Saturday 31 August 2013

South of the bridge at Al Hayer

I went back to Al Hayer again today. This time I birded alone. The plan, which I stuck to, was to quickly visit the same area as yesterday and then switch to the area south of the bridge. 

This southern area has less vegetation near the water's edge in many places and so is often good for waders (in the right season). It should also be good for crakes which are always at the back of my mind at this time of year.

I suspect the reason it's not birded nearly as much as the main pivot fields is because you have to walk.  This can be arduous in the heat.

Golden oriole

There was a lot of commonality with yesterday's bird list but some key differences too. I am happy to have seen 40 species whereas two of us achieved 42 together yesterday. I dropped 9 species and gained 7 new ones. 

One of those seven was golden oriole. Two males were seen in the highest tree south of the bridge. It was almost worth the hard walk down that way for this sighting alone.

Golden oriole uncommonly comes through Riyadh in autumn these days and is almost unheard of in spring. It was one of my longest nemesis birds which I finally saw in Abha (south west highlands) in late spring this year. Until today I had never seen it in central Arabia.

Indian silverbill

On arrival at Al Hayer this morning, I went straight to yesterday's fields. The great reed warblers had already moved on. There were none to be seen. There was no fleeting view of a passing European roller either.  Otherwise much of the activity was as before with finches, sparrows and weavers making a big contribution.

young Namaqua dove

I made a conscientious effort to photograph different species in that area than yesterday. Namaqua dove, purple heron and black-crowned night heron obliged.

adult black-crowned night heron

Squacco heron and cattle egret were once again attracted to the water sprayers in the fields.

Purple heron

After about 45 minutes, I walked back to the bridge and then began the visit to the southern area.

the landscape south of the bridge

On walking south on the west bank, at the first stretch of open water, I hid behind a bush and waited patiently.

common moorhen

The common moorhen which had all run away on my arrival eventually plucked up courage to return. This showed that my hiding was working. I had hopes that a crake might appear but it was just moorhen after moorhen.

desert finch

However, the patience was rewarded in other ways. A group of desert finch visited three or four times to drink.

Namaqua dove with desert finch

It was obviously a favoured spot for Namaqua dove to do likewise.

Two male and one female red avadavat

Representatives of Indian silverbill,  red avadavat and streaked weaver also refreshed themselves there.

Temminck's stint

Then suddenly a Temminck's stint flew in and fed at the water's edge. This was the first wader seen in this section of the watercourse.


I had to walk much further downstream before I came across another flushing a common quail on the way.

This one was an extraordinarily tame dunlin. I am sure it was very hungry because it just ignored me and kept foraging. 

It struck me immediately that the dunlin has a very long bill approaching the length of many curlew sandpiper

Incidentally both Temminck's stint and dunlin were two of the seven birds not observed yesterday.

Little stint with dunlin

A few minutes later the dunlin was joined by the only little stint I saw all session. 

Indeed there weren't as many waders as I had expected. A noisy and nervous flock of green sandpiper were the only others down there.

There were other highlights to compensate notwithstanding those already mentioned.

I must have flushed five or six black-crowned night heron at regular intervals. One of which had a medium sized catfish in its mouth. Indeed the water was teeming with catfish of all sizes struggling to keep afloat in such shallow water. I suspect they had followed the wily shoals of Tilapia too far into the shallows.

immature collared pratincole

On the way back to the car, the sighting of the golden oriole was clearly the best moment but a wryneck in one of the trees was also satisfying.

By the car as we pulled away, a immature collared pratincole was in the very same place as four others the day before. It provided a pleasant ending to the session.

List of species seen (40)
Common quail
Little bittern
Black crowned night heron
Grey heron
Purple heron
Cattle egret
Squacco heron
Common moorhen
Spur-winged lapwing
Green sandpiper
Common sandpiper
Little stint
Temminck's stint
Collared pratincole
Rock pigeon
Namaqua dove
Laughing dove
Collared dove
Barn swallow
Sand martin
House martin
Golden oriole
Little green bee-eater
European bee-eater 
White-eared bulbul
Crested lark
Graceful prinia
Common whitethroat
Common myna
Black bush robin
Isabelline wheatear
Spanish sparrow
House sparrow
Streaked weaver
Indian silverbill
Red Avadavat
Yellow wagtail


  1. Think your temmincks stint is actually a little stint..

    Great blog. Keep on going!

    Best wishes from austria

  2. I wouldn't bet the house on it either way. I thought its legs were yellowish green and didnt look too much further.

    We get both here! it would be good to have seen both stints I saw together for comparison. R