Friday 14 November 2014

Lichtenstein's sandgrouse and ducks at Ayn Sawnaut

I visited Ayn Sawnaut having popped by east Khawr on Wednesday afternoon. This was not my first choice. I went first to Ayn Razat but there were fifty or so tourists there on a trip which made birding too difficult.

It turned out this forced displacement was a stroke of luck. I added three more to my Oman list in the space of an hour.

male Lichtenstein's sandgrouse

Arguably the best addition was Lichtenstein's sandgrouse. Two must were flushed by a goat herd and instead of leaving completely landed very near to me. 

I had seen sandgrouse here before but failed to identify them as they flew off.

a pair of Lichtenstein's sandgrouse

I presume they had come to drink. My experience with sandgrouse is that they drink within two or three hours of dawn and dusk. The prevailing wisdom is that the time is much closer to sunrise and sunset but that is not my observation. This was 4.30 pm which is 90 minutes before sunset.


A few minutes before, I had spotted three mallard which were far jumpier than the sandgrouse. This was first mallard in Oman and I anticipated I would see them in mid-November as the first ones arrive a little later than many of the other ducks.

citrine wagtail

Ayn Sawnaut is a good place to see wagtails. Still the most common is citrine wagtail.

white wagtail
White wagtail are there too now.

grey wagtail

Flowing fresh water is the ideal habitat for wintering grey wagtail and they can also be seen.

purple heron

From the heron family, only purple heron and grey heron were seen this time.

juvenile Turkestan shrike

As I said in another recent blog, red-backed shrike are now breaking the monotony of the two red-tailed shrikes which are so common especially Turkestan shrike. However this means I have to be more careful about the separation of juvenile Turkestan shrike and red-tailed shrike.

common greenshank

There are waders at Ayn Sawnaut at the moment. The most common are common sandpiper, green sandpiper and common snipe but the odd greenshank and others can be seen.

The third addition to my Oman list there was a single pallid swift sharing airspace for a while with several pale crag martin over the water.

juvenile greater white fronted geese

I mentioned that I popped into east Khawr before heading to Ayn Sawnaut. This is a regular check for anything different. Three juvenile greater white-fronted geese have arrived. This would have been a first if I hadn't seen 25 at Khawr Rori the day before.

male pintail in eclipse

Duck numbers are still increasing.

slender-billed gull

One surprising feature of some of the slender-billed gull was the presence of a pink wash on their undersides. I normally associate this with early spring.

In the next blog I'll report on my visit to Wadi Darbat on Thursday afternoon. I am very happy with my sightings there.

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