Sunday 6 March 2016

Farms in Salalah

Since arriving back in Salalah from my trip to Sudan, I have had time to visit the local farms in Salalah.

I visited Sahalnawt farm on Tuesday afternoon primarily because a merlin, which is a vagrant in Oman, had been reported there recently.

Despite a thorough search I drew a blank. The only compensation among the birds of prey were: Eastern Imperial eagle, greater spotted eagle, Eurasian sparrowhawk, two common kestrel and good views of a barbary falcon.

barbary falcon 1

The barbary falcon was actually the last bird seen just as I was leaving. It's identification was not straightforward. The bird doesn't have any rufous in the neck or in the cheek. The head pattern appears almost solid dark which is a feature of peregrine falcon. However these features are not diagnostic.

barbary falcon 2

Other features are more diagnostic and all support barbary falcon. The moustache is not wide and so the pale cheek is relatively large. More importantly the markings on the lower body are very weak. They are never this weak on peregrine falcon.

yellow-billed kite

A yellow-billed kite was seen near the western perimeter of the farm but it was being mobbed by the resident house crow.

Ruppell's weaver

Also along the western perimeter, the male Ruppell's weaver now in breeding plumage are busily weaving nests.

singing bush lark 1

Singing bush lark are not so numerous in the farms in winter but by now they are everywhere and they are singing. Walking along the western fence almost guarantees the sight and sound of a singing bush lark singing.

singing bush lark 2

Other sights at Sahalnaut farm included a few cream-coloured courser. They often visit the farm when a newly ploughed field has been created.

sand martin (l) with barn swallow (r)

On Wednesday afternoon I made the short trip to Jarziz farm. This is currently very difficult to enter as the building of the new youth sports complex to the south means almost a different route in each time depending on what is being built next. Nevertheless I did manage to find a way through.

I spent some time monitoring the hirundines around the small water reservoir.

I found just barn swallow and sand martin but it pays to be alert to the possibility of rarer ones.

another sand martin

One notable feature of the farm at the moment is the number of chestnut bellied sandgrouse. Many of which are paired off.

chestnut-bellied sandgrouse

The birds of prey there were restricted to one eastern imperial eagle and two common kestrel.

rosy startling

Adjacent to Jarziz farm is the Dhofar Cattle company site which I don't visit as often as I should. It too has fields though they are smaller and fed water by large hoses rather than a pivot bar. This time I did pay a call.

In a long hedgerow bordering the site I walked into a flock of over 80 rosy starling. All the birds were in adult plumage.

a flock of rosy starlings

There were Eurasian collared dove everywhere.

house crow mobbing a short toed eagle

A short toed eagle appeared overhead and was being mobbed by two house crow. It managed to shake off the crows and flew on with a small lizard or gecko still in its mouth.

short toed eagle

There was few signs of passage other than the hirundines and possibly the short toed eagle. There is an increase in red-tailed shrikes at moment which probably means some passage birds are supplementing those who wintered.

Daurian shrike

I waiting rather impatiently for the main passage to begin.

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