Early spring is a good time to look hard at the birds of prey in the Riyadh area. The wintering eagles gather and seem to be reinforced by others on passage before moving on.
Different types of other birds of prey pass through too. Last weekend saw some of these events. For example a fulvescens greater spotted eagle remained near the pivot fields at Al Hayer on both Thursday and Friday even though I had been seeing one near Dirab at various times in the winter, quite possibly the same one.
On Friday he was standing on the ground in a pivot field, with his head barely above the crop height, where 6 other eagles were aggregated.
The eagles were four other greater spotted eagle and two Eastern imperial eagle. There were no steppe eagle even though they are the most common eagle in winter.
It looks like they were meeting up for a reason and I can only imagine they were preparing to move off but I am not an expert on eagle behaviour.
Near-by a lesser kestrel was perched over one of the largest trees in the area (and central Arabia!). Inside the branches were many tens of Spanish sparrow and a few collared dove.
Lesser kestrel are passage birds only in central Arabia. They can be in small groups or singularly.
Meanwhile the regular kestrel were hawking over some of the fields and marsh harrier were present over the reed beds. Unfortunately there was no sign of other harriers on passage. I am still looking for my first Montagu’s harrier in Saudi Arabia which is much rarer than Pallid harrier.
Following a tip off from bird photographer, Tholightz Quindara, Lou ande mad a short visit to the main city waste dump at Sulay on Thursday to check out the eagles that had been reported massing there in the afternoons.
We arrived in the early afternoon but still counted 14 eagles. Four of them were perched on electricity pylons from time to time. As far as I could tell all the ones we saw were steppe eagle.
And we were on the look out for any exceptions.
I knew very little about eagle identification before I came to Saudi Arabia but I am certainly getting a lot of practice in the winters.