Thursday, 19 March 2015

Long-billed dowitcher at Khawr Rori

I visited Khawr Rori for the first time in about three weeks on Monday. The last four times the trip was in a part a twitch. Several birders had recorded seeing a long-billed dowitcher though I could never find it on any visit.

This time I visited with no really intention of looking again. I had expended some much time and energy looking round this very large site. 

Of course, the obvious happened. The bird was wading in the first place I stopped off at. Not only that but the sun was behind me and the bird was giving uninterrupted views for nearly ten minutes. It was only ten metres away too. I suspect I got as good views as anyone has managed so far.

long-billed dowitcher

To me it looked more like a plain snipe than a small bar-tailed godwit. Both have used to describe this bird. The only time it looked at all like the godwit was when it stretched its wings and showed its rear.

long-billed dowitcher stretching 

Its feeding action has been described as like a sowing machine. It certainly made photographing the bird difficult when it was in deep water. In shallower water the action changed and that's why most of my shots are from that situation.

long-billed dowitcher finds a water beetle

Long-billed dowitcher breed in the far east of Russia and in Alaska on the Arctic Ocean. Most birds migrate south east to Mexico and Florida for winter. A few fly south west to southern Japan and Taiwan. Vagrancy in Oman is way off course.

long-billed dowitcher about to eat a water beetle

It much prefers fresh water whereas its close cousin, short-billed dowitcher prefers saltier water. This one was extremely lucky to seek out Khawr Rori in such an arid gulf.

long-billed dowitcher after eating

Although the dowitcher was seen at the first place I stopped at in the khawr, it was not the first bird I focussed on. This was a pheasant-tailed jacana about 20 metres behind the dowitcher. It was only as I scanned in towards the shore that I realised the dowitcher was there. I dropped all interest in the jacana.

a distant pheasant-tailed jacana

When I resumed normal birding, I noticed the number of ducks had dropped right off since my last visit. However by way of compensation, those that remained were virtually all in breeding plumage.

male garganey

Only three species of duck were observed. These were garganey, northern pintail and ferruginous duck.

northern pintail

The number of birds of prey were well down too. I saw only two. One was an osprey and the other was a Bonelli's eagle.


Not all species numbers were down. For example they were over 35 black-tailed godwit on site scattered in small groups.

three black-tailed godwit

Contrary to my expectation, the long-billed dowitcher was not associating with any of these groups this time. Although some of the other observers have implied association when they have seen it.

black-tailed godwit

Some of the black-tailed godwit are beginning to acquire breeding plumage.

glossy ibis

Elsewhere at the khawr there were several grey heron and western reef heron as well as two intermediate egret. Four glossy ibis and two European spoonbill were also observed.

European spoonbill

I have said before that I believe the spring passage from Africa of passerines appears weak because Salalah is not really on a large scale route. The nearest it comes to main stream is the route from East Africa to Iran and south east European Russia. Of course many species in those places winter in India but many others winter in Africa.

Rufous bush robin are widespread in Iran in summer and it is quite common in the Salalah area at the moment. The first two I saw this spring were in the north west corner of Khawr Rori which is full of bushes. This corner, by the way is approached from the main road and not from the lake itself.

rufous bush robin 1

Seeing these birds re-excited me about the spring passage. Perhaps I will see new species after all. I will know soon enough. The next four or five weeks will be important.

rufous bush robin 2

This particular rufous bush robin was quite tame and the species generally is not shy.

rufous bush robin 3

In the same area but in the reeds I saw my first little bittern for months. Up on the hills were two Arabian partridge

Arabian partridge

The afternoon in Khawr Rori turned out very enjoyable indeed.

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