Monday, 21 March 2016

Rare and unusual birds at Qatbeet and Muntasar

You may recall two blogs ago that I wrote about a probable olive-backed pipit seen at Al Beed on Friday morning. Well on Friday afternoon, I got a definite one which was seen for longer and closer as well as being better photographed.

It's now hard for me to understand why there have only been 38 records in Oman with eight of these at one place and time.

olive-backed pipit 1

I had been hiding in undergrowth watching birds come to drink at some pools at the back of the Qatbeet motel gardens. I had seen house sparrow, laughing dove, lesser whitethroat and a Menetries's warbler drink while a Eurasian reed warbler had also been skulking around.

Then a bird I originally took as a tree pipit came to the water too. Luckily it came to a place unobscured by branches and leaves. I could see it had a broken but thick supercilium, a black spot below the far end of the supercilium, a rusty tinge in front of the eye and a relatively plain olive back.

olive-backed pipit 2

It was clearly an olive-backed pipit. Above is a photo of its back which gives it its name.

olive-backed pipit 3

The olive back as well as the broken supercilium and rusty area in front of the eye are also well seen in the next photo above.

olive backed pipit 4

The identity of this bird has also been verified by regional experts. It is now the 325th bird on my Oman country list.

grey wagtail

At the same place but a few minutes later, a  male grey wagtail also appeared for a drink.


Elsewhere in the gardens I spotted a hoopoe and an Isabelline wheatear.

Isabelline wheatear

Muntasar Oasis is another 50 kilometres away and was the furthest point away from Salalah that I reached on Friday.

It's landscape has been radically changed over the past month. The local bedouins have changed the course of the surface water so the reeds are dying where it used to run (but they still prove some cover). Instead a very large lake has formed.

brown-necked raven

Some reeds have started to grow at the front of the new area but most water currently has nothing to stop it forming a lake in the nearest dip in the land. At first I could only see the large number of Eurasian collared dove which have always frequented the site.

However with patience I spotted other birds including a pair of brown-necked raven.

lake at Muntasar

Then I saw a lone white wagtail and a Eurasian sparrowhawk was alternating from flying and resting in different trees which are scattered all round the oasis.

red-necked phalarope 1

After this, I came across a red-necked phalarope. I know it can stop over at inland lakes. However, there haven't been any inland lakes in Dhofar during my two years here until this recent happening!

It seemed flighty but once I stayed still, it eventually chose my part of the lake to land.

red-necked phalarope 2

The bird was in winter plumage and is a very early migrant of its species.

red-necked phalarope 3

Of course there was no red on its neck just a thin grey line.

red-necked phalarope 4

Just as I was about to leave, three blue-cheeked bee-eater arrived. These were the first I have seen this spring. The heavy passage is just about to begin.

blue-cheeked bee-eater

It had been 29 days since I last added to my Oman list. There are no easy birds left now. However, the main passage gives me some more prospects. 

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