Thursday 30 June 2016

Khawr Rori in the khareef

The weather is now dull, grey and drizzly on the coast near Salalah. In the hills there is near constant rain. The khareef season with its low temperatures has arrived. The temperature drop makes birding so much easier.

I managed to free up an afternoon yesterday to go birding. This was my first session since the monsoon appeared. I went to Khawr Rori starting at the north west corner which has the most extensive reeds.

I had an very good start, spotting a pied cuckoo within minutes of arriving. It was in the bushes a few metres away from the reeds.

pied cuckoo

This species is a passage bird here, travelling from Africa to India where it is sometimes known as the monsoon bird because it comes to them then.

I soon lost sight of it and started developing my original plan which was to search the reeds for anything unusuusal.


I found large numbers of common moorhen of all ages.

young moorhen

The odd Ruppell's weaver was darting in and out. I managed to accidentally flush two yellow bittern.

black-crowned night heron

Through a gap in the reeds, I managed to spy an adult black-crowned night heron which is not all common here in summer.

Having walked on the left hand side of the reeds i eventually came out at the north west corner of the vast expanse of water that is the lake at Khawr Rori.

I was surprised that all six of the terns flying here were sandwich tern.

pale morph western reef heron

On a tree overhanging the water were several western reef heron and two squacco heron.

squacco heron

Both main morphs of western reef heron were present.

dark morph western reef heron

Over the other side of the water, some somthing suddenly spooked the twenty or so grey heron from the hillside.

pied cuckoo again

As walked on past the overhanging tree, I was quick witted enough to notice the pied cuckoo in the next tree and I hadn't flushed it. I presume it was the same bird I had seen 30 minutes before.

pied cuckoo

I steathily stepped slowly towards it. It was unmoved.

yellow bittern

I was late realising there was a yellow bittern in the same dead tree.

yellow bittern

My gaze was only deflected when a third and four bird flew and perched in the same tree.A common myna was nothing special and the other bird momentarily was a blackstart. Nevertheless breifly there was quite a collection of single birds.

common myna

I haven't had such prolonged and close views of a yellow bittern before anywhere.

yellow bittern

When I began to retrace my steps I was very soon aware of a calling dideric cuckoo. Following the call and it was easily found. 

dideric cuckoo

Moments later a male Rueppell's weaver was chasing it away after it had started roaming.

graceful prinia

Graceful prinia are a constantly calling in this area but I don't see anywhere near as many as I making the sounds. In this picture I inadvertantly captured some sort of wasp in flight too.

little green bee-eater

On the way back to the car, I came across three little green bee-eater and a second dideric cuckoo.

Dideric cuckoo

Once in the car, I travelled through the two riyal entrance into the main part of Khawr Rori. Large numbers of slender-billed gull and sooty gull were sheltering from the rough sea. The state of the sea probably explains why the sandwich tern were fishing in the lake.

Flamingo and great crested tern were also numerous. A single gull-billed tern and two common tern added to the tern make-up.

glossy ibis

Other larger birds included a flock of glossy ibis.

reef heron plus three intermediate egret

Khawr Rori is the place in Dhofar to see over-summering intermediate egret.

young spotted redshank

While there were a few common redshank and common greenshank, this one tringa wader was a bit tricky to identify. It is probably a very young spotted redshank or possibly common redshank. Either way it is most unusual for such a young bird to be as far south as Salalah before July has even started.

slender-billed gull with black-tailed godwit and a stilt

The other waders were either the resident black-winged stilt or black-tailed godwit. Six black-tailed godwit was a surprisingly high number.

As the gloom got heavily, I packed up for the day but I was very satisfied with the session.

Thursday 23 June 2016

Pre-monsoonal Salalah

Salalah received the first rain of khareef (monsoon) season yesterday. It was heavy rain too.

I have tried to do some birding locally in the days running up to the monsoon. However it has been hot and extremely humid. These conditions are energy sapping.

This blog shows a few of the highlights. 

There was visit to Sahalnout farm a week ago. 

Ruepell's weaver

Ruepell's weaver were out and about and busy. Many of them have two breeding seasons: in spring and during the khareef.

Seven Namaqua dove

Looking over the fence, which is the only allowed birding at Sahalnout, I came across a group of 17 namaqua dove perched on three sets of dead branches. Namaqua dove is not common in Oman. This may be the largest number ever recorded in one place. it is a shame I got such poor pictures peering through a fence.

singing bush lark

Singing bush lark are easily seen in the fields or on the perimeter fence. Many more are heard and not seen.

common kestrel

Birds of prey are at there minimum at Sahalnout farm at this time of year. Though four kestrel were seen. A bonelli's eagle was perched way over the other side of the farm. The only other predictable bird of prey in June would be yellow-billed kite. None were observed that day.

rose-ringed parakeet

Rose-ringed parakeet meant the volume of noise was high. 

On another day I went over to Raysut to the lagoons and to the settling pools. The bad news is that all eight pheasant-tailed jacana present at the lagoons in early June have left. There will be no breeding of these birds in Salalah this year. 

common tern

I visit the lagoons in particular to look for spoonbills. The seven Eurasian spoonbill appear to be staying all summer but there was once again no sign of a vagrant African spoonbill which I meticulously look for.

red-throated pipit

At the settling pools, the drying piles of fertiliser have the most activity at the moment. Each time over the past six weeks, there have been a group of cattle egret browsing. However it is the other birds which are my interest.

I suspect this would be a good place for any lost passerines. Indeed three weeks ago there was a long-billed pipit there and last week was a red-throated pipit. The latter bird is very late for migration.

red-wattled lapwing

The odd couple of one red-wattled lapwing and one spur-winged lapwing have been at the settling pools on and off for well over a year. There can be found over the fertiliser piles at the moment and are very territorial.

Black-tailed godwit

There is a sprinkling of over-summering black-tailed godwit at several places in the Salalah area including at Khawr Rori where the one above was seen.

young yellow bittern

One of my best birding sessions was at West Khawr on Tuesday evening, the evening before the monsoon broke. In my opinion this is the best mangrove area in the south of the country.

There are yellow bittern there and they seem to have bred well.

adult yellow bittern

Both juvenile and adult birds were observed.

stalking yellow bittern

I checked all the moorhen for lesser moorhen. it seems to me the most likely place if that vagrant were present.

immature moorhen 1

The only candidate birds were small and swimming without obvious parental supervision. However I am confident they were just common moorhen. The bill on the bird above is too dark for that age of lesser moorhen

immature moorhen 2

Another candidate has too much red on the bill.

There were five types of herons on site. Two were purple heron.

squacco heron

There also at least four grey heron, two striated heron, eight squacco heron and one Indian pond heron. In addition, four flamingo were wading out in the water.

little grebe

Other water birds included nine little grebe and one red-knobbed coot. I wonder if the monsoon will bring any thing else there?

Sunday 12 June 2016

Mazyunah and Tudho in the heat

On Friday, the furthest I reached on my desert trip was Mazyunah on the Yemen border. The stop before that was Tudho. This blog looks at both.

There is one major birding place in Mazyunah and three or so usually minor ones. This time I only visited the major spot which is the sewage pool. It's large and produces a stream. Despite its name, the reeds do a good job and the water is relatively clean.

In winter it teems with bird life. Not much is known about the birds in the hotter months but it is suspected that waifs and strays might occur along side the resident moorhen and roosting doves. Last time there was a red-necked phalarope

In summer, other resident birds come to drink too. Indeed my target bird, trumpeter finch is known to drink here.

collared pratincole

There were three "strays"on this visit to support this theory. The first was a collared pratincole. It was my first one this year. I assume it is on late spring migration or lost.

collared pratincole turning

The bird was tired and sleeping some of the time though it lowly turned while I moved the car closer.

collared pratincole facing right

It allowed close views and I am pleased it didn't flush and was in the same place as I left.

slender-billed gull

The second stray was a worn looking slender-billed gull apparently still in winter plumage.

The third bird was an immature squacco heron.

Earlier i had spent toe hours sitting and watching the water trough and small pools at Tudho, wadi Aydam. For the fifth time I waited patiently for my target species, trumpeter finch, to come and drink which it has been recorded to do. And for the fifth time I had no joy.

water trough at Tudho

I had more success with other birds. A Lichtenstein's sandgrouse flushed right in front of me. Two chestnut bellied sandgrouse came to drink. Unfortunately a goat herd and herder were there at the time crowned sandgrouse normally drink so this may be the reason they weren't seen this time.

chestnut-bellied sandgrouse

Large numbers of desert lark and some white-spectacled bulbul continually came and went.

female hooded wheatear

Two single birds drank. One was a female hooded wheatear and the other was a striolated bunting.

Laughing dove, rock dove and little green bee-eater were frequent visitors. Pale crag martin flew length ways down the trough from time to time.

sand partridge

Sand partridge were also  drinkers. Unlike sandgrouse they don't drink quickly and flew off. If they are comfortable they stay minutes on end before finally walking off.

Looking at some camel pens on the way back, I spotted a European turtle dove along with birds already seen. 

Overall the selection of birds was satisfactory on the trip but I can't hide my disappointment at not finding trumpeter finch once again.

Saturday 11 June 2016

Mudhai and Mutahafah in the heat

Yesterday  I made the long trip to Mazyunah on the Yemen border. Unlike Sarfait which is also on this border, Mazyunah is well inland and is in a desert area.

I stopped off at a couple of places on the way out and a different one on the way back. This blog is about the two nearest to Salalah: Mudhai seen on the way out and Mutahafah on the way back.

Not every bird is attracted to camel pens in the desert but most are. I started in Mudhai with my regular inspection of camel pens immediately on arrival to the village from the Thumrait road.

striolated bunting

Striolated bunting were tucking into camel feed pellets and then flying off to rest.

sand partridge

Sand partridge were shuffling around the site.

desert lark

Desert lark were everywhere.

The numbers of doves of various kinds were well down since my visits in the spring. I failed to see a European turtle dove here this time and only rock dove, laughing dove and one or two European collared dove were around. 

Nile valley sunbird

Mudhai is known for the guarantee or near guarantee of Nile Valley sunbird all year round. Once again they were easily seen as I moved into the village proper.

They are well distributed and not just in the area around the permanent oasis where many birders go to look for them. At the oasis I accidentally flushed several chestnut-bellied sandgrouse as I arrived.

Arabian grey shrike

I looked hard in the village for African collared dove on the wires and on the ground. It's tricky looking for them in palms especially as you don't normally have to work that hard to find them. An Arabian grey shrike was seen on a wire along with several European collared dove. In the end I saw one briefly.

European collared dove

Checking the collared doves on the ground didn't yield any more.

hoopoe lark

A hoopoe lark was a little surprising within a village.

On the way back from Mazyunah I stopped off at Mutahafah for the first time. Mudhai and Mutahafah are equidistant but on either side of the road's police check point.

little green bee-eater

Mutahafah was new for me. It turned out to be a small camel and goat farming village on the edge of a wide wadi. A search on the wadi sides for a target bird: trumpeter finch was fruitless though little green bee-eater was seen.

So I turned back to my faithful regime of inspecting the camel and goat pens.

mountain gazelle

Two mountain gazelle also seem to like what the pens have to offer and were rather tame. I presume this is because they come to the village for the pens and are used to people.

African collared dove

Rather strangely African collared dove out numbered European collared  dove both at the pens and on the wires in the hamlet. This was in contrast to Mudhai which is only 40 kilometres away. Yet at times Mudhai can have many African collared dove too but not yesterday.

Two African collared dove

I would love to know what movements are going on.

In the next blog I will write about Tudho and Mazyunah which were the two furthest places way on Friday. I was pleased with the variety of birds.