7 Dec 2019

Hundreds of Steppe Eagles - Riyadh

Whilst driving back from Riyadh to Dhahran I came across a new landfill site on the side of the expressway. The site had plenty of Steppe Eagles in flight above it and almost as many sitting on the ground and scavenging in the rubbish. I estimated over 100 birds were present. I tried to gain access to the actual site which is fenced off but as it was a Friday the manager was not available to grant access and security would not allow entry. I do not know if it will be possible to enter even if the manager is there but if it is possible this will be a great location for photographing the birds. I was told the birds arrived in mid-October, fitting in nicely with their expected peak migration period of late September and early October.


5 Dec 2019

Birding the Riyadh River – Al Hair

I went birding to the Riyadh River near Al Hair recently. It is an amazing site with running river, reed beds and nearby pivot irrigation fields. As I live four hours drive away from Riyadh, I have not been before, but this will certainly not be my last trip. On arrival at the site I saw a huge flock of over one hundred Black-crowned Night Herons, easily the largest number I have seen in Saudi Arabia. A Western Osprey was sitting in a tree and groups of Mallard and Pintail were flying around. There were six or more White-throated Kingfishers and plenty of Arabian Bee-eaters sitting around along with some Crested Larks. One pivot irrigation field held two European Rollers and plenty of Streaked Weavers, Arabian Golden Sparrows, Red Avadavat and Spanish Sparrows as well as a few Black Scrub Robin. The rocky areas nearby held Blackstart and Eastern Morning Wheatears. The Riyadh area is the closest place Arabian Bee-eater and Blackstart occur to the Eastern Province although both are common further west and south. The pools and rivers held large numbers of Grey Heron and a few Purple Heron and Common Moorhen were everywhere. 
Arabian Bee-eater
Arabian Bee-eater
Arabian Bee-eater
Arabian Bee-eater
Arabian Bee-eater
Arabian Bee-eater
Black-crowned Night Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Blackstart
Blackstart
Crested Lark
Crested Lark
Eastern Mourning Wheatear
Eastern Mourning Wheatear
European Roller
European Roller
Mallard
Mallard
Namaqua Dove
Namaqua Dove
Spanish Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow

3 Dec 2019

Red Avadavat – Al Hair

Whilst birding Al Hair, near Riyadh recently I came across a small group of Red Avadavat, including males, females and juveniles. Birds were seen feeding in a mixed flock of birds including Streaked Weavers, Arabian Golden Sparrows and Indian Silverbills as well as on their own where they favoured the reed beds to perch. This species has been noted breeding in this area for the last twenty years at least but I have not tried to see them until this trip. The birds almost certainly originated from escaped cage birds but now are part of the Saudi Arabian breeding species avifauna.
Red Avadavat

Red Avadavat

Red Avadavat

Red Avadavat


1 Dec 2019

Arabian Golden Sparrow – Al Hair

Whilst birding Al Hair, near Riyadh recently I came across a flock of approximately twenty Arabian Golden Sparrows, including juveniles. They were in a large mixed flock of Streaked Weavers and Indian Silverbills but soon moved apart and started associating with Spanish Sparrows. This species is a breeding resident in the southwest of the Kingdom but have not been seen north of Al Shuqaiq. The birds in Riyadh have almost certainly come from escaped cage birds but individuals have been seen in this area since 2013 at least and a group of twenty birds including juveniles suggests they are breeding in the area and probably now have a self-sustaining breeding population. These birds should be monitored over the next few seasons to see in numbers increase. This area has at least two other species of exotic birds resident with self-sustaining breeding population Streaked Weaver and Red Avadavat.
Arabian Golden Sparrow

Arabian Golden Sparrow

29 Nov 2019

Streaked Weaver – Al Hair

Whilst birding Al Hair, near Riyadh recently I came across a large group of Streaked Weavers at the edge of a wetland area feeding in a pivot irrigation field. The group included males, females and juveniles, but all males were in non-breeding plumage. Birds were seen feeding in a mixed flock of birds including Red Avadavat, Arabian Golden Sparrows and Indian Silverbills. This species has been noted breeding in this area for the last twenty years at least but I had not seen them before so decided to drive to Riyadh early morning to get there at first light. The birds almost certainly originated from escaped cage birds but now are part of the Saudi Arabian breeding species avifauna. I also found a few Streaked Weaver nests in the tall reedbeds nearby showing that breeding still continues. The number of birds seen indicate the population is growing year on year but they still remain almost entirely restricted to this area of Riyadh. Other birds still breed in Qatif in the Eastern Province but numbers here are still very low although again have bred here for more than twenty years.
Streaked Weaver

Streaked Weaver

Streaked Weaver

Streaked Weaver

Streaked Weaver

Streaked Weaver

Streaked Weaver

Streaked Weaver nest