Friday 30 August 2013

Lots of passage activity at Al Hayer

Lou Regenmorter and I repeated last Friday's early morning visit to Al Hayer but with different results. First, it was a couple of degrees Celsius cooler but was still over 40C when we finished. Second and more importantly, the bird cast had changed considerably because the passage is in full flow now.

two immature collared pratincole

Two recently cut fields were being watered and these are always good places to go. These types of fields attract a wide variety of birds in all seasons.

Five collared pratincole were seen in one such field and four of them alighted soon after at a near-by point on the bank of the "Riyadh River" where these photos were taken. 

 a group of four immature collared pratincole

All four of these are immature birds though eight more were seen flying high over another field which were probably adults.  

young white throated kingfisher 

In the same field as the immature collared pratincole, a young white throated kingfisher sat patiently on the bar of a pivot as it moved up the field and watered.

immature squacco heron

Again in the same field were several squacco heron including the immature one shown. Squacco heron have been regularly seen in this same field since April.

spur winged lapwing 

Spur winged lapwing are very common in the farming area of Kharj some 40 kilometres south but have been rarely seen at Al Hayer. Four is the most I have ever observed there. Today they spent their time in the same field. Their range is expanding and Al Hayer could soon be colonised.

Several yellow wagtail followed the pivot arm as it went up the field spraying water.

 common moorhen making a run for it

There and elsewhere, common moorhen were grazing on the edges of fields before dashing to the water at the slightest sign of disturbance. There were many in the water and in reeds too as usual.

great reed warbler on the ground  

Warbler observations were restricted to the resident graceful prinia, a single common whitethroat but at least four great reed warbler with three in the same place. Ironically they were coming out of the same bushes that housed Eastern olivaceous warbler the week before yet we saw none of that species today.

two great reed warbler

They kept darting out of the bushes, feeding at the edge of the field and returning at leisure.

great reed warbler flying back to the bush

We spent a wonderful 20 minutes, stopped and watching them. At first we did it to make sure we had ruled out other reed warblers and then for enjoyment.

young spotted flycatcher

The only small passage bird today (apart from the common whitethroat) was a young spotted flycatcher right next to where the car was parked.

two male red avadavat

Among the other small birds, I spotted my first Arabian golden sparrow at Al Hayer among the many tens of streaked weaver and Spanish sparrow having been alerted to its presence there by Ahmed Alkassim. All these small birds and also red avadavat and Indian silverbill must have had a good breeding season this year judging by their numbers now.


For a second week running there was a variety of (mostly) passage waders in likely spots.  A nice tame ruff was in a large pool next to the road.

ruddy turnstone

In a different area further south, three other waders were observed. The most interesting one was a non-breeding (immature?) ruddy turnstone. Like the broad-billed sandpiper seen last week they are rare this far inland but not unheard of in central Arabia.

two little stint

The ruddy turnstone was in the same area as two little stint and two little ringed plover

two little ringed plover

Little ringed plover is a local summer breeder and passage bird. It should be gone for the winter soon.

All-in-all, it was a satisfying session this morning. 

List of all the species seen (42):

Little bittern
Black crowned night heron
Grey heron
Purple heron
Cattle egret
Squacco heron
Common moorhen
Spur-winged lapwing
Little ringed plover
Green sandpiper
Common sandpiper
Little stint
Collared pratincole
Rock pigeon
Namaqua dove
Laughing dove
Collared dove
Barn swallow
Sand martin
European roller
White throated kingfisher
Little green bee-eater
European bee-eater (heard but not seen)
Woodchat shrike
White-eared bulbul
Crested lark
Graceful prinia
Great reed warbler
Common whitethroat
Common myna
Rufous bush robin
Black bush robin
Isabelline wheatear
Spotted flycatcher
House sparrow
Spanish sparrow sparrow
Arabian golden sparrow
Streaked weaver
Indian silverbill
Red Avadavat
Yellow wagtail

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