Thursday 1 January 2015

My search for Arabian golden-winged grosbeck

I have been visiting Ayn Hamran about three times a week and Wadi Hanna about once a week for the past month. I have typically visited Ayn Hamran early in the morning before work.

The reason has been my search for the elusive Arabian golden-winged grosbeck which is reported in those two places more than anywhere else. it was one of my Nemesis birds.

On New Year's Eve morning I finally saw one at Ayn Hamran for a fleeting moment. I returned after work and saw another but again only for a few moments.

So I returned this morning. This time I observed two and one stayed long enough for a few photos. All photographs are from below because the bird chose to stop in the tree I was standing under.

first view of Arabian golden-winged grosbeck

To help other birders, I can tell you I saw one yesterday at about 7.30 am. The two today were seen at about 7.15am and at exactly 7.36am. I know the exact time of the last bird since it is recorded on the photographic file. 

second view of Arabian golden-winged grosbeck

All three sightings were within 30 metres of each other. This area is immediately left if facing up hill (west and west north west) of the top pool with large tree. 

Each bird arrived from the north west from up the mountain and flew south east towards the stream. This area is the same place as two other recent sightings by other birders who I have spoken to. 

The single bird I saw in afternoon was in a different place. Like most birds at this time of day it was in a shaded place. It was with Abyssinian white eye in the canopy of a large tree on the edge of the thick woodland at the northern end (upper) of the Ayn. 

Masked shrike

As I was single-mindedly looking for grosbeck this morning, I didn't bother with observing and photographing other birds. However the masked shrike was seen in an exposed perch just as I was leaving so it was no effort.

Masked shrike rarely winters in southern Oman but this male has been present all winter.

Arabian partridge

The morning before, on New Year's Eve I did bother with other species. Arabian partridge are always around the Ayn, nearly always heard and occasionally seen. 

black-crowned tchagra

Black-crowned tchagra did its best to distract me from the grosbeck search and like the grosbeck it is best seen at Ayn Hamran and Wadi Hanna.

Arabian warbler

Arabian warbler are very noisy at the moment and easily seen in the trees and bushes in the more open areas.

Arabian warbler scrambling

On New Year's Eve two wryneck were also seen. One was observed in the morning and one in the afternoon in two different places.

Eurasian wryneck

There are so easily over-looked due to their camouflaged plumage especially from the back.

Eurasian wryneck from the back

The Ayn seems to have gained more wintering hoopoe over the past two or three weeks.


Two other birds are of note that have been seen at Ayn Hamran recently. One is Shining sunbird. The males are in full breeding plumage at the moment. 

male Shining sunbird

The second bird was a male Turkestan shrike.

Turkestan shrike

I understand these shrike undergo a winter moult. This might explain the lack of a white wing patch.

male Turkestan shrike

Without this patch, this particular bird looks even closer to a brown shrike than most Turkestan shrike males.  Even some brown shrike have this patch but I thought Turkestan shrike always do.

Turkestan shrike turns

I am currently double checking this birds identity with experts.

It has not just been Ayn Hamran I have visited for the grosbeck. Wadi Hanna is further away but is a larger site with just as many sightings.

red-breasted flycatcher

During my times there I have come across a wintering song thrush and a red-breasted flycatcher among the less usual birds.

first winter red-breasted flycatcher

The buff wing bar in the greater coverts apparently is found on first winter birds but not females.

another view of red-breasted flycatcher

Either way, the difference in colour between female type red-breasted flycatcher and the taiga flycatcher (subject to rarity committee decision) I saw at Qatbit is great. The latter bird is all greys, black and white. This bird is all buffs and browns.

male cinnamon-breasted bunting

Wadi Hanna is an excellent place to see wintering birds of prey. However the three most common birds which even the non-birder will notice are cinnamon-breasted bunting, Abyssinian white eye and fan-tailed raven.

Abyssinian white eye

Somewhere among them are Arabian golden-winged grosbeck as well.

Finally at this time of year, I issue an annual list of the cumulative readership of the blog over the years with the change in position from last year. It is below.

I would like to wish my readership a Happy New Year and good birding in it. Thanks are particularly due to my new readers from Poland and China.

Cumulative readership of the blog since it began
1. United States (NC)
2. Saudi Arabia  (NC)
3. United Kingdom  (NC)
4. Libya (NC)
5. Russia (NC)
6. Germany  (NC)
7. United Arab Emirates  (+1)
8. China  (+4)
9. Bulgaria  (-2)
10. Poland  (+25)


  1. Congratulations! A difficult one to get under the belt.

    1. Andy, The main feeling is relief. I don't have this burden any more! Rob