Friday, 21 November 2014

Sawnout farm

Late Monday afternoon, I visited Sawnout farm. It is actually out of bounds for the general public including birders. This is a health measure since it a cattle farm as well as an arable one.

Nevertheless, you can travel round the 6 kilometre perimeter and look inwards. I did this on the east, north and west sides. The main road is to the south.

pied cuckoo in the shade

On the east side there are very few trees on the perimeter but in one I found a pied cuckoo. This was not what expected from this farm visit.

pied cuckoo in the open

It spent a lot of time in the open but the backlighting was very strong. This is the fourth pied cuckoo I have seen in Oman this autumn.

house sparrow

The same tree held ten house sparrow too. These are the first house sparrow I have seen in the city of Salalah.  They looked identical to the ones seen at Mudayy oasis and their habits were the same. They are pale overall and especially a pale rump extends far up. The crown has more extensive grey and hardly any brown on the head.

These birds are not interested in houses and keep to trees. Their habits remind me more of Spanish sparrow and of desert sparrow.

view of the farm from the east side

After the tree I continued round the northern perimeter. This side of the farm is most cut and fallow at the moment. It is attracting species that like drier terrain than the rest of the farm.

It was here I observed my first tawny pipit in Oman. Luckily it was standing on a high stone otherwise it would not have been seen from the perimeter.

tawny pipit

I had only seen one northern wheatear since arriving in Oman but there were four of them visible over the fence on the east side.

northern wheatear

Although I only counted about 150 yellow wagtail from the side, I am sure the farm must have more than a thousand.

yellow wagtail

It would be a major job recording all the different sub-species present.

yellow wagtail (feldegg)

The birds of prey were varied. I saw two greater spotted eagle, an eastern imperial eagle, four marsh harrier and two common kestrel.


Many of my observations were necessarily on the fence itself. Two juvenile Turkesten shrike were seen. I always have to remember how red (and not brown) tailed the females and juveniles of red-backed shrike often look in the strong sun of Arabia. It is often difficult  to separate the two species at this age and in this light. Barring on the back of red-backed shrike is often the biggest clue. Failing to be able to get that view relies on a judgement on the colour of the tail which is not a perfect method. 

Turkestan shrike

Still on the east side were a flock of resting blue-cheeked bee-eater.

blue-cheeked bee-eater

Four grey heron were sitting in a recently cut field. Two squacco heron were seen on the west side side fence near a water channel.

squacco heron

I don't know where this was a mating ritual or a young parakeet being fed by a parent. Certainly doves do this as a mating ritual. This action was repeated several times.

rose-ringed parakeet

Tens of barn swallow were observed on the west side.

barn swallow

The only other Asian grey shrike I have seen in Oman before was 130 kilometres north at Al Beed farm. There was one at Sawnout farm. It's beginning to look like a farm bird here.

aucheri  - Asian grey shrike

Unfortunately no sociable lapwing were observed but they must surely come soon. Now Jarziz farm is closed, Sawnout farm is there main wintering option in Dhofar.

grey plover

East Khawr (Khawr Dahariz to those of us who live in Salalah) is very close to Sawnout farm. Before going to the farm I paid my daily visit to the khawr.

I din't notice any radical change again. There was a very nice grey plover among the hundreds of waders.

Kentish plover in breeding plumage

Two male Kentish plover were in full breeding plumage. I don't know when the local breeding season for this bird is but I'll look out to see if more change.

frontal view of Kentish plover

Last time I blogged on east Khawr I noticed how a curlew sandpiper was adrift from the main body of waders. This time I noticed several of them in the wet sand rather than in the shallow water seeking out food. It looks like its normal species behaviour after all.

curlew sandpiper

As I was leaving the khawr to head to Sawnout farm,  I spotted a curlew. Many of the birds we get here are of the eastern sub-species orientalis. It's bill is even longer than most.

Eurasian curlew

In my next blog, I will write about a trip taken on Tuesday to Ayn Hamran. 

No comments:

Post a Comment