Friday 27 May 2016

The hottest time of year

It's hot and humid in Salalah at the moment. Indeed the humidity makes it feel ever hotter. Birders in the Middle East often give up or stick to short birding bursts from May to the end of August except for pelagics.

However Salalah is different. May is actually the hottest month. June is a little cooler as it can be cloudy especially in the afternoon. Then in July or late June the monsoon comes. Temperatures fall rapidly.

We have already had two evenings which were cloudy and birding was possible from 5 pm on wards. However this blog is about last Friday when it was fiercely hot and yet I felt the urge to bird.

I visited Raysut harbour and coast first. At the back of my mind I always have a dream target bird though with 327 species seen, the targets are all tough now. The target was white-eyed gull which is a vagrant from the Red Sea. 

I didn't see one but I checked an awful lot of sooty gull.

Raysut harbour is the best place I know for striated heron and sure enough one was seen. This time it was on the harbour wall.

striated heron

Western reef heron (eastern) were numerous. By the way isn't that a silly name that Clement's and e-bird uses. No wonder many people call it Indian reef heron.

dark morph Indian reef heron

Both pale morph and dark morph were present. So was one of the types of intermediate morph too.

intermediate morph Indian reef heron

There are large numbers of tern around now but the cast is different from winter. Wintering terns such as lesser crested tern and gull-billed tern have mostly left.

common tern

Common tern is mostly a passage migrant and some were still around last Friday. A few do over-summer.

sooty gull and great crested tern

By far the most common combination on the beaches in summer are great crested tern and sooty gull. These are the main residents.

Heuglin's gull

In any large group of sooty gull in summer you can usually find a sick or lost Heuglin's gull that has refused to fly back to Siberia.

gull-billed tern (r)

The same goes with gull-billed tern among the terns.

sandwich tern (m) and Caspian tern (r)

A few more sandwich tern over-summer too but there is no reason to believe these birds are sick or lost. 

By the way the picture above disappointed me in a way. I thought I had rigorously looked through all the terns on Raysut beach for any odd ones. However it was only when I got home and sorted through the photos that I realised a sandwich tern had been there. What else could I have missed? It was very hot though so concentration was difficult.

After a rest midday I moved over to the other side of the city to East Khawr. At least you can do some of birding in the car there.

squacco heron at East Khawr

From the car, lesser sand plover, squacco heron, moorhen, a few pacific golden plover and redshank were easily seen as has been the pattern in recent visits.

Saunders's tern

Continuing my look at terns: there was a nice group of Saunders's tern in breeding plumage present again.


Other notable birds were three sanderling. Two were in near breeding plumage but one was still in winter plumage (see above).

white-eared bulbul

Braving the horrible conditions, I decided to get out of the comfort of the car and to walk round the top end of the Khawr. Some would call this foolish. 

However, sometimes fortune really does favour the brave. I spotted what I believe is the first ever white-eared bulbul in Dhofar. This invader has finally arrived or escaped here. Will it breed? Well I can tell you when I followed up with another visit midweek, there were two of them.

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