good anyway. Birds don't respect fences and we found the lagoons outside the farm's main gate was quite interesting and of course don't require any special permissions. 

The lagoons are the end of a 20 kilometre waste water river which  conveniently comes to an end close to the farm.

four from the flock of chestnut bellied sandgrouse

Yesterday we were lucky enough to be there when a flock of chestnut bellied sandgrouse came to drink.

I have seen so many books saying sandgrouse drink at dawn or dusk. However that is not my experience in this part of the world and speaking to Lou who recently visited Oman, the same species is well known to visit watering holes at the same time as we saw them. 

By the way I visited Kharj six times in the past 14 months and I have seen chestnut bellied sandgrouse three times. This is not bad for a bird which is mapped as bring no closer than 400 kilometres from there in the Helms guide to Middle Eastern birds (2011).

common snipe

Two common snipe gave very good views but unlike the unusual snipe I saw and blogged about recently these were mainstream common snipe

two marsh sandpiper

Green sandpiper and common sandpiper were present.  It is much less usual to see marsh sandpiper but there were at least two of these too.

 black winged stilt

The most obvious and certainty the noisiest birds were black winged stilt. I counted 20 present. 

easily spooked black winged stilt  

Like all the black winged stilt I have met in central Arabia they were very easily spooked and caution is needed to approach them.

white wagtail

Other obvious birds were white wagtail, little green-bee-eater, house sparrow and Spanish sparrow.

long legged buzzard

Two types of birds of prey were identified there. These were long legged buzzard and marsh harrier. There was also an unidentified eagle further upstream of the water course. 

first winter desert wheatear

There was also a scattering of wheatears close-by. They were all either desert wheatear or Isabelline wheatear.  The one in the photos caught my attention. 

first winter desert wheatear from behind

It took me time to establish that it is a first winter desert wheatear. The rear view showed it has a very large amount of black in the tail and the profile view is like a female desert wheatear without darkening on the face and all the way up the wing.

Kharj is always interesting.

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