Saturday, 13 December 2014

Migrants include taiga flycatcher at Qatbeet

I drove over 650 kilometres yesterday to visit Qatbeet motel gardens. This site is a wooded garden in the middle of the desert on the Salalah- Muscat main road.

It is known to have some exotic winter vagrants from time to time probably because it is the only mixed wooded habitat for many tens if not a hundred kilometres. For example last winter a rare black throated thrush was seen in the same bush as a vagrant dusky thrush.

It was this prospect that enticed me to make this very long journey starting out at 4.30am from Salalah.

I arrived at about 7.30 am and it still very cold in the desert. The birds were just stirring. 

Indian pond heron

The very first two birds I saw were a good start. One was my first desert whitethroat in Oman, the second was a surprising Indian pond heron in a tree. The middle of the desert is a strange place for a pond heron.

female taiga flycatcher

However the real exotic was seen about half an hour later in the most shaded and dampest part of the wood. It was a female taiga flycatcher!  I am not sure it has ever been officially recorded in Oman though I know through the grapevine that at least two sets of birders claim to have seen separate ones in the Salalah area recently.

Note it has no buff colours as with a female a red-breasted flycatcher. It is just greys, black and white. The overall impression is much colder. The bill is uniform dark, the underparts are a light grey with a distinct bright white throat. The rump is very dark too.

There are more pictures which I am using in the rarity submission.

You may want to look how closely it resembles a bird seen in Dubai two winters ago.

song thrush

Nothing could beat that observation in the rest of the time at the motel. However there were some other migrants including this song thrush.


I briefly observed a bluethroat too.


There were three chiffchaff. This one was in the same place as the flycatcher.

white wagtail

White wagtail were the easiest migrant to see being most out in the open.

desert wheatear

Wheatears are more common outside the garden wall but at least one was inside.

black necked raven

There were resident local birds around too of course. A brown-necked raven put on a show on a lamppost.

second view of brown-necked raven

The male nile valley sunbird are starting to moult into breeding plumage.

nile valley sunbird

Certainly the most common resident is laughing dove.

laughing dove

The other two main residents are Eurasian collared dove and house sparrow.

collared dove

Unlike the house sparrow to their south and west these are quite happy on buildings. Indeed they nest on the motel. They are more "normal".

house sparrow

I also visited two more desert sites. I will blog about these next.


  1. Hi Rob,

    The status of Taiga Flycatcher in Oman seems to be a bit of a mystery - it doesn't seem to be on the official list, but several visiting birders have claimed them, including Andrew Whitehouse, who photographed an orange-throated bird at the same spot (Qatbit) last January. There's no reason why the species shouldn't occur there, as there have been a number of sightings in the UAE in recent years. I suspect those in charge of birding there suspect that intergrades occur - there's some talk of RBFs with dark rumps - and perhaps there hasn't been a good enough photographic record yet. Your excellent shots should change that. Did the bird call, by the way? Taiga is supposed to have a different call, although one birder said he'd observed three RBFs in one area with one calling like a Taiga.

    I'm not very good on wheatears, but couldn't yours be a Desert rather than an Izzy?

  2. Andy, I also believe it should be quite regular. I dont think the rarities committee is unfair. I suspect that people are simple not submitting when they are away from home. As for the wheatear I actually put desert first then changed it at a whim. I'll change it back! Rob

  3. Rob

    Great record of the Taiga Flycatcher. Shows putting in the efoort pays off eventually. Well done. I am hoping to find one in Saudi Arabia soemtime, but it may be a while I suspect!


  4. Jem, thanks for these words. I want to get it through the rarities committee but I am sure about it myself. I suspect the bird is overlooked. I also think you have a fighting chance in your part of KSA. Rob