Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Haima waste treatment site

After stopping off at Dawkah farm on Thursday afternoon, I pressed on to Ghaftain resthouse where I stayed the night. On Friday morning I headed to Haima where I visited the very small local park and then the waste treatment site which is about 10 kilometres out of town just off the main Muscat road.

Throughout all this time there was a sandstorm which restricted visibility considerably but there was no turning back as I was 500 kilometres from Salalah.

red-throated pipit 1

The park in Haima had just one bird of interest apart from mostly house sparrow and European collared dove. There was a single male red-throated pipit.

red-throated pipit 2

It was not tolerated very well by the house sparrow.

red-throated pipit with house sparrow

After this mediocre start I pressed on further up the Muscat road. The only bird I saw in the desert in the poor weather for a few kilometres was a crested lark. This was actually a little unexpected as they don't usually like such poorly vegetated areas. I could see any green at all.

crested lark

By 8.30 am I was at the waste treatment site. The sky was pink because of dust and I wasn't that hopeful of seeing anything.

However from this point on, my birding weekend started to improve even despite the weather.

pools at Haima waste treatment site

I headed first to the place where dirty water was being disposed of by water tankers. There were several black-winged stilt, a common moorhen and a cattle egret. The cattle egret was a candidate for the eastern type with so much orange on the face.

cattle egret

Reeds are effective at cleaning up dirty water so I started walking to the back of the site where I presumed correctly that the water would be better quality. On the way I passed a hoopoe lark.

hoopoe lark

As I walked round a small number of sandgrouse flushed so I then moved more carefully. 

What I saw next was several groups of spotted sandgrouse. Most weren't moving. They appeared to be hunkering down in the dust storm.

spotted sandgrouse

Although visibility was poor I could still count 90 birds.

more spotted sandgrouse

What surprised me was although they were close to water they weren't drinking.

black-winged stilt

In these slightly cleaner waters were more black-winged stilt.

crested lark without crest 1

Next to me as I waited for the sandgrouse's next move was a crested lark without a crest.

crested lark without crest 2

At about 9.30am everything changed. The spotted sandgrouse flew off about 100 metres to land around the corner of the site. I thought that might be my last chance of a close encounter gone.

spotted sandgrouse in flight

10 minutes later there was sudden major activity. Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse started appearing from nowhere and from all directions.

mixed sandgrouse in flight

They had only one idea on their minds. They landed in one spot and drank. As soon as they drank, they took off and flew away.

chestnut-bellied sandgrouse in flight

Here is a strange thing, this seems to have triggered the spotted sandgrouse to do the same. So one small area of the water had two types of sandgrouse landing, drinking and leaving. I presume this was the place with the cleanest water on site.

chestnut-bellied sandgrouse drinking

I managed to get close to the drinking spot just before all the sandgrouse had left. In the gloom I picked out several chestnut-bellied sandgrouse but at this time no spotted sandgrouse were left.

I am beginning to understand the habits of different sandgrouse. 

After this experience, I had hard decisions to make about where to bird next. I chose to head even further north hoping to move out of the sandstorms. I went all the way to Adam which was another 225 kilometres. It turned out to be a very lucky (or skillful?) decision. There, I added two birds to my Oman list and one of them was a lifer. I will blog about this next.

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