Saturday 14 February 2015

Jebel Samhan

Jebel Samhan is the highest point in the Dhofar region of Oman. it is also one of the places where Verreaux's eagle is most often reported. This species is now one of two on my Nemesis list along with Dunn's lark. I failed to see them both in Saudi Arabia and now Oman.

Verreaux's eagle has a diet almost totally consisting of two hyraxes and only one occurs in Arabia. That is rock hyrax.

I spent late Friday afternoon and all Saturday morning on Jebel Samhan

The good news is that I found at least one place on Jebel Samhan where this rodent is abundant. The bad news is that Verreaux's eagle was not seen, this time.

rock hyrax

Observing rock hyrax I found that they have two strategies to avoid detection. One is to race into a crevice. The other is to stand dead still.

rock hyrax ready to move

This one made a stupid mistake. At first it ran towards a crack in the rock to hide.

rock hyrax fails to get inside a crack

However it found it was too large and only then resorted to standing dead still. It is not going to survive a Verreaux's eagle with that lack of skill.

valley near the top of Jebel Samhan

This area is also believed to be one of the last redoubts of the Arabian leopard. I don't know whether they eat rock hyrax too?

This sheltered valley had many bird species some of which I had not expected up her including  cinnamon-breasted bunting, blackstart, white spectacled bulbul, pale crag martin, Arabian partridge, Tristram's starling, shining sunbird, Arabian wheatear and laughing dove.

While following a group of rock hyrax into the valley, I heard a squealing noise, twice. I have no idea if it was mammal or a bird. However it also attracted the attention of two fan tailed raven.

fan-tailed raven

This is one of the few birds that can be seen on the wind swept plateau. I spent a consider time on it hoping for a passing Verreaux's eagle but also to observe any other birds.

red-tailed wheatear

I was a little surprised to see three red-tailed wheatear. There were none seen earlier in the winter.

second view of red-tailed wheatear

None of them was very approachable and you can't take the car over the moonscape with plenty of rocks. They gave me some good exercise following them on foot.

third view of red-tailed wheatear

The first bird may well have been a male but the one below I believe is female as the red areas on the rump and vent were paler. Overall the bird was slightly more washed out.

a second red-tailed wheatear

The resident wheatear here is Arabian wheatear and it is probably the most numerous still in winter.

male Arabian wheatear

The third wheatear here in winter is desert wheatear.

desert wheatear

Desert lark is common but I was surprised to see any crested lark up on the plateau. This species can accept such a wide variety of habitats.

crested lark

My intention is to keep visiting Jebel Samhan, one day a Verreaux's eagle will fly by.

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