Friday 20 May 2016

Rarities at Raysut settling pools

Eastern cattle egret is still officially classed as a vagrant in Oman. Surely that won't be for much longer. Not least because I have seen four in three different places near Salalah over the past three weeks. Of course the Rarities committee might take the view that they were the same two birds and that's OK but I think it will only postpone the day when it becomes "just"a rarity.

We have many tens of cattle egret winter in Dhofar but there are only easily recognisable as Eastern cattle egret in late spring. The lack of birders at that precise time looks like the issue and not the scarcity. 

After Raysut lagoons on Wednesday afternoon, my last stop was at the settling pools. It was here I came across twelve cattle egret grazing over the fertiliser piles.

Eastern cattle egret

One was obviously different even though at first I could only see its top (see photo below) as it peeked above a pile.

first view of Eastern cattle egret

Some lists make it a separate species like IOU which is used by the country's rarity committee. Though I have to say it mixes and associates with western cattle egret with no apparent difference in behaviour at all.

three cattle egret

Other than the cattle egret and small flock of flamingo there were few large water birds present except one grey heron,  one glossy ibis.

In general there were fewer birds than in spring and winter.

However the eastern cattle egret was not the only rarity.

spur-winged lapwing

For about fifteen months from about November 2014 until February 2016, a spur-winged lapwing was present at the site. Nearly all that time it was associating with a red-wattled lapwing which also doesn't belong here in summer. This winter there were three red-wattled lapwing.

I was surprised to see the reappearance of the spur-winged lapwing after three months with no observations. Again it was with a single red-wattled lapwing which is presumably the same orphan as before. I call these the odd couple.

spur-winged lapwing in flight

The resident house crow tried to chase them off once again.

red-wattled lapwing

I walked back to the car by passing by the front perimeter's hedge of trees and bushes. This held some late migrants. I counted six marsh warbler, two willow warbler and three spotted flycatcher.

spotted flycatcher

A cinnamon-breasted bunting made an unusual appearance at this location too.

cinnamon-breasted bunting

It is now too hot to make my regular Friday visit into the desert. I will bird locally this weekend and report what I see.

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