Sunday 10 April 2016

Once more at Al Beed

I am making a big effort to visit the desert every Friday and to stay there from dawn till dusk. However the passerine passage I have seen so far is not strong. It is weak south of the Dhofar mountains in both spring and autumn. It was quite strong in autumn north of the mountains but so far I have been disappointed this spring.

Oman is too far south and east for most mainstream Africa to Europe passage. Birds heading to Iran, Azerbaijan and south east European Russia are mostly to come this way. 

The small orchard at Al Beed farm had a small collection of warblers, all of which were concentrated in four or five trees. The rest of the orchard was barren of passage birds. I have seen this phenomenon regularly. Passage is patchy.

Eastern olivaceous warbler 1

An eastern olivaceous warbler was the most showy warbler.

Eastern olivaceous warbler 2

There was also an Upcher's warbler near-by and they sometimes crossed each other.

lesser whitethroat

There were two lesser whitethroat on site. Both were darker birds than those we normally see in Arabia. They were more akin to Sylvia curruca curruca than Sylvia curruca blythi or the now-believed hybrid Sylvia curruca/minula halimodendri. 

This set of sub-species has been a mess but is becoming clearer following more DNA work.
willow warbler

A willow warbler was the other warbler in this small patch. Elsewhere on the farm I only saw one more lesser whitethroat and one common whitethroat.

rufous bush robin

The most common passerine on passage in either season and north or on the southern foothills of the Dhofar mountains is rufous bush robin (though marsh warbler in late spring must run them close).

I counted seven at Al Beed farm. Two were in the orchard and five in patch of short palms.

rufous bush robin in palm

They are not very tame but there being so many means you will get good photos in the end.

rufous bush robin 

All the desert farms are accumulating European turtle dove. There were eight in the parts of Al Beed I visited. They don't appear to be going anywhere. These farms are likely to be their breeding grounds.

three European turtle dove

Last year I didn't visit the desert stops much and so I missed this happening.

Two European turtle dove

On the first field next to the farm entrance, the male black-headed bunting was still present. I have seen it continually for well over a month now.

black-headed bunting

Though it spent a lot of its time preening, most of its plumage still looks winter.

preening black-headed bunting

I counted 26 rosy starling. They have been at the farm all winter. The ready supply of locusts is fine food for this bird.

rosy starling

Next stop was once again Dowkah farm on a dull day which eventually lead to significant rain in the desert. I will blog about this next.

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