Tuesday 1 September 2015

Shisr in late August

From last year's experience and in conversation with local birders, I have learnt that the desert farms are much better places to see passerine passage than the subtropical microclimate around Salalah. I intend to visit the desert much more this autumn than last year even though the journeys are long.

Last Friday I made my first trip. I stopped at Shisr and then went on further north to Dawkah farm. This blog is about Shisr.

rosy starling (left) with house sparrow (right)

In the pivot fields, activity was quite limited despite my early arrival (before 7am). However a roving flock of rosy starling was a good start. This contained both adult and juvenile birds. It is quite unusual for them to be so far west and in such numbers so early in the autumn. I believe the large number of locusts in the area may have driven them here.

Much of the time they were associating with local house sparrow (with their distinctly white cheek reminiscent of Indian house sparrow).

pigeon with Eurasian collared dove

The most obvious birds at the farms are Eurasian collared dove with lesser numbers of pigeon and laughing dove.

black-crowned sparrow lark

The other common bird in the fields is black-crowned sparrow lark.

juvenile black-crowned sparrow lark

Another resident bird is aucheri "Arabian grey shrike".

aucheri "Arabian grey shrike"

However there was good evidence that the passerine passage will be good in the desert farms as I had hoped.

There are two wooded areas I know at Shisr and both had numbers of migrants despite the early stage of the season.

spotted flycatcher

Spotted flycatcher were numerous.

whitethroat 1

I saw around ten common whitethroat.

whitethroat 2

Interestingly all the birds I saw were of the western subspecies communis. This is in complete contrast to those which appear a month or so later in the Salalah area which are of more easterly subspecies. 

eastern olivaceous warbler

Two other warblers were observed and also in similar numbers. These were eastern olivaceous warbler and Upcher's warbler.

one rufous bush robin

The other migrant passerine found was rufous bush robin. I saw most of these even than spotted flycatcher.

a second rufous bush robin

The final migrant was hoopoe. Several of these were seen.


The birds at Shisr were a promising start to my campaign of visiting desert farms during this autumn when I can at weekends. Dowkah was even marginally better. I will blog about that next.

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