20 Nov 2011

Desert Lark & Eastern Mourning Wheatear - Jabal Nayriyyah

At 04:00 hrs Phil Roberts and I set off 'up north' to look for a few desert birds as well as birds of prey that normally occur in this area in November and then throughout the winter. We arrived at Jabal Nayriyyah just after first light at about 06:15 hrs and the very first bird we saw was a male harrier quartering the desert below the jabals. The bird was a male Hen Harrier which is not a common species in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia or anywhere else in the country. This was a new species for both Phil and myself so it was a very promising start to what turned out to be an excellent days birding. This site has a number of quite large Jabals, which are large Limestone hills standing high above the desert, possibly 100 – 150 metres tall. They are excellent places for looking for some desert specialities which favour these sites over the flatter desert areas. The main species we thought may occur here was Eastern Mourning Wheatear and Abdullah from Bahrain told me last weekend he had seen quite a few in a desert area north of Dhahran when he came over, which was good news as the species has only just started arriving for the winter. As it turned out the next bird we saw was an Eastern Mourning Wheatear at the base of the smallest jabal and six birds were seen in total in the hour of so we birded this location. Whist looking around I flushed a Pharaoh Eagle Owl, details of which I will post tomorrow when I have more time, as well as seeing two Desert Larks, three Desert Wheatear, two Southern Grey Shrike (adult and juvenile) and a distant Eastern Imperial Eagle flying over one of the larger distant jabals. Desert Larks favour these rocky areas in the desert with Bar-tailed Lark favouring the flatter areas. On the way home we visited this site again for an hour to see if we could see the owl again but without luck. We did, however, see the Asian Desert Warbler I had seen briefly in the morning before being distracted by the Pharaoh Eagle Owl. We also got much better views of Desert Lark in better light which was a great way to end the days birding as now it was getting dark.

 Desert Lark
 Desert Lark
 Desert Lark
 Eastern Mourning Wheatear
 Eastern Mourning Wheatear
Southern Grey Shrike

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