Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Dowkah in early spring

Either side of midday I birded Dowkah farm on Friday. The bad news was that there were no passage passerines in the shaded wooded area.

The other news is more interesting. In particular the larger birds in the field were a mix of strangely off course herons and storks.

An Abdim's stork was a most unexpected bird. The 500 which winter in Salalah left nearly three weeks ago. The further north breeding population I have seen are at Ad Darb, Saudi Arabia. Actually Dowkah farm is close to the direct route there. However I would have expected this bird to have arrived by now. It also looked in less than perfect condition.

Abdim's stork

At least the Abdim's stork may have been facing the right direction. That cannot be said of the five western reef heron. I counted five on my last visit too and they appear to have stayed put. These birds should be on the coast and not nearly 200 kilometres inland.

Abdim's stork with reef herons

Then it got even stranger. The farm had an Indian pond heron. Most are heading back to India around now but this one is the wrong side of Salalah as well as being inland.

Indian pond heron

I can normally tell an Indian pond heron from a squacco heron by its plumage. It tends to be just two toned: white and dark brown with very few buff tones unlike a squacco heron.

Indian pond heron 2

The dark loral stripe found on the bill of a pond heron is good confirmation and its very apparent in the photo above.

These stray birds bode well for the main passage about to begin. If I see anything like as much straying during this then I should get a rarity or two.

Rosy starling 1

Another single bird but not unexpected was a rosy starling. It was in the same pivot field as all the other birds described so far. Other pivot fields had far fewer birds.

Rosy starling 2

tawny pipit

Apart from brown-necked raven, pipits and larks were almost the only other families of birds in these other fields.

Tawny pipit were scattered throughout. 

hoopoe lark

Hoopoe lark were seen at the side of some fields. While black-crowned sparrow lark were both there on in the fields. 

male black crowned sparrow lark

While there has been more rain than usual in the north of the country, there has been none since November and then only in part of the Dhofari desert.

There are no green wadis for the nomadic Dunn's lark to breed in. So I thoroughly check the edge of each desert farm to see if any Dunn's lark have been forced there.

This species is still alluding me. It is not helped by some dubious records which in actuality are probably female black-crowned sparrow lark. The female bears a passing resemblance to Dunn's lark especially in strong light. I followed one up once again but good views confirmed it as a black-crowned sparrow lark.

female black crowned sparrow lark

I will persist but a drop of rain down here would help.

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