Saturday 11 October 2014

Forbes-Watson's swift colony

Yesterday, I went out birding very early on my own and then was joined by Graeme Knight for the afternoon.

The birding before breakfast by necessity had to be local. I called in at East Khawr and over looked the fence at Sahnawt farm. The farm is out of bounds to birders for disease control reasons.

This was my first visit to East Khawr for nearly two weeks. The European spoonbill and the one African sacred ibis were still there as were several grey heron, little egret, western reef heron and one great egret. Northern shoveller had joined the garganey. The wader numbers were low so perhaps they don't roost there.

slender-billed gull

In contrast the gull numbers were higher than before. I was particularly pleased to see five slender-billed gull. These were my first in Oman.

three slender-billed gull

After over half an hour at the Khawr I made the short journey to Sahnawt farm and looked over the fence. I saw fifteen or so cattle egret arrive from a roost in one of the palm plantations. In one of the fields European collared dove were already hard at work eating. It seemed a bit strange to see a rose-ringed parakeet on the ground apparently eating with them.

rose-ringed parakeet

However the best sight was a distant one (and still in poor early morning light). It was a pallid harrier.  

top of pallid harrier

This is a classic bird of pivot field birding and made me realise one feature that has been missing since I left Saudi Arabia. There is no easy access to large pivot field based farms in Salalah since Jarziz farm closed down.

bottom of pallid harrier

After breakfast and some domestic arrangements, I returned to birding around noon with Graeme.

We elected to do some coastal birding in the Taqah area which I hadn't been to before. It was hot and humid but just about bearable because of the sea.

a Forbes-Watson swift

The khawr at Taqah was been completely ruined by over-zealous landscaping so we quickly moved on from there to the beach. The long streatch of sand had many tens of sooty gull, Heuglin's gull and a few more slender-billed gull (only seen earlier in the morning).

We headed towards the eastern end of the beach where some limestone cliffs meet the sea.

As we got close it was apparent that swarming around the cliffs were about 300 Forbes-Watson's swift.

several Forbes-Watson's swift

This is obviously an important site for them.

Forbes-Watson's swift

My camera is not good for photographing such fast moving birds but they slowed down when they reached the pot holes in the limestone and some landed.

yet more Forbes-Watson's swift

It was difficult to get pictures of their heads as these were facing away. However they seem to have more in common with common swift than pallid swift to me.

more views

I would hazard that this is not only a roost but a colonial nesting site.

resting Forbes-Watson's swift

This is the only picture with a clear view of the face of one resting bird. I don't know whether it is a nestling. I would be interested to know when they are supposed to breed. Also it has been suggested that they migrate in winter. I will keep a look out for this.

an interesting crab on the same rocks

Today is the last day of my holidays before re-starting work. There will be a lot less birding next week.

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