Saturday, 3 January 2015

My search for a demoiselle crane

Yesterday, I opened my email to read one of Jens Eriksen's regular compilations of birding records in Oman. On December 31st, a demoiselle crane was reported at Mughsail.

I dropped my plan for the day and almost immediately set out for Mughsail. When I arrived I searched the area from top to bottom but couldn't find the crane.

I decided that the crane might have moved east to either Raysut lagoons (also called Salalah lagoons) or West Khawr. I reasoned that these were the nearest places with more suitable environment for a crane. However, they are both more than 30 kilometres from Mughsail. So what started out as twitch became a test of my understanding of bird behaviour and local knowledge.

Imagine my satisfaction when I found that my intuition was right.

demoiselle crane

The demoiselle crane was almost alone in the southern stretch of water at Raysut lagoons.

second view of demoiselle crane

I sat down and watched it peacefully for about fifteen minutes. I was at the bottom of the cliffs which form the western side of the wadi housing the lagoons. A few common redshank and white wagtail were the only other birds in this part of the water.

Raysut lagoons

In stark contrast the northern stretch of the lagoons which start about 100 metres from where I was sitting was packed with birds.

Over one hundred white stork were resting on the slopes of the same escarpment as my rocky seat.

white stork resting

More white stork gradually joined them.

white stork in flight

In the water near the storks were two pintail and two little grebe. There may have been more water birds but this area was not my primary interest.

These slopes are where many eagles that are seen at the Raysut rubbish dump roost. Indeed about 15 steppe eagle and 3 eastern imperial eagle were on the cliffs or by the water near the storks.

Early I had been to Mughsail where the crane had originally been reported. First, I checked the lagoon on the eastern side before you come into the village. Here were reef herona great white egret, several grey heron and a few adult flamingo.

grey heron

I had thought this was the best place to see the crane if it were still there.

adult flamingo

I then moved on to Khawr Mughsail on the far side of the village which is a known birding hotspot.

common kestrel

My mission was not to see ducks and other water birds as usual. However a common kestrel which I had seen before and is extremely confiding captured my attention briefly.

Bonelli's eagle

A young Bonelli's eagle certainly caught the attention of the birds which scattered for cover in panic. A pile of feathers at the edge of the second, inner pool was evidence it had been here before. Luckily the vagrant lesser whistling duck had not been his previous meal. It was still present.

first winter or female bluethroat

Other birds also snatched my attention. A bluethroat had decided to climb a rock face in an unusual act. Its near neighbour was a more expected blue rock thrush.

blue rock thrush

Interesting as these views were they were not comparable with my later sighting of the demoiselle crane.


  1. Hi Robert , as I was checking Oman birds sightings in ebird happen to see your checklist its looks impressive & your recent sighting of demosille crane made me curious to search about u & it ended me in this wonderful blog of yours ,thanks for sharing all this findings , I am birdwatcher from India currently working in muscat, Oman.


  2. Yokesh, thank you for your kind words. I enjoy birding in Oman but blogging and birding is very demanding! However as long as there is something new to say I will keep blogging. Enjoy the bird up north! Rob