Thursday, 11 September 2014

After the stormy weather

Salalah and its environs receive the south eastern monsoon every summer from mid June until early September.  It results in rain and greenery in the near-by inland hills as well as drizzle, overcast skies and lower temperatures in Salalah itself. The temperatures drop to the high 20s C all summer which is much lower than most of Arabia and typically 15C lower than Riyadh where I last worked.

This year it seems to be more prolonged and is going out with a bang. There is more rain in Salalah than usual and the sea is stormy.

With this in mind I visited my new local patch of East Khawr, Salalah on Tuesday afternoon. Visibility was poor with a mist most of the time.

There was at least one species I saw which had been effected by the stormy seas. Two bridled tern were sitting next to the lagoon. Although one flew off almost immediately headed back towards the sea, the other stayed looking absolutely exhausted.

bridled tern

Bridled tern rarely visits the mainland. I believe these two were forced on to land by the difficult seas.

different view of bridled tern

Another new member of the cast at East Khawr was a western reef heron.

western reef heron

Given that the distribution map in my Helms guide to Birds of the Middle East doesn't show it within 350 kilometres of Salalah, my first thought was that it too had been driven here.

different view of western reef heron

However on discussion on BirdForum it was pointed out it is recorded in Dhofar (the Salalah region) not infrequently. So this bird's arrival may not be related to stormy conditions at all.

four types from the heron family

Other interesting changes since my last visit a few days ago are the departure of the large flock of glossy ibis and the appearance of at least one black winged stilt. The stilt, western reef heron and bridled tern were new additions to my growing Oman list.

Although the glossy ibis had gone, I still managed to see a close group of heron family members from four species (see picture above): African sacred ibis, Eurasian spoonbill, little egret and western reef heron.

distant chestnut-bellied sandgrouse

In the hinterland around the Khawr I accidentally flushed two chestnut-bellied sandgrouse which unfortunately decided to fly off a long way. This was my first sighting of this bird in Oman.

blue pansy

On the walk back I came across a new butterfly for me: blue pansy which is most common in the tropics and sub tropics. To me this is another indication of Salalah's interesting climate.

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