Monday 8 February 2016

Around Tawi Atair

Last Tuesday afternoon, I went up the mountains near Tawi Atair. The birding was thin. I believe this was because many passerines move down in mid-winter even though the Dhofar mountains are among the mildest highlands in Arabia.

One of the best sightings was towards the end of my visit when a short-toed eagle was perched on a wire right next to the road. Without this sighting I would have been disappointed with the session.

short-toed eagle

I find a lot of variation in colour of this species. For example I have seen ones with heads which are almost white, buff-brown or pale grey-blue (like this one).

first photo of the short-toed eagle

I drove past it but doubled back and luckily it wasn't fazed.


Earlier at Wadi Hanna on the far side of Tawi Atair I struggled to see any birds at all bar the fan-tailed raven which always patrol the skies.

blackstart 2

Blackstart was the only passerine seen in any numbers. Not a single Ruepell's weaver or Abyssinian white-eye was present. A desert wheatear was however observed.

African paradise flycatcher 1

I was just giving up on Wadi Hanna when an African paradise flycatcher appeared.

African paradise flycatcher 2

What had attracted it was a camel.

Camel on the right

It kept buzzing round the camel which completely ignored its presence. Obviously the flycatcher associates camels with a high fly and therefore food density.

kestrel at Wadi Darbet

It was getting towards dusk so I had very little time at Wadi Darbet on the way down. I was upset to see that the water has almost disappeared from the "permanent" river. This is a result of a poor monsoon season last summer which in turn was a consequence of the el Nino. Hopefully the el Nino will reverse in time for next summer. It is still in place at the moment.

Even at Wadi Darbet passerines were in short supply not helped by the lack of a water course. My best bird was a black-crowned night heron which I flushed walking back to the car.

Over the weekend I made my monthly desert trip. The birding was little better out there. I will blog about that next.

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