Monday 20 April 2015

Significant passage at Jarziz farm

It is getting really hot now down in Salalah so my birding times have shifted much earlier especially when I decide to bird on the plain.

On Saturday morning I arrived at Jarziz farm at 6.45 am and it was very comfortable.

The plan was to walk round the large field anti-clockwise as usual taking in the main cluster of trees on the way.

There was dew on the ground and a very loud collection of noises coming from the singing bushlark, many of which were not only singing but putting in aerial dsplays too.

The plan to walk anti-clockwise was almost immediately abandonned as I spotted a blue bird in the distance on the pivot bar. This required me to walk clockwise towards it. As I got closer, I realised it was the first European roller of spring.

European roller

I don't like to flush birds and travelling ones even less so. So when it started to look directly at me I retreated and re-started my normal walk. It had been a good start.

European roller looking directly

As I walked round the side of the field I came across a flock of silverbills. There is nothing unusual about that at Jarziz farm. It happens everytime.

African silverbill

However this time was a little different. Roughly one in three of the birds was not an African silverbill at all. They were scaly-breasted munia.

scaly-breated munia

Somethings on Saturday were the same though. There were plenty of crested lark around as ever.
crested lark

Near-by I observed an eastern olivaceous warbler go first into a tree and then flew further off. This was another sign of passage.

record shot of common swift

Then it got even more interesting. The place began to fill up with common swift hawking for insects over the top of the field. On previous days recently I had seen various swifts flying high over Sawnaut farm and leaving the area. I had supposed that they may have been feeding and flying low earlier. It looks like I was right. Swifts are feeding over local fields early in the morning before moving on by about 8.30 am.

I decided I would come back to look more closely at the swifts once I had visited the main cluster of trees.

The tallest trees held several rose-ringed parakeet which moved off to a wire when I approached.

rose ringed parakeet on a wire

Two more rose-ringed parakeet arrived while I was in the area and immediately diverted to a bush close to the wire.

two rose ringed parakeet

In the main cluster of trees is a colony of weaver nests belonging to several male weavers.

This Ruppell's weaver kept returning to the nest but I am not convinced it was for maintenance. He bought no new bnesting material. I believe the nest was occupied.

Ruppell's weaver at a nest 1

He was certainly sticking his head inside the nest and there was noise. I  further believe the male was feeding something inside.  Males feed by regurgitation only with young chicks. After a few days the female will leave the nest to find food. 

Ruppell's weaver at a nest 2

After leaving the cluster of trees I headed back to the pivot field. A farm worker had arrived and was cutting down part of the field. The swifts had moved to that part of the field. Their numbers had been increasing ever since I arrived. I counted 30 common swift. As I looked I suddenly realised one of them was actually an Alpine swift.

record shot of an alpine swift

It was larger, slightly paler and browner (rather than grey) than the common swift and had the characteristic white belly. Despite my mediocre optics, I eventually got a record shot of the bird flying over the part of field that was being cut. Note the airport and Dhofar mountains in the background.

As I started heading back towards the car, I heard bee-eaters, only to see 8 blue-cheeked bee-eater in an isolated bush at the side of the field.  This was yet more sign of passage. They were my first of this species south of mountains this spring.

blue-cheeked bee-eaters

They look very attractive in their breeding plumage.

blue-cheeked bee-eater

More signs of a heavy passage windfall at the farm was still to come as I continued heading back towards the car.

singing bushlark

This singing bushlark was sharing a low lying bush with an acrocephalus warbler which had just jumped into it and out of the tall grass at the edge of the field.

marsh warbler

On behaviour alone I suspected a marsh warbler. For example, it chose bushes to the long grass to avoid me.

marsh warbler in a tree 1

Eventually it even flew up into a near-by tree. 

It's tertials are dark and pale fringed. It's long primary projection is obvious. It has eight primaries which all have pale fringes too. Its overall colour is less warm than a reed warbler.

marsh warbler in a tree 2

In short it is a standard marsh warbler.

marsh warbler in a tree 3

It is well documented than many marsh warbler migrate through Arabia as opposed to more direct routes to and from their breeding grounds so seeing one is not unexpected.

It became species 271 on my Oman list and completed my satisfaction with this early morning session.

I am left wondering whether this event at Jarziz farm was a fluke or whether there will finally be a stronger passage for the rest of the season despite the relatively week start.

After the farm I moved on to Khawr Soly which I hadn't visited for several weeks. I will blog about that next.


  1. Saw my first roller (ever!) today! They are spectacular. Great post as usual!

  2. Thanks. There are beautiful birds indeed. We are luck enough to also get Indian roller in the north of the country. Rob