Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Strong passage at Ghaftayn

I started birding on Saturday morning in the gardens of Al Ghatayn resthouse where I had stayed two nights and used as a base to go north. It is surrounded by desert but has a good reputation for birds.

There was a break in the sandstorms so the light and views were good. It took me only about two minutes to realise there had been a very big fall of passage birds over-night into the gardens. It was so big that I saw more passage passerine in two hours there that morning than the whole of the rest of the passage season up to that moment.

By 8.30 am I had seen seven different types of warbler and two types of passage shrike.

It started with a gentle walk around some of the trees next to the main building.

Eastern Olivaceous warbler

The first thing I noticed was the large numbers of barn swallow both hawking for insects but also just resting in trees. Then I homed in on a small group of warblers in small cluster of large trees. Two of the warblers were Eastern Olivaceous Warbler while the other was a Willow Warbler.

Barn swallow

Then I realised that there was fourth warbler present. It was shyer but for a short moment I got a straight view of a barred warbler. Even it the picture of a peeping bird you can clearly see its yellow eyes.

barred warbler peeping

This was my first sighting a barred warbler in Oman and it became bird number 265 on my country list.

Tawny pipit

Elsewhere in the garden I picked up on a passage tawny pipit and a desert wheatear. In another tree was a female blackcap.

Desert wheatear

At this stage I decided to make towards the pool and associated trees behind the garden. The garden is walled and the pool is very close to the wall but not accessible from the garden. 

Instead I drove to the front of the hotel and walked round the side towards the pool.

Black crowned sparrow lark

While walking round I came across the resident black-crowned sparrow lark and hoopoe lark.

Hoopoe lark

I then arrived at the back of the garden but on the other side of the wall. This was only to find interesting bird activity taking place within the garden I had just left. 

Yellow wagtail

By standing on a sand heap, I  peered back into the garden. Two yellow wagtail were walking around. However the more exciting bird was masked shrike flying between trees in the corner of the garden.

Masked shrike

On the ground next to the wall but on the other side again, a rufous bush robin came up to a patch of water and started drinking. He had chosen his over-night stop well. Not many other places have clean water or even any water for 150 kilometres in any direction.

Rufous bush robin

After a while I finally turned my attention to the pond area outside the garden. 

At the front of one of the main trees was a woodchat shrike

Woodchat shrike 1

This was my first woodchat shrike in Oman and so my country list increased for the second time before breakfast up to 266.

Woodchat shrike 2

I looked up to the top of the highest tree in the cluster and there was second masked shrike.

A second masked shrike

Around the pool were plenty of resident house sparrow. The whole site was heaving with birds.

female house sparrow

In some tamarisk trees at the back of the pool were five types of warbler: eastern olivaceous warbler, chiffchaff, willow warbler, lesser whitethroat and an Upcher's warbler.

Upcher's warbler

It's possible there were even more birds around. However eventually I decided I  needed to start the journey home with an early stop to find something to eat. I had not eaten since the early evening the day before.

Upcher's warbler deeper in trees

I didn't want to leave this site behind. I thoroughly recommend this resthouse for other reasons than the birding too. The managers, Kumar and Felix, were perfect hosts. My room was clean and large. They had put on BBC World on the TV as well as the aircon before my arrival. The water for the shower was piping hot. The restaurant is fine too. 

This blog page is five years old but all the information including the telephone number to make reservations is still current

the pond

I had birded the site the morning before on Friday. This had been a quite different experience.  For a start, there was a sandstorm.

lesser whitethroat

The only obvious passage birds had been a few lesser whitethroat, less barn swallow and rather strangely a white-winged black tern making passes over the pond for insects.

brown-necked raven

Through the dusty haze I also picked up two brown-necked raven, one of which was squawking continually.

local fox

The biggest highlight that morning was not a bird at all but two Ruppell's foxes resting in the garden and then at the pond.

After Ghaftayn, my route home was Muntasar Oasis-Qatbit rest house- Al Beed farm. I will blog about that next. 

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