Friday 20 June 2014

Summer warblers at Al Hayer

I went to Al Hayer today for the first time in nearly two months. Yet I used to go there virtually every week until I started travelling more widely in Saudi Arabia.

It will be my last visit for some time too. I will explain why in the next blog.

As it is now generally seriously hot in central Saudi Arabia, I began birding at about 5.45 am and finished at 10.15 am. Luckily, I was helped that it turned out to be a relatively less hot morning than average for this time of year.

This blog only looks at one aspect of the visit: the summer warblers.

One of the first observations I made on arriving this morning was the huge number of Eurasian reed warbler about. It must have been a very successful breeding season.

one very cooperative Eurasian reed warbler

They weren't just keeping to the reeds either. Plenty were spilling out on to near-by bushes and even into the fields. This wandering away from the reeds was a new phenomenon for me.

At first I struggled to get clear photos until one warbler cooperated in the open.

another pose of the same bird

Before that, in classic warbler style they would move off before I could focus. 

warbler ready to fly off

Having had a chance to see many together (and regretting not looking closer before), some of reed warblers didn't look particularly different from the tones of the nominate species. This is opposed to being greyer on top and whiter below like the fuscus sub species (often called Caspian reed warbler) which dominates breeding in Arabia. 

an apparently darker, browner looking Eurasian reed warbler

For once, graceful prinia wasn't the most common warbler on show at Al Hayer.

graceful prinia

Two hours into the walk, my attention was diverted to loud calls in some dried reeds and small tamarisk bushes. These calls were between a small group of Eastern olivaceous warbler. Small numbers breed here but I rarely see them in the open. However I have rarely visited Al Hayer in June before.

eastern olivaceous warbler calling

This species can be overlooked if you are not careful. It's song is similar to a reed warbler though I think it is more pleasant. It is greyer, the bill is longer and the supercilium more obvious yet in bright sunlight, it would be possible to walk past and miss it.

closer view of eastern olivaceous warbler

Two other warblers are known to breed or have bred at Al Hayer. These are great reed warbler and moustached warbler. I personally have only seen them in the passage seasons at Al Hayer. However others have seen great reed warbler in the summer months. On the other hand, I don't think anyone has seen moustached warbler in summer among those currently birding.

second close up of an eastern olivaceous warbler

In the next blog, I report on all the other birds observed at Al Hayer.

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