Tuesday 2 December 2014

Lesser whistling duck at Mughsail

I went to Khawr Mughsayl on Saturday and birdied it very intensively seeing a total of 55 species.

The big news is that I saw a lesser whistling duck (subject to approval by Oman's rarities committee) at one of the back pools. 

There are only four approved records for a total of 16 birds in Oman and only one in the rest of the Middle east in Israel.  I have already sent off a rare birds report for the Oman Rarities Committee to consider.

early view of a lesser whistling duck

I had been sitting still and calmly in among the cliffs looking down on this back pool when I saw a blue glint in the reeds. Using my binoculars I could see it was the bill of a bird which was resting on the edge of the reeds. Furthermore I had no idea what it was.

I managed to clamber down the hillside and hide behind a tall clump of reeds on the opposite back to the duck which was 6 metres away.

It hardly moved the half an hour I observed and photographed it.

lesser whistling duck starts to move

Consulting Birdforum, then my guide book and on-line material it is a lesser whistling duck.

It is a nocturnal feeder and often rests all day. This explained its lack of activity. Furthermore the freshwater pool is typical habitat for it.

lesser whistling duck in new position

The only confusion species is fulvous whistling duck which is also a vagrant to Oman. However there are several differences. The upper tail coverts are chestnut red in a lesser whistling duck. They are nearly white in a fulvous whistling duck. The chestnut colour can just be seen in the first photo. The face and overall colouration on a fulvous whistling duck is more fulvous too!

The sighting of this duck was roughly half way through a birding session in the Khawr beginning at 9.30 am and finishing at 3 pm with only a stop to replace a flat tyre.

I started out at the coastal end and worked inland through all the pools and adjacent plain and hillsides.

pheasant tailed jacana

The coastal pools didn't hold anything special this time apart from two pheasant-tailed jacana including one confiding bird. Otherwise the beach lagoons hled mostly various herons, gulls and flamingo.


The next stop inland was the largest pool. Here were plenty of ducks including tufted duck and ferruginous duck. There were also moorhen and coot. I was especially on the look out for cotton teal but there were none.

After this I drove a little further inland and left the car. I walked on foot for the rest of the wadi. I walked towards the next pool. This second inland pool is much smaller than the first but it has provided me with many good birds including a yellow bittern on previous trip and now a lesser whistling duck.

As  I walked alongside the hillside, a common kestrel came close.

Then I settled down and sit on the lower hillside looking in at the pool. On first look there were just more moorhen and some cattle egret and a single little egret. It was then I glimpsed the lesser whistling duck after sitting for about ten minutes and scanning.

some Abdim's stork

The duck was not the only spectacle while I was sitting though it was the most important one.A flock of near 100 storks flew over and hesitated in the area for a few seconds before moving on. 
one white stork

All the storks were Abdim's stork except one which was a white stork.

the stork flock

The pool also had yet another pheasant-tailed jacana which I got best views of as I left. 

another pheasant tailed jacana

I moved further inland, this time on foot towards the smallest and most inland pool.

bonelli's eagle

While doing this, a juvenile Bonelli's eagle flew into the area briefly

striolated bunting

Striolated bunting and blackstart kept coming down from the hillside onto the wadi floor. Tawny pipit were already there.

blue rock thrush

A blue rock thrush was perched in a small bush.

long billed pipit

Several Long billed pipit were on the lower hillside.

greater spotted eagle

As I arrived at the back pool, I accidentally flushed an Eastern Imperial Eagle and a greater spotted eagle which had both been resting there.

Sitting a under a tree as cover and finally a couple of moorhen came out alongside a garganey. I also viewed my first bluethroat of the day. It was restful but not particularly eventful there.

Following my visit to Mughsayl, I popped into the Eftelqoot area on the way back home. This was a new site for me and I am glad I went there. I will blog about that next.

List of 55 species seen at Mughsayl
Lesser Whistling-Duck  1   
Northern Shoveler  4
Northern Pintail  4
Garganey  6
Ferruginous Duck  3
Tufted Duck  3
Arabian Partridge  9    
Little Grebe  6
Greater Flamingo  8
Abdim's Stork  90    
White Stork  1
Great Cormorant  1
Gray Heron  5
Purple Heron  1
Intermediate Egret  1
Little Egret  1
Western Reef-Heron  4
Cattle Egret  3
Squacco Heron  4
Osprey  1
Steppe Eagle  1
Imperial Eagle  2
Bonelli's Eagle  1
Eurasian Moorhen  14
Eurasian Coot  5
Pheasant-tailed Jacana  4    
Common Sandpiper  5
Green Sandpiper  2
Common Greenshank  2
Common Redshank  4
Common Snipe  2
Slender-billed Gull  12
Sooty Gull  30
Steppe Gull  3
Heuglin's Gull 22
Laughing Dove  12
Green Bee-eater  1
European Roller  1
Eurasian Kestrel  1
Daurian Shrike  1
Pale Crag-Martin 4
Barn Swallow  6
White-spectacled Bulbul  2
Bluethroat  1
Blue Rock-Thrush  1
Blackstart  5
Northern Wheatear  1
Desert Wheatear  6
Isabelline Wheatear  2
Tristram's Starling  9
Citrine Wagtail  4
White Wagtail  2
Long-billed Pipit  5
Tawny Pipit  7
Striolated Bunting  6   

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