Friday 23 October 2015

Around the Marriott

Last Thursday afternoon, visiting Norwegian birder, Ellen Askum and I made it out to the area around the Marriott hotel, Mirbat. A few kilometres east down the coast is Ras Janjari which is one of the best places to seawatch from the mainland. After visiting there we explored the area close to the hotel where we found an interesting khawr which I will call "Khawr Marriott". 

At Ras Janjari, I was very surprised to see a masked booby. It wasn't out to sea but sitting on the large rocky outcrop which is separated from the mainland by only 2 metres of water.

I was only 15 metres from the bird. Masked booby very rarely makes it to the mainland and we felt privileged.

masked booby at Ras Janjari

The bird was an immature and either second or third calendar year.

masked booby on an outcrop

The cliffs either side of Mirbat have been the only places I have seen masked booby in Oman. However before they have been well out to sea.

Heuglin's gull out to sea

Once again my seawatching failed to pick up any Persian shearwater or petrels. These are becoming nemesis birds for me. As I am the only resident ex-pat birder in Salalah, a customised pelagic trip is prohibitively expensive and indeed is impossible in the summer months because of the monsoon. Seawatching from land is the only real option. I believe I have just been unlucky with these birds.

Ironically I have seen two rarer types of shearwater at the headland on previous visits but not the commonest. 

The main feature of the sea watch turned out to a determined migration of wave after wave of large white headed gulls, most of which were Heuglin's gull.

juvenile bridled tern by Ellen Askum

Bridled tern is also essentially a pelagic bird but two were seen close to land last Thursday. Other birds included the resident sooty gull and great crested tern which have been seen on every visit to Ras Janjari.

We left Ras Janjari with time to survey the area closer to the Marriott before dusk. This proved a good decision.

common snipe

There is a khawr just to the east of the hotel which I have never visited before primarily because I didn't know it was there. Indeed I can't recall any other birders going there and reporting on the place. I am calling it Khawr Marriott until I know its real name.

An common snipe in water at the side of the dirt track back from Ras Janjari was the first hint that there might be a major water body there.

Ellen and I parked up and followed the wadi towards the sea and then found it was a typical khawr with a sandbar separating the fresh water from the ocean.

We spent some time just sitting on the sand bar and watching.

two northern shoveller

Both garganey and northern shoveller were present.

Intermediate egret

As well as several western reef heron and grey heron and, two glossy ibis there was a single intermediate egret.

garganey at the water's edge

Attention was paid to the water's edge but only common moorhen and the occasional duck were seen. There was no hint of any crakes.

marsh harrier

A marsh harrier arrived while we were there and immediately caused havoc as some birds reacted with fright. It several minutes for things to settle down again.

black-tailed godwit

None of the shorter waders were present but longer legged waders such as redshank, greenshank and black-tailed godwit were plentiful.

Certainly I will make time for a stop at Khawr Marriott whenever I visit Ras Janjari in future.

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