Sunday 10 January 2016

A vagrant common hawk-cuckoo

I birded in the desert over the weekend and started off on Thursday afternoon. As it was so late, I knew that the first possible desert stop at Al Beed farm was the only option to get some birding in before dark. This would allow me to reach my overnight base at Ghaftain by driving on after dark.

It was a fortuitous decision.

I headed straight to the small orchard on the farm which has a track record of rare sightings.

My sighting was one of the rarest of all. I found a common hawk cuckoo. Not only that but it was out in the open.

common hawk cuckoo frontal view

It was a first winter bird still in juvenile plumage. The only confusion species is large hawk cuckoo but that juvenile has horizontal barring not vertical spots and chevrons.

common hawk cuckoo

Another small difference is that the bill of a juvenile common hawk cuckoo has a yellow lower mandible compared with an all dark bill in large hawk cuckoo.

common hawk cuckoo sideways

It is rufous with dark barring on top like many cuckoos.

common hawk cuckoo showing white collar

Another characteristic of juvenile common hawk cuckoo is an irregular white collar at the back of the neck. This was obvious too.

common hawk cuckoo

At one stage it hopped into a small bush but its tail hung out.

tail of juvenile common hawk cuckoo

The tail pattern is a good fit for common hawk cuckoo too. The dark bars are broader in large hawk cuckoo.

There have only been two previous official records of this species in Oman. Both were from Masirah and one was found dead. As far as I know no other Gulf country has any records.

I have already submitted the rare bird report. 

kestrel in flight

When I first found the bird I accidentally flushed it but luckily a while later it landed in almost the same spot. When it originally flew up I thought I was seeing a sparrowhawk and then I thought shikra. I needed to find it again to confirm and that's how I found it was really a cuckoo which imitate a shikra.

The situation was confused as three kestrel were flying in the same airspace over a field.

resting kestrel

A male marsh harrier was also present.

marsh harrier landing

Other birds included an aucheri grey shrike which I prefer to call Arabian grey shrike though it taxonomic position keeps changing.

Arabian grey shrike

Otherwise the field had several desert wheatear and white wagtail.

red-tailed wheatear

One of the wheaters however was a red-tailed wheatear. This is at the far western edge of its normal wintering range. 

One was seen in the same field when I visited in November with Ellen Askum. Indeed her better photos helped me identify it. This could easily be the same bird.

red-tailed wheatear 2

I can rightly say the stop at Al Beed farm was the best possible start to my desert weekend.

No comments:

Post a Comment