Thursday, 23 April 2015

Lesser kestrel and more at Sawnout farm

I visited Sawnout farm again on Monday afternoon. This massive farm is not accessible but you can walk around the perimeter looking in and can get lucky with birds on the edge or even on the fence.

I go to look for any passing Amur falcon which is known to come through on passage and especially in spring. It has been seen at the farm in previous seasons. 

Once again I failed to see one. One day it will happen as I am in Oman for the long-term.

Some sort of compensation was received by spotting a male lesser kestrel.

lesser kestrel

Another interesting observation were the European roller. I counted seven all together all in one corner area just outside the farm.

Two European roller

As I walked along the western perimeter fence (and away from the rollers), I came across some house sparrow. House sparrow may be a very common bird in the world but in Salalah it is rare. Indeed this farm is only one of two places in the city that I have seen them. I suspect the city population is well below 100.

female house sparrow

By contrast, Ruppell's weaver is extremely common and in someways replaces the house sparrow though their nesting method is completely different.

female Ruppell's weaver

Another observation on the western fence at the farm was a very young Namaqua dove. This bird was almost certainly born in 2015.

young Namaqua dove

The fence keeps proving itself to be valuable to me for spotting birds. Further along the same fence was a little green bee-eater

little green bee-eater

Futher along still I came across a very large flock of African silverbill. I see a lot of these at present at the two farms.

flock of African silverbill

You may recall I also saw a mixed flock including scaly-breasted munia at Jarziz farm last week.

African silverbill

While considering flocks, a flock of glossy ibis arrived from the direction of Khawr Dahariz. This is a regular commute for this bird.

glossy ibis

All the time I was making these observations I was looking out for Amur falcon. Just as I was about to leave I spotted a second falcon in the far distance. It proved to be a peregrine falcon. I would guess it is the same bird that has been seen on and off here for nearly three months now.

peregrine falcon

I will continue to visit the farms searching among other for an Amur falcon but time is starting to run out for this season.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Early morning in east Salalah

Soon after dawn and before work on Monday I went birding locally to Jarziz farm and Khawr Dahariz (East Khawr).

I am trying to visit either Jarziz farm or Sawnout farm every day at the moment on the look out for Amur falcon. It has been spotted over both farms in previous passage seasons. However I have had no success with this bird.

Nevertheless there is a lot more to these farms that one species.

Jarziz farm was little different birdingwise from two mornings before. The marsh warbler was still in the same place. Graceful prinia which is the local breeding warbler was very evident as usual.

graceful prinia

There was again a European roller on site but in a different area and quite likely a different bird. There are many of them coming through at the moment as I have discovered birding elsewhere.

European roller 1

European roller loves wires and is quite easy to pick out.

European roller 2

Saturday was not a fluke when it came to swifts flying low over the field early in the morning. It happened again on Sunday. 30 or common swift were crowded over the one large filed the farm still has. Unfortunately there was no alpine swift this time.

common swift flying low over the field

This time there was a pallid harrier in the area. On its arrival in part of the farm, tens of chestnut-bellied sandgrouse flew up and away in alarm.

chestnut-bellied sandgrouse

I inspected the water reservoir. The grey heron and Indian pond heron which had been there for several visits have both finally moved on.

green sandpiper

The only water loving bird there this time was green sandpiper.

singing bush lark

Once again the main noise was provided by singing bush lark.

While Jarziz farm was rather settled over those 48 hours, there was a little more change at Khawr Dahariz.

little stint and lesser sand plover

One of the changes was the arrival of several lesser sand plover. I didn't see them mid-winter. They are definitely a passage bird in these parts even though they may linger a while on passage especially in the autumn.

lesser sand plover

I am getting better at separating them from greater sand plover. The bill looks less robust, the eye is smaller and the legs are grey-black not yellow-green.

lesser sand plover with ruddy turnstone

Glossy ibis commute between Khawr Dahariz and Sawnout farm. This time they were at the khawr.

glossy ibis

Rather than photographing the flamingo, little stint, kentish plover, squacco heron, black-winged stiltgrey heron and greenshank, my remaining pictures are of birds of which there was only one of their species present.

grey plover

Grey plover can be seen in any season except summer.

greater white fronted goose

The single greater white fronted goose is still  present. If it stays much longer, I fear it is ill.
common snipe

Khawr Dahariz is a good place to see common snipe mostly because the front end where they graze is quite exposed. Furthermore early morning is the best time to see them as they are often so preoccupied with feeding, they are not so alert.

common snipe 2

Late Monday afternoon, I also went birding in a busy day. It was aanother visit to Sawnout farm especially to look out for Amur falcon. Once again I didn't see one though I did see two other types of falcon. I will blog about that next.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Khawr Soly in mid April

After visitng Jarziz farm early on Saturday morning I headed to Khawr Soly which I have n't been to for some time.

I was there until 10 am when it got too hot to bird comfortably. This was the earliest finish to a birding session this year but if you don't go into the mountains there is little option.

On arrival I came across a second flock of blue-cheeked bee-eater (the first had been at Jarziz farm).

blue-cheeked bee-eater

Both adult birds and juveniles are duller in winter.  Juveniles are are markedly so. I suspect the bird below found on the same tree is a young one which hasn't fully attained adult plumage yet.

a second blue-cheeked bee-eater

The lagoon itself was not particularly active. All the ducks and coot have left. Only common moorhen was obvious on the water and a couple of marsh terns were flying over.


At this point I moved across to the seaward side of the sand bar separating the fresh water khawr from the sea.

I counted five types of tern there which were representative of both marsh terns and salt water terns.

lesser crested tern

There were ten lesser crested tern resting.

gull-billed tern

There were also two gull-billed tern.

slender-billed gull

Some young slender-billed gull in Dhofar have not yet left to go north. A few of them were here.

white-winged black tern (left)

The first marsh tern I spotted was a white-winged black tern which incidentally shows little sign of moving into summer plumage.

Caspian tern

Three Caspian tern were the biggest bird present.

whiskered tern

The final type of tern was another marsh tern:whiskered tern.

Khawr Soly

Having finished with beach, I turned my attention back to the khawr. two more species were seen. There were now black-winged stilt in the water and Kentish plover on the sand next to the water's edge.

Black-winged stilt

It was already getting very warm and I decided to stop birding and head back to the car. It was then that I spotted another European roller. This was the second of the day yet before that I hadn't seen one since around New Year.

European roller

Next to the car, the most common passage bird this season made an appearance. A rufous bush robin hopped on to a bush.

Rufous bush robin

This coming weekend, I will be birding in the UAE. I hope to find time to bird at least once more here during the week before I go.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Significant passage at Jarziz farm

It is getting really hot now down in Salalah so my birding times have shifted much earlier especially when I decide to bird on the plain.

On Saturday morning I arrived at Jarziz farm at 6.45 am and it was very comfortable.

The plan was to walk round the large field anti-clockwise as usual taking in the main cluster of trees on the way.

There was dew on the ground and a very loud collection of noises coming from the singing bushlark, many of which were not only singing but putting in aerial dsplays too.

The plan to walk anti-clockwise was almost immediately abandonned as I spotted a blue bird in the distance on the pivot bar. This required me to walk clockwise towards it. As I got closer, I realised it was the first European roller of spring.

European roller

I don't like to flush birds and travelling ones even less so. So when it started to look directly at me I retreated and re-started my normal walk. It had been a good start.

European roller looking directly

As I walked round the side of the field I came across a flock of silverbills. There is nothing unusual about that at Jarziz farm. It happens everytime.

African silverbill

However this time was a little different. Roughly one in three of the birds was not an African silverbill at all. They were scaly-breasted munia.

scaly-breated munia

Somethings on Saturday were the same though. There were plenty of crested lark around as ever.
crested lark

Near-by I observed an eastern olivaceous warbler go first into a tree and then flew further off. This was another sign of passage.

record shot of common swift

Then it got even more interesting. The place began to fill up with common swift hawking for insects over the top of the field. On previous days recently I had seen various swifts flying high over Sawnaut farm and leaving the area. I had supposed that they may have been feeding and flying low earlier. It looks like I was right. Swifts are feeding over local fields early in the morning before moving on by about 8.30 am.

I decided I would come back to look more closely at the swifts once I had visited the main cluster of trees.

The tallest trees held several rose-ringed parakeet which moved off to a wire when I approached.

rose ringed parakeet on a wire

Two more rose-ringed parakeet arrived while I was in the area and immediately diverted to a bush close to the wire.

two rose ringed parakeet

In the main cluster of trees is a colony of weaver nests belonging to several male weavers.

This Ruppell's weaver kept returning to the nest but I am not convinced it was for maintenance. He bought no new bnesting material. I believe the nest was occupied.

Ruppell's weaver at a nest 1

He was certainly sticking his head inside the nest and there was noise. I  further believe the male was feeding something inside.  Males feed by regurgitation only with young chicks. After a few days the female will leave the nest to find food. 

Ruppell's weaver at a nest 2

After leaving the cluster of trees I headed back to the pivot field. A farm worker had arrived and was cutting down part of the field. The swifts had moved to that part of the field. Their numbers had been increasing ever since I arrived. I counted 30 common swift. As I looked I suddenly realised one of them was actually an Alpine swift.

record shot of an alpine swift

It was larger, slightly paler and browner (rather than grey) than the common swift and had the characteristic white belly. Despite my mediocre optics, I eventually got a record shot of the bird flying over the part of field that was being cut. Note the airport and Dhofar mountains in the background.

As I started heading back towards the car, I heard bee-eaters, only to see 8 blue-cheeked bee-eater in an isolated bush at the side of the field.  This was yet more sign of passage. They were my first of this species south of mountains this spring.

blue-cheeked bee-eaters

They look very attractive in their breeding plumage.

blue-cheeked bee-eater

More signs of a heavy passage windfall at the farm was still to come as I continued heading back towards the car.

singing bushlark

This singing bushlark was sharing a low lying bush with an acrocephalus warbler which had just jumped into it and out of the tall grass at the edge of the field.

marsh warbler

On behaviour alone I suspected a marsh warbler. For example, it chose bushes to the long grass to avoid me.

marsh warbler in a tree 1

Eventually it even flew up into a near-by tree. 

It's tertials are dark and pale fringed. It's long primary projection is obvious. It has eight primaries which all have pale fringes too. Its overall colour is less warm than a reed warbler.

marsh warbler in a tree 2

In short it is a standard marsh warbler.

marsh warbler in a tree 3

It is well documented than many marsh warbler migrate through Arabia as opposed to more direct routes to and from their breeding grounds so seeing one is not unexpected.

It became species 271 on my Oman list and completed my satisfaction with this early morning session.

I am left wondering whether this event at Jarziz farm was a fluke or whether there will finally be a stronger passage for the rest of the season despite the relatively week start.

After the farm I moved on to Khawr Soly which I hadn't visited for several weeks. I will blog about that next.