Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Dideric cuckoo being fed at Ayn Hamran

On Saturday morning, I went to Ayn Hamran for the second time since coming to Oman.

I arrived early before any picnickers but after half an hour I met David Kilmister by pure chance. David is a birder working out of Saudi Arabia but on holiday here. It's always good to find fellow birders.

Once again I found a Dideric cuckoo. On first look it appeared to be an adult male. It has the male's metallic green upperparts.

Dideric cuckoo

However, it had heavy spotting and streaking on its underparts resembling a juvenile.

perched young Dideric cuckoo

It was brazenly perched out in the open and allowed close approach. Then I realised why.

a begging Dideric cuckoo

It lowered its wings and started fluttering them in a lowered position. It was begging for food. It knew its foster parents were near-by.

Ruepell's weaver feeds Dideric cuckoo

Moments later and in a flash a Ruepell's weaver appeared with a grub and fed the much larger cuckoo.

after the feed

The cuckoo looked dissatisfied with the amount of food. The cuckoo remained in the same group of trees for all the time I was there and begged several times though I didn't see feeding again as I was not watching it intently.

Young Ruepell's weaver have been fledged for a month now but this greedy bird is still asking for food and getting it. This display explains why I am still seeing Dideric cuckoo so late in the year. 

Looking through visit reports and other records, birders don't see it in November so these greedy young birds must leave soon.

White-eared bulbul

Otherwise, there was no real change in the birds at Ayn Hamran since my last visit. I need the cooler weather for that.

I didn't search in so many places for eastern nightingale but two were in the same spot as before.

Abyssinian white eye, white-spectacled bulbul, Tristram's starling and common myna were still plentiful. However there were more grey wagtail (3).

blackstart

Even though it is a lush area, blackstart can be seen. This one seems to have some thin wire in its mouth. I hope its not stuck.

hoopoe

Hoopoe can only be seen in these lush areas. They are winter visitors and seem to be quite selective about location.

spotted flycatcher

I am still waiting for a big wave of passerine migrants. The red-tailed shrikes, red-backed shrike, nightingales, common whitethroat, citrine and yellow wagtail and spotted flycatcher make up over 95% of what I have seen.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Wadi Darbat revisited

On Friday afternoon, I went to Wadi Darbat for only the second time since starting in Oman.

Though the monsoon season is over, it was still quite green and the river flows all year.

The birds hadn't changed much since my last visit. The grey headed kingfisher are still here. Indeed I counted five.

grey headed kingfisher

The temperatures are actually higher in October than in September or November. Birding is quite difficult in the day even up in the hills. More to the point birding activity will rise substantially as temperatures cool in about two weeks time.

wadi darbat

Not too many migrants are here yet. Tree pipit is one of them and can be seen in the wooded areas where there is some shade.

tree pipit

A grey heron alerted me to another migrant. I was walking along the river when I had a scream from a heron.

grey heron

I turned round to look in its direction to see a booted eagle flying right up the river. I don't think booted eagle is a threat to grey heron (unlike Bonelli's eagle) but I was grateful for the alarm anyway.

distant shot of a booted eagle

The booted eagle was a pale morph and the first of its species I had seen in Oman.

litte egret

Otherwise things were a little quite. A single little egret was in the western area by the picnickers and next to the floating vegetation. This is the place where jananas and rarer birds such as watercock are occasionally spotted in winter. I am sure this must be in early morning when there is less disturbance from people.

Common sandpiper can be readily seen all down the river.


citrine wagtail

The most common wagtail is citrine wagtail though a few yellow wagtail and the odd grey wagtail are around. I have yet to see a white wagtail in the country.

At first all the citrines were first years but over the past ten days more adults are among them.

My next blog is taken from Ayn Hamran where the highlight was some very interesting feeding behaviour.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Khawr Taqah

Late yesterday morning I revisited Khawr Taqah. Last time I approached it from the northern end and found it was over landscaped. A car park abuts straight on to the water body and a concrete edge means there are no wetland fringes.

However I read an old trip report which recommends approaching the southern side next to the sea. Indeed there is good birding with wetland fringes mostly in the south west corner. I spent much of my time there. 

Ironically the best bird was seen as I walked back to the car in the car park! It was a resting juvenile Montagu's harrier.

Montagu's harrier

The pictures were taken close up but were somewhat spoilt by the sea breeze ruffling the birds breast feathers.

second look at the Montagu's harrier

The bird was actually as in perfect condition as the flight photograph shows.

Montagu's harrier in flight

The only time I saw the ring tail was when it flew off in the distance.

ring tail on the harrier

Before seeing this bird, I had looked at the south west corner. There was good cover from bushes which allowed me to look at four common snipe without them scattering. By their mantle pattern I could tell I hadn't found an allusive pin-tailed snipe.

common snipe

I am finding it difficult to get clear views of snipes in Oman compared with Riyadh. I think this is simply because there is generally more cover.

second view of common snipe

The water held glossy ibis, a little egret, black-winged stilt, moorhen and common sand piper.

pacific golden plover

On the fringes were kentish plover, a pacific golden plover and citrine wagtail.

juvenile grey plover

On final bird took some identification but I eventually worked out it was a juvenile grey plover.

After Khawr Taqah, I moved on to near-by Wadi Darbat. I'll report on that next.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Raysut

Yesterday afternoon, I finished work a little early at the start of the weekend. I decided there was time for some local birding. I chose to go to the Raysut area on the west side of the city.

I visited the city rubbish dump first. Though there were more birds than during my last visit, there were no new ones. 

So I moved on to the wadi immediately west of the Raysut industrial area which is also known as Salalah lagoons.

Eastern imperial eagle stretching

There were 70 or so white stork present along with 10 greater flamingo. There were also several grey heron, garganey duck and northern shoveller as well as a few assorted waders.

However sitting on a large rock close to the white stork and especially close to a grey heron was an Eastern Imperial eagle. This was my first in Oman.

Eastern imperial eagle moments later

It gave me good views for a few minutes.

Eastern imperial eagle on the look out

It is ironic because I went to the rubbish dump first to look for any eagles and other birds of prey except for steppe eagle.

steppe eagle in flight

Instead the number of steppe eagle had multiplied from 30 during my last visit to about 120 this time. However there were no minority birds of prey and only two white stork.

another steppe eagle on the ground

With the success of the Eastern Imperial eagle, I moved down the wadi to where it meets the sea. The wadi is dry there but the worn rocky coast has been brimming with birds each time I visit.

slender-billed gull

The predominant bird was still sooty gull but with a few Heuglin's gull and my first Caspian gull (which Clements counts as the same species as steppe gull already seen). Six grey heron were wading in the sea. Other waders included two whimbrel.

great crested tern and sandwich tern

However it was the terns that caught my interest. The most common by far was still great crested tern but among them were two sandwich tern.

preening great crested tern and sandwich tern

I had failed to see any in my three years in Saudi Arabia and it was first for me here. This was one of my most pleasing first sightings as I have waited so long in the gulf for it.

a second sandwich tern

The second tern had hardly any yellow tip to the bill which is the characteristic which gives me quickest confirmation of identification. Now all I need to see is its very close relative, the lesser crested tern.