Monday, 9 March 2015

Dowkah farm re-visited

My last long stop on Friday was at the desert farm at Dowkah. I like this place. It has pivot fields and shaded clusters of trees as well as a small horticultural patch next to one of the clusters. 

It is the furthest north west farm in Dhofar and so can have rarities which otherwise avoid Oman.

One bird which generally flies north of Oman on passage is black-eared wheatear but Dowkah farm is one of the closest points in Oman to its main passage route.

I was extremely pleased to see one in only the second pivot field that I inspected.

black-eared wheatear

This bird was a pale throated variant. This makes identification easier as the dark throated female-type variant can look very similar to pied wheatear.

black-eared wheatear on the ground

The F1 hybrid "vitata" pied x black-eared wheatear was ruled out as the black on the ear doesn't merge significantly with black on the shoulder. This is best seen in the photo below. However its possible the bird has some pied genes. Quite frankly the DNA studies show these two species should just be sub-species of a single species but we never hear calls for lumping the two together.

back of black-eared wheatear

Having seen my first pied wheatear in Oman two hours before at Ghaftyan, I then saw four more at Dowkah farm. The picture below is of one in the same field as the black-eared wheatear.

pied wheatear

I also observed four desert wheatear at the farm. Clearly they haven't all left the country yet though numbers are well down. Once again the one below was in the same field as the other wheatears.

desert wheatear

As I walked round some other fields, more species were seen. Two hoopoe lark and a few tawny pipit were in a field with fairly long grass. It seemed strange to see hoopoe lark in such greenery.

hoopoe lark

The two appeared to be a pair. They needed to keep calling to keep in touch with each other.

hoopoe lark walking in grass

The next field round was stumble and full of sandgrouse. Once again I failed to see crowned sandgrouse. However spotted sandgrouse and chestnut-bellied sandgrouse were present.

female bluethroat

In the cluster of trees near the water tank, the flies are thick and the shade is good. it is no wonder this particular part of the farm is so good for migrants and wintering birds. This time I saw two bluethroat. One was male and the other female.

black redstart

There was also one female common redstart on passage and one male black redstart which is presumed to be the same one I saw a month before. This spot should be very good in a month's time when I come for my April visit.

black crowned sparrow lark

Near-by were some of the most common birds on the farm: black-crowned sparrow lark.

female-type black crowned sparrow lark

The female is the bird most often mistaken for a Dunn's lark. It is not helped by the fact that the regional guide to the Middle East describes it as being lightly streaked on the head (compared with darkly streaked Dunn's lark). The black-crowned sparrow lark can clearly be darkly streaked as well. I look for other characteristics.

Asian grey shrike (aucheri)

Once again on the final leg of my walk I observed several brown-necked raven and two aucheri shrike.

I really like Dowkah farm.

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