Thursday 10 October 2013

A wave of wheatears

Even though I have been seeing plenty of wheatears on my visits to the west and east coasts this autumn, relatively few have been seen in the Riyadh area. This is in stark contrast with spring.

However over the past few days this has suddenly changed and it has coincided with cooler temperatures here. 

I am still visiting the university farm despite its apparently slow dismantlement and its here I have observed the wheatears walking to and from work.

Eastern mourning wheatear

The easiest wheatear to identify has been this Eastern mourning wheatear. It is the first sighting this season and its not a passage bird because it winters in this area and not much further south.

sideways profile of eastern mourning wheatear

The other wheatears have been much more problematic. But thanks to BirdForum I have fairly definitive conclusions. 

first year black-eared wheatear

The first one, above and below, is a young black-eared wheatear almost certainly pale throated. 

first year black-eared wheatear standing upright

Likewise a second bird seen two days later is the same species and morph. It is conceivably the exact same bird.

another first year bird two days later

Other wheatears have been young pied wheatear. I know what adult female pied wheatear look like and there are close similarities.

first year pied wheatear

Indeed I believe this particular first year bird is also female.

second look at pied wheatear

Separating young dark throated black-eared wheatear from pied wheatear is the most difficult but I have had one dark throated black-eared wheatear come through as well (not shown).

spotted flycatcher

As I said in a previous blog, until this wave of wheatears the passage had almost dried up at the farm. Nevertheless there has been other limited passage activity to report. This includes another spotted flycatcher. They have been seen on and off for nearly two months now.

spotted flycatcher moves onto a post

Two evenings ago I spotted three tree pipit but they must have moved on quickly because they were nowhere to be seen the next day.

Tree pipit on a post

This is another species which has been visiting for a while. The first one was here about a month ago.

Tree pipit on ground

I am on a short trip to Ethiopia soon followed by a visit to Tabuk in the north of the country. The latter visit is all birding whereas the trip to Ethiopia is not. In the meantime I may have time today for some local observations. Let's see what all this brings.


  1. The Wheatears are certainly enough to keep you on your toes Rob, i'm off to Maroc for 2+ weeks in December so migrants will have mainly gone through but
    i should get half a dozen spp and am looking forward to re-aquainting myself.

    Laurie -

  2. Laurie, good luck with Morocco. I need some with Tabuk. I could get any where from zero to four additions to my Saudi list.