Monday 23 February 2015

Wadi Hanna and Wadi Darbat

There is a small part of Wadi Hanna which produces a disproportionate number of bird sightings. I don't quite know why. It has more shade and more large trees but the main reason may be that it is the busiest picnic area.

Ironically the trash left behind and which is unsightly produces more flies. The left over food is also edible to many birds of course. These two factors could be important.

It was here that I saw two common redstart. Both were female.

common redstart

They have not been there all winter. This is a passage bird in Dhofar. It is also species 254 on my Oman list and was my target bird for this location and on this day. Birding doesn't always work this smoothly and even in this case there are identification issues.

second picture of common redstart

The photos I took look quite different in the sun and in the shade. It is conceivable the two birds swapped. I have consulted and researched to be sure neither was Evermann's redstart as the white fringing is quite pronounced in some pictures.

I am comfortable with common redstart for several reasons in the end. First the birds didn't appear larger than the Ruppell's weaver near-by. Second the habitat was right for common redstart. Third its (just) outside Evermann's normal range. Fourth, the female samamiscus sub species of common redstart can sometimes have pale fringing. Fifth, I saw no sign of the bird cocking its tail as seen with Evermann's.

I am still awaiting some feedback though and I am still a little unsure about the bird seen in the shade particularly its wing wing bars.

 redstart in the shade

The place was crowded with birds. As well as the redstarts there were plenty of Ruepell's weaver, Abyssinian white eye, African silverbill, cinnamon-breasted bunting, blackstart and white spectacled bulbul.

Ruepell's weaver in the picnic area

My biggest problem was turning down offers of tea from picnickers but I have been in the Middle East long enough to know how to do this politely.

black-crowned tchagra

Having finished with the picnic area, I moved up to the highest point of the wadi. Here vegetation is thinner and the terrain rockier. Nevertheless I came across yet another common redstart. Furthermore having seen a black-crowned tchagra out in the open at Khawr Rori earlier in the day, yet another one was in full view here. It was a good day for tchagra.

Being rockier and higher, it was no real surprise to observe a black redstart. This one was a male of one of the eastern races.

male black redstart

I didn't see any black redstart in early winter. I believe they disperse this far south over the winter and only then to high latitudes. This appears to be a similar situation with red-tailed wheatear.

second view of black redstart

One bird which is always present at the less dense parts of Wadi Hanna is Arabian wheatear.

Arabian wheatear

I also saw several Arabian partridge on Saturday. Instead of being in one tightly knit flock they were dispersed along a cliff edge apparently sunning themselves. As I walked along the edge, one by one they dived over. Each time they saw me before I saw them.

Having combed the area for others birds, I decided to head back towards Salalah but stopping off at Wadi Darbat on the way.

male dark morph African Paradise Flycatcher

There were plenty of African Paradise Flycatcher in evidence. The males were in breeding plumage with long tails. Both dark morph and pale morph were seen.

male pale morph African Paradise Flycatcher

The shaded areas under the trees have had a few tree pipit all winter but there were noticeably more on Saturday. 

tree pipit at Wadi Darbat

However this is hardly a big sign of the passage.

the water at Wadi Darbat

I accidentally disturbed a wryneck in the same cluster of trees. It immediately flew right to the top of a tall tree and didn't move further.

Wryneck in the canopy

Some wryneck winter in Oman.

Elsewhere in the wadi were several western reef heron and common sandpiper along the water.

Eastern Imperial Eagle

Wadi Darbat is one of the best places to see a wide variety of birds of prey. It the past I have seen such varied birds as hobby and booted eagle. This time I had to make do with an Eastern Imperial eagle just before I left.

Most eagles won't be here much longer. I can't wait for more passage.

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