Tuesday, 3 March 2015


I take a monthly trip into the desert staying over the weekend in order to see birds not found near Salalah. However on Saturday I took a shorter journey that way. I went to the farming community of Shisr for the first time. Next weekend I will take the longer trip.

Shisr is about 150 kilometres from Salalah to the north west passing through Thumrait on the main road to Muscat and then turning left 50 kilometres north of the town.

There are many pivot fields and a few clusters of trees and bushes. I expect many passage birds when I go there again next weekend.

I don't know whether the single white stork on the lamppost in the village was on passage or had wintered there but it was an encouraging sign.

white stork at Shisr

Despite Shisr being main birding venue on Saturday afternoon, arguably the best sighting was achieved before I arrived there.

bar-tailed lark

I had birded the first few kilometres as you turn off the main Muscat road towards Shisr before. I had paid particular attention to the vegetated areas looking for larks. I had found hoopoe lark and black crowned sparrow lark. Indeed I saw some again.

However Bart de Schutter had told me he found bar-tailed lark there but in the unvegetated areas. Sure enough I found two on the way out and two more in a different place on the way back. I am grateful once again to Bart.

bar-tailed lark on the move

This made bird number 256 on my Oman list. This lark is definitely more difficult to find in Oman than in Saudi Arabia or even Libya. I find the flatter and sandier the landscape the more chance there is.

terrain near the lark

There were larks in Shisr itself but no bar-tailed lark that I could see.

hoopoe lark

Around the fields were more hoopoe lark and black-crowned sparrow lark.

greater short toed lark

In the fields were plenty of greater short toed lark.

female house sparrow

Shisr is another of the desert communities with house sparrow that shun houses and look very similar to Indian house sparrow. The cheek is very white and are lighter overall.

male house sparrow

Although the house sparrow are a little exotic I failed to find "exotic"collared dove. There are very large numbers at Shisr but I failed to pick out any African collared dove from among them. All appeared to be Eurasian collared dove.

Eurasian collared dove

Birds of prey were restricted to common kestrel but there were lots of them. The farms not only have many flies but also locusts which the kestrel were continually feeding on.

common kestrel

I had high hopes of seeing pied wheatear at Shisr. They were reported there in autumn passage. Unfortunately there were none. Pied wheatear mostly travels north of Dhofar but these desert locations well to the north of Salalah give me the best chance.

desert wheatear

The most common wheatear was desert wheatear followed by Isabelline wheatear.

Isabelline wheatear

I will be trying again for pied wheatear this coming weekend when I make my monthly full weekend trip to the desert.

They have already been reported on passage as far north as UAE so now is the time.

tree pipit

The tree pipit at Shisr were almost certainly passage birds. I saw them in the fields not in (or even near) the few clusters of trees and bushes. This is classic passage behaviour.

tree pipit shows tail

The other pipit I observed was tawny pipit.

male white wagtail

White wagtail was numerous but yellow wagtail was surprisingly very sparse.

Asian grey shrike (aucheri)

Every arable farm I have visited in Dhofar has had Asian grey shrike present and that includes the two in the city of Salalah. The Shisr farms were no exception.

cattle egret

Finally near the single white stork shown at the start of the blog were about 20 cattle egret. I suspect they were passage birds too.

I will be very disappointed this weekend if  I don't see a lot more passage out in the desert farms, wadis and oases.

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