Friday 11 October 2013

Round the Diplomatic Quarter

I should probably bird the Diplomatic Quarter (DQ) in Riyadh more often than I do. It is near where I live and makes a nice walk once you are inside. 

I went yesterday morning for the first time in several months and I was happy with the results.

I walked the perimeter route on the north side more extensively than I have before. I took in more scrub land as well as my normal walk beside the stream.

red vented bulbul

The DQ is teaming with bulbuls. There are both the very common, more city-based, white-eared bulbul and also white-spectacled bulbul which is found more rurally to the west.

Concerning bulbuls, I am guilty of some very lazy birding which got a good result. I had decided to photograph the next white spectacled bulbul I came to. So I snapped at the first bulbul with an all dark head only to find I had come across the the rarest bulbul in the city by mistake.

red vented bulbul from behind

It was a red vented bulbul which, although IUCN puts it in the top 100 invasive species in the world, has failed to gain much of a foothold in Riyadh since it arrived tens of years ago. Only a few of the largest compounds and hotel gardens contain it. It was even the first time I have seen it in the DQ.

white eared bulbul

Both bulbuls, collared dove and laughing dove are extremely common in the DQ too. They are also remarkably tame compared with those outside. 

laughing dove

There aren't that many scrub-loving birds around probably because the place is too tidy. The main exception is black bush robin which has adapted well to man and is increasingly a garden bird.

black bush robin

Along the walk I also picked up more uncommon birds. Three late European bee-eater were sharing airspace with the resident little green bee-eater.

European bee-eater

This was at one of the highest points of the DQ and pale crag martin were flying up the cliff side up to where I was. This was giving me an unusual view of them at eye-level.  

little green bee-eater

With all the acacia and other natural bushes and trees on the walk, I had hoped to come across migrant warblers and flycatchers. I only struck lucky once. One tree held three desert whitethroat which were continually calling to each other. This is a wintering bird in the Riyadh area and the first I have seen this season.

desert whitethroat

The walk along the stream also produced a wintering bird. 

lake at the end of DQ's main stream

Common kingfisher winter in central Arabia and I have seen them every winter at the DQ.

common kingfisher

A white throated kingfisher put in a brief appearance as well but it can be seen all year round.


Moorhen are resident in all water bodies of any decent size here provided there is some cover. The DQ is no exception. 

green sandpiper 

The stream ends in a large lake but its actually the other side of the DQ fence and obscured from view. I saw a green sandpiper fly up form there before seeing another two minutes later on my side of the fence.

purple heron

Similarly a purple heron fly overhead having come from the lake area outside the DQ. Giving the sensitivity of the location, I don't think it would be possible to bird the other side. Having binoculars and camera looking out is one thing. Having them and looking in is another.

red-eared slider

Red vented bulbul wasn't the only member of the IUCN's 100 most invasive species present yesterday. I noticed a red-eared slider sunbathing along the stream.

unknown frogs

They weren't the only amphibians around the edge of the DQ either. In another water body I heard and then saw several unknown frogs. This is not what you expect in such a dry part of the country. These were seen towards the end of my walk and were an interesting diversion.

Today I am flying to Ethiopia for a long weekend where I should get at least some birding in.

List of birds seen (22 species) at the DQ yesterday
Purple heron
Black winged stilt
Green sandpiper
Rock pigeon
Laughing dove
Collared dove
White-throated kingfisher
Common kingfisher
European bee-eater
Little green bee-eater
Pale crag martin
Barn swallow
Graceful prinia
Desert whitethroat
Black bush robin
Red vented bulbul
White spectacled bulbul
White eared bulbul
House sparrow
Indian silverbill

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