Tuesday 2 June 2015

Late May weekend

Last weekend I birded with Andrew Bailey visiting from UAE and who also happens to be a near neighbour in Bulgaria where I have a home.

This blog looks at the weekend.

We started out at Jarziz farm in the early morning. Andrew was very lucky to see the last Amur falcon passing through. None have been since that morning. However we counted three on the day.

Amur falcon

All three were female. 

spotted thick-knee

The spotted thick-knee I had seen the day before were still present and we got good views.

Singing bush lark were abundant and were easy additions (along with Amur falcon) to Andrew's growing Oman list.

female masked shrike

We headed next to Ayn Hamran where Andrew was keen to see grey headed kingfisher and Dideric cuckoo to add to his list. The latter would have been a lifer.  The kingfisher was easily seen but the Dideric cuckoo though heard frequently couldn't be found despite an extensive search.

Another interesting observation was a female masked shrike which I had also seen with Markus Craig several days before. This bird is taking its passage slowly and late.

Next stop was Taqah were we saw lesser sand plover and curlew sandpiper among the small number of waders. These were additions to his list here.

Also at Taqah we called in at the Forbes Watson swift colony at the cliffs. There was plenty of activity there.

The last stop of the morning was the top of Jebel Samhan via Tawi Atair. We stopped patiently at the observation point where Verreaux's eagle can usually be seen but had no success. Birding is never that easy.

On the way there we counted four grey-headed kingfisher on wires.

After a midday break necessitated by the heat, we moved on to Ayn Razat.

long-billed pipit 1

Ayn Razat was full of picnickers. Yet despite this the bird life was full too. Our main reason to visit was to try to find a Dideric cuckoo which we missed out on at Ayn Hamran.

The ornamental gardens were open which I have usually found closed. On the lawn were two long-billed pipit as well as several Ruppell's weaver.

long-billed pipit 2

We went inside because we could once again here a Dideric cuckoo and it seemed to be in the direction of the garden.

Bruce's green pigeon 1

Bruce's green pigeon were in the trees but mostly unseen by the general public below.

Bruce's green pigeon 2

Finally Andrew spotted the Dideric cuckoo. It was in the distance and not in the garden but right through the other side and half way up the hill side looking down on the spring and gardens. It's voice certainly carries.

distant Dideric cuckoo

Ayn Razat also held several grey-headed kingfisher.

Grey-headed kingfisher

Our tour of local sites didn't stop at Ayn Razat. We went owling at Wadi Darbat. On the way we stopped off at Khawr Soly just before dusk and found a single late blue-cheeked bee-eater. This was new to Andrew's Oman list.

blue-cheeked bee-eater

We heard several Arabian scops owl and two Arabian spotted eagle owl at Wadi Darbet but failed to see them. We came very close to the eagle owls but the river divided us from them.

The next day we went out to Ras Janjari with Saeed Shanfari and his friend Aymen. This is not the Ras Janjari in the main country bird guide but it was what the locals call Ras Janjari (pronounced Gang-ery). There are several headlands jutting out into the sea. However the one we were taken to was extremely remote but it jutted into the sea further than any other.

Socotra cormorant

The sea and particularly the small fishing harbour held literally hundreds of sooty gull. The most common tern by far was great crested tern.

Nevertheless there were other more interesting birds present too which were mostly further out.

Bridled tern were easy to identify. However it was the shearwaters which were most attractive to us.

Andrew has more experience in this area than me and managed to identify four shearwaters as flesh-footed shearwater by observation.

wedge-tailed shearwater (l) with flesh-footed shearwater (r)

Meanwhile I obtained two useful distant shots which we sent out for consultation with regional experts. The bird on the right was relatively easy. It is a flesh-footed shearwater. It is all dark with the exception of silvery primaries (visible on the photo if you look carefully). 

The bird on the left is a smaller shearwater. It is a wedge-tailed shearwater rather than the only other candidate - sooty shearwater because of the just-visible white trailing edge and the lighter upperparts (though the strong sun can effect the colour considerably). The overall shape is also right for this bird.

wedge-tailed shearwater

It was me rather than Andrew that gained two lifers here. Both of us of course added two to our Oman list. This made numbers 283 and 284 on my list.

little green bee-eater

The long way back to the main road was a bit of an anti-climax. We stopped to photograph some little green bee-eater and observe a small group of sand partridge scurrying up the hill side.

dhub (spiny-tailed agama)

We also stopped to inspect a very colourful spiny-tailed agama.

dhub (spiny-tailed agama)

Both Andrew and I are grateful for being guided by Saeed and Ayman on Saturday morning.

As we didn't finish this session until way past midday, we did relatively little birding in the late afternoon following a rest. Birding at Ayn Sahalnout produced little of extra interest except the first and only African paradise flycatcher of the weekend.

Overall it was a successful weekend. It was Andrew's second visit and once again not only did he add to his Oman list as would be expected but I did too. 


  1. Love that dhub lizard. What a face! I know it as a Uromastics, sp? I believe that is part of its latin name. Anyway it looks like you had a great birding weekend. Congratulations on the lifers.

  2. John, we have been trying to find its exact name as it may not be a spiny tailed agama but something very close. You have given be an extra lead. Rob

  3. hanks for the weekend, Rob. We went to a lot of places and saw a lot, even if I wasn't quite so fortunate this time round.

    I think this weekend you should try to get down to Janjari - or whatever the headland is called - to try to pick up Persian Shearwater, Jouanin's and maybe Wilson's Storm Petrel. There are videos on YouTube you can watch to famiiarise yourself with the jizz and flight action. For example, the flight action of Jouanin's is quite different to that of the shearwaters. This must be your best chance of adding to your list before the monsoon starts.

  4. Andrew, I will probably do Khawr Rori and the "little" Ras Janjari. Can't wait for the monsoon and what that might bring.

  5. I just remembered the family name of the lizard is Uromastix. There are several species in your part of the world. My nephew had one for a pet. It was black with lime green markings on its back.

  6. John, thanks for this. I have just looked up Uromastyx and it is the scientific name for all spiny-tailed agamas or dhubs as they are called in Arabia. Now we need to narrow it down to a particular species. Rob

  7. John, thanks for this. I have just looked up Uromastyx and it is the scientific name for all spiny-tailed agamas or dhubs as they are called in Arabia. Now we need to narrow it down to a particular species. Rob