Wednesday 17 April 2013

passerines and near-passerines at al Hayer

This is the third and last blog recounting last Friday's all day birding at Al Hayer. I was on my own and quite pleased to record 65 species. This is a record for me birding alone there.


The blog looks at some of the smaller birds.  

While nearly all the wintering birds have gone now, surprisingly bluethroat were still around in numbers. 

Eastern olivaceous warbler

Meanwhile the waterlogged tamarisk area was heaving with a mix of migrants, summer visitors and possible residents. Both Mansur al Fahad (at different times at the weekend) and I made a big effort to see what they held though this type of birding is extremely difficult because views are restricted and many of the birds were shy. 

The following warblers were seen in there (and some heard too): marsh warbler, eastern olivaceous warbler, Upcher's warbler, moustached warbler, chiffchaff, willow warbler, graceful prinia  and sedge warbler. Although the bushes sounded superficially like they contained European reed warbler, the sounds are now put down to the similar sedge warbler. The European reed warbler for the most part keeps to the near-by reeds.

Mansur got some very good photos of migrant sedge warbler.

Moustached warbler is on the map of the Helms guide as a resident in this area but I had never seen it there before. My only sighting had been at Tabuk in the far north west of the country though Mansur has also seen it near Jubail in the east. I now wonder if it has been here all along and I had been looking in the wrong place - at the bottom of reeds not inside waterlogged tamarisk.

Isabelline wheatear

In and near the pivot fields, two migrant wheatears were still lingering. Northern wheatear was the more common but there were a few Isabelline wheatear too.

Northern wheatear

In the same fields and on near-by trees were plenty of migrant ortolan bunting for the second week running.

Ortolan bunting

In among the buntings in the fields were flocks of red throated pipit and yellow wagtail.

red throated pipit

Most the pipit and the wagtail were also seen near the waters edge.

yellow wagtail with bluethroat

Masked shrike and red backed shrike (along with lesser grey shrike) are noticeably later passage birds than the other shrikes.

masked shrike

I saw the first of both this spring at al Hayer last Friday.  (though it has to be said that the winter before last I saw two masked shrike over-winter in ornamental gardens e.g Intercontinental Hotel -contrary to the guides)

red backed shrike

Some rufous bush robin stay in the Riyadh area in the summer while most head on north. I believe this one will stay because it was carrying out some sort of courtship ritual with another one close by.

rufous bush robin

And here are some more local breeders. These barn swallow had just come out of an outhouse where there are several barn swallow nests hence the reason I can place them as local among the hundreds of passage swallows. 

local barn swallow

Here are yet more local breeders. The bird on the left is a young Asian grey shrike (aucheri) who is begging for food from the adult on the right.

begging Asian grey shrike (aucheri) on left with adult


By the way, close-by I spotted another wryneck. For some reason this passage, I seem to be able to pick them out at will and photograph them. its never happened to me before.

crested lark in flight

Returning to the breeding story, crested lark were also performing courtship rituals including this very skylark like aerial display.

male streaked weaver

Streaked weaver are also in their breeding plumage and they numbers have certainly rebounded. Two years ago many of their nests were destroyed with young during reed burning. Now I am seeing many more as the population has clearly recovered.

female streaked weaver

Another imported Indian bird is red avadavat but I believe this breeds much earlier.

red avadavat

Like the streaked weaver but for reasons unknown to me they appear more numerous this year.

graceful prinia 

Graceful prinia is another success story. According to the literature, they didn't arrive in the Riyadh area until the 1990s. Now they are found in numbers in a wide variety of habitat.


Below is the list of 65 species that I saw at al Hayer last Friday.

Eurasian bittern
Crested lark
Little bittern
Barn swallow
Cattle egret
Graceful prinia
Squacco heron
European reed warbler
Grey heron
Marsh warbler
Purple heron
Moustached warbler
Marsh harrier
Sedge warbler
Pallid harrier
Eastern olivaceous warbler
Montagu’s harrier
Upcher’s warbler
Willow warbler
Greater spotted eagle
Spur winged lapwing
Common whitethroat
Little ringed plover
Common myna
Green sandpiper
Common sandpiper
Rufous bush robin
Rock pigeon
Black bush robin
Namaqua dove
Common redstart
Laughing dove
Collared dove
Alpine swift
Northern wheatear
Barn swallow
Isabelline wheatear
House sparrow
Little green bee-eater
Spanish sparrow
European bee-eater
Indian silverbill
Streaked weaver
Woodchat shrike
Red avadavat
Masked shrike
Yellow wagtail
Turkestan shrike
Tawny pipit
Daurian shrike
Red throated pipit
Red backed shrike
Ortolan bunting
Asian grey shrike

White eared bulbul

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