Wednesday 25 March 2015

Whistlestop tour east of Salalah

On Saturday, Ellen Askum and I made whistlestops  at several birding locations east of Salalah.

Our route was Ayn Hamran-Tawi Atair-Jebel Samhan-Wadi Hanna-Wadi Darbet- Khawr Taqah.

Being early in the morning the birds were very active at Ayn Hamran. Pale crag martin were hawking for insects over the ground and Arabian partridge were running along it.

masked shrike

The masked shrike that has been on site all winter was still there.

long-billed pipit

Long-billed pipit were more easily seen than usual.

cinnamon-breasted bunting and African silverbill

With the hotter weather and the continued decrease in available watering holes until the next monsoon season means that birding next to the stream can be very fruitful. Cinnamon-breasted bunting and African silverbill were two of several species seen drinking.

Tristram's starling

When I first arrive in Dhofar in September last year, Tristram's starling was found around Ayn Hamran in large numbers. Over the winter I sometimes didn't see any there. Now they are back again in even larger numbers.

Rufous bush robin

We saw the same rufous bush robin as I had seen three days before or at very least it was another one in the same place. Once again it was the only certain passage bird at the site.

Arabian warbler

Arabian warbler were easily viewed but no other warbler was seen.

Bruce's green pigeon

Bruce's green pigeon are almost always in the tall fruiting trees but are often missed.

Soone after seeing the pigeon we moved on up the hillside towards Tawi Atair. 

Barbary falcon 1

Here was a barbary falcon which gave excellent and prolonged views.

Barbary falcon 2

It stayed still for over 10 minutes before finally flexing its wings. This was not before we got some really useful field experience with a difficult bird. The brown neck and at sides of the lower crown were obvious as was the brown infusion into the pink cheek. All these are classic barbary falcon features to help differentiation from a peregrine falcon.

Barbary falcon 3

It looks a powerful bird with its strong chest. The one also appeared to be in prime condition.

Barbary falcon 4

At the sinkhole at Tawi Atair we saw another bird of prey at close quarters. This time it was an adult Bonnelli's eagle. It was not phased by us or the mobbing fan-tailed raven. Indeed at one stage it flew towards us to get a closer look. This was magical moment.

Bonelli's eagle

The sinkhole is arguably the best place to see Bonelli's eagle in Dhofar if you are prepared to wait and see.

underside of Bonelli's eagle

It's a good place to see Arabian wheatear too but there are many more places for this bird.

Arabian wheatear

After the sinkhole we headed up Jebel Samhan to give Ellen a chance to see a Verreaux's eagle. One duly obliged though this time we got no photos.

Dracaena serrulata

We noticed a few Dragon trees near the top. There are six members of Dracaena family which are bushes or trees. The rest are shrubs. Confusingly dracaena serrulata is sometimes called Dragon Blood Tree in English. It is found in south west Arabia including on Jebel Samhan. However it is not the same species as dracaena cinniabari which is more usually called Dragon Blood Tree and is endemic to Socotra Island, Yemen.

Once the Verreaux's eagle had been seen, we moved on to wadi Hanna.

black-crowned tchagra

A highlight of our time there was prolonged views of a black-crowned tchagra which we had also seen at Ayn Hamran.

African paradise flycatcher

Another bird which was at both places was African paradise flycatcher.

blackstart at wadi Darbet

Heading back down from the hills, we stopped off at wadi Darbet which had its usual collection of western reef heron which are rarely found inland but are common there. Other notable birds included tree pipit which have been there all winter were again seen in the woods.

wood sandpiper

Our final stop was at Khawr Taqah were there was a considerable array of waders and herons. These included both grey heron and squacco heron.

There were also common redshank, common greenshank, little stint, wood sandpiper, green sandpiper, common sandpiper, pacific golden plover and black-winged stilt.

Pacific golden plover

It was a fine end to Ellen's two days birding with me. I hope she saw a good cross-section of what Dhofar has to offer.


  1. Another Verraux's? Jebel Samhan here I come!

  2. A pretty impressive variety, even if there was no addition to the list.