Monday, 26 May 2014

Riyadh round up for late May

This blog follows on from the last one reporting on the latter stages of Saturday's visit to east Salbukh wetland and then looks at my walk home from work on Sunday evening.

East Salbukh continued

The east side of East Salbukh wetland used to be an impenetrable wall of tall reeds with less birding opportunities than the other sides of the wetland.

It was here though that for once camels, which over graze so much of the country, have been helpful.

They have chomped into the reeds in several places creating pseudo grassland and some marshy areas.

The birds seen on this stretch of Saturday morning's trip were not much different from the other areas. Little bittern once again put in appearances and once again I failed to notice until it (or they) flushed.

However, this was the only place I saw any other member of the heron family. A grey heron reared up and flew off as I  walked past.

sedge warbler

As the morning progressed it got warmer and warmer. Reed warbler sightings and noise started to tail off. However I finally got good views of a sedge warbler. This species is not as shy as its reed warbler cousins. It's just that every time it stood up on Saturday and on my visit three weeks before, it was a long way away from me. This time was different.

spotted flycatcher looking at me

Another bird which gave me good views of the east side of the wetlands was a late passage spotted flycatcher.

second view of spotted flycatcher

It seemed hot and reluctant to move. I had a lot of sympathy. 

Namaqua dove on the east side

The rest of the walk was mostly uneventful with Kentish plover, Namaqua dove and crested lark being the only still active species. The reminding highlight was the sight of two very late barn swallow resting on a dead bush.

dalmatian molly

The fish at East Salbukh deserve a mention. All artificial wetlands in Saudi Arabia start with no fish. Most are populated with tilapia and some with large catfish. This is the case with the Riyadh river though I have seen a few exotic goldfish/small carp, at the southern end in the shallows, evading the catfish.

At East Salbukh, there are two species and both look like they have come straight out of an aquarium. The originals probably did. The less common one is dalmatian molly. The more common one is golden coloured and probably not a molly as there is no sign of cross breeding hybrids. Both fish are live bearers as births of fry are easily seen.

unknown fish

There are literally thousands of these small fish. Unfortunately as soon as someone puts tilapia or catfish in there, they will be wiped out. Until then its quite a spectacle.

List of 22 species seen at East Salbukh on Saturday

Little grebe
Laughing dove
Little bittern
Desert lark
Grey heron
Hoopoe lark
Common moorhen
Crested lark
Black winged stilt
Barn swallow
Kentish plover
Eurasian reed warbler
Terek sandpiper
Great reed warbler
Wood sandpiper
Sedge warbler
Feral pigeon
Willow warbler
Namaqua dove
Spotted flycatcher
Eurasian collared dove
House sparrow

Sunday evening's walk home

I have tried to bird on the walk home either side of last weekend. However the heat makes it really difficult.  I managed to see two passage birds last Wednesday: red backed shrike and a willow warbler

Yesterday evening I saw none.


There has been some change on the remnants of experimental farm though. The farm used to have resident hoopoe and black bush robin but all the disruption of construction and downsizing of the farm drove them away.

There were some passage hoopoe coming through from time to time.

Last evening, it looks like both species may be trying to resettle now the dust has literally settled and the noise dropped.

black bush robin

Whilst they were only single birds for each species, both hoopoe and black bush robin were back at least temporarily. The hoopoe was seen on Wednesday too. Whether they find mates is another issue. The bush robin may not be bothered yet. It looks like a young bird.


  1. Yes - it looks like a first year bird to me, was it displaying to you or just strutting its' stuff?

    Laurie -

  2. Laurie, I am also sure it is a first year bird. I think it is getting used to strutting Rob