Sunday 5 June 2016

Long weekend with a visitor

My friend Andrew Bailey is visiting Oman on a short birding break. His presence has encouraged me to go out birding more than I otherwise would have done in the heat.

This blog is a summary of what we have seen over the past days. 

We went out together on Wednesday and Thursday evening. We also made a weekend trip to the far west bordering Yemen for more prolonged birding.

The best news for me on Wednesday and Thursday was owling successes at Wadi Darbet. Saeed Shanfari kindly joined us at short notice and without him, we would not have had these successes.

Arabian scops owl at Wadi Darbet

Two Arabian scops owl in one tree was enjoyable and gave prolonged views. 

Arabian scops owl 

An Arabian spotted eagle owl was a much shorter and more distant encounter.

However two inquisitive barn owl (and a third less inquisitive one) made several flights over us. This was exciting for me as the species was an addition to my Oman list.

Saeed had warned of snakes however I didn't expect to see a puff adder on the road as we were leaving.

puff adder

Khawr Rori was visited on the other evening. The highlights there included sixty or so Forbes-Watson swift hawking overhead all our stay.

Dideric cuckoo

Two Dideric cuckoo were also seen. Yet the best sighting were of at least eight yellow bittern moving around the reeds.

adult yellow bittern

There were juveniles and adults present.

juvenile yellow bittern

On Friday morning, we started out the journey to the far west coast of Oman. This area is the greenest in the Sultanate and has the longest monsoon period (called khareef locally).

We stopped off briefly at Mughsail to seawatch but with little success. The tame cinnamon-breasted bunting in the car park were a little compensation.

cinnamon-breasted bunting at Mughsail

On Friday much of our birding in the far west was along the Sarfait to Dhalkout road. This is quite possibly the lushest road in the country even in the dry season.

grey-headed kingfisher

Grey-headed kingfisher are everywhere. We counted six different Bonelli's eagle. Each time we found them by fan-tailed raven noisily harassing them.

white-spectacled bulbul at Sarfait

A small freshwater pool just outside Sarfait was a particular magnet for birds. A steady stream of birds kept visiting including rock dove, laughing dove, Tristram's starling, grey-headed kingfisher, white spectacled bulbul and most notably Arabian golden-winged grosbeak. A single Bruce's green pigeon was also observed near-by.

Dideric cuckoo

Further down the road towards Dhalkout we came across three male Dideric cuckoo all in one tree.

laughing dove

In some ways its surprising that the only dove in the thick woodland along the way is laughing dove. A few African paradise flycatcher were also spotted in the woods.

On Friday afternoon we made a return trip to near-by Rakhout having taken lunch in Dhalkout and after a look in the marina there added sooty gull and great crested tern to the trip list. Rakhout only yielded two species not already seen in the Sarfait and Dhalkout area. These were Forbes-Watson swift and barn owl. It is strange that I had seen no barn owl during nearly two years in Oman then I see them in two different place on two consecutive days. The one at Rakhout was seen in broad daylight too.

long-billed pipit

Having stayed the night at Hotel Dalkhout, on Saturday morning we headed back down the road towards Sarfait for two reasons. The first was to try for pictures of the Arabian golden winged grosbeak seen the day before at a pool and secondly because the only petrol garage in the whole region is there.

On the way we came across a pipit on a wire which presumably a long-billed pipit but was more richly coloured than any I have ever seen. 

The only alternative I can think of is African pipit. However I believe the hind claw is long in that species like a Richard's pipit and I don't see this feature in the bird on the wire.

rear of the long-billed pipit

Back at the pool at Sarfait were as many birds as the day before. However I was momentarily distracted by a blue-headed agama.

blue-headed agama

Arabian golden winged grosbeak was present again and I managed to take several photographs.

adult and juvenile grosbeaks

After filling up with fuel at Sarfait we started to head back towards Salalah. We made a long stop in Wadi Sayq mostly to look for Verreaux's eagle but with no success. One more Bonelli's eagle was observed along with the only short-toed snake eagle of the trip. We were once again alerted to the eagles by the noise from fan-tailed raven.

This was the only place where we observed Arabian wheatear in the far west

Our vantage point over Wadi Saiq was so high up that pale crag martin were flying at our level.

pale crag martin at Wadi Saiq

After a stop for lunch and another (unsuccessful) look for Verreaux's eagle at Mughsail, we ended up in Salalah with time left for more birding.

There were four interesting incidents at Raysut settling pools which was our main choice of birding venue on the eastern edge of the city.

The first was the sighting of two European roller. I had not expected any to still be on passage this late.

European roller

The second was mystery pipit with an upright stance which unfortunately flew early and away not to be seen again.

The third was a dark heron. I took many photos of what at one moment we thought might be a black bittern.  However we now think it is probably a soiled striated heron. I am still seeking expert advice before disregarding our possibilities.

probable soiled striated heron

The fourth incident was possibly even more intriguing. The vagrant  spur-winged lapwing and red-wattled lapwing which have been present for over a year showed classic breeding behaviour. Instead of flying away from us when approached they flew at us and noisily too. House crow were given the same treatment. If they have produced hybrid offspring, they will have a tremendous job keeping the crows away. 

Meanwhile it looks like a few flamingo has decided to over-summer at the pools.


It has been an intensive few days after a bit of a lull in my birding. Andrew Bailey has been the catalyst and I thank him for that. He has also been the main driver which is a luxury for me. I wish him luck finding a Verreaux's eagle while I have to work.

1 comment:

  1. Re the pipit, the buff outer-tail feathers = Long-billed.