Thursday 3 April 2014

North of Hayer part two

During Saturday afternoon's birding north of Al Hayer, I was  privileged to see several Eurasian reed warbler out in the open.   They only do this for any length of time when their hormones get the better of them. For a two week period in the early breeding season they seem to forget their fear. Last weekend must have been part of that period. 

Eurasian reed warbler

All I had to do was head towards the noise, stand in one place and watch.

another picture of Eurasian reed warbler

This was one of the highlights of the afternoon which had begun with me surrounded by moorhen at the furthest north on my day's journey before turning back.

common moorhen

Also in the same area as the moorhen was a red eared slider.  I have seen this invasive terrapin in the diplomatic quarter in Riyadh but this was my first sighting outside the city.

red eared slider

A mallard flew past at great speed and was gone as soon as it appeared.


As I headed back south down the wadi, I had one last chance to see the grey heron which I had been seeing since late morning perched on the valley's slopes.

grey heron

Heading further back, I travelled through the part of the river where all the reeds have been removed. Only a few birds were to be seen. A single common sandpiper was close to the river. A large flock of pigeon were the main inhabitants. The only new species for the day near here was blackstart perched on one of the few remaining isolated trees.


Immediately south of the dam the vegetation is still thick and undisturbed. I spotted the marsh harrier from the morning once again and a green sandpiper at the river's edge.

common myna

It was at the edge of thick reeds here that the Eurasian reed warbler mentioned at the start of the blog gave their display.

On the escarpment next to them I looked up and saw two common myna in a slightly strange environment for them.  Then I heard an odd noise from a little further along at the top of the same escarpment.  


I looked up and was absolutely amazed to see a troop of baboons. Baboons are native to the south west of Saudi Arabia but not Riyadh.

I knew a small number had been released many years ago in the Heet area near Kharj apparently by a departing expat and that they had survived. However this is 30 kilometres away across desert. If this is some of them, they have cleverly and bravely found a more hospitable habitat.

I didn't linger long as they shown an interest in coming down to drink.

After this I moved further south downstream. Indeed I moved past where I had entered the wadi in the first place. Here were a couple of clearings in the reeds. At one I saw a still wintering grey wagtail.

grey wagtail

A kestrel flew overhead while I was there.


The other, larger clearing was my last stop of the day.  On arrival a green sandpiper and common snipe bolted and sadly didn't return.

profile of a bluethroat

However by way of compensation, a still wintering male bluethroat gave good views. The orange spot bluethroat breeds in Scandinavia and northern Russia in summer. Within the next week or so most of the remaining ones will have gone back north.


Almost the final bird I saw was a group of three Indian silverbill. I had been seeing the mall day but these three finally stayed still long enough for a photograph.

Indian silverbill

This turned out to be a good day's birding and I will return to this stretch of the river more often.

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