Tuesday 27 August 2013

Still walking and still finding

My walk to and from work taking in the university's experimental farm is still extremely hot. However it's also worthwhile as the selection of passage birds changes each day. 

The mix of birds is noticeably different to the spring passage. The birds also tend to be more approachable probably because the heat makes them more reluctant to move unnecessarily.

spotted flycatcher

Spotted flycatcher is one of the last birds to pass through in spring so I was surprised to see one so early in the autumn. This one was seen last Thursday.

spotted flycatcher turns its back

The photographic quality is so good because the bird was so close.

probable common whitethroat

Several common whitethroat have been seen over the past few days. However one warbler has caused me identification headaches and is shown. It has chestnut fringes to the wing coverts like a common whitethroat but the tail looks a bit long, the iris is not dark, the bill a bit short and pointed while the legs don't really look a shade of orange. I am asking experts if it could be anything else (with a larger array of photos than the two shown).

another view of a probable common whitethroat

I said the selection of birds is different from spring. In particular I haven't seen a single wheatear at the farm compared with wave after wave in spring. Nor has there been a white throated robin. This latter bird seems to migrate on a broad front in spring including through Riyadh but not so in autumn. 

Last August, Brian James and I reported over a hundred while birding in the south west of the country. Lou Regenmorter has told me he observed the same phenomenon down there this August too. Its obvious they take a more funnelled route to get there in the autumn which doesn't include the centre of the country.

European roller

Its not all negative. I saw my first European roller at the farm while walking home last night.

Another view of the roller

I flushed the bird while walking round but was very pleased that all it did was fly off to the other tallest tree in the farm's garden.

roller on the tallest tree

It then returned to the first tree. Clearly it really didn't want to leave this small green oasis in the heat of the day.

"first winter" woodchat shrike

The passage of shrikes is strong in both spring and autumn here. At the moment I am seeing plenty of first year birds.

The most common is woodchat shrike but I am taken as to how different one can look from another. The two photos are of different young birds. One is heavily barred whereas the other has no noticeable barring at all.  

Some are clearly staying a few days before moving on.

another young woodchat shrike

Second most common has been red-backed shrike followed by masked shrike.

"first winter" lesser grey shrike

One very tame lesser grey shrike stayed for two days. No red-tailed shrike of either species has been seen yet. When they do come, many of these will stay the winter in central Arabia.

shrinking pool

I mentioned in the last blog on about my walk to work that there is a temporary man-made lake next door. This has been housing water pumped up from the deep for reasons unknown to me. Well, over the last week, it hasn't been refilled and is slowly evaporating to nothing. However the one green sandpiper has remained loyal to the place for over 10 days and until yesterday a little ringed plover had joined it. He moved on over night.

little ringed plover

You may recall in my last  farm I commented that white eared bulbul had multiplied during the summer but I hadn't seen any white spectacled bulbul

white spectacled bulbul

I can confirm they are still present but look increasingly outnumbered.

rose ringed parakeet

At least one rose ringed parakeet is still there from the spring.


The resident hoopoe seem to be getting tamer towards me. I wonder if I am being recognised?

I will continue to visit the farm but I look forward to a little cooler weather which can't be too long off. It's still well over 40C when I walk through in the afternoon.

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