Thursday, 18 December 2014

Sociable lapwing and two types of turtle dove at the farm

I have a little bit more time on Wednesday afternoons to go birding than on other weekdays. I chose to stay local and go to Sawnout farm.

On my drive out as I was travelling down the main road which cuts the farm in two, I saw a large flock of sociable lapwing fly directly over my car. This was an auspicious start. There was no chance to stop and for some reason they had flown from the arable and beef section of the farm to the smaller plantation and marketing gardening section.  This southern section has no easy lines of sight.

Nevertheless I decided I ought to go looking for them. Indeed I spent all the next 3 hours looking for them.

Oriental turtle dove

Early on in the search as I was scanning I came across three turtle doves on adjacent wires. One was an Oriental turtle dove but the other two were European turtle dove.

First European turtle dove

The European turtle dove is noticeably lighter, This is mostly caused by the much broader orange scapulars. There are other major differences too which I wont go into as the identification is clear. However I did check on birdforum where the verdict was unanimous. I did this because others have only reported oriental turtle dove at the farm this year.  Both species are known but rare winterers to the Dhofar region.

Second European turtle dove

Returning to the search for the sociable lapwing: I first took a quick look at the southern perimeter of the cereal farm where I could see interesting species such as chestnut-bellied sandgrouse and cream-coloured courser but no lapwings.

male chestnut bellied sandgouse on the farm

I then decided to drive to the coastal side of the southern section of the farm to see if there was line of sight and to pick up the sociable lapwing, This is a two kilometre drive past east Khawr.

This proved fruitless. The best birds I saw were more chestnut bellied sandgrouse near the coast.

chestnut bellied sandgrouse near the coast

I then decided it was best to go to the western perimeter of the northern (main section) of the farm and wait. It was on the way to that point that I saw the turtle doves.

European roller

So it was on the western perimeter than I spent over two hours waiting and watching. On a near-by pivot bar was a dark European roller and on near-by dead palms were both rose ringed parakeet and on another was kestrel.

rose ringed parakeet

However for the most part I was looking into the farm.


There was the odd distraction for example when eight greater white fronted geese flew over.

greater white fronted geese

As I watched I could see there were two main areas of large scale bird activity. One was next to me  where part of a field had been very recently cut. The other was over 500 metre away where a pivot bar was spraying water on some high crops. The white winged black tern were mostly over there. The cattle egret went from one to the other.

common myna

Large numbers of common myna and yellow wagtail were also seen on the cut field near me.

cattle egret

I had no sign of the sociable lapwing until a pallid harrier went to the spraying area about an hour before sunset. Suddenly the cattle egret and white winged black tern bolted 500 metres to field next to me. However there was third flock and as it took to the air I realised it was sociable lapwing. They had probably been in among that high crop being sprayed for some time.

yellow wagtail

Unfortunately for me they moved off to another field of high crops almost as far way. 

black crowned sparrow lark

With a few minor distractions such as the sight of a black-crowned sparrow lark on the edge of my field, I kept my eye on the lapwings at great distance.

sociable lapwing on the move

Fifteen minutes before dusk they suddenly and at great speed left the farm westward presumably to roost. They came a little closer for moments as they left. I managed one distant shot in the gloom of the leading group. 

I should get better views this winter as they are likely to stay here on past record.

I have now seen them in three countries: Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia and Oman. 

List and numbers of species seen at the farm

Greater white fronted geese 8
Cattle Egret 110
Squacco Heron 4
Greater Spotted Eagle 1
Eastern Imperial Eagle 1
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier 1
Pallid Harrier 2
Sociable Lapwing 32
Cream-coloured Courser 2
White-winged Tern 40
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse 6
Feral Pigeon 20
European Turtle-Dove 2
Oriental Turtle-Dove 1
Eurasian Collared-Dove 260
Laughing Dove 120
Namaqua Dove 5
European Roller 1
Common Kestrel
Ring-necked Parakeet 22
Daurian Shrike 2
Asian Grey Shrike 1
House Crow 6
Crested Lark 5
Black-Crowned Sparrow-Lark 1
Sand Martin 6
Barn Swallow 25
Graceful Prinia 2
Desert Wheatear 5
Isabelline Wheatear 2
Common Myna 35
Yellow Wagtail 90
White Wagtail 8
House Sparrow 6
Ruppell's Weaver 14
African Silverbill 38


  1. Robert, those 7 "cormorants" are not cormorants, but geese. My best guess for the species is Greater white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons)

  2. Olli, thanks and changed. I aim to post within 24 hours and this sometimes happens when I concentrate on the main event and its IDs.Rob

  3. Rob, I know, that happens each and every one of us. I like your blog, it's nice to read your stories from far south. If you wish to read stories from far north, see my blog: I'm bit lazy with it, or actually, I don't have enought time to write all stories...