Tuesday, 10 February 2015

250th species at Muntasar

I arrived at Muntasar Oasis at 7a.m on Friday morning helped by the fact I only had to travel 50 kilometres from the Qatbeet motel.

Like many visits my main target was crowned sandgrouse which often come to drink there. It is also a bird I had not yet seen in Oman.

It was barely light at this stage. However some birds were viewable.

cattle egret

A lone cattle egret was out feeding.

citrine wagtail

Near-by a single citrine wagtail was hopping around next to the water.


Yet another single bird spotted in the early morning was a pintail. I had seen this bird on my previous visit this winter. 

wood sandpiper

Not all birds were singles. A pair of wood sandpiper were also in the front area of wetland.  These were actually quite difficult to identify as the cold air made the birds look bulky and more haunched in posture more akin to a green sandpiper. However, the supercilium does appear to go to the back of the eye and the white spots are a little too numerous for that species.

water pipit

As it started to brighten up a pair of water pipit arrived which seemed to loosely associate with the citrine wagtail.

water pipit walking away

I knew water pipit had been reported at the oasis so it wasn't a total surprise when it became the 250th species on my Oman list. Indeed two birders who had arrived at the site even earlier than me on Friday had told me there were water pipit around. The sighting was still very welcome.

I noted that the legs were redder than the average and that the flanks were quite well marked. However experts I consulted in the UAE have told me that this is within the usual tolerance of water pipit and that buff-bellied pipit can be ruled out.

collared dove

The most numerous bird at the oasis early on was European collared dove

Asian grey shrike (aucheri)

By 8.30 am I had still not seen any sandgrouse. However a smart Asian grey shrike (aucheri) made an appearance. I remember seeing one the previous time I visited the oasis.

another view of Asian grey shrike (aucheri)

Finally the first wave of sandgrouse flew over at 8.40 am. Unfortunately they were all spotted sandgrouse.

spotted sandgrouse in flight

Two more waves came between 8.40 am and 940 am and the first wave circled round to land elsewhere. I counted at least 40 birds. However none of the birds came to drink. All of them stayed on the ground close to the oasis but not at the watering holes. They clearly felt no need to drink.

It had been a strange night. When I got in the car at 6.15 am the car was covered in dew and I drove through patchy fog to the oasis. I suspect the sandgrouse simply didn't need any more water.

spotted sandgrouse on the ground

Furthermore there were no crowned sandgrouse.

For those seeking out sandgrouse in the future, I can tell you they all landed at the rear of the oasis away from the approach track.

Desert wheatear and Asian desert warbler

I had come across two Asian desert warbler in the bushes including one small tree shared with a chiffchaff. I had also come across four desert wheatear in less vegetated settings.

However just before I left I saw the famous desert wheatear and Asian desert warbler pairing. Wherever the desert wheatear went, the Asian desert warbler followed.

In the next blog, I will write about my first visit to Dowkah farm which is also less than an hour's drive from Qatbeet.


  1. Not the most exciting 250th but they all count! You really have reached that milestone incredibly quickly.

  2. Andrew, the next 50 will be the real test. I am hoping the passage will help me out. it should be starting about now.