Monday 30 March 2015

West of Hakbit

Hakbit is a village just over the mountains north of Salalah. It is the first village on the dry, inland side and 20 kilometres before you reach Thumrait on the main road towards Muscat.

I birded the road west out of Hakbit on Saturday morning. It cuts across three wadis which each have scattered trees and bushes. The road finishes after about 12 kilometres at an even smaller village.

I had very little idea what to expect though I had hoped for Arabian babbler which sadly didn't happen.

In the second wadi I went for a walk partly because it was too difficult to drive.

I came across a very small paddock with rickety wooden surrounds made of odd pieces of scrap. Inside were a cluster of four acacia trees. This small area provided the majority of my birding.

sand partridge

As I approached the paddock I was surprised to see a male sand partridge sitting on the fence.

sand partridge sitting on a fence

It didn't see though it finally jumped off. I am pretty sure it didn't see me because when I went round the corner to look, two sand partridge were in the shade under a bush. A scared sand partridge would have left the area quickly.

two sand partridge in the shade

This time I did get too close. Not only did these two run away but six more than I hadn't seen followed quickly behind them.

After this I returned my view to the trees in the paddock. I could see there was plenty of bird activity and I could hear sylvia warblers.


Initially all I could see well were a couple of blackstart and a lone white spectacled bulbul.

white spectacled bulbul

Eventually I got a grip on the warblers. There were no less than four desert whitethroat darting between these trees and near-by trees outside the paddock.

desert whitethroat 1

Its always difficult separating desert whitethroat from lesser whitethoat. This is made even more difficult with the recent realisation that the desert whitethroat found in Arabia are mostly probably halimodendri not minula. Nevertheless my birds were just about sufficiently washed-out looking for me to support that it was one of these two sub species and so ''desert'' whitethroat. 

desert whitethroat 2

Desert whitethroat would be wintering birds but lesser whitethroat in this type of habitat could only be on passage. Having said that one of the birds had a darker ear-covert than the others so there could have been a mixed group.

desert whitethroat 3

While all this was going on I spotted an eagle flying past in the distance. It did't seem intent on stopping and kept flying in a north east direction after a couple of circles.

steppe eagle

The very long yellow gape is one obvious feature of a steppe eagle though everything else fits too. There aren't many left down here now.

two desert lark

Birding further along the road was nowhere near as good though i found two desert lark at the edge of the final village. A close look at all the collared doves in the village failed once again to reveal any African collared dove.

another desert lark

On the way back from Hatbit towards Salalah is Qairoon Hariti. It is at the very top of the mountain. I regularly stop there.

fan-tailed raven at Qairoon Hariti

The stop was brief but long enough to get a good photo of a fan-tailed raven.

Arabian partridge

An Arabian partridge was on display, sitting on a wall and allowing close approach. It was the second type of partridge in one day to give me good views. I can't recall this happening before.


  1. Those partridges are very impressive.

  2. Thank you, John. Arabian partridges are much tamer and approachable in Oman than in Saudi Arabia mostly because they aren't hunted so much. On the other hand sand partridge is very difficult to get close to. I must have approached it from just the right angle and speed. Rob