Sunday 15 June 2014

East Salbukh settled down for the summer

Sometimes during a birding session, you can have one small area and moment which produces a totally disproportionate part of your birding enjoyment.

This happened to me as I birded East Salbukh early on Saturday morning.

One corner on the western side of the wetland was a treat to stop at, listen and observe.

little bittern

It was noisy but initially there seemed to be nothing to see. One of the noises was little bittern screaming calls. I soon saw both an adult and a juvenile.

little bittern screaming

Sounds lower down were competing with the little bittern calls. There were intermittent screeches which I suspected were water rail.

young water rail

When I finally saw one it wasn't an adult. The bill was not completely red but had some black. The underparts still had some mottling of a juvenile bird. The black and white stripes on the flanks were not fully developed. This bird was a young bird.

I am now confident that water rail breed there. I also saw four others scattered over the west, north and east side of this rectangular wetland. They aren't going anywhere and its mid June.

Evidence of breeding among little bittern and water rail was not all that I observed in this small patch of the wetland.

young Eurasian reed warbler

Young Eurasian reed warbler were darting around. Luckily they often rested on a small tamarisk bush in the middle of the low lying reeds making views easier than usual.

adult Eurasian reed warbler

I saw incidents of adult Eurasian reed warbler feeding young birds too. The picture below was taken from distance but you can see this happening.

feeding Eurasian reed warbler

Elsewhere in the wetland, there was other evidence of breeding. I was continually mobbed by black winged stilt over part of my walk even though I was nowhere near the water's edge in that area due to the deep mud that fringed it.

black winged stilt

In contrast both Kentish plover and little ringed plover breed earlier.

Kentish plover

There was little sign of adults still caring for young at least as far as feeding is concerned.

Little ringed plover

The overall picture is one of a wetland left for the summer with only the breeding birds left around. It should stay that way for about 6 or 7 weeks before the first birds are once again on the move.


Funnily enough I don't recall seeing any young moorhen since I started visiting the wetland. However they are known to breed very early in central Arabia. 

graceful prinia

Likewise with graceful prinia. They are lots of old graceful prinia nests to see in the the tamarisk bushes.

Namaqua dove

Other sightings at the wetland  included hoopoe and a young Asian grey shrike.


The pink bill on the Asian grey shrike is one of many signs this is a young bird too.

young Asian grey shrike (Aucheri)

Other species seen at the wetland were: Eurasian collared dove, laughing dove, little grebe, crested lark. pale crag martin, house sparrow and perhaps surprisingly barn swallow.


As I left, an unknown lizard  with a distinctive blue face was seen sunning itself. 

In other news, earlier in the weekend, on Friday, I spent an hour in the early morning visiting a site within walking distance of my flat in the Nakheel district. I was acting on a tip off from a friend.

wadi at Nakheel

I had been missing an very good prospect so close to home. The wadi is a mix of orchards, grassland, trees and vines.
more of the wadi at Nakheel

In summer the birding won't be too exciting but in the passages seasons and in winter, I am sure it will be very good indeed.

young common myna

At the moment though birds were the most common birds were common myna, house sparrow, collared dove, laughing dove and black bush robin.

little green bee-eater

There were also little green bee-eater, white eared bulbul and rose ringed parakeet.

white eared bulbul

How could I have missed such a place under my nose?


  1. Important local observations, a fairly obvious juv water rail i would have thought and signs of other breeders - you are lucky to work in a place where you can add this sort of info.

    Keep it up mate!

    Laurie -

  2. Laurie, thanks for the encouragement. According to Mike Jennings who is the expert in these matters, no water rail breeding has been observed in the Riyadh area before.