Monday 6 October 2014

Road to Thumrait

Yesterday, I travelled to Thumrait which is the north and dry side of the Dhofar mountains. However I spent most of my time at the plateau of the mountains. First on the way up I stopped off the main road to Thumrait. On the way back I turned off towards Zeek and travelled back to Salalah from there.

On the first stop off I was met by four or five long billed pipit scattered around the lay-by.

long billed pipit

On a telephone wire was a rufous-tailed rock thrush providing that the observation the day before wasn't a fluke. Laughing dove were also on the same wire.

rufous-tailed rock thrush

Up there the habitat was a mixture of grassland and in the slightly more sheltered areas, woodland. In the woods were several warblers. Most were common whitethroat but also included Upcher's warbler and a single willow warbler.

common whitethroat

The prize sighting though was a juvenile common cuckoo which evaded the camera.  Back out in the grassland were plenty of singing bush lark

singing bush lark

Most of the noise was not coming from their singing but form two buntings. There were cinnamon breasted bunting (also seen on the woodland edges) but also striolated bunting. This is best told apart from cinnamon breasted bunting by its lighter and often more russet wing.

striolated bunting

The map in the regional guide has the striolated bunting with the wider distribution. However I am confident now that it is the cinnamon breasted which is more common and striolated only occurs above about 500 or 600 metres. I suspect some misreporting.  

fan-tailed raven

I knew the hills had ravens and it didn't take too long for two fan-tailed raven to appear.

After this I moved on up another half a kilometre before stopping again at a turn off. This place was even more grassland.

Arabian partridge

In the distance I saw an Arabian partridge which I photographed only to find the adult was being followed by a young bird barely bigger than a chick.

Arabian wheatear

Near-by was a tame male Arabian wheatear.

Turkestan shrike

It was here I saw a more attractive Turkestan shrike than usual. I presume it was still in summer plumage.

Onwards and upwards, I passed a blue rock thrush sitting on the concrete barrier separating the lanes just before the top.

The contrast between the lush southern side of the hills and the north side is stark. Thumrait itself is a dusty settlement which reminded me so much of the small desert towns in Saudi Arabia.

hoopoe lark

The birding in the semi-desert was tough. I only managed two lark species. Hoopoe lark was relatively common. However I only saw one black-crowned sparrow lark.

black-crowned sparrow lark

On the way back I visited the frankincense park. It's actually row up on row of frankincense bushes.

frankincense park

I was intrigued to know what birds might like this habitat. The answer is barely any.

Red-backed shrike-Daurian shrike hybrid

I saw just one bird and it was a shrike passing through. I must admit it looked a bit odd with so much grey down the back. Thanks to Andy from UAE for investigating and pointing me to examples of hybrids of the red-tailed shrike complex. Given how grey it is I suspect the partner is Daurian shrike rather than Turkestan shrike.

After visiting the frankincense park, I made my way up to the top of the hills and then turned off the main road towards Zeek. it is really beautiful up there especially when compared with barren land I had just left behind. 

woodland in the Dhofar mountains

In woods I flushed a second common cuckoo and saw a Dideric cuckoo too.

European roller

On one stretch of road, I observed five European roller and four rufous-tailed rock thrush on wires.

brown-necked raven

There was more actions on wires. Two brown-necked raven were trying to intimate a kestrel from leaving. It was sitting on a wire too. The ravens succeeded. They really don't like birds of prey in their patch.

common kestrel

I was having most observations off the wires! One of the last birds seen before I made my descent down into Salalah was a male desert wheatear on a wire.

desert wheatear

Today I will be heading west of the city.


  1. Lovely stuff! Seems to be a great birding locality.

  2. Sorry to say this but I don't think that's a Striolated either......

  3. Andy, thought it was an OK match for a juvenile striolated having looked at others. Juveniles dont have the russet tones on the wing.

  4. Wow! Great stuff in this post! Keep up the good work.

  5. Hiya, my first impression is Cinnamon-Breasted for the bunting on the wire; tricky though!
    Great blog, and keep birding! My 2 weeks in Jan was fantastic, but having looked at some weather data, you're giving me ideas about an August trip, so thanks! ;-)

  6. Can I recommend first week September as the room prices are five times lower and the weather is still cool.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thanks for the tip re: early Sept; i've been mentioning the idea to a couple of birding mates here..
      (2nd attempt without the spelinge mistakes!)