Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Crab plover west of Muscat

A week ago Saturday was my last day in the Muscat area and it was once again very hot. I headed out west towards the Batinah coast and more specifically to Ras As Sawadi. 

I know that European bee-eater breeds in the Batinah area and that sooty falcon can sometimes be seen at Ras As Sawadi. I was especially on the look out for these two birds.

On the way I stopped first at a manicured area near the airport at Seeb. This heavily watered areas can sometimes throw up something exotic or rare.

This time I was unlucky though I did get closer views of Indian roller than I have had before in Oman.

Indian roller

It was stretching its wings to keep cool though the day was not quite as hot as the day before.

manicured lawns at Seeb

Ironically better birds were seen in the adjacent scrub land. I followed a run off channel from the landscaped area which fed into a small pool on the wrong side of the fence in the scrub land. This area is out of bounds but the pool and surrounds could be seen from the green side of the fence.

chestnut-bellied sandgrouse

A small number of chestnut-bellied sandgrouse had turned up to drink.

two chestnut-bellied sandgrouse

I believe at least one of them was not an adult bird (see left above). These birds walked to the pool and walked away. I suspect they breed in the scrub land protected by the airport authority.

grey francolin

A grey francolin arrived too.

little green bee-eater

Little green bee-eater were sitting on the fence a short distance away from me.

After this I headed to Batinah but failed to see any European bee-eater of which a small number breed in the area and more pass through. European bee-eater is arguably the strangest omission from my country list.

Ras As Sawadi

Ras As Sawadi is the string of rock jutting into the gulf which becomes an island at high tide. Sooty falcon can be found here but I suspect I came two weeks or so early. The trees on the main path are good for plain leaf warbler in winter but they left weeks ago.

In short it looked like my targets would be missed.

As I scanned the waders that were present, suddenly I realised that there was a crab plover on the mudflats.

crab plover with bar-tailed godwit

This is a long way from any breeding grounds in UAE or Masirah Island in Oman. However the shore is peppered with crabs and their burrows. I don't know whether this is an over-summering bird or more likely a dispersed young bird. Either way my luck was in. This was precisely the bird I had planned a long drive to Duqm from Salalah the next weekend to try to find. Duqm is the closest place to salalah that they are commonly seen.

crab plover walks in front of ill gull

Like the day before, I found a small number of ill looking gulls which never made it back to their summering quarters. Most here were Heuglin's gull.


Another highlight of this trip was the presence of a flock of oystercatcher.

bar-tailed godwit

The solitary bar-tailed godwit showed no sign of attaining summer plumage.

great crested tern and sooty gull

The most common bird at the shore was actually great crested tern with sooty gull close behind. There were also two white-cheeked tern.

black-crowned sparrow lark

I had a long walk back to the car along the beach and only two extra birds were seen. Both were perched on the fence separating the shore from a big development which is being built that will reshape the area. Those birds were black-crowned sparrow lark and little green bee-eater.

I had finished all birding before lunchtime having learnt a lesson about the heat the day before. It was a good morning though.

In the next blog, I will give a round up of all the birding done in Salalah in the following week.