Thursday 7 April 2016

Lanner falcons among the birds in the Mudhai area

While I am intending to go into the desert each weekend this spring, I have three main options as to which way to go. The first is taking the Muscat road and stops off it such as Beed, Dowkah and Qatbeet. The second is to head to Mazyunah on the border with Yemen via Mudhai and Tudho.
The third is to head to Shisr which roughly dissects the other two routes.

The previous two weeks I had taken the first option but last weekend I headed north west towards Mazyunah.

My first stop was the oasis village of Mudhai. I started with an inspection of the camel pens at the Thumrait end of the settlement.

hooded wheatear

One of the first birds seen was a very confiding female hooded wheatear.

hooded wheatear 2

Female hooded wheatear and female hooded wheatear are actually easily confusable though it's not highlighted in any guidebooks I have read. 

The hooded wheatear has a longer bill and a flatter head. The whole bird also has a slightly more slender and longer appearance. However, the plumage features are very similar.

hooded wheatear 3

Two desert wheatear were predictably present.

sand partridge

Camel pens are one of the best places to see sand partridge. Indeed I have observed them every time I visited these ones at Mudhai.

European turtle dove

Doves are various types are also attracted to them. A European turtle dove was present for the first time this year. I am now seeing them throughout the desert stops.

striolated bunting

This is also a good place to observe striolated bunting close up. They will even jump into the camel's feed troughs to eat the camel's food.

Arabian red fox

As I left the camel pens, I noticed a fox looking down on me from the hillside.

I will not disclose where I went next because I saw two falcons in the sky. They remained around for over 5 minutes.

first lanner falcon

Both falcons were lanner falcon. The only confusion species is barbary falcon but as one expert consulted put it "dots rather than bars on underparts including upper breast, unmarked undertail coverts, bicoloured wing coverts with lesser white, barred tail and very pointed long moustache leads to this being an adult lanner falcon."

if you have a small screen I recommend double clicking on the above picture to see it in a larger size where the characteristics can be more easily viewed.

second lanner falcon

I obtained another good photo of the first bird but only a hazy one of the second bird which was flying with it. The very pointed moustache and a very large white cheek patch can still be discerned point to this being a lanner falcon too.

Two lanner falcon have only been observed in Oman on one previous occasion. That was at Tudho just over three years ago. Tudho is less than 40 kilometres from Mudhai. 

In the village itself I had little success in the bushy areas near the houses. These can be good in passage but not this time.

Near the oasis pool, Nile valley sunbird were readily observed.

female Nile Valley sunbird

This site is where most tour groups come to look for this species as it is the closest "guaranteed" site to Salalah. They are actually widespread in all bushy wadis further north and west.

male Nile Valley sunbird

After Mudhai I moved on to Tudho and Mazyunah I will blog about these places next.

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