Sunday 17 March 2013

Yanbu dump

Before we went to Yanbu, I did some research on good birding spots. There doesn't seem to have been much birding in recent years but I found  information from about 10 years ago which turned out to be very useful.

Birding venues near Yanbu

Thanks are due to Gary Bletsch who I don't know but he was in Yanbu at that time and his old posts suggested three places. 

  • One was Birdlife's IBA (Important Bird Area) which is three isolated groups of mangroves on the edge of industrial city (south of Yanbu). 
  •  A second was "the waste water oasis" next to the Arabian Homes compound (now called Nevada) and the Holiday Inn.
  •  The third was "Yanbu dump": which was 15 km inland up the Yanbu a'Nakhl Road from the airport roundabout. This is where the city's waste water was tankered and also household waste deposited.

  • In addition we also investigated the coastal Sharma Yanbu (water inlet from the sea) north of Yanbu. This is easily found on maps.

Of these four places, only the "waste water oasis" appears no longer to exist. The next blog will report on what we saw at the IBA and at Sharma Yanbu. This blog looks at Yanbu dump.

Cretzschmar's bunting

This was not difficult to find as several tankers were turning off the main road as we reached the right area. We just followed them.

Yanbu dump is a great birding area if you can tolerate the smell and the grime. It appears many birds find it hospitable enough.

There was a good mix of water and land birds. We saw over 30 species there.

Yanbu dump

Two of the first passerines to catch our eye was a mixed flock of mostly Cretschmar's bunting with a small number of Ortolan bunting included.

common redstart

In the same area, a single common redstart was sheltering in a tree.

Spanish sparrow

There was a flock of Spanish sparrow. Yanbu marks the southern most point of their winter range on the west coast. They are not seen in Rabigh or Thuwal for example.

northern wheatear

Four types of wheatear were seen: northern wheatear, pied wheatear, black eared wheatear and Isabelline wheatear.

Pipits and wagtails were well represented. There were very large numbers of yellow wagtail as well as some white wagtail, red throated pipit and at least one water pipit. Again this marks the southern edge of their winter range on this coast.

greater spotted cuckoo

The star bird at the site for me was a greater spotted cuckoo. This was both an addition to my Saudi list and a lifer. This brought my Saudi list total up to 277.

spur winged lapwing

As at virtually all wetlands in western and central Saudi Arabia there were spur winged lapwing present. Once again and at a fourth place for me on the west coast (Jizan, Thuwal, Tabuk and now Yanbu - all hundreds of kilometres apart) I saw a white tailed lapwing. As I have said before in previous blogs, the distribution map in "Birds of the Middle East" doesn't show in on the Saudi west coast at all.

white tailed lapwing

Despite the very poor quality of most of the water, there were very large numbers of waders and other water loving birds.


Indeed when we first arrived a flock of about 40 ruff and a few other waders went into the air. This was the first sign of how many waders there might be.

black winged stilt

Most of the black winged stilt were dirty.


Larger waders also included greenshank, redshank and spotted redshank. Green sandpiper were numerous. Small waders included little stint and dunlin.

squacco heron

I doubt the pools have any fish. Only two members of the heron family were seen. There was a flock of squacco heron and a single grey heron.

grey heron

Its difficult to know which species are resident but the big majority on the day must have been passage or wintering birds. Nevertheless moorhen are among the likely candidates.

This site is certainly worth visiting again if any birder is in the area particularly I suspect in the passage seasons.