Friday 4 October 2013

Many migrants on the road to Dammam

I have had a very enjoyable and successful but also very long day trip to the east coast today. Bernard Bracken once again partnered me.

The trip culminated in an addition to my Saudi list which is something that is getting increasingly difficult as the list lengthens.

I'll report more on this in a future blog. But first I need to report that the few green areas along the road to Dammam were flush with migrants.

Our first stop this morning was 250 kilometres east of Riyadh. We stopped at the same small collection of mosque, shop, toilets and five or six trees as I had in spring. Then the trees and immediate surrounding area held a thrush nightingale, a nightingale, a white throated robin and several warblers. 

female blackcap

Today there were once again an array of migrants.

male blackcap

This time the trees held seven blackcap, a garden warbler and a common whitethroat as well as some resident house sparrow.

garden warbler

Round the back were two spotted flycatcher and a common redstart which kept darting between the back yard and the trees at the front.

spotted flycatcher

The other resident species was laughing dove.

laughing dove

On the evidence of this stop and the one in spring they and the house sparrow have to share this remote and desert-surrounded place with many migrants during the passage seasons. 

house sparrow

None of the other stops either going out or on return were quite as packed with migrants. We still aren't sure why this particular stop is so attractive but it is probably its remoteness from any other vegetation or shade.

male common redstart

Highlights from other stops along the way included a second male common redstart at a stop about 25 kilometres further east which we made on the return journey.

Incidentally I have not seen a common redstart in the Riyadh area all autumn.

Turkestan shrike

Behind the petrol station 40 kilometres past the first stop on the outward journey towards Dammam was a difficult young shrike which I eventually concluded was a first year Turkestan shrike rather than red-backed shrike. The mantle colour and head colour were the same and I can't recall seeing a young or female red-backed shrike with such a dark mask.

Kentish plover

Not all the birds of curiosity were migrants. We stopped at a flooded salt pan by the side of the road and saw several Kentish plover. This was further on towards Dammam where the road comes off the central plateau and the water table is close to the surface in places.

 pied wheatear

On the way home, as well as the common redstart at a lay-by we picked up (among other birds) a pied wheatear and green sandpiper at a petrol station. 

green sandpiper

Like common redstart, I haven't seen a pied wheatear in the Riyadh area this autumn. It wasn't the only pied wheatear of the trip either. This is more supporting evidence to my assertion a few blogs ago that for many species the passage is much lighter in central, inland areas in autumn than in spring.

 The next blog will be about what we saw at Khobar on the Red Sea coast.

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