Whether or not you are an inveterate ‘twitcher’, you are guaranteed to be bowled over by the abundant bird life that can be found close to the ‘Riyadh River’ – also known as the Riyadh Lake District
The river is, in fact, so-called grey water treated by the city’s sewerage system and running for some 100km away into the Wadi Hannifah and surrounding areas.
It was first developed around 1983 when the first large sewage plant in the Manfouha district of Riyadh started operating and consequently increasing amounts of ground water were pumped from the city centre. Much of the purification of the grey water is effected by the roots of Phragmites (reeds).
The Riyadh River is home to a variety of species of herons and egrets in particular. Falcons and kestrel are regular visitors, as are harriers. You are also likely to see bitterns and white-cheeked bulbuls, and if you are patient you might get to see various wintering / migrant birds in season, such as white-tailed lapwing, collared pratincole, and large numbers of steppe eagles, as well as imperial, spotted and short-toed eagles, black kites and buzzards. If you’re very lucky you might even catch sight of a golden eagle.
These birds bring with them plant seeds from other countries, and to some extent probably fish spawn. Certainly the water is full of fish – in particular Tilapia and Sailfin Catfish.
Unfortunately, many areas along the river are also home to the ubiquitous blue plastic bag where thoughtless visitors have left their mark for those who follow; but there are still many parts of the river that are unspoilt, and you certainly shouldn’t use this as an excuse not to visit.
You can see the river meandering along beside the road to Al Hair on the south side of Riyadh. But to reach the main bird areas, you should drive into Al Hair and turn left at the first set of shops.
You need to search for a road heading due east and then carry on for some eight kilometres.
You will see a bird ringing project on your right and soon after there are plenty of places where you can approach the river and park.
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