Friday 26 April 2013

Waste water wetlands, Buraidah

I can't find any records of birding in Buraidah even though its part (with Hail) of the biggest concentration of farming in the kingdom.

I am sure I am not the first birder there but nevertheless I had to seek out potential birding places myself.

Using google earth I picked out one wetland and one farming area. The wetland turned out to be the result of the main waste water disposal for the city.

Boths sites I chose were good and the farming site gave me an unexpected addition to my Saudi list and very interesting birds. I'll write about that in my next blog.

Kentish plover at the wetland

Coming from Riyadh, you take the Cassim road (route 65) all the way until the outskirts of Buraidah.  Then take the eastern by-pass (route 425) but beware it is marked as route 418 (only in Arabic) at the exit from the main road because both route 425 and route 418 share the same road at the start of the by-pass. Continue round the by-pass until the inter-section with King Fahd road. The wetland is in the north west quandrant at the intersection.

Map shown the location of the wetland (adapted from google maps)

The main lake is almost totally obscured by tall reeds except at the inflow end. Nevertheless birding can take place round the sides and near the inlet.

Main lake

The three permanent looking marshy areas are some distance away from the lake and separated by a very large number of Tamarisk bushes.

One of three marshy areas

The first picture of a group of kentish plover was taken next to the largest marsh. By the way, the kentish plover group contained 12 individuals including young.

The marshes and the lake are all within a floodplain (sebkhet) which shows clear evidence that it fills after heavy rain. When this happens, I would estimate the water area must increase 5 to 10 fold.
Blue-cheeked bee-eater

Returning to the birds, there were plenty of migrants. The most apparent by their noise and size were the bee-eaters. They were a large number of both European bee-eater and blue-cheeked bee-eater.

European bee-eater

The resident little green bee-eater looked very small particularly in comparison with the blue-cheeked bee-eater.

little green bee-eater

Warblers were a mixture of migrants and residents too. The Tamarisk in particular held willow warbler and chiffchaff.


The reed beds contained European reed warbler and at least one, possibly two Great reed warbler were seen. Strangely enough, I didn't see a single sylvia warbler.

crested lark

As often in central Arabia outside the desert areas, the most common birds were crested lark and doves especially collared dove and laughing dove but in this case also Namaqua dove

Namaqua dove

Among the smaller migrants, even here, away from arable fields there were a small number of ortolan bunting.

ortolan bunting

Once again I saw more whinchat, this time two more. I really don't understand how the two main historical recorders with the best records describe it as a scarce or uncommon migrant.


Another migrant that has intrigued me is woodchat shrike. It is one of the earliest migrants yet I keep seeing them all spring. Rather than believe there are endless waves occurring, my new conclusion is that they linger in the area (perhaps for weeks)before they move on.

woodchat shrike

In contrast spotted flycatcher is a late migrant but I don't recall seeing many two days running in the same place. 

spotted flycatcher

Both bush robins were present at the wetland, both the resident black bush robin and the summer breeder/migrant rufous bush robin. Some of these stay while others move on north. The ones we are seeing now are increasingly likely to be the stayers.

black bush robin

Buraidah is towards the northern limit of the black bush robin as shown in the main regional guides map but it is expending its range all the time.

rufous bush robin

Like all Saudi wetlands outside summer, there are always birds of prey about. Here they were marsh harrier, pallid harrier and more exceptionally an osprey on passage. I'm not sure whether the main lake has fish.


Some birds were only seen in the marshy areas. The most vocal and obvious wader was green sandpiper. Most were in full summer plumage.

green sandpiper

Three members of the heron family were seen there too. A small flock of cattle egret grazed for ages and seem very tame to my close approach. 

cattle egret

A lone squacco heron was glimpsed a few times as well.

squacco heron

The third heron family member was actually little bittern. One was seen a couple of times in the marshy area and another one (presumably) next to the main lake.

yellow wagtail (feldegg) in the marshy area

All in all, this wetland was a useful find. I would visit it again but as an adjunct to a main visit to the farming areas. I'll explain why in the next blog when I write about my experiences at a farm.

List of birds (38 species) seen at the Buraidah waste water wetland 

Little bittern
Blue-cheeked bee-eater
Cattle egret
Red backed shrike
Squacco heron
Woodchat shrike
White-eared bulbul
Marsh harrier
Crested lark
Pallid harrier
Graceful prinia
Willow warbler
Kentish plover
European reed warbler
Common snipe
Great reed warbler
Green sandpiper
Rufous bush robin
Namaqua dove
Black bush robin
Collared dove
Common redstart
Laughing dove
Barn swallow
Spotted flycatcher
House martin
House sparrow
Little green bee-eater
Yellow wagtail
European bee-eater
Ortolan bunting

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