Tuesday 5 January 2016

Raysut at New Year

From mid-morning onwards on New Year's Day I was in Raysut. I went to the settling pools first. My main idea there was to observe the hirundines for rarities of which there have been two different species recently.

I was not exclusive to this task however.

flamingo at Raysut settling pools

Before reaching the pool which is best for viewing hirundines, I had already noticed a larger number of greater spotted eagle on site than usual.

A group of greater flamingo waded through one of the pools.

tawny pipit

In the corner of the site a dark looking pipit was standing. Initially I thought it was too dark for a tawny pipit. However it cannot be a Richard's pipit despite it overall colour and stance.

The lores were dark not pale and a close view of the hind claw showed it was not long.

claws of the tawny pipit

I concluded that it must be a tawny pipit afterall.

barn swallow

On arrival at the pool which hirundines prefer, there were about 30 barn swallow.

They are most easily identified when they periodically come to rest on some part submerged dead bushes that are at the pool. I could tell that the vagrant wire-tailed swallow and streak-throated swallow seen before Christmas were no longer present.

So I concentrated on the four sand martin also flying around. Pale martin is always a possibility in winter. I believe it is over-looked.

sand martin

Two of the birds were most probably sand martin. Their upper parts were darkish and the throat band was heavily marked. One of those birds is pictured above.

There is apparently considerable overlap in the strength of the throat markings between the two species. Pale martin's marking can be almost as strong as sand martin. However if the markings are very weak this points strongly towards pale martin.

sand martin - bird 3

The third sand martin was a candidate for pale martin. It was the palest and had a weak throat band.  

sand martin - bird 3

However I did not get a good enough views of its tail to be sure. Apparently the surest way to differentiate between the two birds is the degree of fork in the tail. A sand martin is more highly forked and a pale martin is just a notch.

sand martin - bird 4

The fourth bird has the lightest throat markings of all yet it had dark wings. Its tail was noticeably forked too.

sand martin - bird 4

The tail was probably too forked too.

In short, I find the separation of these two species really difficult and I cannot convince myself that any of the four birds were definitely pale martin.

Elsewhere on the site, the vagrant spur-winged lapwing which was first seen 15 months ago was still present. It now has four red-wattled lapwing to associate with.

spur-winged lapwing

There are large numbers of wagtails and pipits around the grassy areas of the site.

Many of the wagtails are starting to change into breeding plumage.

male black-headed wagtail

The red-throated pipit are generally less advanced. The head of the one below is going red but the throat shows no sign yet.

red-throated pipit

The Abdim's stork are also beginning to look more attractive as they head towards their breeding season.

Abdim's stork

This species is one of the earliest winterers to leave, in mid February.

Pallas's gull

After I left the settling pools I headed to Raysut lagoons. There was not much visible change to the birds since last time. The star birds are arguably the ruddy shelduck and they were still present.

One chance was the presence of a Pallas's gull. Just as Abdim's stork is one of the first leavers in winter, Pallas's gull is one of the last regular arrivals.

three black kite

To round off my trip to Raysut, I visited the beach area. Just like last mid-winter this is the place to see black kite (as opposed to yellow billed kite) in Dhofar. I have no real idea why they roost here and spend much of the day here too.

closer view of black kite

It was other birds of prey that were more active though. An Eastern Imperial eagle was eating a large black headed gull in a tree with two steppe eagle watching on in other branches. On the ground near-by a greater spotted eagle was also eating another gull. It had been a bad day for gulls there.


  1. I think you should post these images on the forum. Bird 3 looks very good for Pale Martin. Its wings project well beyond the tail in both postures and the tail fork appears to be shallow. Bird 4 more difficult due to the apparently more deedply-forked tail but I wouldn't worry about the all-black wings, as several birds on this page show the same feature:


    In fact some of the birds here look less like Pale Martin than yours do!

  2. https://www.smugmug.com/gallery/n-L6QNP/i-6fLVCvw