Friday, 13 November 2015

Dusky warbler and more at Mughsail

Bart De Schutter is visiting Oman to bird during November. On Monday afternoon, he and I were tipped off that one of the eastern leaf warblers had been seen at Mughsail.

Just after dawn on Tuesday morning we headed out to Mughsail and arrived at 7 am at where the leaf warbler was last seen.

We saw several interesting birds at the small pond where the bird had been. However the warbler itself was nowhere to be seen yet we heard several hard "check" sounds which we thought might be its call.

As we were about to leave, having searched for an hour, Bart sighted the warbler. It briefly settled in short reed before we lost it.

After another ten minutes, it was seen again a little away from the pool. We got lucky as it was flushed out into the open by a territorial spotted flycatcher.

Dusky warbler by Bart De Schutter

Bart obtained excellent pictures and I have permission to reproduce them here. I am very grateful. From these and Jens Eriksen's pictures from the day before, its habits and it's call, it can be identified as a dusky warbler.

Dusky warbler 2 by Bart De Schutter

The original finder thought it might be a Radde's warbler but expert opinion says there is not enough colour on undertail coverts, the bill is thin, the leg colour and white supercilium in front of eye all indicate Dusky Warbler.

Dusky warbler 3 by Bart De Schutter

This is only the third record of a dusky warbler in Oman.

yellow bittern 1

While we were at the pool a yellow bittern moved and it was seen where it landed. It is a juvenile bird. Most if not all adult birds have left for India by now. In Oman, there are very few records of any age group much later than mid-November in any year.

yellow bittern

It is nice to see a yellow bittern when you are not even looking for it. Mughsail, inland Khawr Rori and East Khawr are the best places for find it.

yellow bittern 3

The pool had more interest. Two Baillon's crake were observed and at one time both at once.

Baillon's crake 1

The pictures aren't wonderful mostly because the birds didn't completely break cover except for a few moments.

Baillon's crake

Sharing the pool with the crakes were moorhen and four garganey.


Citrine wagtail is probably the most common wagtail near water in Oman in winter.

citrine wagtail

The two back pools and rocks near-by at Mughsail area undoubtedly the best place to guarantee seeing striolated bunting in Dhofar.

striolated bunting

I find the wing colour is the easiest way to differentiate striolated bunting from cinnamon-breasted bunting.

two striolated bunting

I had to leave Bart to go to work. He told me he saw Verreaux's eagle after I left.

However as I was leaving and walking towards the car I came across a cuckoo. I understand Bart saw it later.

We had the edge of cyclone Chapala hit the most westerly districts of Oman from about Mughsail westward. The dusky warbler could conceivably been a part of its effect. So I examined the cuckoo for features of oriental cuckoo more than I might normally.

common cuckoo from the back

Certainly the upper parts of the bird were blue-grey rather than ash-grey more typical of common cuckoo. However younger common cuckoo can also be bluer than full adults. 

common cuckoo 2

Oriental cuckoo also apparently has a proportionately heavier bill.

common cuckoo 3

I believe its bill is consistent with that.

common cuckoo 4

Oriental cuckoo often has a plain vent which is rusty-buff coloured. Again this bird fits. However no one characteristic is diagnostic. Furthermore, an idealised oriental cuckoo has bolder barring in the undertail coverts and, less but bolder bars on the breast.

When I placed the photos on birdforum's identification forum the two respondents both said it was a common cuckoo. I am comfortable enough with that to drop further enquiry.

Al-in-all that small area of Mughsail produced some special birding. 


  1. This looks to have been a truly special morning! Well done for pinning that warbler down and establishing its identity.

    Looking at photos of Oriental Cuckoo on the net (I haven't seen one), I'd say you're looking for a bird with thicker bars on the underparts and a buff suffusion on the undertail coverts extending to the lower belly. The birds in the photos look subtly different somehow - they have more of the look of the smaller Asian cuckoos. I myself can't see any difference in the bills. So I guess we have to pass this one off as a Common (yet again).

  2. Andrew, I just feel one day I'll get one here.