Saturday 30 January 2016

West side stories

I went out birding twice during the week on returning from Spain. Both times I headed west from the city.

One visit was to Mughsail. A vagrant Brahminy kite had been spotted at Wadi Darbet two months ago by one group but not seen again until a report last week of it at Mughsail which is over 60 kilometres away.

It was sufficient reason to go there.

I searched hard but it was not to be found.

Instead I resorted to looking for crakes as the sun started to go down.

five Arabian partridge

When you stand still long enough, things can happen. In this case as I was waiting for crakes at the water's edge of Khawr Mughsail, a flock of Arabian partridge walked across the close hillside right in front of me.

eight Arabian partridge

I am quite adept at finding crakes but still not the one I want. There is no secret to crake watching except to keep still and be patient. I find I don't even really need cover. Stillness is the key.

Baillon's crake 1

I saw both a spotted crake and a Baillon's crake. The latter for a prolonged period.

Baillon's crake

The very short wing projection told me it was Baillon's crake once again and not a little crake. Little crake is still alluding me in Oman even though Mughsail has had more reports than any where else in recent months.

Baillon's crake 3

Another good bird seen here was a yellow bittern. Of course I kept an eye out for birds of prey as a Brahminy kite had been the first objective. 

short-toed snake eagle

My total haul was one greater spotted eagle, one short-toed snake eagle and two kestrel.

My other trip out west was to Raysut. Raysut may be an industrial zone but it has four or five of the best birding sites in the country. The two I visited this time were the settling pools and the lagoons.

The settling pools were teeming with birds and yet nothing was new. Finding new species while birding in Dhofar is getting harder and harder. 

However I have other interesting than just obtaining a longer list.

The settling pools aren't really a sewage works. It's not the water than is recovered but the biomass. This is usually dumped at the corner of the works to dry out completely before being bagged as fertiliser. The drying mass is covered in wagtails and pipits at this time of year. Sometimes other birds join in.

I am always looking for something different. This time it was a wagtail with no colour.

wagtail 1

There isn't enough white on the wing panels for a young citrine wagtail.

wagtail 2

Likewise a young white wagtail has more white than this and at least some trace of a dark necklace.

wagtail 3

Most but not all yellow wagtails have some yellow on the vent. The exception is the beema sub species and that's what I think this bird is. Nevertheless it is still underdeveloped for this time of year.

wagtail 4

I believe I can see a hint of green appearing on the back.

wood sandpiper and common redshank

Elsewhere as I have already said, the site was teeming with birds. There were very large numbers of waders near all the pockets of water.

steppe eagle

Although the near-by city rubbish dump attracts hundreds of steppe eagle, the settling pools are a magnet for a smaller number of greater spotted eagle. The Eastern Imperial eagle show less preference though sometimes can be seen there. Steppe eagle do however fly over the pools but don't often land at the works.

Intermediate egret

There are always several grey heron and western reef heron at the pools at least in winter. Other heron family members are common but not certain. Intermediate egret is not uncommon but  is prized by visiting birders to Dhofar. This one has a dark tip to the bill showing it comes from India rather than Africa.


Many of the ducks are now in breeding plumage including this teal.

black-headed gull and cattle egret

Not so many black-headed gull make it south to Dhofar in winter but the settling pools are the best place to see them especially towards the end of winter.

After the settling pools I made a quick scan of the lagoons before the sun set.

ruddy shelduck and slender-billed gull

The ruddy shelduck were still present. Here slender-billed gull replace black-headed gull as the main type.

glossy ibis

The number of glossy ibis there continues to rise.

There wasn't much time to view the lagoons properly.

However yesterday, it became the site of a very important sighting which was not only a an addition to my country list but a lifer too. I will write about this next.

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