Saturday 24 August 2013

Down the Kharj road

This morning was another early start to birding with Lou Regenmorter. This time we chose to bird sites down the Kharj road south east out of Riyadh.

We went straight to a wadi which indents into the escarpment at the small town of Heet. Then we turned homeward by birding the lake near Riyadh cricket club. Both sites are just off the main road.  

Upcher's warbler

The wadi at Heet has been found to be good for passage warblers in the past. It was here we once saw 31 blackcap including 21 in the same tree.

This time our haul was three Upcher's warbler and ten common whitethroat. Not bad considering the small size of the wadi and how early we are in the season.

common whitethroat

The common whitethroat "flock" was a mixed group of male and female, young and adult.

desert lark

Other birds in the wadi were blackstart, white eared bulbul, little green bee-eater, desert lark, rock pigeon and laughing dove. An Isabelline wheatear was also seen near-by.

The lake near Riyadh cricket club

After about 40 minutes we moved on and back towards Riyadh by visiting the area around Riyadh cricket club. 

The lake is one of the largest in Riyadh province. The other two comparable ones by size are at Kharj and Wadi Namar. However this one arguably is the most wader-friendly in terms of terrain.

We struggled at first to see what was happening because our vantage point was directly into the sun. Later we found a path round which gave us excellent views. 

little grebe

Every time we have visited there have been large numbers of little grebe and coot with a smaller number of moorhen. Today was the same if not more so. It was clear that it must have been a successful breeding season for both coot and little grebe.

coot with black winged stilt

Black winged stilt have always been present too as have mallard if you look carefully and are patient.

cattle egret

Members of the heron family which can be found vary. I am not sure that this lake contains any fish which would reduce heron interest. This time we saw just three cattle egret.

a flock of greenshank

We had obviously come at a good moment in the passage season for waders. They were particularly many and varied for an inland site. Two good sized flocks of greenshank and green sandpiper were plainly seen. 

wood sandpiper

There were also smaller numbers of common sandpipermarsh sandpiperwood sandpiperrufflittle stint, little ringed plover, kentish plover and at least one dunlin.


At least four spur winged lapwing were present. 

spur winged lapwing 

However the best bird of the day was a single white tailed lapwing which is rarely seen in central Arabia.

poor record shot of a white tailed lapwing 

We got prolonged views of it and Lou's spotting scope was very useful in identifying the lapwing as it was some distance and in the glare of the sun. I failed to get a good photo though its yellow legs and pale face can just be made out as well as its profile. Sadly, we couldn't relocate it when we moved round to a better vantage point later.

immature woodchat shike

There were non-water birds at the site too. An adult red-backed shrike and an immature woodchat shrike were carrying out sorties from the edge of the reeds.  

Graceful prinia was a noisy occupant of the reeds. House sparrow darted in and out of them.

Both resident pale crag martin and passage barn swallow were hawking overhead for insects.

More Upcher's warbler and a rufous bush robin were spotted in near-by bushes and trees. Two more Isabelline wheatear were scrambling around the rocks near the water.

Overall, it's been a slightly peculiar weekend. It was most unexpected that we would have spent a good part of both birding sessions carrying out wader IDs when we hadn't left Riyadh metropolitan area!


  1. Hi Rob,

    Glad to hear you had a good trip around Asia. I've been following your blog with interest. I'm back in the UAE on the 30th.

    Re the White-tailed lapwing, I know it's a blurry shot, but it doesn't really look like one - it loos more like a shank of some kind. It's rather long-necked, strangely dark on the upperparts and seems to have a long thin bill. Or is that just the shot?


  2. Andrew, thanks for the comment but I can assure you it was a white tailed lapwing. The legs looked long because both the real legs and the reflection were shown. The back looked dark because I attempted to remove some glare in the photo by darkening it overall. Nevertheless, I have replaced the photo with another which hasn't been darkened and where the reflection of the legs is less. Rob

  3. Thanks for that, Rob. The second photo shows the bird much better so there can be no doubt about the ID. I wasn't doubting you or anything - I just thought you might have seen a Yellowlegs!