Sunday 6 April 2014

East Salbukh wetland revisited

I returned to the newly found wetland north of Riyadh near Salbukh on Friday. It showed a passage season in full swing and because of this several species of birds seen were different from a week before.

In this blog I have tried to show  different birds from last week's pictures except where it would detract from the storyline.

semi-collared flycatcher

I started the walk in the same place, at the southern end of the wetland in a bushy area.  One of the early sightings was a male semi-collared flycatcher. This was the second one for me in the Riyadh area.

different angle on semi-collared flycatcher

In the same area and in other tamarisk bushes along the walk some willow warbler have joined the chiffchaff. Last week I didn't see a single willow warbler. This week they made up 25% of the population. 

There is usually only a short period when both are around.

willow warbler

A third different species over last week was little egret. Both grey heron and squacco heron were again present. However I counted a flock of 22 squacco heron which is much larger number than last week.

Incidentally the wetland does have fish. This must make it attractive to the heron family.  

little egret

Still in the bushy area at the start of the walk, a tree pipit flew straight up into a tree as I approached it. This was yet another bird not seen at the wetland last week.

tree pipit

As I walked round the wetland, I came to the area which is wet and grassy without reeds. As last week, there were yellow wagtail but numbers have swollen four fold. 

female feldegg yellow wagtail

Interestingly virtually all the yellow wagtail next to the water were the feldegg sub species sometimes called black headed wagtail. There were other sub-species in the neighbourhood but I'll explain more in my next blog.

male feldegg yellow wagtail

While observing the yellow wagtail, I caught sight of a marsh harrier. Actually three were observed during the day.

marsh harrier

Also flying over head all through my visit were tens of barn swallow and a few sand martin.

little stint

The next distinct area as you walk round the wetland has wet mudflats and some standing water. This is one of the places where I am finding waders. There were no black winged stilt this week. However there were three little stint which I didn't see last week.

common sandpiper

Kentish plover was once again the most common wader. The others were little ringed plover, wood sandpiper, common sandpiper and wood sandpiper. The most common sandpiper this week was wood sandpiper.

kentish plover

Only one shrike was observed. It had a light belly and apparently a light brown head like a Turkestan shrike but the supercilium was weaker than average and the overall colour was a little greyer than average.  I can't definitely identify this one as Daurian shrike, Turkestan shrike or inter-grade.

Red tailed shrike

Last week, there was tricky female Siberian stonechat to identify with a strong supercilium easily mistaken for a whinchat.


This time there was the real thing. Actually there were three. All were male and keeping close to together in tight passage group. At one stage all three were sitting in a row on a power wire.


At the northern end of the wetland is the lowest point. Here there are some stretches of open water.  I finally got clear views of the moorhen after two visits but nothing more exotic on the water.  I believe this wetland is relatively new. Certainly the factory supplying spent cooling water is. So birds like little grebe don't seem to have found it yet.

the bottom end of the wetland

One bird that has found it is Eurasian reed warbler some of which showed clear signs of being breeders here.

Eurasian reed warbler

I also saw a marsh warbler flitting between waterlogged tamarisk bushes at a distance from the reed beds. The behaviour was good start towards its identification.

common redstart

There were two other notable species in tamarisk on the way back round. Common redstart was seen all the way round but only towards the end of the circuit did I snatch any type of photograph.

ortolan bunting

One of the last birds I saw was a very tired ortolan bunting sheltering at the hottest time of day under a very small tamarisk. This was my first sighting of one this spring.

At times on my way round I ventured away from the wetland from time to time into the surrounding countryside. I'll blog about that next.

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