Oman & UAE

Published by Chris Mills (professor.yaffle AT virgin.net)

Participants: Chris Mills, Pete Dolton, Eric Palmer Jules Bos & Oscar Campbell

Comments

Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Pacific Golden Plover
Pacific Golden Plover
Red-billed Tropicbrid
Red-billed Tropicbrid
Red-tailed Wheatear
Red-tailed Wheatear
Slender-billed Gull
Slender-billed Gull
Lesser Sandplover
Lesser Sandplover
Osprey
Osprey

Getting there

We got a direct flight from London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi, if you just wish to travel to Oman then you would be better flying to Muscat on 31st March 2007, the beginning of the Easter week. Cost of flight was £260, you could probably get this cheaper if you are prepared to go either side of Easter

Getting around

As there was five of us with a loads of optics and cameras we opted for an 8 - seater minibus, this was a great option affording everyone some space and enough room to crash out when knackered! It had 2.5 litre petrol engine and probably did less than 30 miles to the gallon but the price of fuel in Oman & UAE is one tenth of the UK so this didn't cause any added expense

Birding sites

Nearly all of the sites we visited in Oman are in " Birdwatching guide to Oman" by Hanne & Jens Eriksen and Panadda & Dave E. Sargeant Al Roya Publishing . This guide is excellent and you should not consider birding in Oman without it! Its 256 pages are packed with useful information for resident and visiting birdwatchers alike, including items such as: how and when to come, including the latest visa regulations.

Maps

You will need a map we bought one from a bookstore prior to leaving.

Temperature

The weather was hot, probably 17-22c overnight and rising to 40c during the day. You will need plenty of suncream and gallons of water

Email address

At the time of writing Oscar is based in Abu Dhabi, but has undertaken many sorties into Oman, he will be more than helpful if you wish to email him about specific sites, species.
Oscar Campbell [ojcampbell25@yahoo.com]

Money & currency

Just take plastic cards, there are plenty of machines even in Southern Oman, you won't need a lot of money anyway!

Overview of the trip

Overall we had a fantastic trip recording over 170 species of birds, birding during the middle of the day was tough in the heat - and we often planned our drives from site to site around the worst hours. Food is Indian/Arabic, so therefore mainly spicy. Everything is really cheap especially food, a good spread of curry was costing less than £2 per head! Full trip report with loads of pics at www.norfolkbirding.com

Daily itinerary

31st March 2007 - UAE

Arrived Abu Dhabi drove for 1 hour to an area known as the Green Mubazzarah Hotel Ainal Fayda - Clean rooms with a/c, flush toilet, shower costs around £15 per person per night. Unlikely you would need to book lots of rooms. Hotel Ainal Fayda P.O. Box 15798 Al Ain U.A.E 7838333

1st April 2007 - UAE

Birded around gardens of Hotel then drove to Green Mubazzarah area, this is a series of "sad" tourist attractions, but the great thing is all the lawns are watered, and there is an artificial stream. The Wadis off to the right of the road are all well worth exploring. The target species were Red-tailed Wheatear, Mourning Wheatear, Humes Wheatear, Purple Sunbird, Sand Partridge, & Barbary Falcon, Indian Roller - we got off to a great start seeing all of these. We also saw Red-b Flycatcher, Barred Warbler, Upchers Warbler, and both "Isabeline Shrikes", plus many other regualr species. We left early afternoon and undertook the long drive to Qatbit some 1000Km south. This involved crossing the border which apart from the expected bureaucracy was uneventful. Some 80Km south of the border and a roadside stop produced great views of Lappet-faced Vulture, also Brown-N-Raven, Desert Lark & Southern Grey Shrike.

Motel & Resthouse Qatbit. Basic clean rooms with a/c flush toilets, shower £15 per person with breakfast. Plus the owner is interested in birds and keeps a log of records for here and Muntasar oasis. email:- qitbit_motel@rediffmail.com

2nd April 2007

OMAN We headed for the green oasis known as Muntasar, this is the middle of the desert and consists of some low lying bushes, and grasses complete with a pool. Our birding was hampered by a strong wind blowing sand into every last area of clothes and optics! We still had some good birds, although migrants were thin on the ground, you can imagine this to be a very exciting location when a fall of birds has arrived, the best birds for us were 100 Spotted Sandgrouse, 2 Crowned Sandgrouse (coming to drink around 800am) 2 Southern Grey Shrike, 1 Pintail Snipe, Tawny Pipit, 4+ Upchers Warblers.

Back for breakfast at Qatbit and then birded around the Motel area, still few migrants. Best birds were: 1 Turkestan Isabelline Shrike, 2 Northern Wheatear, 1 Rufous Bushchat.

(The areas above are well covered by " Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 90-91)

We then set off again heading south. After 100Km we stopped at Al Beed an arable farmed area, " ("Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 94-95) amongst the desert. This proved to be excellent, good birds and some good opportunities for photography. The best birds were 1 Marsh Harrier, 4 Upcher's Warblers, 5 Rufous Bushchat, 9 European Bee-eaters, 6 Hoopoe Larks, 1 Red-throated Pipit, 8 Richard's pipits, 12 Black crowned Finch lark, 1 Tawny pipit, 1 Brown-necked raven.

It was then a further 7-8 hr slog of driving down to our main destination in southern Oman, Salalah.

For the next 4 days we based ourself at Salalah within the area known as the Dhofar region("Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 122-123). Beach Spa Hotel details will be published shortly.

This was an excellent place to stay, our rooms were very clean and of a good standard all came with air-conditioning, kitchenette, toilet, shower and a balcony overlooking a fine white sandy beach with the shoreline less than 300m away. A basic breakfast was provided, and the owner was extremely helpful. £15 per person per night

3rd April 2007 - OMAN

Birding started at the well known site of Ayn Hamran, ("Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 130-131) a wooded area on a hillside, just below the coastal mountain fringe. Best birds here were 6 Arabian Partridge, 4 Bruces Green Pigeon, 12 Blackstart, 2 Olivaceous Warbler, 4 Arabian Warbler, 5 African paradise Flycatcher, 2 Tchagra Shrike, num Tristram's Grackles, 50+ Ruppells Weavers, 15+ African Rock Bunting, 20 Shining Sunbird & 1 Short-toed Eagle. We headed back for breakfast, and on the edge of town at East Khawr ("Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 126-127) stopped for 2 Spotted & 2 Imperial Eagles. At breakfast there was constant distraction as Crested, Lesser Crested, Caspian & Gull-billed Tern passed up and down the shoreline!!

We then headed off for the pools at Taqah ("Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 134-135), where we had a nice mix of waders & terns. The best birds were 5 Little Stint, 6 Temminck's Stint, 3 Whimbrel, 1 Wood Sandpiper, 1 Marsh Sandpiper, 6 Kentish Plover, & 1 Purple Heron.

We finished the day by driving on to a headland - Mirbat for seawatching ("Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 144-145). Here we recorded 30 Jouannains Petrel, 2 Masked Booby, 1 Brown Booby, 1 Roof Egret.

4th April 2007 - OMAN

Today was a long day birding from 0630 til 1000pm, we covered:
Al Maghsalay("Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 152-153) - Rocky hillside well west of Salalah
Raysut - Sea cliffs to the west of Salalah most noted for colony of Red-billed Tropicbirds
Jarziz - ("Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 146-147)This is a farm area on the edge of Salalah.
Khawr Salalah ("Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 122-123)- A wetland pool adjacent to a Prince's palace, difficult to view, and we were moved along quickly by security!
East Kwhar ("Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 126-127) - an area of extensive reeds and pools at the eastern edge of Salalah adjacent to the shoreline.
Wadi Ashawq nr Al Magsalay ("Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 152-153) - A dried up Wadi noted for the presence of Humes Tawny Owl

Morning at Jarziz - Best birds 40 Cattle Egret, 1 Pallid Harrier, 1 Montagu's Harrier, 70 White-W-B- Tern following the plough, 1 Namaqua Dove, 4 Rose-c- Starling, Shining Sunbird, 10 Chestnut B Sandgrouse.

Morning at East Kwhar - Best birds 3 Yellow Bittern, 1 African Spoonbill, 1 Purple Heron, 2 Marsh sandpiper, 6 Saunders Terns, & many other terns & waders.

Afternoon at Salalnr- Best birds sev Glossy Ibis, 2prs Cotton teal, plus other water birds

Afternoon at Raysut - Best birds 20+ Red-billed Tropicbirds - these were fantastic and one of the best birds of the trip, also here Black Kite & Osprey - regularly fishing.

En-route Al Maghsalay - Stopped of here for a target species and scored with 1 South Arabian Wheatear. Also beach area near here gave good opportunities for photographing, Crested, Lesser Crested, Gull-billed Tern, also several large flocks of gulls.

Evening at Wadi Ashawq - 4 South Arabian Wheatear, 2 Humes Tawny Owls. The Owls were first heard and then watched hunting in a flashlight. We managed to drive a good 4Km in the minibus up the track - the rest you will need to walk Beach Spa Hotel

5th April 2007 - OMAN

We started off at Kwhar Rawri ("Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 136-137) and had a nice selection of water birds & waders. Different species from the previous days around this habitat were:- 1 Great White Egret, 10+ Greater Flamingo, 10 Garganey, 2 Greater Sand Plover, 2 Ruff, 1 Terek Sandpiper, 1 White-breasted Waterhen. Also several singing Clamorous Reed Warbler, Osprey, Steppe Eagle, & Bonelli's Eagle.

We then moved onto the hills of Wadi Darbat ("Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 138-139) area, we had at least 2 Lappet-faced Vulture, 2 unidentified vultures that may have been atypical Lappet-faced. Also Imperial Eagle, Bonelli's Eagle and a Barbary Falcon. The ponds in the valley held a mixture of warblers and water birds, but nothing that had not been seen elsewhere.

Next stop Tawi Atayar ("Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 140-141) - similar raptors here, but a new species for the trip was Long-legged Buzzard. The main target species here was soon in the bag, a small flock of around 30 Yemen Serin were feeding at the top of the bouldered hillside, also Rock Bunting & Blackstart here.

We finished the day at Taqal ("Birdwatching guide to Oman" page 140-141) a coastal marsh adjacent to the shoreline, new species here for the trip were 7 Grey Wagtails, 1 Black-headed Gull. We also had very good views of the much debated "Dhofar" or Forbes Watson Swifts, apparently debate continues over the exact species you encounter in this area. Beach Spa Hotel

6th April 2007 - OMAN

We decided on a mornings birding at East Kwhar, Wadi Darbat & Khawr Rawri. We then had a long drive ahead of us heading for the island of Masirah via Qatbit. The Kwhar & Darbat produced a range of similar species as to yesterday, but the exceptions was a Sooty Falcon - an early record here.

Khwar Rawri consisted of a series of small pools & vegetation, this provided our one and only Citrine Wagtail of our trip.

In the afternoon we headed off north bound for Masirah, via a stopover at Qatbit. En-route last off we stopped and birded the desert wadi of Rabkut , this is 5KM north of Thumbayt.

We walked out onto the tallest mounds and scoped the area, 2 Sand partridge, 1Houbara Bustard, 10 Litchensteins Sandgrouse & 1 Gazzelle sp. Motel & Resthouse Qatbit. Basic clean rooms with a/c flush toilets, shower £15 per person with breakfast. Plus the owner is interested in birds and keeps a log of records for here and Muntasar oasis. email: qitbit_motel@rediffmail.com

7th April 2007 - OMAN

After leaving Qatbit at 4.30am we made good time and arrived early for the ferry over to Masirah. ("Birdwatching guide to Oman" pages 106-109).

This is a rocky island off the east coast of Oman, there is just one area of vegetation around the sewage farm and has a reputation for producing the unexpected. We visited this "migrant trap" area, there were few passerines just 1 Wood Warbler & 3 Common Koel. There was plenty of waders around the sewage farm and a selection of other birds. We noted 20 Egyptian Vultures, 2 sickly looking White Storks, 1 Greylag Goose, 8 Pacific Golden Plover, 5 Pintail Snipe, 1 Common Kingfisher, 1 Marsh harrier, 1 Green Sandpiper. Both areas are accessed through a gate, but the employees were quite happy to let us freely wander around - clearly UK bureaucracy & HSE has not reached Oman yet!!

The shoreline nearby held 30+ Slender-billed Gulls & 2 Chestnut-b-Sandgrouse.

Last couple of hours we tried seawatching from Ras-Al-Yar - a known headland. It was quality rather than quantity: 200+ Bridled Tern, with 2 Common Noddy amongst the flocks. Also 1 Pomarine Skua. We stopped at Masirah Hotel - very clean rooms with air-conditioning toilet & shower room. Around £15 per night. See www.almajalioman.com

8th April 2007 - OMAN

We returned the next morning to the plantation the main addition was a Redstart, & 4 Yellow-throated Sparrow. We also noted a small snake but didn't manage to put a name to it!

The sewage works also contained a similar number of the same species, with the exception of a Curlew sandpiper & Red-rumped Swallow. The beach pool hosted 50 Chestnut-B-Sandgrouse, 33 Greater Flamingo, 2 Lesser Sandplover, 1 Greater Sandplover, 2 Greenshank, 12 Red-throated Pipit in the few bushes around the pool, 1 Wood Sandpiper & 3 Cattle Egret.

In the afternoon we headed off to the North end of the island to explore Sur Masirah ("Birdwatching guide to Oman" pages 106-109). The most northern mudflats held huge masses of waders, the following were our best estimates:- 400 Bar-tailed Godwit, 150 Whimbrel, 60 Curlew, 700 Lesser Sandplover, 300 Greater Sandplover, 50 Greenshank, 10 Dunlin, 10 Sanderling, 50 Kentish Plover (somje with chicks), 20 Crab Plover, there were also many Crested, Lesser Crested terns, and a line of 45 Caspian Terns. There were also masses off in the distance that were too faraway to work!

We finished the day with a disappointing seawatch off Ras Abu ras, here we had similar species to the Ras Al Yar but much smaller numbers, despite searching we were unable to locate any Persian Shearwaters. We did however have excellent close views of Pacific hump-backed Dolphin. We stopped at Masirah Hotel.

9th April 2007 - OMAN

Our last day on Masirah and in Oman, we again started at the plantation and sewage farm and we added another migrant - a Wryneck, also far many more Chestnut-B-Sandgrouse came into drink with around a total of 200+ arriving at the beach pool over a period of 90 minutes. The Wood Warbler, Redstart, and Yellow-throated Sparrow were still present, as were a poorly looking group of White Storks. Having watched many of the migrants, and noted numerous corpses we around Masirahs SFit is clear that many of the migrants that arrive here, fail to continue on their journey. Many are tired and lost, thus without enough energy to make the flight to the mainland they are stuck in 40c without any real food source - death is the ultimate consequence. These factors probably explained the abundance of Egyptian Vultures in the area. I watched the Wood Warbler feeding under the trees on the few insects available, clearly trying hard to boost its fat reserves - it was quite a heart wrenching experience.

The ferry crossing back gave is further nice views of Lesser Crested, Crested and Saunders Tern. En-route we scored with 2 Lappet Faced Vulture we then undertook the long slog back to UAE arriving back at Hotel Ain Fayda at 10PM. Hotel Ainal Fayda - Clean rooms with a/c, flush toilet, shower costs around £15 per person per night. Unlikely you would need to book lots of rooms. Hotel Ainal Fayda P.O. Box 15798 Al Ain U.A.E 7838333

10th April 2007 - UAE

Sadly, our last day. We started birding around 6.30am wandering the parks & gardens within the immediate vicinity of the Hotel we then worked the area around the Green Mubzarrah and the Wadi at the southern end of the tourist complex.

Birds noted:- White C Bulbul (num), Red V Bulbul (sev), 2 Hoopoe, Grey francolin, 3 Isabelline Shrike, Clamorous Reed Warbler, 4 Purple Sunbird, 1 Mourning Wheatear - still present, 20 Pallid Swift, 1 Red tailed Wheatear still present, 4-5 Indian Roller, 4 Little Green Bee-eater, 2 Striated Bunting, 1 Barbary Falcon, 2 Upchers Warbler, 5+ Sand Partridge, 40 Bee-eater, 2 Arabian Babbler - and one of the birds of the trip a male Baillons Crake feeding in an artificial stream.

We had lunch and then took a drive towards Abu dhabi taking in several pools known to Oscar, the final ones being his local patch!! A bit different to Holme, Titchwell and Cley!!

The pools on the outskirts of AD were excellent and teaming with an assortment of waders: 100s of Little Stint, 4+ Wood sandpiper. 3+ Marsh Sandpiper, 10 Avocet, 3 Spotted Redshank, several Ruff, numerous Kentish plover, numerous Black-winged Stilt, also 1-2 Red-wattled Lapwing.

We finished with a quick swim in the pool at the school in Abu Dhabi where Oscar is teaching, a tour of the school and an excellent sushi meal, before departing for our flights back to London

Full trip report with loads of pics @ www.norfolkbirding.com