Wednesday 2 April 2014

North of Hayer part one

On Saturday, I visited a section of the Riyadh river along Wadi Hanifah that I haven't been to for a long time. This is a section north of Al Hayer town. In part I chose to go there because there is so much disruption south of Al Hayer at the moment caused by the building of a leisure area along the river.

This northern stretch of the river gave me so many species and photographs I am splitting the write-up into two. This one looks at what I saw in the morning. The next one will look after midday.

graceful prinia

I remember visiting this northern area a few times in my first year in Saudi Arabia and I don't really understand why I stopped. One memory I have is of easily seeing graceful prinia. This was before I realised how common they are and in so many habitats in Saudi Arabia.

another angle on the graceful prinia

As you can see they gave me good views once again.

pied wheatear

However the first bird of any note that I saw on Saturday morning was a pied wheatear.  Ironically this was the first bird Bernard Bracken and I saw on Friday morning when we visited east Salbukh wetland. The co-incidence didn't end there. In both cases, it was the only pied wheatear seen all day.

laughing dove

As I descended into the valley I kept an eye out for birds on the slopes. Most were lone laughing dove or collared dove sitting out. 

sand partridge

However, one wasn't. It was a sand partridge.  Indeed I remember them when I used to visit.

second view of the sand partridge

I was a bit concerned that this was just a single bird.

brown-necked raven

Flying across the valley early on were two brown necked raven.

Turkestan shrike

Another early sighting was a male Turkestan shrike.

streaked weaver

Down in the wadi itself, there are clearings in the reeds and a few places where the water spills out.  In one such place I stopped for half an hour and stood still to see what would happen.  

I noticed a newly constructed streaked weaver nest. The male in full breeding plumage was around and seemed to be attracting female visitors.

common snipe

I must have been well hidden in some reeds because a common snipe flew in and landed two metres in front of me. Being well hidden also meant I couldn't get a full picture through the reeds either. 

red avadavat

Both red avadavat and Indian silverbill visited the same place though I only managed to photograph the former. Unlike the weavers, the avadavats strangely breed in November (or at least that's when I have seen them in breeding plumage). I believe the photographed bird is non breeding male by the grey appearance below.

white-eared bulbul

White eared bulbul as usual along Wadi Hanifah was common in many habitats. A single white spectacled bulbul was also observed. 

tree pipit

In among newly planted palms were two of only a few passage birds seen all day. There were two tree pipit.

Siberian stonechat

During the morning I moved slowly down towards the Al Hayer dam.  Birds seen near-by included a male Siberian stonechat. 

At the dam itself was a white throated kingfisher, an osprey and a marsh harrier.  The marsh harrier would not tolerate the osprey and chased it off.

the river by the dam

All the reeds have been totally cleared north of the dam. It looks like another leisure project.

little green bee-eater

Even in this denuded area, some extra species for the day were seen. These were little green bee-eater, barn swallow and pale crag martin.

common moorhen

Further upstream, the reeds are intact. Here is an area with many moorhen

grey heron

There were also eight grey heron near-by mostly spending their time on the valley's slopes rather than by the water.

juvenile moorhen

At one point along the river, I came across six juvenile moorhen feeding together. They must all have been recently fully fledged and chose to spend time together. This was a new observation for me.

This observation occurred just before noon. The next blog continues the report on the area with what was seen in the afternoon.

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