Sunday 29 September 2013

White winged black terns in central Arabia

Bernard Brachen and I moved on from Al Hayer on Saturday during mid morning. The second stop was the lake near Riyadh cricket club.

Nearly all the passage waders have gone since the last time I visited. Nevertheless it was still thronging with birds. Most of which were incredibly nervous of people. 

There is very little cover at this gravel pit and most birds either fly or swim fast away at first sight. 

white winged black tern

Three noticeable exceptions were all white winged black tern. They allowed us as close as the water's edge would take us. They were clearly tired or tamer than the local birds or more likely both. 

Interestingly the distribution map in the Helms regional guide doesn't have this species inland in Saudi Arabia. Though it does for every other country on the map! This sighting was no fluke as a birding friend has told me several were seen at Al Hayer at around the same time on Saturday.  

ferruginous duck

While the terns were remaining calm, the ducks were anything but. Five ferruginous duck repeated flew over seemingly not daring to land.


Five mallard swam as fast as they could towards reed cover. common snipe and a small flock of little stint also vacated our area before we got within 30 metres. Most other birds swam to the furthest part of the lake away from us and crowded themselves there.

little stint

Clearly some hunting is going on and also there is a real lack of cover as you descend into the gravel pit. At ground level there is only thick reed.

spur winged plover and other birds

The far corner of the lake was crowded with spur winged lapwing, coot, moorhen, little grebe and black winged stilt. When they finished flying or swimming away the ferruginous duck had gone deep in reed cover like the mallard before them.

cattle egret

Just before we left for the day, a flock of cattle egret arrived. Like the white winged black tern they were probably strangers because they stayed in the open.

little grebe

Finally I want to draw attention to one little grebe who did not run away. For some reason the one above swam brazenly  near us and the three resting white winged black tern.

List of 45 species seen on Saturday at Al Hayer (H) and/or cricket club lake (C)
Little grebe C
Grey heron H
Purple heron H 
Squacco heron H
Little egret  C
Cattle egret C,H
Little bittern  H
Mallard  C,H 
Ferruginous duck  C
Marsh harrier  H
Moorhen  C,H
Coot  C
Black winged stilt  C,H
Green sandpiper  C
Ruff  C
Little ringed plover  C
Little stint  C
Common snipe  C
White winged black tern  C
Rock pigeon  H
Namaqua dove  H
Collared dove  H
Laughing dove  H
Blue cheeked bee-eater  H
European bee-eater   H
Little green bee-eater  C,H
Crested lark  C,H
Pale crag martin  C
Barn swallow  C,H
Sand martin  H
Yellow wagtail  H
White eared bulbul  H
Graceful prinia  C,H
Eurasian reed warbler  H
Great reed warbler  H
Common whitethroat  H
Northen wheatear  H
Isabelline wheatear  H
Red backed shrike  H
Asian grey shrike (aucheri)  H
Common myna  H
Streaked weaver  H
House sparrow  C,H
Spanish sparrow  H
Ortolan bunting  H

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