Sunday 30 November 2014

First visit to West Khawr

It has been nearly three months since I arrived in Salalah and yet Friday was my first visit to West Khawr. The only reason I have for not going there sooner is that it is a little bit more complicated to get to as it can be approached only by a minor road.

I liked the habitat. It is the only khawr with substantial mangroves and somehow the water level is slightly tidal. I presume the sea water applies pressure through the separating land bar.

The mangroves have potential as a haven for birds. 

pheasant-tailed jacana

Once again I easily found a pheasant-tailed jacana even though there is little floating vegetation.

pheasant-tailed jacana looking back

In one corner of the khawr there was a cluster of some of the larger birds. The jacana was part of that cluster. Others included four great cormorant, three cattle egret and a little egret.

great cormorant

The nucleus of the group though was formed by about 20 flamingo though they were in the water next to the bank.


I am starting to think about target species. I chose west Khawr with black-necked grebe and cotton teal in mind.

adult little grebe

Neither were there although there were several little grebe. I inspected them all.

first year little grebe

There was evidence through the young birds that little grebe breeds here.

common coot

Red knobbed coot definitely does breed here. However the one coot I did see was a typical Eurasian coot. The sharp shape of the black feathers cutting into the bill is one easy way of separating them.

 common sandpiper

The muddy banks in the mangroves and around them are good habitat for waders. Temminck's stint was common as were common sandpiper and green sandpiper.


Lesser numbers of dunlin and wood sandpiper were also present.

wood sandpiper

Common moorhen though was arguably the most abundant bird of them all at the khawr but they were quite secretive and had plenty of mangroves to hide in.

My best find at the khawr came very late on in my visit. I had gone down a side section of the khawr which was very muddy when I heard a noise I recognised from this summer's birding in Kurdistan.  

red wattled lapwing

I had stumbled across five red-wattled lapwing. They are apparently very common in the Muscat area but should'nt really be down here at all despite winter dispersal.  My regional guide's map has them falling about 400 kilometres short of this area.

three red wattled lapwing

My visit to West Khawr was only two hours long and that was my only birding of the day.

The next day which was Saturday was full on birding from dawn until an hour before dusk. It was also a special birding day as I will disclose in the next blog.

Wadi Salalah with warblers

Early on Thursday morning I visited Wadi Salalah for the first time in over a month. There is no longer continuous water all across the wadi. However it now consists of large pools, reeds and sedge grasses. This is a habitat I haven't found elsewhere in the city and the birding did prove to be a little different.

For a start I found my first chiffchaff in the country.


It's an uncommon bird in southern Oman. It is so uncommon I saw 202 species ahead of it.

pools at Wadi Salalah

I never thought I would be so happy at seeing this "ordinary" bird.

second view of chiffchaff

Indeed the habitat appeared more amenable to migrant passerines than most others I have seen in Dhofar. Though I have made a mental note to get into the local plantations and see what they can offer. 

third view of chiffchaff

While I only saw one chiffchaff, I observed three great reed warbler in the wadi.

great reed warbler

One was in a barren tree next to the one with the chiffchaff and was very confiding.

second view of great reed warbler

This small cluster of trees over hanging the reeds and in the shade caused by the wadi's side wall were a "purple patch". A male and female shining sunbird also hopped on to them at one stage.

graceful prinia

Several graceful prinia were seen in the wadi including in the same cluster of barren trees.

I suspect there were sedge warbler there but I failed to get any good views.


The site was good for passerines all round.  Among them, bluethroat were easily seen.

second view of bluethroat

Bluethroat were of all ages and both genders.

female or immature bluethroat

Both citrine wagtail and white wagtail were noisily present.

citrine wagtail

Generally in the Salalah area, the number of Turkestan shrike has gone down just as the number of Daurian shrike has gone up. I believe this one is a Daurian shrike. However contrary to what I have read in some sources there are still some Turkestan shrike here and look set for the winter.

Daurian shrike

The pools in the wadi meant waders were a still feature of the bird population.

spotted redshank

Temminck's stint was the most common but in the deeper pools birds such as common redshank and green sandpiper were present. Two spotted redshank were also there. 

Thanks are due to an anonymous commenter who recommended I re-look at the identification which had been common redshank in earlier versions of this blog. I should have been more careful particularly as this wadi is very similar to the muddy estuaries they prefer in winter.

little ringed plover

Little ringed plover was there last time I visited too.

two dunlin

Dunlin was the second most common wader though.


Despite the low water levels, five flamingo were in the deepest water which was only 10-15 centimetres.

greater white fronted goose

Close-by was a greater white fronted goose. There seems to have been a major influx of them in Dhofar this year.

tawny pipit

Next to the wadi is some dry scrub land with scattered trees and birds from that habitat drifted over from time to time. These included tawny pipit and crested lark.

crested lark

One bird in the scrub land which didn't appear in the wadi this time was Ruepell's weaver.

Ruepell's weaver

I was pleased to visit a different an uncommon habitat at wadi Salalah. The next day I went to West Khawr for the first time which only about 2 kilometres from the wadi. There I once again  added to my Oman list. I will blog about that next.

Saturday 29 November 2014

Khawr Rori good for ducks and jacana

I spent nearly three hours at Khawr Rori on Wednesday from late morning until early afternoon. thankfully at this time of year it doesn't get too hot.

I went for general birding but I had noted that there was a recent claim of black-headed heron there and I also wanted to see if any black-necked (eared) grebe had arrived. Unfortunately I saw neither yet it was still a good session. i saw 47 species which is probably the highest count in one place for me in Oman.

Last time the big surprise for me was the presence of 25 greater white fronted goose. There were still there but have moved to spend more time on the grass bar between the khawr and the sea.

greater white fronted goose

This wasn't where I started out. That was in the north west corner where there is lots of low cover and birding is usually very interesting. 

The startling news is that I observed seven (7) pheasant-tailed jacana which doesn't seem a very shy bird to me. 

pheasant-tailed jacana swimming

Three were seen swimming in the water. At the same time two were near-by walking over some floating vegetation. 

pheasant-tailed jacana walking on vegetation

Finally having seen these I walked on only to see two more flying in the direction of the others.

pheasant-tailed jacana flying

All this happened around 11.30 am.

northern shoveller and wigeon

Khawr Rori had well over 100 ducks on the water. The dabbling ducks were mostly in the southern seaward end and in the middle while the diving ducks were generally further towards the back in the north west corner.

There were at least ten wigeon. The first one I saw was resting next to a shoveller.

two wigeon

There were several more on the water. It was species number 201 on my Oman list.

common pochard

The diving ducks were most tufted duck. However there were at least three ferruginous duck and one common pochard. This became species 202 on my list.  That is now all the ducks I am likely to meet down here with the exception of the rare cotton teal also known as cotton pygmy goose.

northern pintail

I noticed that many of the dabbling ducks swam near a flock of flamingo. I don't know whether that is meaningful or not. These included gadwell, garganey, pintail and teal as well as the previously mentioned northern shoveller and wigeon.

flamingo and other water birds

Three great cormorant were observed. I have yet to see a Socotra cormorant in Oman though one or two have been reported in the Salalah area this winter.

great cormorant

Among the other birds, I didn't expect to see black-tailed godwit in the long grass. A single bar-tailed godwit was seen elsewhere. 

Despite seeing 47 species, small waders were not present in any numbers. Godwits may well have outnumbered sandpipers.

black-tailed godwit

Most of my attention was directed towards the water. Osprey were seen on both water catching fish and on land resting.


Otherwise land birds included a late migrating group of 3 blue-cheeked bee-eater, three Arabian wheatear, mobile flocks of Ruepell's weaver and a screaming well hidden group of young Tristram's starling in the canopy of a tree.

A late blue-cheeked bee-eater

After this trip I went home for the rest of the day. I decided that a short trip within the city would be a good idea on Thursday. I'll write about that next.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Three places on the east side

This blog is a compendium of of the highlights of visits to three places on the eastern edge of the city of Salalah which were visited either on Tuesday evening or early Wednesday. This was at the beginning of a four day weekend here.

The three places were Ayn Razat on Tuesday evening, East Khawr on Tuesday afternoon and dawn on Wednesday and,  Ayn Hamran still early on Wednesday.

At Ayn Razat birding was quite light except for the appearance of a blue rock thrush in a tree next to the car park. This was one of only three birds on my country list where I didn't previously manage a photograph. 

blue rock thrush

Otherwise birds were restricted to Ruepell's weaver, common sandpiper, blackstart, laughing dove, collared dove, pale crag martin, white spectacled bulbul  and cinnamon breasted bunting.


Ayn Hamran the next morning gave me a new bird for my Oman list. It was a masked shrike perched right by where I had parked my car and was a treat just as I was going to leave.

masked shrike

A few minutes earlier I had been watching a male and female common teal at the bottom end of the spring.

teal drake

I discovered that in the very yellow light of early morning my camera over compensates for yellow. The wing bars in the photos appear blue. Thanks are due to experts on BirdForum for pointing this out.

teal duck

There is always varied birding at Ayn Hamran. This time I concentrated on birding near the stream.

grey wagtail

Both grey wagtail and citrine wagtail are ever present there in winter. Despite being a hillside spot, several waders are too.

citrine wagtail and green sandpiper

The visit to East Khawr at dawn on  Wednesday also gave me an addition to my Oman list. This time it was a black headed gull.

juvenile black headed gull

This bird was in with group of about 15 slender billed gull. It shows partly juvenile and partly first winter plumage. The two vague dark smudges from the eye up to the mid crown and the one from the black spot up the rear crown are visible. The bill has a much more extensive dark tip than a juvenile slender-billed gull too. There are other features that match black-headed gull as well.

a few cattle egret

This was an excellent start to the morning. It was only my second dawn visit to the khawr. What was most apparent was the shear numbers of cattle egret that roost there only to disappear during the day.

many cattle egret

The geese and ducks seen the day before appear to spend the night there too.

greater white fronted goose

While there are plenty of ducks at East Khawr. It is not the premier site for them in the Salalah area.

female gadwell at east Khawr

Khawr Rori has many more and is more likely to show up a rarity because of that.

tufted duck at east Khawr

Khawr Rori was where I spent the rest of my birding day on Wednesday. The next blog will report on that.