Wednesday 16 September 2015

Chicks and crakes at Khawr Rori

I only managed to get out birding once during the week but it was certainly successful from my perspective.

I chose to go to Khawr Rori.

The biggest news from there is undoubtedly that the red-knobbed coot have bred. 

Two adults have been seen there for months now by me and others. This time I found them with three chicks.

adult red-knobbed coot with chick

I believe the three chicks may be survivors from two batches as one chick looks significantly younger and smaller than the other two. Red-knobbed coot like all coots are monogamous so this pair is probably extremely important for the continued breeding of the species in Oman.

a family of red-knobbed coot

The previous breeding records have all been from West Khawr in 2012-13 when they breed at least twice in an apparent similar pattern to those seen at Khawr Rori during the week.

marsh harrier

While watched them I feared that a predator might get a chick while I was there. A marsh harrier moved in right above the clump of reeds that the family were swimming around. The chicks all swam into deep cover while the adults stayed out. The harrier never found the chicks but it was a scary moment.

cattle egret

Moving round the north east side of the khawr near where the red-knobbed coot were, several other species were present. These included black-tailed godwit, cattle egret, ruff and glossy ibis.

glossy ibis

As time was short, I missed out viewing large areas of the khawr and headed straight to the sand bar at the southern (and seaward) end. Although I could see flamingo and sooty gull in the water as I drove past.

grey plover in flight

At the sandbar were two grey plover. In flight the characteristic black patch on the underwing was obvious.

bar-tailed godwit

Records of bar-tailed godwit are even more numerous than black-tailed godwit in Oman as a whole. However in the Dhofar khawrs, I have found black-tailed godwit much more common. Nevertheless, a single bar-tailed godwit was spotted next to the sandbar.


I made my way round to the west side via the sandbar. Time here was brief but long enough to see several garganey and two northern shoveller.

northern shoveller

One of the few trees there held grey heron, squacco heron and black-crowned night-heron.

black-crowned night-heron

Actually, there were squacco heron scattered all round the khawr.

squacco heron

Likewise there were four types of tern and Forbes-Watson swift seen flying all round all parts of the khawr. The terns were great crested tern, common tern and newly arrived whiskered tern and white winged tern

Certainly in winter the gates to the area close at 6pm so I rushed out in time. However it looks like they close later at the moment.

This left me some time before sunset to explore the north west sidearm of the khawr that is approachable from the main road.

As it was close to sunset I decided to look for crakes which are known to arrive in the Dhofar in September on passage or even for the winter.

I reached a clearing in the reeds created by camel grazing which looked a good prospect and waited. My attention was diverted by a common snipe.

common snipe

As I had the snipe in my camera view, a Baillon's crake walked straight across the viewfinder less than two metres in front of me. I managed a poor photo. However it disappeared to my left. I decided to wait to see if it would return.

I waited ten minutes and then noticed a moorhen and a crake walking from right to left at the far side of the clearing. 

spotted crake 1

It was not the return of the Baillon's crake but the arrival of a spotted crake. The light was so poor now and the spotted crake was too far away for my flash to help. Nevertheless, the bird is recognisably a spotted crake by photos though I could tell easily in the field.

spotted crake 2

The buff undertail is an easy identifier compared with the barred undertails of both little crake and Baillon's crake.

Spotted crake is now number 291 on my Oman list.

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