Friday, 24 October 2014

Raysut treated water lake revisited

Yesterday late afternoon, I visited Raysut treated water lake for the second time. The water level was higher but still incredibly clean. The treatment plant must be working to very high standards.

This does of course mean there are very few reeds which need more nutrients and less flies than most plants!

However there were still a good variety of birds and it was a pleasure to bird in such a clean environment.

I have very mixed emotions about my visit. I thought I glimpsed a long-tailed shrike which is a vagrant to these parts but never saw it long enough or got a photo. I searched very hard for it again but failed. I won't claim this sighting but I will go back as soon as I can to look again.

Blue-cheeked bee-eater

As partial compensation, I came across five blue-cheeked bee-eater.  This was the first sighting by me of them in Oman. I have yet to see a European bee-eater here.

Two blue-cheeked bee-eater

In the same tree as a blue-cheeked bee-eater at one stage were a few Tristram's starling. The lake is popular with house crow too.

Tristram's starling

Other land birds included Ruepell's weaver and African silverbill.

The lake

The African silverbill were spending much of their time preening.

African silverbill

Nearer the water's edge, several citrine wagtail were seen. The numbers have increased since last time.

citrine wagtail

Some were moulting. I assume from juvenile monochrome into brighter colours.

white stork in the sky

Large numbers of white stork spend the winter at the near-by Salalah lagoons and Raysut rubbish tip so it wasn't surprising that 45 or so passed over the far end of the lake at one stage. Three steppe eagle were with them.

black winged stilt

Waders included several black-winged stilt, grey heron, squacco heron and a single glossy ibis

green sandpiper

All of trio: wood sandpiper, common sandpiper and green sandpiper were there.

wood sandpiper

The far end looks good terrain for collared pratincole but non seen so far. Lets see what the winter brings.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Finally a white wagtail

It has been a busy week at work so opportunities for birding during the week have been limited. However I went out to Al Baleed with its lagoon on late Monday afternoon and to Saadah Park on Tuesday afternoon. Both sites are within Salalah city.

The Saadah park visit added to my Oman list with the humble white wagtail. Yellow wagtail and possibly citrine wagtail are more common in winter and white wagtail clearly starts arriving later than either. Many white wagtail winter much further north.

My first white wagtail in Oman

I have been seeing three other species of wagtail here in Salalah for a month now.

white wagtail
In the end I counted three of them.

yellow wagtail

There were also several yellow wagtail present and perhaps more surprisingly one grey wagtail.

Tree pipit

Two pipits are feeding on the ground and I struggled to work out if they were tree pipit or red-throated pipit. Its not so easy in autumn and winter when the red throats disappear. Finally they flew off into trees which was a broad hint they were tree pipit.

clean rump of a tree pipit

Looking at the pictures on return home, it is clear they were tree pipit especially with one photo showing an unstreaked rump on one of the birds.

Scaly-breasted munia

As well as wagtails and pipits, on the lawns most of the time were small flocks of scaly-breasted munia. I have now seen them in all three major city parks.

Spotted flycatcher

Spotted flycatcher is still the most widespread migrant of all. It is seen in so many places with any trees.

hoopoe

In contrast hoopoe, which is also a migrant,  numbers are quite low but can be found in the more shaded and more moist areas. 


white-spectacled bulbul

The park had two typical birds of woodlands and gardens. There were white-spectacled bulbul and grey-headed kingfisher. The latter is still showing no signs of leaving for Africa for the winter.

grey-headed kingfisher

I enjoyed birding in the park and look forward to winter birding there.

The day before I visited Al Baleed which was not as interesting as on my previous visit with fewer and less varied birds. There were less water heron family members in the main water body and less waders at the sand bar near the sea although Pacific golden plover and greenshank were plentiful there.

Female shining sunbird

I inspected the garden there. I am still looking for my first Nile valley sunbird and Palestine sunbird within the country. However I am only picking up shining sunbird which was present there again.

Two Bruce's green pigeon

One small nice surprise at Al Baleed were two Bruce's green pigeon confirming my view that they can be found even at sea level in the Salalah area. I had previously seen them at Dahariz Park which is also by the sea.

Bruce's green pigeon

They were more confiding than most of their species.

Little grebe

The late afternoon light conditions suited their photography as it did with a little grebe there too.

I did manage to get out to bird late Wednesday afternoon too. I'll write about that next.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Pin-tailed snipe at Khawr Rori

After Ayn Hamran on Saturday morning, David Kilmister and I moved on to Taqah before going our separate ways.

I elected to move further down the coast eastward to Mirbat and then back to Salalah stopping at Khawr Rori (Rawri) on the way back.

Despite intensive birding at varied habitat I only added one new bird to my Oman list and it was at Khawr Rori which was the best location for me all afternoon. So I'll write about Khawr Rori first.

Pin-tailed snipe

There was a large cluster of birds in a wetland fringe next to the great expanse of water. It was here I saw my first ever pin-tailed snipe. It was right next to a common snipe so comparisons were made easier. It has a uniformly thin loral stripe and its bill is relatively short. Looking a little closer and you can see its scapular pattern is quite different. It is more scalloped. Thanks are due to UAE birding which helped confirm the identification.

Garganey

The winter duck population is slowly growing in the region and near the snipes at Khawr Rori were several. All were from the three species I have seen so far and I dont expect a rush of other species for up to 8 weeks from now. Garganey arrived first.

Northern shoveller

I am seeing as many northern shoveller at most sites as garganey now and Khawr Rori was no exception.

common teal

The smallest numbers of the three are common teal.

red-necked phalarope

There were plenty of herons and ibises as well as sooty gull and a few Hueglin's gull.

Other notable birds were a single red-necked phalarope and three gull-billed tern. Once again these were in the same small area of the lagoon as the ducks and the pin-tailed snipe.

Gull-billed tern

Before reaching Khawr Rori there were relatively few highlights during the afternoon. However these did include yet another close encounter with a Bonelli's eagle at Khawr Taqah.

Bonelli's eagle at Taqah

There are always piles of heron feathers around where the Bonelli's eagle has been. Yet strangely a grey heron was perched only a few metres away from this one. I wonder if it was brave or foolish.

The same Bonelli's eagle

In the town of Taqah itself, we returned to the Forbes-Watson's  swift colony which still had plenty of activity. though my guide book says most of them don't stay the winter. Let's see. There is no sign of diminished numbers yet.

pale crag martin at Taqah

Also in the town we came across two confiding (not completely fledged?) pale crag martin perched much of the time on a ground floor ledge. I had heard that they sometimes breed at low level and this was an abandoned one-storey house.

A second pale crag martin

The continuation of my trip out east to Ras Mirbat (before turning back to Salalah via Khawr Rori) was disappointing. I didn't see any pelagics out to sea from any of the headlands.

Osprey

There were very large numbers of great crested tern, sooty gull and large white headed gulls near the Marriott Hotel, Ras Mirbat but I could'nt pick put anything exceptional among them.

Osprey and whimbrel provided a little bit of variation.

Whimbrel

At least Mirbat itself is a very attractive fishing town and worth a visit for that alone.

In my next blog, I'll write about this mid-weeks birding.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Dideric cuckoo being fed at Ayn Hamran

On Saturday morning, I went to Ayn Hamran for the second time since coming to Oman.

I arrived early before any picnickers but after half an hour I met David Kilmister by pure chance. David is a birder working out of Saudi Arabia but on holiday here. It's always good to find fellow birders.

Once again I found a Dideric cuckoo. On first look it appeared to be an adult male. It has the male's metallic green upperparts.

Dideric cuckoo

However, it had heavy spotting and streaking on its underparts resembling a juvenile.

perched young Dideric cuckoo

It was brazenly perched out in the open and allowed close approach. Then I realised why.

a begging Dideric cuckoo

It lowered its wings and started fluttering them in a lowered position. It was begging for food. It knew its foster parents were near-by.

Ruepell's weaver feeds Dideric cuckoo

Moments later and in a flash a Ruepell's weaver appeared with a grub and fed the much larger cuckoo.

after the feed

The cuckoo looked dissatisfied with the amount of food. The cuckoo remained in the same group of trees for all the time I was there and begged several times though I didn't see feeding again as I was not watching it intently.

Young Ruepell's weaver have been fledged for a month now but this greedy bird is still asking for food and getting it. This display explains why I am still seeing Dideric cuckoo so late in the year. 

Looking through visit reports and other records, birders don't see it in November so these greedy young birds must leave soon.

White-eared bulbul

Otherwise, there was no real change in the birds at Ayn Hamran since my last visit. I need the cooler weather for that.

I didn't search in so many places for eastern nightingale but two were in the same spot as before.

Abyssinian white eye, white-spectacled bulbul, Tristram's starling and common myna were still plentiful. However there were more grey wagtail (3).

blackstart

Even though it is a lush area, blackstart can be seen. This one seems to have some thin wire in its mouth. I hope its not stuck.

hoopoe

Hoopoe can only be seen in these lush areas. They are winter visitors and seem to be quite selective about location.

spotted flycatcher

I am still waiting for a big wave of passerine migrants. The red-tailed shrikes, red-backed shrike, nightingales, common whitethroat, citrine and yellow wagtail and spotted flycatcher make up over 95% of what I have seen.