Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Dowkah in late August

My second and last call on Friday was to Dowkah farm which is about 60 kilometres north of Shisr as the brown-necked raven flies.

And more than a few of this bird were at Dowkah. At first I saw just a pair braving the fierce heat of the fields.

brown-necked raven 

Towards the end of my visit I found another 50 taking in the shade in a group of palm trees. This is the largest group I have met in Oman.

second brown-necked raven of a pair

Very few birds joined the pair of brown-necked raven out in the fields. Indeed virtually every bird out there was close to or in the shade of the pivot bars or the other water equipment. It was probably over 40C even in the shade.

northern wheatear

In one field there was a small group of northern wheatear. This wheatear is nowhere near as common as Isabelline wheatear in Oman and again this was the largest number I have seen here.

northern wheatear panting

Only four other species were seen out in the open fields. Two of them were larks: hoopoe lark and black-crowned sparrow lark

hoopoe lark

The third was rufous bush robin. Three were seen and all were seeking cover around the pivot bars.

The final bird was long-legged buzzard. I spotted this as I walked back to the car at the end of the session. It was high above one of the far pivots but it was unmistakable. This had been a target for my Oman list for some time. It proved far more difficult to find than in Saudi Arabia. 

I later discovered in the Oman bird list (which is actually a book) that Dowkah farm is the location of the largest ever sighting of this species in Oman with 30 birds and indeed the sighting was in summer.

Most of my birding time at Dowkah farm was spent near the water tank where there are plenty of palms and medium sized bushes. There is also a network of small irrigation channels. This small patch have been proven a magnet for birds by many birders especially during passage.

This time it was heaving with birds. The density of warblers was particularly high.

common whitethroat

As at Shisr, common whitethroat was plentiful.

common whitethroat (left)

Upcher's warbler was equally plentiful.

Upcher's warbler

And once again like at Shisr there were many eastern olivaceous warbler.

eastern olivaceous warbler at water

This time there was an additional warbler not seen at Shisr.

eastern olivaceous warbler in palm

It was a great reed warbler.

great reed warbler at water

It was so obviously much larger than all the other warblers and direct comparison was easy as they came down to drink in one of the water channels.

great reed warbler (left) with spotted flycatcher (right)

I have great hopes for this patch and finding warblers during the rest of the autumn but its a long journey.

face of great reed warbler

There were also three Turkestan shrike in the patch. I saw one trying to catch one of the resident house sparrow but failing.

one of the Turkestan shrike

Separation from Daurian shrike is more difficult in autumn with some birds but these were relatively straightforward. Overall each of these birds were browner than Daurian shrike especially on the crown. The tail is a big clue too being so very dark.

a second of the Turkestan shrike

Amazingly I observed nearly 30 rufous bush robin and over 20 spotted flycatcher in the patch. There were a small number of rosy starling too.

male golden oriole 1

It was very early for golden oriole migration but one male gave a good display. I thought I glimpsed a female too but I am not certain.

male golden oriole 2

Not quite every bird was taking in the shade. A flock of barn swallow passed through briefly with some stopping to rest on the tallest tree in the farm.

barn swallow

Both a green sandpiper and a common sandpiper flushed from the water tank too.

This visit was very worthwhile and I intend to go again as many times as I can this season though it is a 340 kilometre round trip.

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