Monday, 7 December 2015

Mazyunah in the afternoon

I am well behind with my blog posts mostly because we had a long holiday weekend here in Oman and I was away birding intensively. I got good results too but those will have to wait until the next blog.

This one is the second part covering what happened in the Mazyunah area on the Yemen border 10 days ago. It covers events after noon.

At noon, I was still near Mazyunah's reed beds. Eastern Imperial eagle were still making regular appearances at the end of the run-off stream.

Eastern Imperial eagle

I had had a far more looks at the waders in the marshy area near the reed beds and discovered they also included some ruff.


I had spent 5 hours or so very close to Mazyunah town and especially the reed beds. I decided it was time to investigate what else might be in the area. At the roundabout just inside from the Yemen border, I first drove right towards Miten.

roundabout at the western edge of Mazyunah

This proved less than fruitful. In half an hour driving north, the landscape quickly turned to pure desert and I only saw one bird all that time. It was a hoopoe lark.

adult Eastern Imperial eagle

When doubling back the birding was only slightly better. This time the single bird was a very handsome adult Eastern Imperial eagle.

Undaunted by the poor return from the birding north of the roundabout I then ventured south of it on the Tosinat road. They could hardly have been more contrast.

I had only driven about 2 kilometres when I saw  four birds of prey in the air. I stopped and saw there were plenty more gathered about 50 metres off the road.

A fresh camel carcass had attracted many birds of prey and most of them were vultures.

a mix of vultures

The full count was 14 lappet-faced vulture, four griffon vulture, 7 Egyptian vulture, two steppe eagle, two Eastern Imperial eagle and six brown-necked raven. I was actually quite disappointed there was no golden eagle among them. This area is a known haunt of theirs.

griffon vulture (left) with lappet-faced vulture (right)

Lappet-faced vulture and Egyptian vulture are resident birds not too far west in Yemen though some of the Egyptian vulture may be wintering birds. The griffon vulture are however all migrants.

griffon vulture seeking up on one of the lappet-faced vulture

There was relatively little fighting over the food. I suspect because each bird knew its place.The lappet-faced vulture were more tolerant of the Egyptian vulture taking small pieces than I had expected. While I was there none of the eagles or ravens even tried to move in.

lappet-faced vulture (left) with Egyptian vulture (right)

The carcass was big enough for pieces to be dragged off without too much fight

griffon vulture with a piece

I stayed and watched for 20 minutes or so making sure I had identified each bird.

Egyptian vulture (left) with lappet-faced vulture (right)

I eventually drove on further south. However I had barely gone another two kilometres when another birding opportunity arose. I cam across a brand new sewage works which I presume will replace the waste water dump that feeds the reed beds a few kilometres way (and at which I had spent most of the morning). I hope I am wrong and both operate. We will see.

new sewage works at Mazyunah

Moorhen have already colonised the place. Two warbler species were chiffchaff and Asian desert warbler. The latter was following desert wheatear around as is often the case.

Siberian stonechat

A good bird here was Siberian stonechat. Not many of these make it as far south as Dhofar.

I fully expect the grassland, marshy area and trees next to the operations to be good migrant traps in spring.

At about 3.30 pm I decided it would be good to head back to the reed beds. I was especially interested in looking again for crakes.

On the way back I saw several of the vultures still eating but other birds of prey were flying off.

lappet-faced vulture in flight

Inspecting the flying birds of prey still didn't yield a hoped-for golden eagle.

steppe eagle in flight

Back at the reed beds, as the sun was losing strength a group of collared dove arrived to sit on the fence surrounding the beds. I soon realised that at least half of them were African collared dove.

African collared dove

Even in poor light, they are relatively easy to separate from European collared dove with practice.

European collared dove (left) with African collared dove (right)

Two features easily seen above are the white vent and under-tail of the African bird and the heavier build of the European one.

sand partridge

Several birds came in to drink after about 4 pm. They included two quite tame sand partridge.

two sand partridge

Other notable birds at the stream included a pin-tailed snipe.

pin-tailed snipe

A Temminck's stint was keeping this one company.

Temminck's stint (left)

However my main task as it got darker was to look again for crakes.

spotted crake

Spotted crake was readily seen. Yet little crake which has been reported here once again eluded me. It is one of a very small number of my nemesis birds.

At dusk I left and started the long journey back to Salalah.

A much longer journey was undertaken over our four day holiday this week when I went to Masirah Island for the first time. This was very eventful and I will start blogging about it next.

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