Tuesday, 30 December 2014

December round up at East Khawr

I still visit East Khawr (Khawr Dahariz) about three times each week since it is so close. This is a compilation of some of my sightings during December there.

I am not showing the glossy ibis, ruff, kentish plover, sooty gull, harriers, eagles, herons and ducks such as pintail and northern shoveller that make up the great majority of birds there in winter.

There were three species I saw only on one occasion each during the month.

One was pheasant-tailed jacana. Several birds can be seen every visit to Khawr Taqah and Khawr Rori but I have only spotted a single bird once at East Khawr.

pheasant-tailed jacana

The second was a black-necked grebe. This is quite uncommon this far south.

black-necked grebe

The third was a pallidirostris grey shrike which some call steppe grey shrike.

steppe grey shrike

Unfortunately for me, Clements and the e-bird database don't count it as a separate species from the locally breeding aucheri often called a sub species of southern grey shrike.

second view of steppe grey shrike

 I think they may have it right as recent DNA work shows the two sub species are closely related despite their quite different plumage. Some authorities call them both Asian grey shrike.

African sacred ibis

In complete contrast to the birds I have seen just once at the Khawr, the lone African sacred ibis is there every time. It doesn't vist the near-by farm with the glossy ibis. Actually its preferred associates are spoonbill if present and then intermediate egret. It only associates with glossy ibis when they aren't around. Here it is with two sleeping spoonbill even though it is awake.  Many birds sleep with their backs to the sea at this time of year because of the regular stiff sea breezes.

black headed gull

East Khawr is a good place to see black headed gull early in the morning in winter. They often sleep over night there.

young great white fronted goose

 I have tried to pick out some of the less common sightings among the dusk and geese for this round up. Up to eight greater white fronted goose can be regularly seen at the Khawr. One of the geese is much darker than the others and plainer. It has a vague eye ring too. However I can't make it into anything but a younger greater white fronted goose than the others.

gadwell with northern shoveller

The most common ducks are northern shoveller, garganey and northern pintail. So here is a photo of one of a gadwell with one of the more plentiful northern shoveller.


Wigeon are fairly numerous at Khawr Rori but not at East Khawr.

common snipe

If you visit the Khawr very early in the morning there are usually a couple of common snipe walking around and feeding. They are so concerned with feeding than they are less cautious with people.


Dunlin can be common and sometimes they come very close to the car like this one.

black-tailed godwit

I am still on the look out for the long billed dowitcher reported in the Salalah area a few weeks ago. I survey all the godwits but with no luck so far.

As I have said before recently new birds will be tricky from now on.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Pallas's gull at Raysut

There are five distinct birding areas in Raysut on the west of the city of Salalah. These are the settling pools (often called the sewage works), the treated water lake, the rubbish dump, the lagoons west of industrial area often called Salalah lagoons and the worn rocky coast just east of the port.

When I am passing through I try to visit any two from five. Obviously if Raysut is my main visit then I will try for all.

On Friday I was returning from Mughsail through Raysut and chose to visit the coast and the settling pools.

I was looking out particularly for two birds I hadn't seen in Oman by going to the coast. One was Pallas's gull and the other was Terek sandpiper.

Pallas's gull

The plan worked for Pallas's gull. I found one next to a group of large white headed gulls. This is species 230 on my country list and I know that any future additions will be tough. This was the very last of the "easy"ones.

The group of large white headed gulls was unusual because Heuglin's gull was in a minority for once. There were more Caspian gull and Steppe gull.


It's also the only place I have found Oystercatcher in the Salalah area.

Caspian tern

Caspian tern, grey plover, whimbrel and curlew have been there on every visit along side the more obvious western reef heron.

The settling pools may be better in early passage when birds often come there as a first resort before finding a more conventional spot. However the birding is still good and very large numbers of Abdim's stork are guaranteed in winter.

Abdim's stork

I patrolled the grounds again still looking for those stone curlew that were reported by a couple of UAE birders a month ago. I have concluded they have moved on.

countless Abdim's stork in the air

I am pretty sure the whole Ymeni and Saudi summer population of Abdim's stork comes to Raysut in winter. I understand it is a recent phenomenon too.

house crow

Indian house crow don't get photographed very often as they are unloved. There are old nests in the tree hedges which suggest they breed on site.

barn swallow and a sand martin

Perhaps because I came close to dusk, I noticed the large numbers of barn swallow more than usual. There were a small number of sand martin too. In the picture, the bird in the top left is one of them.

black-winged stilt

I really don't understand why black-winged stilt find the place so attractive.

black-headed gull (foreground)

Not too many black headed gull make it this far south but the settling pools are a good place to see them.

Four red-wattled lapwing were also present but I didn't see the one spur-winged lapwing that had been associating with them.

I will continue to make visits to Raysut over the winter to check for any changes.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Mughsail in late December

I have visited the khawrs as often in the last month as before and when I have they haven't produced any new birds. However that is not to say that the birding isn't good and varied.

Yesterday I went west to Khawr Mugsail for the first time in over three weeks.

There were plenty of ducks, moorhen and coot as well as interesting members of the heron family including intermediate egret.

However the most interesting bird to me was a warbler. I spent about an hour patiently watching the second pool inland for any crake or bittern activity. Suddenly out of the reeds flew a single white spectacled bulbul chased by a clamorous reed warbler.

clamorous reed warbler

Both shot up the hillside next to me and flitted between three small bushes. This enabled me to get good views of an often difficult bird.

The underside of clamorous reed warbler 

It was quite different to the last one I photographed at East Khawr which had much browner hues and was probably the nominate sub species.

see the four primary tips

It had only four primary tips showing so any doubts about it being a clamorous reed warbler or close relative was removed. However the upper parts were very cold. The Indian sub species brunnescens is most likely which some people call Indian reed warbler. However it is even greyer than the birds I used to see at Jubail in eastern Saudi Arabia which were also supposed to me Indian reed warbler. 

However, its tail was notably square and there is the vaguest hint of streaking on the upper breast leaving me some doubts about exact relative.

clamorous reed warbler surveying the scene

Meanwhile down below in the pool, most of the water birds were comfortable with my presence, hidden behind a rock, and swimming freely.

lesser whistling duck

Even the vagrant (and normally noctural) lesser whistling duck was out in the open this time. The regional guide has it only a little larger than garganey but it looked substantially so to me.

lesser whistling duck bathing

While the duck did some feeding (with an unusual action by the way often involving just stretching its neck and skimming the water just below the surface), it spent a lot of time bathing.

northern pintail

Northern pintail was the most numerous duck in this and the first (and much larger pool).

Ferruginous duck

Ferruginous duck was still present from last time.

camels destroying the khawr

I didnt spend as long at the main pool which has a properly built hide. I haven't found it as productive.  Nevertheless it did contain two cotton teal.

I was disappointed to see a herd of camels there one again even though the khawr is fenced off presumably to stop them. They are now inflicting considerable environmental damage.

The coastal pools were also surveyed and had several flamingo, western reef heron and single male mallard duck among other birds.

male mallard

I saw no new birds but the views were interesting nevertheless. New species will be hard to find from now on as I have seen so many in Dhofar. However I did add to my Oman list when I stopped off in Raysut on the way back. I will blog about that next.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Road to Wadi Hanna at Christmas

I couldn't resist the temptation to go birding on Christmas morning. It was beautiful sunny and not too hot day. I went up to Wadi Hanna in search of the elusive Arabian golden-winged grosbeck.

As on every visit there, it eluded me once again. Nevertheless like other visits to Awadi Hanna, what started out as searches for passerines became a display of new birds of prey for my Oman list. There aren't many new birds of prey left!

This time one of two new ones was a barbary falcon sitting on a wire in the Tawi Atair area en route to Wadi Hanna.

barbary falcon on a wire

There are so many common kestrel sitting on wires I nearly missed it as I hurtled past. I thought something was different so I reversed back and viewed it from the car.

barbary falcon scratching

I couldn't decide if it was a peregrine falcon or barbary falcon but on taking advice on BirdForum I am now sure it is a barbary falcon. I understand a peregrine would be more heavily marked especially with its moustache but elsewhere too.

This was an excellent start to the morning.

African paradise flycatcher

At Wadi Hanna I noticed many of the birds were in loose clusters of varied species. This is the same as you expect in the tropics. Whole areas have no birds then suddenly you come across a mixed group.

Abyssinian white-eye was once again the most common woodland bird but I often found African paradise flycatcher in among them.

Abyssinian white-eye

Along the main wadi valley I kept hearing Arabian partridge and eventually saw some of them. Along the sheltered and cooler southern side (i.e north facing) there were several chiffchaff in the bushes. I spent most of my time on the northern side. Perhaps next time I will swap. Could this me my mistake?

Wadi Hanna

Looking up were several birds of prey and of course the fan-tailed raven were periodically trying to mob them. There were two eastern Imperial Eagle which may be the same ones I saw last time. There were also three common kestrel. However this was where I observed the second addition to my Oman list of the day.

steppe buzzard

It was a common buzzard presumably of the steppe buzzard sub species. I say presumably because it had all the markings and colour of the nominate species

second view of steppe buzzard

The only reason it is categorised as steppe buzzard is because we are so far south and common buzzard are presumed not to migrate this far.

Ruppell's weaver

Other birds in the woods included Ruppell's weaver which is also flocking at this time of year.

white spectacled bulbul

White spectacled bulbul was common and provided more than its fair share of the noise of the woods along with cinnamon-breasted bunting.

Arabian warbler

Arabian warbler was less common but still easily seen. In fact in time all the woodland birds were easily seen except the elusive Arabian golden-winged grosbeck. I won't give up on this bird.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Good birds at Ayn Hamran

I went again to Ayn Hamran yesterday afternoon to try and find the elusive Arabian golden-winged grosbeck and once again I failed.

Nevertheless the birding was very good and I added another bird to my country list.

In the heat of the afternoon not many locals or birders come up to the Ayn. I think that is why 15 or so Arabian partridge had decided to walk around the picnic area. It was quite a sight when I arrived.

eight Arabian partridge

They didn't immediately disappear when I started walking around either. I hear them almost every time I visit but only the last twice have I seen them there.

black crowned tchagra

As is getting usual, I saw another black crowned tchagra. This one was spending time on the ground.

After an hour or so at the top end of the spring looking mostly for grosbecks, I moved into the middle area with its stream and associated trees as well as cattle herd. The song thrush and red-breasted flycatcher which I had seen about three weeks ago were both in almost the same places as before.

dappled sun on a red-breasted flycatcher

I tried really hard to capture a good photo of the flycatcher this time. Last time all I got was a very poor record shot. However once again his movement (it is a he) and the dappled sun shining into the shade looked set to stop me. The flycatcher of course would not move out of the shade.

male red-breasted flycatcher

In the end I got a passable photo although the light was poor.

Abyssinian white eye

Several Abyssinian white-eye were foraging in the same shaded area.

adult Bonelli's eagle

I moved further down into the lower end of the spring. My best sighting here was a resting adult Bonelli's eagle.

Bonelli's eagle in flight

It made a screeching noise and a few moments later a second adult arrived and they both flew off.


Soon after this I decided to give the top end one more go since my car was parked there. As I walked back I picked out a female sunbird which I tentatively think is a Nile Valley Sunbird since these are the only one of the three locally that have any type of yellow wash on the underparts.

At the top end, I still had no luck with the grosbeck but I did pick out a female Eastern Orphean warbler. This could be overlooked among the far more numerous Arabian warbler in the area.

The head alone is enough to identify it. The female has a mid grey head with dark and contrasting ear coverts. Adult Eastern Orphean warbler also have a pale iris but no Arabian warbler does.

One of the grey spots, which are often lighter in winter, is visible in the lower vent area too.

female eastern Orphean warbler

This was species 227 on my Oman list and excellent compensation for not seeing the grosbecks yet again.

I wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas. We have been given the day off here and I am sure I will fit at least some birding in.