Tuesday 30 September 2014

Raysut treated water lake

I finally made it to Raysut treated water lake on Saturday, a day later than originally planned.

It was not what I expected. The water was very clean so the sewage works is almost certainly state-of-the art.

This meant the lake held clean water and reeds were none existent. Flies were few as well. All this didn't mean there were no birds it just meant they were different than anticipated.

Furthermore, although it is inland the sea is barely a kilometre away and so coastal birds were present.

Little grebe

Nevertheless one of the first birds seen was little grebe. There appears to be a reasonable population there including young birds (see picture above).

The Raysut treated water lake

Black winged stilt was also seen right at the start.

black winged stilts

White cheeked tern was there showing how close to the sea the site is.

white cheeked tern

There was one clump of trees which Indian house crow were claiming for themselves.

Indian house crows

This was yet another water body in the Salalah area with glossy ibis.

glossy ibis

There are a few small pools at the edge of the main water body.

pools at the side of the lake

Temminck's stint was quite common at these.

Temminck's stint

The pools and the sides of the main water were teeming with citrine wagtail. I also saw two yellow wagtail.

citrine wagtail

Although there were a small number of white cheeked tern, the main tern was white winged black tern.

juvenile white winged black tern

Gulls were far more numerous still. Indeed there were well over 150 sooty gull in the area and probably 20 or so Heuglin's gull. It was difficult to assess the exact number because they spent much of their time within the treatment plant out of sight of the general public.

Steppe gull

I was looking out for other gulls. One or two of the large white headed gulls were too pale for Heuglin's gull.The one above was identified with the help of BirdForum as a Steppe gull. This was my first addition to my Oman list of the day.

stained grey heron

A stained grey heron caught my attention and at one stage I thought I may have found a vagrant black-headed heron.

adult little bittern

I had been glimpsing a small bittern all session when I accidentally flushed a juvenile bird over to the far bank. To my surprise when I scanned where it had gone, an adult bird flew straight into view. It was an adult little bittern.

juvenile little bittern

It disappeared from view, only for the juvenile to come straight out into the open giving me better views than the adult.

second pose of juvenile little bittern

I was a little disappointed it wasn't a yellow bittern but that will surely come now i am based in Salalah.

black crowned night heron

Soon after the views of the little bittern, I saw the second addition to my Oman list of the day. Two men were walking in the wadi who flushed a juvenile black crowned night heron. I just  managed a photograph before it disappeared.

I worked hard at the water all day and only got good rewards towards the end. 

However before I left the area completely, I chose to cross the road and spend a few minutes in the dry part of the wadi.

spotted thick-knee

I seem to have the knack of stumbling across spotted thick-knee. This time there were at least three and probably four birds.

two spotted thick-knees

My tip for seeing this bird, is get out of your car and walk. They are unlikely to be seen from a car unless they are within 3 metres of your window. Even then you could miss them.

Monday 29 September 2014

Caspian plover and lots more

On Friday the plan had been to visit Raysut treated water lake but an issue with a "recommended" driver caused this to be delayed for 24 hours hours. So at the last moment I made an impromptu decision to revisit central Salalah. This entailed starting at Wadi Salalah, moving down to Khawr Salalah on the coast and then walking up to the Central Park.

I had no high hopes as they had been visited a week before. I decided I would concentrate on getting better photos of birds already seen in Oman.

As it happened things turned out very well.

Indian pond heron

It didn't look that way to begin with. The wadi had far fewer birds than the week before. Perhaps this was due to the presence of a female marsh harrier. Either way, for example there were no garganey or ruff to be seen this weekend.

A close Indian pond heron allowed me better photos than I had had before of this species. 

Black tailed godwit

A black-tailed godwit was one of the fewer waders around.

common redshank

I got closer to common redshank than they usually allow. Since the wadi wasn't very productive I quickly moved on to the Khawr. It was here that things got interesting.

grey plover with pacific golden plover

Among the 40 or so Pacific golden plover scattered around the site but concentrated on the sand bar was a grey plover

grey plover

Grey plover is often a solitary bird on passage and in winter. This one was no exception. It soon flew off down the coast 50 metres to be alone. I followed it.

Caspian plover

When I turned back towards the sand bar that separates a khawr from the sea, there were tens of lesser sand plover and greater sand plover mixing with the pacific golden plover.

I suddenly realised that one of the closest plovers to me was none of these three species but a Caspian plover. It is far more graceful than the sand plovers.

Caspian plover with greater sand plover

Incidentally there is a big discrepancy between the size quoted for a greater sand plover in my three guides. Helms and, Madge and Beaman have it 10-15% larger than Collins. By comparing against other birds including the Caspian plover then Collins is right.

Caspian plover running

By scanning around, I saw there were actually three Caspian plover in the mixed group. More like Kentish plover than any other species, their preferred escape strategy is to run.

Caspian plover running further

My good run continued because as soon as I left the khawr to head to the Central Park I passed my first Isabelline wheatear since I came to Oman.

Isabelline wheatear

The route to the central park means walking past the wadi again. A quick look there showed a several little ringed plover had turned up. This is another first for me in Oman.

Little ringed plover

Little ringed plover love little pebbly islands in fresh water and that is exactly where they were this time.
common redshank

I was also pleased to see another common redshank but this time in part summer plumage.

Golden oriole

When I arrived at the park, I was lucky enough to get a clear view of one of the golden oriole. Last week I saw two. This week there were three: two females and a male. One female gave me a clean photo. 

spotted flycatcher

There were no new birds from last week but I am hopeful about this location for this winter. A spotted flycatcher was also photographed.

grey-headed kingfisher

I am still seeing plenty of grey-headed kingfisher around the city. This is supposedly a summer visitor. I am beginning to wonder when they will leave.

a splash of colour

Finally one of the things I like about salalah is its sub-tropical feel including its flowers. 

In the next blog, I'll report on my visit to Raysut treated water lake.

Thursday 25 September 2014

Long-toed stint and more

I found time late yesterday afternoon to visit my local at East Khawr but taking in the near-by Dahariz Park for the first time.

This was a successful session with four new additions to my Oman list including a lifer.

Caspian tern

Even on arrival as I first scanned the birds at the seaward end of the Khawr, I immediately pick out some Caspian tern. This was new to the country list.

Caspian tern and others

Right in front of me while I was scaning more widely were four dunlin including a stocky-looking juvenile.

first year Dunlin

Meanwhile out near the Caspian tern were several great crested tern. Saunders's tern, white-cheeked tern and white-winged tern were also present elsewhere.

great crested tern

Just behind the Caspian tern my attention was drawn to a frenetic wader. 

marsh sandpiper turning

It was a marsh sandpiper which was eating vavaciously and turning often. It was clearly hungry. Either way it was another first for me in Oman.

marsh sandpiper

Further away from me a large group of glossy ibis and ruff were sharing some of the area with taller grass.

glossy ibis with ruff

There were a larger number of sooty gull at the khawr and off the beach than usual.

sooty gull

Seven Heuglin's gull were swimming in the khawr too.

garganey with wood sandpiper

There were plenty of Kentish plover, lesser sand plover, greater sand plover and common redshank. Smaller numbers of wood sandpiper, Temminck's stint, sanderling and greenshank were around too. Garganey duck number still seem to be rising and they are getting tamer.

Dahariz Park

After an hour or so I left form the near-by Dahariz Park which is less than 200 metres away and should have been visited before.

Rufous bush robin

It had an almost exactly the same cross section of bird species as the larger Salalah Park last weekend. One small difference is that there were no golden oriole but there was a Bruce's green pigeon.

Scaly-breasted munia

These parks are the only places I have seen scaly breasted munia. Hoopoe like the place too.


Almost as an after-thought I decided to return to the khawr to see if anything had changed in the intervening 45 minutes.

It had. two whimbrel had turned up as had a fast walking wader which I didn't immediately recognise. I knew it was different though. 

 a wet long-toed stint

The bird was very wet initially. I assume it had taken a bath. It was now walking off the water and kept away from the water line all the time I tracked it. 

a dried out long-toed stint

With a long neck, upright stance and of course long toes on dull yellow legs, I worked out it was a long-toed stint. This apparently is quite scarce in the gulf even in Oman. It was certainly a lifer.

desert wheatear

To top the afternoon off, I came across a desert wheatear a few minutes later on the edge of the khawr. Excluding blackstart (which really is a wheatear), this was my first sighting of wheatear in Oman.

I was very pleased with yesterday afternoon.