Sunday, 13 December 2015

Stone curlew and much more at Raysut

As well as the settling pools, the industrial area of Raysut has other important bird areas. There is the rubbish tip itself but also the lagoons and the beach. Each can have a unique set of birds.

This year the water levels at the lagoons are much higher than last year and the area around has been landscaped. It shouldn't be missed if you bird in the Salalah area.

I decided it was going to be Friday morning's birding area. I started at the inland end and moved down towards the coast. The inland section includes most of the site's moorhen although it is apparently more sparsely populated by birds than the other end or indeed the middle. 

pheasant-tailed jacana

That didn't stop a pheasant-tailed jacana showing itself prominently at the inland end.

great reed warbler

On the far bank I caught sight of a great reed warbler moving from reeds to a tree.
Eastern Imperial eagle

Most of the eagle activity was at this end. Greater spotted eagle, Eastern Imperial eagle and steppe eagle were all observed.

citrine wagtail

The most common wagtail all the way along the lagoons was citrine wagtail with white wagtail only dominant in the shaded areas under the cliffs.

common redshank

There were plenty of waders in the mid-section of which common redshank was the most numerous.

However the density of birds is obviously much higher at the southern end. 

greater flamingo

The big numbers started to appear after the first large group of (young) flamingo.

The track along the lagoon gets much more difficult at this point and here is where I made an fortuitous decision.

I needed to get round the back of the birds with the sun behind me to have good views. This meant either walking close to the bank for a while or taking a long detour away from the bank. I chose the latter.

By doing this, I came across a stone curlew completely by chance. It flushed from under a tree when I walked by but I hadn't seen it. Instead it was now in the open. 

stone curlew

As I gingerly walked towards it, it started to crouch down and then sit. This made it remarkably difficult to see unless my eyes were trained on it.

stone curlew crouching

This was the first stone curlew I have seen not just in Oman but in the Gulf.

stone curlew sitting

I eventually continued round the lagoon and could see several tens of ducks and waders ahead of me. However I was drawn to the odd one else which was close to me. It was a collared pratincole which is very uncommon in winter in Oman.

collared pratincole

Other birds were more predictable including more flamingo, three Eurasian spoonbill and plenty more ducks and waders. There were also a few yellow wagtail.

black-tailed godwit (l) and pheasant-tailed jacana (r)

In some of the deeper edges were black-tailed godwit. While shallower edges had dunlin and little stint among others.

little stint

One of the birds I wanted to see was ruddy shelduck. It's uncommon in Dhofar. On my last visit to the lagoons there were three. Now there were six though I only managed to get four in any one photograph.

ruddy shelduck

Soon after seeing them I made the short trip to Raysut settling pools and met up with Hanne and Jens Eriksen.

This was not for general birding. After all the excitement with vagrant hirundines in recent days we were all trained on the swallows and martins.

wire-tailed swallow

Both the two wire-tailed swallow and the streak-throated swallow were still there. However attention was on what else might be there among the more prevalent barn swallow and pale crag martin.

unknown martin (above)

One candidate is the unknown martin above. It is either a sand martin or a pale martin.

unknown martin

Certainly it's breast band is weak and its overall colouration appeared pale.
sand martin

A definite sand martin was present but never perched at the same time to allow some sort of comparison.

I had to leave while Hanne and Jens were still surveying. However later I researched beyond the guidebooks to find that colour is often tricky as a determinant because of light conditions and the breast band can be very variable in both martins. Apparently the best characteristic is structural. The tail on a pale martin is hardly forked at all. If I had known that then I would have concentrated on those views rather than waiting for a frontal look. Next time I will be ready.

Species at Raysut lagoons on Friday

Ruddy Shelduck 6
Northern Shoveller 8
Northern Pintail 10
Garganey 12
Eurasian Teal 3
Little Grebe 6
Greater Flamingo 50
Grey Heron 5
Western Reef-Heron 3
Squacco Heron 4
Indian Pond-Heron 1
Eurasian Spoonbill 3
Greater Spotted Eagle 2
Steppe Eagle 2
Eastern Imperial Eagle 1
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier 1
Common Moorhen 8
Stone Curlew 1
Black-winged Stilt 12
Common Ringed Plover 6
Pheasant-tailed Jacana 3
Common Sandpiper 5
Green Sandpiper 4
Common Greenshank 6
Wood Sandpiper 5
Common Redshank 10
Black-tailed Godwit 6
Ruff 8
Curlew Sandpiper 1
Dunlin 3
Little Stint 12
Collared Pratincole  1
Slender-billed Gull  8
White-winged Tern  4
Whiskered Tern  5
Laughing Dove  6
Daurian Shrike  1
Crested Lark  1
Pale Crag Martin  4
Barn Swallow  1
Great Reed-Warbler 1
Blackstart 1
Desert Wheatear  2
Western Yellow Wagtail 2
Citrine Wagtail 10
White Wagtail 7
Ruppell's Weaver 4


  1. Looks good for Pale Martin IMHO. Here are some shots from the UAE for comparison.

    1. Looks good to me too but is it good enough to persuade a Rarity Committee?

  2. The bird' wings seem to project beyond the tail, which is apparently a feature of Pale.