Monday 28 September 2015

Dowkah delivers again

My Eid trip lasted from Tuesday afternoon until Saturday evening. It involved 3500 kilometres of travel and took me to several birding locations. This and the next four blogs will chronicle the results.

I headed north out of Salalah on Tuesday and reached one of my favourite birding locations, Dowkah desert farm, with time to bird until dusk.

This farm is the only greenery for many kilometres around and is a magnet for birds especially on passage.

One highlight was seen just before dusk when I got excellent views of a European scops owl.

European scops owl

I had seen one at Qatbeet the weekend before but this one was less flighty. Indeed I left the scene eventually without flushing the bird at all. Records show this species is not uncommon in these desert spots especially in late September, October and November.

This bird was in palms which is the favoured habitat of its close cousin pallid scops owl which is resident in northern Oman.

There was good birding before the owl was seen. Once again over ten each of golden oriole and European roller were observed either in the same area as the owl or in a neighbouring field.

European roller

There were several common rock thrush on site but this time two blue rock thrush were also observed. Both were male.

Blue rock thrush

Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse are on the farm all year and all times of day. While two other types of sandgrouse are best seen at drinking times.

golden oriole with chestnut-bellied sandgrouse

I don't think chestnut-bellied sandgrouse shares a location with golden oriole very often.

common sandpiper and ortolan bunting

Another unusual pairing on the same track in a field was common sandpiper and ortolan bunting.

On my last visit to the farm I found a black-headed bunting. Now ortolan bunting was seen. This had been one of my main hopes from the farm. It made species 296 on my Oman list.

ortolan bunting

As is often the case when birding, you wait a long time to add a bird to your list then you keep seeing it! I had twitched collared pratincole in Raysut days before. Now there were at least four at Dowkah.

collared pratincole

Very close by were a few juvenile white-winged black tern.

white-winged black tern

Birding in the fields was interrupted a couple of times as birds panicked on the arrival of both Montagu's harrier and marsh harrier before settling down again.

squacco heron

Members of the heron family have been present every time I visit Dowkah. This time there were a small number of squacco heron and a lone glossy ibis.

grey heron

The last bird I saw was a grey heron standing still in the sand just before I reached the car.

After leaving Dowkah I drove on to Ghaftain for the night. The next blog will tell what I saw there the next morning and later in the day as I drove on north.


  1. Wonderful! Cant wait for the next posts!

  2. That owl might be worth posting on the forum. It's very grey indeed and it seems to have feathered toes from looking at the photo close up. I know it's well out of the range of Pallid but you know yourself that we shouldn't rely on information on distribution.