Sunday 21 June 2015

Birding inside the city in June

On Saturday, I visited three sites but all were inside the city boundary. I went to East Khawr (Khawr Dahariz), Jarziz farm and West Khawr (Khawr Awqad).

The mountains are now shrouded in mist as the first effects of the monsoon are being felt. The sea is rough and the city is mostly overcast but visibility is still fine.

I have no idea whether the weather persuaded a juvenile barbary falcon to come to the edge of the city at East Khawr and at sea level too. Nevertheless one did.

barbary falcon at East Khawr

This was pleasent surprise at the start of my day's birding.

rufous nape prominent

I have seen adult birds on wires before but up in the Tawi Atair area.

barbary falcon looking straight ahead

A brave or foolhardy common myna tried to mob the falcon but very nearly got caught out when it flew.

barbary falcon with common myna

The khawr itself was a little disappointing. There was a mist over the water and few birds could be seen. These were mostly limited to squacco heron, moorhen and flamingo.

common moorhen

On the beach I could only see great crested tern, sooty gull and a few Kentish plover and lesser sand plover.

Later in the morning I returned to birding with another trip to Jarziz farm.

The eleonora's falcon which was present from June 12-14 has gone.

On the other hand, there are still Amur falcon coming through. I saw my first there on April 29th and on every subsequent visit except May 31st. Even on Saturday (June 20th) there were two.

immature male Amur falcon

I have now had over 35 sightings of this bird at the farm this "spring". otherwise I have seen only one elsewhere in Dhofar over Ayn Hamran.

perched immature male Amur falcon

On Friday there were also two Amur falcon and they were quite possibly the same birds. They usually stay 1 or 2 days but occasionally more. 

male Amur falcon in flight on Friday

The second bird was an immature female.

female Amur falcon

The previous female on site had a poorly left eye but it often possible to tell one individual from another by characteristics such as moustache length and density of streaking.

female Amur falcon in flight

Unusually there was a tern at the farm flying over the small water reservoir. The attraction for the tern was undoubtedly the fish than somehow have got in there.

common tern

My ability to identify terns is limited but improving since I moved to a coastal site with this job.

common tern

What helped me with the species identification  was the underwing. I understand the dark trailing edge on the outer primaries and translucent inner primaries are diagnostic for common tern.

common tern from the underside

The full black cap is a summer feature yet the very dark bill concerned me. Thanks to Bart de Schutter for pointing out that this is a feature of the Far Eastern sub species longipennis. Although another eastern sub-species minussensis is quite common here, my understanding is that longipennis is rarer.

I found out where the large flock of glossy ibis, which frequented East Khawr and Sahalnout farm for many months, have got to.

glossy ibis at West Khawr

There was one Eurasian spoonbill which was loosely associating with them too.


Other birds included western reef heron and squacco heron.

However the most interesting member of the heron family seen here is striated heron.

Although they are most often seen on low lying rocks on the coast, they often breed in mangroves. Indeed one alternative name is mangrove heron. However mangroves are rare in the Salalah area but the largest patch is at West Khawr.

immature striated heron

So I wasn't totally surprised to see an adult bird and further along an immature bird which luckily was relatively confiding.

striated heron 2

It posed on a branch barely three metres from me.

striated heron 3

Elsewhere there were five whiskered tern which kept resting on the sand bar that separately the khawr from the sea. Kentish plover were there too.

common redshank

Wader numbers are at there lowest in Dhofar at this time of year but there were a few common redshank and common greenshank here.

intermediate morph western reef heron

As I returned to the parked car, there was one more chance to look at herons. All morphs of western reef heron were there from pure dark to pure white and morphs in between.


One of the last birds seen was an osprey perched on the fence close to the car.


  1. Good stuff, Rob.
    Common Tern longipennis would be a first for Oman and Arabia I think. But the movements of these birds are probably not fully known, and it might be regular here for all we know.
    The subspecies minussensis can have all-black bill as well, see:

    Unless these are longipennis, but how to separate a black-billed minussensis from a longipennis? BWPi recons minussensis is just a clinal population of hirundo & longipennis mix!

    From HBW:
    Subspecies and Distribution
    S. h. hirundo Linnaeus, 1758 – North America (C & E Canada, N & E USA) to N South America, Atlantic islands, Europe, N Africa (Tunisia) and W Africa (Mauritania, Senegal, erratically Nigeria), through Middle East and Black and Caspian Seas to Yenisey Valley; winters S of Tropic of Cancer.
    S. h. minussensis Sushkin, 1925 – C Asia from upper Yenisey Valley E to Baikal and N Mongolia; winters mainly N Indian Ocean.
    S. h. tibetana H. Saunders, 1876 – W Mongolia S to Kashmir and SW & SC China (Tibet, Sichuan), at high altitudes; winters mostly E Indian Ocean.
    S. h. longipennis Nordmann, 1835 – NE Siberia S to NE China (C Heilongjiang to Inner Mongolia and Shanxi); winters E Indian Ocean and SE Asia to Australia and (rarely) New Zealand.

    From BWPi:
    Mainly involves colour of bill and foot; to lesser extent also wing and bill length and colour of body. Wing length of other European breeders similar to those of Netherlands cited in Measurements; wing of birds breeding Canary Islands and North Africa 273 (5) 265–279 (BMNH, ZFMK). Wing of nominate hirundo breeding North and Central America slightly shorter than European populations, e.g. USA birds average 6·5 mm shorter (Ridgway 1919; Vaurie 1965; RMNH, ZMA). S.h. longipennis from eastern Siberia differs in breeding plumage by uniform black bill, dark brown-red or blackish foot, slightly darker grey body, and more white on central tail-feathers; wing slightly longer—278 (16) 268–286 for adults of both sexes; bill shorter—35·4 (1.54; 10) 33–37 in adult ♂, 33·9 (0.97; 6) 32–35 in adult ♀. Nominate hirundo and longipennis grade into each other over wide area in central Siberia, a few birds with longipennis characters breeding as far west as Ob basin. These variable central Siberian populations have bill either red (usually with more black on tip than in nominate hirundo) or all-black, proportion of birds with black bills increasing eastwards; foot dull red or brownish-red; colour of body and length of bill and wing closer to longipennis. Sometimes separated as minussensis Sushkin, 1925, but as individuals are either similar to longipennis, to nominate hirundo, or to tibetana, recognition not warranted. S. h. tibetana from central Asiatic mountains and highlands as dark as longipennis and length of wing and bill similar, but bill and leg red in summer, as in nominate hirundo. In non-breeding and juvenile plumages, when all races have blackish bill and dull leg, identification difficult; see (e.g.) Clancey 1976 for differences between tibetana and nominate hirundo.

  2. Tommy, thanks for this. I was aware that some authorities believe that S. h. minussensis is just a set of inter-grades. Having read your very useful text, it appears to me that a "pure" longipennis should probably have darker legs. So that would make it a minussensis albeit closer to a longpennis than a nominate.R