31 May 2021

Zitting Cisticola – Phil’s Fields

The Zitting Cisticola is an uncommon breeding resident in Saudi Arabia, where it is found mainly in the far southern Tihama, south of Abha. It usually occurs below 500 metres in hot, dry, open grasslands and crop fields. Phil’s Fields near Sabya is probably the best place to see the species as they are common and call continually. Due to their small size and active behavior they are very difficult to photograph but I luckily managed to get very close to one this visit and took my best photos so far of the species. Birds alight on tall grasses and sing occasionally but trying to get close enough to obtain decent photos is not easy. Birds can be seen in suitable habitat all the way south to the Yemen boarder near Malaki Dam Lake and Wadi Jewa.

29 May 2021

A’Arif Fort – Hail

Thought to have been built during the 17th century AD for the defence of the city of Hail, it is built on a hill with the same name in the centre of the city. Further additions and restorations have been made until it has assumed its current rectangular shape of approximately 40m x 11m in size. It had openings including watchtowers and windows (Turma) to be used by soldiers to sight any approaching hostile forces as well as a residential area, a mosque, baths, prayer places, toilets, warehouses and other facilities allowing citizens to live there for long periods. ​

27 May 2021

Streaked Weavers nesting – Al Hair

A trip to the Al Hair river outside of Riyadh in late May resulted in us finding a nice colony of breeding Streaked Weavers. Freshly made nests were located with adult birds busy adding to them, with at least twenty nests found in a short visible area in the reed beds with up to 200 birds located. Streaked Weaver owe their origin to released or escaped captive birds with young heard in nests in July near Riyadh previously. This is one of the few areas where the species can be seen in Saudi Arabia and is the first time I have seen and photographed them in breeding plumage. It is very hot at this time of year, in this area, so arriving at sunrise is advisable to get the best light for photography as well as cooler temperatures is advisable. Breeding birds have been seen in the Eastern Province at the sewage lagoon of the King Fahd International Airport, 29 April 1989. Birds build nests here until they were destroyed by reed cutting machines and as far as I am aware have not nested again in the Eastern Province.

25 May 2021

Old Deira Al Ghat Heritage Village

Old Deira Al Ghat Heritage Village is one of the largest traditional villages of Saudi Arabia in the Najdi style. It is located on the northern bank of the Wadi Al-Ghat and stretches over 1.5 kilometers, with the town fed by rain water running down the nearby the Tuwaiq escarpment. The heritage village has a museum where prehistoric tools show to place has been inhabited for millennia. Testimony to human efforts to benefit from the water resources are the dams and wells that are still visible. Places of particular interest are Ad-Deira Mosque and ancient water well, the old village, Mosque Ahmad Al Sidiri as well as Amara Palace which houses the Ghat Museum. The Al-Oshaza Mosque is the oldest mosque in Al-Ghat dating back to the fifteenth centaury AD.

23 May 2021

Breeding Birds – Jubail

While birding the Jubail area in early May we came across obvious signs of breeding of a few species. Little Terns were sitting on eggs in one area of partially dried up sabkha and Black-winged Stilts were nesting in good numbers in similar habitat. One nest seen without an adult on had one egg and another had four eggs. Little Ringed Plovers were seen in many areas with well-grown young also seen and Kentish Plovers were seen performing their distraction display to move us away from a very young chick only a few days old. Signs of Black-crowned Night Heron breeding with adults and juveniles seen for the third week running and the Spur-winged Lapwing is in the same area where I think it may have a mate sitting on eggs. Some of these birds are unusual breeders such as Black-crowned Night Heron and Spur-winged Plover and others common. This is the first time we have seen Little Tern sitting on eggs but they are seen every year with young juveniles in the same area.

Black-winged Stilt nest & eggs

Black-winged Stilt nest & egg

Black-winged Stilt nest & egg

Black-winged Stilt nest & egg

Black-winged Stilt nest & egg

Black-winged Stilt on nest

Little Ringed Plover - adult

Little Ringed Plover - juvenile

Little Tern with egg

22 May 2021

Hidden Canyon – Al Dulum

Located 130 kilometres southeast of Riyadh in Al Dulum and marked on Google Maps, it is relatively easy to find. Only the last few hundred metres are off the tarmac road and the tracks are good. We visited in May and there was no water but the place was still quite spectacular. In winter after heavy rains the canyon fills with clear aqua-green water making it a much more appealing place to visit.  

21 May 2021

Ghayfa Heritage Village – As Zulfi

Ghayfa Heritage Village is situated in the Nafud desert dune landscape outside Al Zulfi. It is probably one of the most beautiful historical villages in the Kingdom and has some renovated as well as other non-renovated buildings. Its position in a small wadi with large red dunes all around make it a spectacular sight. As it is not mentioned in many places it is not visited often but is well worth the effort if a chance arises. 

19 May 2021

Four Common Cuckoo & other migrants – Jubail

While birding the Jubail area in May we came across a Common Cuckoo in the very early morning. The bird appeared to be very tiered and allowed us to manoeuvre the car into a good position for photographs. This is a species I have not got many good photos of so I was well pleased with my efforts shown below. During the days birdwatching we found three more Common Cuckoo, indicating they were passing in good numbers overnight. Shrike numbers remained high with 50 seen throughout the day. Most were Red-backed Shrikes with 32 seen. Turkestan Shrike was next commonest with 17 birds and a single Daurian Shrike was also located. Other migrants seen included Barred Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat (late bird), Willow Warbler, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Whinchat, Common Redstart, Yellow Wagtail, Tree Pipit & Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin. A single Red-necked Phalarope was a nice addition to the days total. Egret and heron numbers were much lower than previous weeks suggesting they have moved off or are secretly breeding somewhere. 

Common Cuckoo

Common Cuckoo

Common Cuckoo

Common Cuckoo

Little Bittern - female

Red-backed Shrike - male

Red-backed Shrike - male

Red-necked Phalarope

Turkestan Shrike - male

Turkestan Shrike - male