Tuesday, 10 February 2015

First visit to Dowkah farm

Dowkah farm is almost exactly 200 kilometres north of Salalah and in the desert. I went there for the first time on the way back from Qatbeet last Saturday. I arrived early and birded until mid-morning. I liked the place and can understand why it is seen as a birding hotspot.

spotted sandgrouse in flight

At about 8.30 am two waves of spotted sandgrouse arrived and sought out a stubble field. I saw almost as many there as at Muntasar oasis the day before.

male chestnut-bellied sandgrouse

Later I came across a second type of sandgrouse on the farm. There were a dozen or so chestnut-bellied sandgrouse in a field. This sandgrouse likes a more vegetated environment than spotted sandgrouse but even I was surprised just how tall the grass was in the field they chose.

female chestnut-bellied sandgrouse

Before I observed any sandgrouse, the birding had started slowly in the pivot fields. The most common bird was white wagtail with house sparrow and tawny pipit a close second.

house sparrow

The house sparrow was the same type as I had seen in Muddayy and Rabkout which have this grey rump extending half way up the mantle.

tawny pipit

The tawny pipit were best seen in the lowest height fields.

desert wheatear

The wheatears were mostly desert wheatear and they were numerous though I did see two Isabelline wheatear as well.

black crowned sparrow lark

The larks were a mix of hoopoe lark, black-crowned sparrow lark and crested lark.

rear view of black redstart

What makes Dowkah farm so interesting apart from its geographic location is the variety of habitats.

The pivot fields are only part of the story. There is an significantly large area of dense palm trees alongside rows of pomegranate bushes, a varied horticultural patch and a few other trees. I believe this can be an exciting place especially in the passage seasons. It provides lots of shade, seeds and a very large number of flies!

On this occasion there was a black redstart (eastern) present as an example of the unusual birds this area must get.

front view of black redstart

The horticultural patches included tomatoes, potatoes and cabbage. A bluethroat was seen walking down one of the rows.

bluethroat walks away

In the tallest trees were several cattle egret. I saw one bird carrying apparent nesting material.

cattle egret

I eventually dragged myself away from this area mostly because I had done without breakfast to get there at an early time and was feeling hungry.

young black-crowned sparrow lark

I stopped to admire an extremely tame young black-crowned sparrow lark. This bird allowed very close contact.

black-crowned sparrow lark

I was impressed by Dowkah farm and will make sure I visit it in March when the passage season is in full flow. I would hope to see some very good birds then.

After Dowkah farm, I stopped off at Al Beed farm and the northern (dry) slopes of the Dhofar mountains on the way back to Salalah. I managed to add yet another bird to my Oman list. I will blog about this next.


  1. The House Sparrows with the extensive grey rump you show here are more like Indian. This is a potential future split, although you get intergrades in Iran. I'm sure they're a different form, with their habit of avoiding settlements.

  2. That makes a lot of sense. I read somewhere else that the same conclusion was reached about house sparrow in remote southern parts of Saudi. I am also in the Indian sparrow camp too. Interesting.