Monday 31 August 2015

Greater painted snipe at Raysut

Just occasionally, there is a special day when birding. One of mine was last Wednesday. I chose to visit Raysut settling pools. I made a big effort to visit all corners of the site despite the hot weather. This proved a very good decision. 

There are a small number of natural-looking pools caused by the overflow of the main large working (and concrete bound) pools. These natural-looking pools are surrounded by marsh which is sodden with up to 25 cms of water. 

I waded through the marshy undergrowth to the second largest of these.

There were several waders there but one was special. It was an adult female greater painted snipe.

greater painted snipe 1

I was very careful not to spook it. I walked very slowly. The common redshank that were also there flew off but the greater painted snipe just walked away, stopping every now and again. It never flew off.

greater painted snipe 2

I had seen this species in Saudi Arabia in very similar habitat. There had been a family group. Indeed our small birding group that day proved breeding in Saudi Arabia for the first time.

greater painted snipe 3

Whilst the bird is rare in Saudi Arabia, it is a vagrant in Oman. Jens Eriksen has told me my sighting (alone this time) was the first in the country for 17 years and there had been only 6 previous records.

greater painted snipe 4

Jens visited the site two days later and the bird was still present.

sooty gull

The overall impression of the site was that there were many more birds present than when I last visited it in late June. Indeed it was the only month when bird density has been low at this site.

This time there were very large numbers of sooty gull presumably because the sea is inhospitable in the monsoon season.

Another bird in very large numbers was African silverbill

African silverbill

Returning to waders: there were a few greenshank, wood sandpiper, green sandpiper and common sandpiper. There was at least one little stint too.

green sandpiper

Black-winged stilt is one of the few birds which can be present at the site all year round.

black-winged stilt

There was one early duck there. It was a garganey. This species often migrates earlier than others.


It is winters further south than many other Eurasian ducks. Nevertheless some do winter in Dhofar.

garganey in flight

It appears the single vagrant spur-winged lapwing and the single red-wattled lapwing stayed all summer.

spur-winged lapwing

They have been inseparable since the other wintering red-wattled lapwing left the site in spring.

red-wattled lapwing

Other notable birds included little grebe and common moorhen whose numbers have increased consistently over the past year. The sight of young little grebe confirms that part of this growth has been through local breeding.

little grebe sunning itself

The little grebe in particular have to careful as some pools have oily patches. The bird above was sunning itself to remove some soiling.

common tern on the ground

Despite the presence of over 200 sooty gull I observed only one tern. Interestingly it was being bullied at time by the resident house crow which did not pick a fight with the gulls.

common tern in flight

Like the little grebe, it had some soiling which masked the true colour of the bill in some shots.

common tern

This one may well be of the sub species hirundo though the soiling makes it difficult to tell if it is that or the more easterly minussensis which is also seen in Dhofar.

Over the weekend, I had a completely different change of scenery. I visited some desert farms in search of passerine migrants. I will blog about that next.

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