Sunday, 15 May 2016

Thumrait area

On Friday morning I left home before dawn for another desert trip. The main difference from the last one three weeks ago and those before was the temperature. It is now very hot. 

My route was unusual for me. I drove to Thumrait then headed east on the Marmul road to Rahab. I then doubled back to Thumrait and went up to Al Beed farm before returning home.

This blog is about the birding in the Thumrait area. That means the birding at the beginning of the day and that at Al Beed Farm at the end. Birding at the side trip to Rahab will be covered in the next blog.

There is a new park in Thumrait which is not at all mature yet. However in 2 or 3 years it will be very good for birding. A dawn visit there gave me black-crowned sparrow lark and a late passage rufous-bush robin as well as house sparrow and laughing dove.

Starting out towards Marmul, I had only gone 2 kilometres out of town when I found myself behind a yellow water tanker. In the Middle East that means dirty water. A trick of local birders is to follow them to see if they are off-loading. Sure enough after no more than 2 more kilometres it turned off into a new rubbish dump. 

There was not much dirty water there but enough to attract some passage birds.

marsh warbler

Two marsh warbler were flitting between the small amounts of vegetation including a small stand of reeds.

Marsh warbler is extremely common in Oman in early May when many thousands pass through on spring migration.

common whitethroat

Two male common whitethroat were also near the water. This is a common migrant in both spring and autumn.

house sparrow

A flock of house sparrow were flying around the water too.

black-crowned sparrow lark

Three types of lark were seen near-by just the other side of the dumped rubble. There were crested lark, hoopoe lark and black-crowned sparrow lark

At the other end of the day, larks featured once again when I arrived at Al Beed farm.

As I have said before female and young black-crowned sparrow lark are a major confusion for the much rarer (and target) Dunn's lark. There are many wrong identifications.

Once again I checked as many potential Dunn's lark as possible. 

young black-crowned sparrow lark

The young birds are easier to separate. However females especially worn ones hold much more (false) hope.

female black-crowned sparrow lark

I have detailed the differences before. The similarities are obvious: the relatively darkly streaked head, lightly streaked upper breast, lightly streaked back and overall light brown colour. However, the stance is quite different. Dunn's lark is larger as well and has a larger and more obviously pink bill.

I will keep looking.

European turtle dove

The fields are a while were a little disappointing. For example I didn't find a single passage bunting.

The doves on the pivot bars and elsewhere now have an even larger proportion of European turtle dove. The population in the desert farms and villages is strong. I suspect it is because these birds are lucky enough not to fly through the killing fields which birds heading further north suffer each season.

On one pivot bar I came across a crested lark without a crest. This gave me a momentary period of excitement until I realised what it was.

crested lark without a crest

The small orchard at Al Beed can be hit or miss for birds. This time it was quite good. I counted nine marsh warbler. There may have been more. 

marsh warbler

Other passage birds included three common whitethroat, a late willow warbler and two spotted flycatcher.

spotted flycatcher

The next blog covers my time on Friday in the Rahab area 120 kilometres east of Thumrait. This was new spot for me and I am satisfied with what I saw.

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