Saturday, 25 October 2014

Directly north of Salalah

Yesterday, I birded the area around Gogob and then down to Sahlnout. This is directly north of the city in the hills.

Most hotspots based on the hills and springs are north east of the city. In other words they are a little further east of where I went yesterday.

I was looking to see what this area has to offer and was specially interested in finding Palestine sunbird which is an upland bird in Oman.

The great majority of the birding was in woodlands by choice even though other terrain such as grassland exists there.

golden oriole

Unfortunately I failed to find the sunbird although I did see one Shining sunbird.

However there was good birding to be had. For a start I saw eight golden oriole overall in four different places.

male Shining sunbird

Ruepell's weaver was very common in the woods especially in the damper areas.

young Ruepell's weaver

Needless to say, I found a Dideric cuckoo next to one of the larger Ruepell's weaver groups.

Dideric cuckoo

Again, it was a young bird. I believe the adults have left for Africa.

Other common woodland birds included cinnamon-breasted bunting, grey headed kingfisher, laughing dove and the migrant spotted flycatcher. Red-backed shrike was also seen regularly.

Abyssinian white eye 

Abyssinian white eye was arguably the most common bird of all in the thicker woods roaming around in mobile flocks.

blackstart

Once again blackstart was seen. I am no longer surprised to see this bird normally of dry terrain but in woods in Oman.

graceful prinia

Birds seen less often included African paradise flycatcher and graceful prinia

steppe eagle

Looking up from the woods, I saw three steppe eagle during the day and several kestrel.

European roller was common, not in the woods but on wires.

Tristram's starling was also common but only next to the villages.

pale crag martin

In the air, the most regularly seen bird was pale crag martin though barn swallow and swifts were usually flying with them. I didn't look at the swifts well enough to see if there were any other than the local Forbes-Watson swift

The mountain road came down right next to Ayn Sahlnout. I decided to spend half an hour there before the trip was finished.

citrine wagtail

Citrine wagtail is proving to be the most regular sight of all the wagtails at Khawrs and Ayns (lagoons and springs). A grey wagtail was spotted at Ayn Sahlnout too.

wood sandpiper

Both purple heron and grey heron were present as were the trio of wood sandpiper, green sandpiper and common sandpiper.


garganey

The duck population seems to have dwindle to a single garganey since my last visit.

grey-headed kingfisher

There wasn't time for a full look at the birds but there was one last chance of the day to see an other grey-headed kingfisher. The rest had been seen in woods but its habitat is more varied than that.

Daurian shrike

Finally, I must report that I went back to Raysut treated water lake before breakfast yesterday and before all my other birding. I went to seek out the exotic looking shrike I had seen on Wednesday afternoon.

It was still there but turned out to be not so exotic. Even so it was the most highly coloured red-tailed shrike I have even seen. It most closely matched a male Daurian shrike though its tail was towards the extreme dark end of the spectrum and its supercilium was at the whiter end of the spectrum. Its undersides were brunt orange with only a pale patch in the very middle of the belly.

There is so much variation in this "two"species.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Raysut treated water lake revisited

Yesterday late afternoon, I visited Raysut treated water lake for the second time. The water level was higher but still incredibly clean. The treatment plant must be working to very high standards.

This does of course mean there are very few reeds which need more nutrients and less flies than most plants!

However there were still a good variety of birds and it was a pleasure to bird in such a clean environment.

I have very mixed emotions about my visit. I thought I glimpsed a long-tailed shrike which is a vagrant to these parts but never saw it long enough or got a photo. I searched very hard for it again but failed. I won't claim this sighting but I will go back as soon as I can to look again.

Blue-cheeked bee-eater

As partial compensation, I came across five blue-cheeked bee-eater.  This was the first sighting by me of them in Oman. I have yet to see a European bee-eater here.

Two blue-cheeked bee-eater

In the same tree as a blue-cheeked bee-eater at one stage were a few Tristram's starling. The lake is popular with house crow too.

Tristram's starling

Other land birds included Ruepell's weaver and African silverbill.

The lake

The African silverbill were spending much of their time preening.

African silverbill

Nearer the water's edge, several citrine wagtail were seen. The numbers have increased since last time.

citrine wagtail

Some were moulting. I assume from juvenile monochrome into brighter colours.

white stork in the sky

Large numbers of white stork spend the winter at the near-by Salalah lagoons and Raysut rubbish tip so it wasn't surprising that 45 or so passed over the far end of the lake at one stage. Three steppe eagle were with them.

black winged stilt

Waders included several black-winged stilt, grey heron, squacco heron and a single glossy ibis

green sandpiper

All of trio: wood sandpiper, common sandpiper and green sandpiper were there.

wood sandpiper

The far end looks good terrain for collared pratincole but non seen so far. Lets see what the winter brings.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Finally a white wagtail

It has been a busy week at work so opportunities for birding during the week have been limited. However I went out to Al Baleed with its lagoon on late Monday afternoon and to Saadah Park on Tuesday afternoon. Both sites are within Salalah city.

The Saadah park visit added to my Oman list with the humble white wagtail. Yellow wagtail and possibly citrine wagtail are more common in winter and white wagtail clearly starts arriving later than either. Many white wagtail winter much further north.

My first white wagtail in Oman

I have been seeing three other species of wagtail here in Salalah for a month now.

white wagtail
In the end I counted three of them.

yellow wagtail

There were also several yellow wagtail present and perhaps more surprisingly one grey wagtail.

Tree pipit

Two pipits are feeding on the ground and I struggled to work out if they were tree pipit or red-throated pipit. Its not so easy in autumn and winter when the red throats disappear. Finally they flew off into trees which was a broad hint they were tree pipit.

clean rump of a tree pipit

Looking at the pictures on return home, it is clear they were tree pipit especially with one photo showing an unstreaked rump on one of the birds.

Scaly-breasted munia

As well as wagtails and pipits, on the lawns most of the time were small flocks of scaly-breasted munia. I have now seen them in all three major city parks.

Spotted flycatcher

Spotted flycatcher is still the most widespread migrant of all. It is seen in so many places with any trees.

hoopoe

In contrast hoopoe, which is also a migrant,  numbers are quite low but can be found in the more shaded and more moist areas. 


white-spectacled bulbul

The park had two typical birds of woodlands and gardens. There were white-spectacled bulbul and grey-headed kingfisher. The latter is still showing no signs of leaving for Africa for the winter.

grey-headed kingfisher

I enjoyed birding in the park and look forward to winter birding there.

The day before I visited Al Baleed which was not as interesting as on my previous visit with fewer and less varied birds. There were less water heron family members in the main water body and less waders at the sand bar near the sea although Pacific golden plover and greenshank were plentiful there.

Female shining sunbird

I inspected the garden there. I am still looking for my first Nile valley sunbird and Palestine sunbird within the country. However I am only picking up shining sunbird which was present there again.

Two Bruce's green pigeon

One small nice surprise at Al Baleed were two Bruce's green pigeon confirming my view that they can be found even at sea level in the Salalah area. I had previously seen them at Dahariz Park which is also by the sea.

Bruce's green pigeon

They were more confiding than most of their species.

Little grebe

The late afternoon light conditions suited their photography as it did with a little grebe there too.

I did manage to get out to bird late Wednesday afternoon too. I'll write about that next.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Pin-tailed snipe at Khawr Rori

After Ayn Hamran on Saturday morning, David Kilmister and I moved on to Taqah before going our separate ways.

I elected to move further down the coast eastward to Mirbat and then back to Salalah stopping at Khawr Rori (Rawri) on the way back.

Despite intensive birding at varied habitat I only added one new bird to my Oman list and it was at Khawr Rori which was the best location for me all afternoon. So I'll write about Khawr Rori first.

Pin-tailed snipe

There was a large cluster of birds in a wetland fringe next to the great expanse of water. It was here I saw my first ever pin-tailed snipe. It was right next to a common snipe so comparisons were made easier. It has a uniformly thin loral stripe and its bill is relatively short. Looking a little closer and you can see its scapular pattern is quite different. It is more scalloped. Thanks are due to UAE birding which helped confirm the identification.

Garganey

The winter duck population is slowly growing in the region and near the snipes at Khawr Rori were several. All were from the three species I have seen so far and I dont expect a rush of other species for up to 8 weeks from now. Garganey arrived first.

Northern shoveller

I am seeing as many northern shoveller at most sites as garganey now and Khawr Rori was no exception.

common teal

The smallest numbers of the three are common teal.

red-necked phalarope

There were plenty of herons and ibises as well as sooty gull and a few Hueglin's gull.

Other notable birds were a single red-necked phalarope and three gull-billed tern. Once again these were in the same small area of the lagoon as the ducks and the pin-tailed snipe.

Gull-billed tern

Before reaching Khawr Rori there were relatively few highlights during the afternoon. However these did include yet another close encounter with a Bonelli's eagle at Khawr Taqah.

Bonelli's eagle at Taqah

There are always piles of heron feathers around where the Bonelli's eagle has been. Yet strangely a grey heron was perched only a few metres away from this one. I wonder if it was brave or foolish.

The same Bonelli's eagle

In the town of Taqah itself, we returned to the Forbes-Watson's  swift colony which still had plenty of activity. though my guide book says most of them don't stay the winter. Let's see. There is no sign of diminished numbers yet.

pale crag martin at Taqah

Also in the town we came across two confiding (not completely fledged?) pale crag martin perched much of the time on a ground floor ledge. I had heard that they sometimes breed at low level and this was an abandoned one-storey house.

A second pale crag martin

The continuation of my trip out east to Ras Mirbat (before turning back to Salalah via Khawr Rori) was disappointing. I didn't see any pelagics out to sea from any of the headlands.

Osprey

There were very large numbers of great crested tern, sooty gull and large white headed gulls near the Marriott Hotel, Ras Mirbat but I could'nt pick put anything exceptional among them.

Osprey and whimbrel provided a little bit of variation.

Whimbrel

At least Mirbat itself is a very attractive fishing town and worth a visit for that alone.

In my next blog, I'll write about this mid-weeks birding.