Sunday, 27 December 2015

Recent highlights in the city

This blog is a round robin of some birding I carried out just before Christmas around the city. 

On Tuesday at Sawnaut farm, eleven cream-coloured courser were present on a newly ploughed field.

cream-coloured courser

It's not often you see them in the city but Sawnaut is certainly a city farm.

A booted eagle was another highlight but an obvious feature as is often the case was the sheer number of doves.  For once I looked at the laughing dove quite closely.

two sub-species of laughing dove

In the north of Oman, the sub species is cambayensis which is the same as in India. It is plainer and daintier than the nominate sub species.

The birdlife international monograph on the species say the nominate reaches Mukhalla in Yemen from Africa. However there is no doubt it goes further west as nominate is more common than cambayensis in Salalah. Both are shown in a picture from Sawnaut farm (see above).

After visiting Sawnaut farm, Dahariz park (also called East Khawr park) was next. 
forest wagtail

This time I easily relocated the vagrant forest wagtail which has been present for well over a month now.

citrine wagtail

A citrine wagtail has been there even longer. It is unusual to see them in parks.

Bruce's green pigeon

Like cream-coloured courser, Bruce's green pigeon can be seen in the city though it can be seen more frequently. The best places are parks. However they often go overlooked in the canopy of larger trees.

two Bruce's green pigeon

After Dahariz park, I made a short call to the near-by Khawr Dahariz (East Khawr). I was not doing general birding, I was looking out for exceptional ducks. I couldn't help noticing the presence of two pheasant-tailed jacana though.

pheasant-tailed jacana

A large majority of wintering ducks here are either: garganey, pintail, shoveller or teal. Mallard, gadwell, ferruginous duck and tufted duck are less frequent and all other ducks less frequent still.

ferruginous duck (left)

The diving ducks appear later than the dabbling ducks. A female ferruginous duck was the only one out of the ordinary at East Khawr when I visited.

My remaining targets for Oman among the rarer ducks (but which are not vagrants) are common shelduck and red-crested pochard.

ferruginous duck

A visit to West Khawr was partly made for the same reason i.e looking for rarer ducks. It's relatively deep waters are often attracted to diving ducks. However on first pass, more than half of the ducks were shoveller and there were only two ferruginous duck representing all possible diving ducks.

male cotton teal

Observing a male cotton teal was good compensation. I can't remember seeing a male in Dhofar before. I can only remember seeing female-types.

cotton teal (left)

Also at West Khawr was a wintering purple heron which is not so common.

purple heron

Continuing with the less ordinary sightings was a close view of a broad-billed sandpiper.

broad-billed sandpiper

It was much more confiding than the common redshank and little ringed plover near-by.

broad-billed sandpiper 2

In the fresh water sites in the city, Indian pond heron is at the moment almost as common as squacco heron so it hardly rates a mention among the highlights. The highlight here is not so much the sighting of one but instead how many there are here in mid-winter.

Indian pond heron at West Khawr

Just before I left West Khawr I noticed I almost missed a wigeon. Not many come down here.


I will continue looking for rare ducks in January. The wintering species are mostly settled now unless there is a major cold snap up north. Late ducks are one of the few predictable changes without it.

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