Monday 14 March 2016

Al Beed farm in early spring

I will try to visit the desert stops every Friday during the spring passage. Once a month I hope to stay at Ghaftain and bird out of there. Otherwise it will be day trips out of Salalah to the closer stops.

The reason to bird the desert stops is simply because the passage is much more concentrated there than in the Salalah area.

Last Friday I went to Al Beed farm and then on to Dowkah farm. This blog is about Al Beed only.

The good news is that there was some sign the passage has begun and of course I expect it to get more intense at least for the next 6 weeks.

Almost on arrival I flushed nine stone curlew.These birds were almost certainly on passage. I had only seen one in Oman before. Indeed it is uncommon down here.

stone curlew

While this was going on, over a hundred sandgrouse were noisily moving around the near-by fields.

Most were spotted sandgrouse but there were both chestnut-bellied sandgrouse and crowned sandgrouse there too.

chestnut-bellied sandgrouse

In the picture below most birds are spotted sandgrouse but a few in the top right corner are chestnut-bellied sandgrouse. I believe the one towards the bottom left is crowned sandgrouse.

Many books say the best plumage way to separate crowned sandgrouse from spotted sandgrouse in flight is the continuous dark colour for both the underwing primaries and secondaries whereas for spotted sandgrouse the secondaries are dark and the primaries less so. I find this very difficult to use in the field. I find that the long tail of the spotted sandgrouse versus the short tail of the crowned sandgrouse is a more useful marker. The bird in the bottom left is the only short tailed bird.

mixed sandgrouse

The small orchard at Al Beed is very hit or miss. This time it was a miss. There were no passage birds. However the small clump of trees next to the farm entrance can also be good. This time it held what passage passerines there were.


I observed three lesser whitethroat, three chiffchaff and a Menetries's warbler.

female blue rock thrush

I had some trouble identifying a thrush which was deep in a thick tree and refused to show itself. In the end I worked out it was a female blue rock thrush. What had put me off was its behaviour. I rarely see a blue rock thrush in a tree and have certainly never seen one so reticent to show itself before. Its habits fooled me.

female blue rock thrush 2

Otherwise the farm had its usual high number of black-crowned sparrow lark

black-crowned sparrow lark

Given that many of them were taking insects (and carrying them) rather than seed, I suspect they are breeding at the moment.

black-crowned sparrow lark with a grub

When I left Al Beed it was past 10 am and getting hot. Yet I managed another session in the heat at Dowkah farm. I will write about that next.

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