Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Dhalkout and the far west

I hosted my friend Gio from Nizwa over the long holiday weekend partly in return for his hosting of me in Nizwa and Jebel Akhdar the weekend before. He is a non-birder so I had to snatch birding moments where I could.

This was mostly done on our day trip along the coast west of Salalah where we drove right to the checkpoint on the Yemen border.

This area has the longest and most sustained khareef (monsoon) in the country. The Sarfait to Dhalkout road is the greenest I have seen. Furthermore the area is under-birded and may hold some surprises. However, as I have already written this was not a full blown birding day yet even in snatches I could see potential.

The best bird was arguably an Amur falcon seen on a wire on the main road having climbed out of Dhalkout and starting the journey back. This was the first one I have seen in Oman outside the Salalah area.

Amur falcon

With practice young and female birds are easily distinguished from young hobby.

One feature that Amur falcon and red footed falcon have but hobby doesn't is barring on the upper-tail seen well in the first picture.

Amur falcon 1

The very light vent is indicative of a young female bird. The mild streaking on the breast and lighter crown compared with a hobby is typical of Amur falcon.

Amur falcon 2

Earlier and near Dhalkout were a pair of adult of Bonelli's eagle.

Bonelli's eagle

Earlier still and in the border village of Sarfait (also known as Deem) we had had a tea break. He I had a chance to wander round the village and sneak in some birding.

fan-tailed raven

As expected the trees housed many white-spectacled bulbul, Abyssinian white-eye and Tristram's starling. In a few villages in Dhofar (eg Tawi Atair) fan-tailed raven come into the urban area. Sarfait is another one.

Tristram's starling

However even on quick inspection I picked up on two willow warbler and one eastern olivaceous warbler in an urban tree. Elsewhere were four Ruppell's weaver and my first Dideric cuckoo of the spring.


My guess is that the road between Sarfait and Dhalkout has the best potential of all. Many of the same birds were seen as we drove slowly down it. Blackstart, cinnamon-breasted bunting and long billed pipit were also observed.

grey-headed kingfisher

Twice we came across grey-headed kingfisher on wires along the road.

greater crested tern

The only disappointment for me was the beach at Dhalkout.

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