Wednesday 30 December 2015

Raysut in late December

On Christmas Eve I visited Raysut once again. This industrial district on the western edge of Salalah actually has several excellent birding areas. The two best are arguably the Settling pools and the lagoons though the beach and the marina can also be very interesting.

This time I went to just the settling pools and the lagoons. In recent times I have concentrated on the hirundines at the settling pools which had turned up two vagrants.  This time I didn't mainly because there were virtually none present. For some reason their activity is much higher after noon and I was there in the morning.

greater flamingo in flight

Greater flamingo were present in the highest number I have seen all winter.

pheasant-tailed jacana

The over-spill from the main made pools is so great now that much of the site has a natural feel about it and both marsh and grasslands have taken hold. The area is so natural looking that even pheasant-tailed jacana are present.

black-headed gull

Black-headed gull are not really common in Dhofar but the settling pools are the best place to see them. 

wood sandpiper

Mid-winter is the time when green sandpiper and wood sandpiper can look the most similar with the white speckling on the wood sandpiper is the most subdued. In these birds I resorted to looking at the barring on the tail. The black bars are narrow and numerous making the birds wood sandpiper.

white stork (rear) with Abdim's stork

This winter the number of white stork has often matched the 500 or so Abdim's stork around the site. This is a big increase on last year. They were in Salalah in as large numbers but not spending so much time at the pools.

Turkestan shrike

Young and some female Turkestan shrike and Daurian shrike are often difficult or impossible to separate but at all ages Daurian shrike is a duller bird. I suspect this bright bird is a Turkestan shrike. The strength of chocolate colour on the head is also supportive.

scaly-breasted munia

For once I saw very little out of the ordinary at the settling pools if you count seeing 1000 storks as ordinary. However a scaly-breasted munia was a little odd. I never not seen one outside parks, gardens and the city farms before.

For the rest of the morning I moved on to the near-by lagoons.

black-tailed godwit

There were more black-tailed godwit here than I have seen before.

ruddy shelduck

The biggest attraction for the past three weeks though has been the six wintering ruddy shelduck. This species is uncommon in Dhofar. Indeed I saw none last winter and none were reported either. I finally managed to get all six in one picture.

black-winged stilt in breeding plumage 1

I am always alert to a rarity among more common birds. For a fleeting moment I thought I might have had a black-necked stilt (from the Americas).

However what had happened was I had come across a male black-winged stilt in the peak of its breeding plumage. Even then there is a small gap between the black on the neck and the dark mantle. Furthermore the black on the head is not extensive enough for a black-necked stilt either.

black-winged stilt in breeding plumage 2

Black-winged stilt without breeding plumage (see below) are quite different.

black-winged stilt

The lagoons are currently attracting considerable numbers of terns. I find some tern identifications in winter quite difficult. I believe the tern in the foreground is a gull-billed tern while those in the rear are white-winged tern. Freshwater places so close to the sea like this can support some coastal terns as well as marsh terns. This does not help with narrowing down the options by habitat. Please contact me if you have a different opinion and why.

gull-billed tern (front) and white winged tern (rear)

I started this blog looking at greater flamingo. In the next blog I will be looking at some very special flamingoes.

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