Monday 23 September 2013

Rabigh waste water wetlands

Late morning on Thursday and mid morning on Friday, Brian James and I visited Rabigh waste water wetland.

The time of day may have been important because on Thursday we saw many birds of prey but on Friday we saw very few.  The hotter air temperatures towards midday could have explained the arrival of Thursday's birds of prey. Alternatively there just may have been a bigger passage in the area that day anyway.

immature honey buzzard

Either way, on Thursday we observed no less than eight types of raptors and we spent most of our time there looking at these.

sideways view of an immature honey buzzard

At least three honey buzzard dropped down to drink. One was an immature bird (pictured above).

adult male honey buzzard

Another was an adult male which took flight before we could approach it (see above). 

juvenile Montagu's harrier

Montagu's harrier, pallid harrier and marsh harrier were around. Indeed we saw adult representatives of both sexes for marsh harrier and pallid harrier such was the variety.

second view of juvenile Montagu's harrier

An immature steppe eagle flew over and at least one young greater spotted eagle landed.

immature greater spotted eagle

Both steppe buzzard (at least two) and long legged buzzard landed too. Only the latter bird could be a local resident. All the others must be passage birds.

glossy ibis

The wetland on Thursday was productive for other larger birds too. A bold glossy ibis had no fears even though there were (sadly) hunters around.

juvenile European roller

A juvenile European roller was seen resting on an apple of sodom bush. I noted the much browner head and upper breast compared with an adult.

On Thursday, I also noticed many ruff, plenty of barn swallow, a few sand martin and a couple of little stint though very little attention was given to other birds.

juvenile common cuckoo

Friday was different we arrived two hours earlier and saw very few birds of prey even though one of the first birds met was a smart male pallid harrier. At the same time we came across a first year common cuckoo.

cuckoo showing white nape patch 

The white nape patch marks it down as a first year though the adults will have moved through on passage  about a month ago

departing cuckoo 

Without the birds of prey, we settled down to looking more closely to the other birds. The waders in the one small lake included black winged stilt as well as ruff and little stint seen in other parts of the wetland the day before. However we didn't linger around the lake mostly because it was near where the workmen were disposing of the waste water.

Cretzschmer's bunting

Two Cretzschmer's bunting were seen. One was adult and the other a first year.

Greater short toed lark

Around the edge of the wetland were both greater short toed lark and crested lark.

two tawny pipit

There were two types of pipit too. Both tawny pipit and tree pipit were observed but perhaps surprisingly we didn't encounter any red-throated pipit.

European reed warbler

In the long grass were a group of at least three European reed warbler and another unidentified warbler. 


A whinchat was also present close to the warblers.

lesser grey shrike

Red backed shrike, lesser grey shrike and Daurian shrike were also there.

yellow wagtail

Yellow wagtail are everywhere I go at the moment which has any greenery. This wetland was certainly no exception.

a group of African silverbill at the wetland

African silverbill were numerous. I have missed several birds out but a full list of birds seen will be posted in the fourth blog of the series on this trip.

two demoiselle crane

Towards the time we were going to leave the wetland, two interesting sets of birds flew over. Brian spotted two demoiselle crane flying over. His observations and records over the years prove that the Thuwal and Rabigh areas are definitely on the main flyway for this bird. A flock of chestnut bellied sandgrouse were the second interesting group.

The next blog is the third in the series on my western trip. It covers our visit to Wadi Rabigh which is one of the relatively few places in Saudi Arabia with permanent fresh water.


  1. Nice shots, good range of migrants at present - nice to see some of raptors on the deck -

    atb Laurie -

  2. Laurie, I have got a blog to come in a couple of days which will amaze anyone about the sheers numbers of a certain migrant seen at wadi rabigh two days after my visit!