Thursday, 19 November 2015

Dowkah and Shisr

On Saturday, I went into the desert again. This time I visited Dowkah farm and the Shisr farming district.

Both areas are migrant traps as well as having healthy populations of local birds.  Rarities can pop up at any time but particularly during the passage seasons.

One of the first migrants seen at Dowkah was a pallidrostris grey shrike which is often called steppe grey shrike.

Steppe grey shrike

One was seen on my last visit and the may be the same wintering bird.

white wagtail

I didn't see any yellow wagtail this time. It looks like they don't winter there. On the other hand the population of white wagtail is increasing significantly.

blue-cheeked bee-eater

A large wave of blue-cheeked bee-eater was passing through. Their passage has been a little later this year but it is just as heavy.

European roller

No golden oriole were observed this time. All their passage through the desert may have finished. In contrast, some European roller stop over at desert farms for a few days or weeks. At least five were still present on Saturday.


In the main area of bushes, there are often waves of warblers in the passage seasons. This time there is clearly a large wave of chiffchaff. I counted 45 in the bushes and trees.

second chiffchaff

A few other warblers were also present.

lesser whitethroat

There was at least two lesser whitethroat and one Menetries's warbler.

lesser whitethroat 2

In the early morning, all the warblers were approachable. I suspect this was because they were intent on feeding after a hard desert crossing.

Only two Daurian shrike and no Turkestan shrike were seen this time. 

Daurian shrike

The warblers were not the only new passerine migrants.

common redstart

Two common redstart were found in the shade under palm trees.

pied wheatear 1

In the last field on the way out, there was a pied wheatear on a pivot bar.

pied wheatear 2

On the same pivot was a tree pipit.

tree pipit

I left Dowkah around 10 am. The weather was noticeably cooler than on other visits so I decided a visit to Shisr (which is a large site and requires time to bird properly) should be possible.

bar-tailed lark

On the Shisr approach road, I once again came across bar-tailed lark. On the one hand, it is the only place I have found them in Oman. On the other, my success rate there is very high.This bird appears to be nowhere near as common as I used to find it in central Saudi Arabia.

blue-cheeked bee-eater

Another large wave of blue-cheeked bee-eater were seen.

red-breasted flycatcher

I spent considerable time in main wooded area. Compared with Dowkah's bushy area birds were sparse. It can be hit or miss with all these clusters of desert-based bushes and trees.

However, I did find a first year red-breasted flycatcher. This is the first one I have seen this winter and it is right at the western edge of its winter range.

house sparrow

Otherwise its main birding company was a flock of local house sparrow.

perched greater spotted eagle

There was an eagle on the main pivot of one of the fields. It turned out to be a greater spotted eagle. it is pretty rare to see one outside their main passage period in the desert.

Shisr though is the largest farming district in western Oman and if anywhere could sustain a greater spotted eagle in the desert through the winter it is Shisr.

greater spotted eagle in flight

My next birding session was much more local within the city. It was prompted by a report of a vagrant. I will blog about that next.

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