The arrival on Jan 19 was not straightforward, as the inimitable Gulf Air decided to cancel my flight leaving me with the joys of a 12 hour transit stop in sunny Bahrain airport. Needless to say I could not use the business lounge despite the Qantas sign outside, and there was an information vacuum until just before the flight. I was just relieved to get to Dubai by 2130, I had visions of being stuck overnight.
Joan had already gone through, but immigration here is painless, you don't even complete any forms, and I was very pleased to find my airport transfer guy awaiting me outside, I just hope he hadn't been there 12 hours!
Joan was in her PJ's and about to sleep when I got there at 2200, so we crashed out quickly ready for the human dynamo, Steve "Madman" James at 0630 next day.Friday Jan 20
The hotel did breakfast at 0600 which was nice too, then away we sped down to the plantation at Ghantoot where Steve had seen just a single Hypocolius the day before. The race was on, and it was within 20 minutes that we heard the call and I soon spied a movement in a tree and got onto a beautiful male Hypocolius. YAY! Trip objective achieved, all else is a bonus. I was surprised how hard they were to find, and how shy, skulking deep in leafy cover. We saw two birds, an adult and an imm. male, the latter flying across the road and being found on the ground where it was eating a red date.
Sighs of relief all round, they are very irruptive and can vanish fast, though it is clearly a better winter for them than last year.
The Pivot Fields held a few ticks for Joan, and we quickly found Eurasian Golden Plover, then flushed up Jack Snipe and later a Quail, with a supporting cast of a single Sociable and a dozen White-tailed Plover, Water, Tawny, Richard's and Red-throated Pipits, Siberian Stonechat and Isabelline Wheatear.
The former Whimpey Pits is now on the edge of International City, as the frenzied development of Dubai continues, and is renamed Al Wassem. A scan here gave Gadwall and Tufted Duck for the year, and we had brief looks at a vagrant Crested Coot on a small pond at the back, now in it's fourth year here, and one of the Asian taxa of Purple Swamphen with a greyish head.
Next stop was Al Ain and the site for Pied and Mourning Wheatears, both of which were absent, not surprising given the milling crowds at both sites at the base of the Jebel. Going up to the Mercure atop the Jebel Hafit, we scored both Hume's and Hooded Wheatears, then came the big prize, the female Eversmann's Redstart. Now I had the wrong search image here, I'd expected it to have big white wing bars, so when a female "Black Redstart" with faint wing bars and pale edges to the flight feathers showed I was surprised to learn that this was it. It’s a subtle thing, one of these UAE birder's birds and a v. good world tick. Steve found it a few days back.
On then to the Omani border at Buraimi by mid afternoon. Now this was a test, as it is only very recently that land entry via the UAE is permitted and we were a bit anxious about our various visa requirements. Exiting the UAE was easy enough though we had to pay 20 dirhams, and the palatial marble floored Omani border post was fine- fill in a form, buy the car insurance, pay the visa rials and bingo, we were through the whole shebang inside an hour. I could have brought a bottle of booze as they didn't check and anyway we can seemingly bring one in as tourists, now we know!
Now the serious driving began, as we wanted to get down to the sandgrouse site at Muntazar for early morning, a journey of about 600 km. There is a new tar road that goes out of Ibri to Al Gabah which saved us 100km, and we were soon well down the track. Fatigue set in late on and about 2300 we got to Al Gaftan servo and pitched the mats for the night out in the desert. Joan slept in the truck and I shivered out on a sleep mat, it was very cold and I was underdressed and longing for my swag.Sat Jan 21
I donned extra layers and got through the night, then at dawn we found we had a puncture. We limped into the servo, which no longer has puncture guys, then found we had no wheel spanner-ulp! We were able to borrow a larger jack and spanner from some locals, and finally succeeded in getting the wheel changed before heading off 90 km or so to Qitbit where there was puncture place, going via the oasis at Muntasar.
We were at Muntasar by 0830 and saw a few camels and a Bluethroat before the sandgrouse began flying in at 0905, strangely enough landing out on the hard gravel desert. We got some nice views at rest, then they began coming to the water and we had fine flight views of about 400 Spotted Sandgrouse, though sadly no Crowned were evident. On then to Qitbit and a tyre repair, whilst we checked the small trees in the grounds of the motel. This was a fine site and I found a Hypocolius when I wandered off early on, later having two fine males sitting in a tree for us and giving nice views. The support cast included Menetries's Warbler, Desert Lesser Whitethroat, a weird large Lesser Whitethroat with blackish head and white underparts, and Bluethroat.
Heading south from Qitbit (Qatbit) we got the first Hoopoe Lark, then went off road on the way to Shisr (Shisur), getting bogged in soft sand and having to dig and deflate the tyres down to about 22 psi to get out, much to Joan's dismay!
We drove slowly south on soft tyres to the Al Beed turn-off where we were able to reinflate, then on down through deep gravel desert to Thumrait (Thumrayt- Arab orthography is still not standardised and spellings vary a lot, just as Lawrence noted in Seven Pillars of Wisdom). Here the garbage dump used to be good for eagles, and we did OK with half a dozen Spotted Eagles and one Steppe nearby, though the dumping of offal is now more hygienic and the large concentrations may be things of the past.
We got to the escarpment leading down to the coastal plain by late pm, the country greening up with coarse scrub and grass from Thumrait onwards, and Fan-tailed Ravens replacing the Brown-necked.
Salalah was reached early evening and we had a fine meal in a cheap juice bar that did a mean green pea masala and sweet corn and chicken soup. Out then on the road to Taqa (Taqah) past a palace, and a night at Ain Hamryn (Hamran) spring. Here a Porcupine in the road was an amazing sight, we could not make out what on earth it was at first as the shape was so odd.Sunday Jan 22
Morning saw us up a first light after a fair night, and soon onto non-bd Ruppell's Weaver and male Shining Sunbird, with two fine Verreaux's Eagle soaring over the escarpment. Bruce's Green Pigeon was a good winter find, with 3 quite vocal birds around the citrus orchard, letting us know we were back in Africa along with the Paradise Flycatchers that have huge white shoulder patches in the males. Arabian Partridge and Warbler were absent though.
We worked east along the coast towards Taqah, stopping at East Khawr which was very reed overgrown then going to Khawr (Khor) Taqah which was readily viewable and quickly gave us some fine birds like Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Cotton Pygmy-Goose, several Indian Pond Herons, Garganey and a brief view of a f. Little Crake. Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin were close inshore off the beach, a nice mammal to see.
Monday Jan 23
Finding our way to Tawi Atayr was a little tricky as it had changed a lot since Steve’s last visit, The Yemen Serin has a seemingly outlying population around this huge collapsed cavern sinkhole, and I saw about 20 birds, finding them on the lip not far from where we parked. Bizarrely there is a wire cable with some sort of wooden cradle that runs out over the sinkhole, it may be a death defying viewing platform and I can’t imagine who would ever be brave enough to use it! A Wryneck was a pleasing addition here. We got fine looks at the very distinctive South Arabian Wheatear afterwards on the escarpment, the female being quite different to the male, but could not find our way down the link road to Wadi Hanna, giving up after heading back inland past Euphorbia trees and going down to the rather splendid Khawr Rawri, site of the Queen of Sheba’s palace it seems and being turned into a major tourist attraction. We finished up at Khawr Taqah again late afternoon for crakes, and had an amazing time seeing some 5 Baillon’s Crake feeding out on the open weeds. Night at Ain Hamran again when we found the road up to Wadi Hanna was blocked off, a poor night due to rising wind and dust though a welcome bath in the spring was nice.
Early start to reach Wadi Hanna before the road crews that are devastating the hillsides here. Parked at the Road Closed sign and began footing it out, expecting a good hour’s trek to get up to the Baobabs, but luckily I was able to wave down a huge tip truck and he kindly drove us up to the top of the workings. Here the noise of the rock drills was pretty intrusive, and it was tad disappointing with no sign of the grosbeak. I did have brief view of two Arabian Partridge dashing off under the thorn trees, and a very pale Short-toed Eagle caused us some confusion for a while, though Arabian Warbler was a nice pick-up for Joan here. We left as it got hot, I suppose we should really have sat around all morning in the hope of a fly-by grosbeak but it was very noisy and disturbed with little bird activity. The kind construction crew gave us a ride back down in a 4WD, and even gave us good coffee at the end, hospitality lives in Arabia still and it saved us a long hot and dusty flog.
Wadi Darbat was a nice looking wooded area with caves and lots of camels, it too looked to have grosbeak potential but the main birds here were Palestine Sunbird and an Asian Koel.
Jarziz Farm in Salalah was diverting with an incredible feeding behaviour from a flock of about 150 WWB Terns, following the tractors that had rotary grass pilers pushing cut grass into piles ready for baling, with the terns swooping low over the disturbed area and coming perilously close to the rotating wire spokes. There was also a small group of them perched on phone wires by the farm, the first time I’ve seen that. Other good birds here were Singing Bushlark, which was quite easy to see in the long grass, and a dark Crested Honey-Buzzard perched in a perimeter tree.
Raysut by the seashell roundabout gave us a few shorebirds but no Crab Plover, then it was out to Al Maghsayl with another nice Khawr on the coast and a lovely wild wadi some 7km inland. Some Bedu goat herders had set up camp under the cliff and were disturbed by out nocturnal activities with spotlights, I felt bad not spending a few minutes with them and showing what we were doing. A major highlight here for me was seeing the legendary frankincense tree Boswellia sacra, a few growing in the wadi and one exuding the famous wonderfully aromatic sticky gum from the trunk, I wish I’d souvenired a chunk but I was worried someone might own it and be offended if I helped myself to this rare commodity. The bark is rich tawny brown and flakes off as papery bits, themselves with a slight ephemeral scent.
Birds here were few but very good- nice looks at Sand Partridge, South Arabian Wheatear, a distant scope view of a Scrub Warbler, and not long after dark, a Hume’s Owl began calling down below the Bedu tents. I played tape a few times which may have started it up, but it was far off and we had to walk down, the bird giving the very distinctive triple whistled series as we did so. It was quite responsive and eventually flew off and across onto the cliffs behind us, where I got the spotlight on it and we were able to scope it calling from two vantages. This was my bird of the trip, a species I missed at Ein Gedi in 1988 and very nice to get it here in Oman.
Stayed that night in the Salalah Hotel at R15 for a triple inc breakfast, avoiding a windy camp out.Tuesday Jan 24
Explored a few local sites starting at Ayn Razzat lovely spring with a long dry wadi behind that gave us 9 Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Arabian Warbler and SA Wheatear as well as our only Barbary Falcon, but no partridge again. However, going up into the hills after lunch to Wadi Nahiz where some thorn scrub bordered hillside woodland and looked like a possible grosbeak site, Arabian Partridge showed well, but otherwise a little disappointing.
Nice beer at the Hilton and dinner at a chinese near the Salalah Hotel, where the guy let me use his mobile at 200 fils per minute as opposed to R1 on the hotel line- again, kindness lives in Arabia.Wednesday Jan 25
Ain Hamran again early, on a last fruitless quest for the grosbeak, seeing Bruce’s Green Pigeon and Arabian Warbler, and hearing Arabian Partridge for our troubles. Rose-coloured Starlings at the Shell servo with the Tristram’s Starlings (grackles) were nice, and we got Joan a very nice imm. Little Crake at Khawr Taqah in the heat of the day.
Thursday Jan 26
Left Salalah at 1530 after picking up a copy of the exemplary Birdwatching Guide to Oman by Eriksen and Sargeant (R18) that we had arranged to have brought to the Hilton bookstore. Set out for Wadi Raqbut on the off chance of McQueen’s Bustard and Dunn’s Lark. More road-building (new Marmul road) had heavily disturbed the area and despite going a few km out into the wadi up to dusk, we had little to show for it beyond a couple of spooked Mountain Gazelle. A cheap R12 triple bed room in the Thumrayt Hotel saw us eat, shower and rest ready for the long trek next day.
Left at 0530 and went up to Al Beed Farm, which was rewarding area that gave me faint hopes of Dunn’s Lark. We ended up with lots of Hoopoe-lark, a vagrant Sociable Plover, 7 Cream-coloured Courser and some Spotted Sandgrouse. Qitbit was quiet though a Red-tailed Wheatear was nice and a Wood Warbler unexpected.
We left early pm and floored it up to Ibri, getting there not long after dark. I saw the most dangerous piece of driving I’d ever seen near Al Gaftan, with one large van tailgating another so close the bumpers were touching, just unbelievable. We crossed back into Dubai at the Buraimi border easily enough, through within 40 minutes at a busy time too, the headed through al Ain and back into borderless Oman territory at Buraimi, where a comfortable Buraimi Hotel was our reward for a 1000km drive day, R30 for 3 of us was pretty good (3.1=US$1)Thurs Jan 27
Buraimi Hotel is within 10 minutes of the Hanging Gardens and Jebel Qatar, where we had nice looks at Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Bonelli’s Eagle, Red-tailed and Hume’s Wheatear, Plain Leaf Warbler and Scrub Warbler for Joan and Steve. The SP was worth a quick stop, then news that Mourning Wheatear was still at the Green Muzaffarad plus Ring Ouzel atop the jebel saw us twitch off there, seeing both quite easily for very good views.
A dash back up the 120 km to Dubai saw us have a run in with an officious police sergeant as we were birding by the closed visitor centre. Fines of 200-400 dirhams were being mentioned until the name of Steve’s sheikh employer carried enough clout (wusta in local parlance) to get us off and the paper was theatrically torn up. Steve dropped us off, and Gulf Air were again up to their tricks with me not on the flight to Bahrain and Joan only doubtfully on. Luckily the check-in lady was very helpful and after an hour’s wait we got on, only to hear our flight being called early as we were stick in the immigration queue, then the security line! A dash down saw us on OK, and seeing how long it takes these guys to board with voluminous hand baggage no wonder they call the damn flight early! Thus I missed my chance again of buying Thesiger’s “Arabian Sands” here, no time to shop thanks to Gulf Air.
Landing in Bahrain, it costs 3 dinars to enter which is about US$10; as expected, no hotel vehicle to meet us, so we got a taxi at D5 to get to the Ramee International in Juffair. Here, the booking had been cancelled Jan 18, god knows why, but they were very nice and we got a suite- rack rate D90 or D60 dbl, but we got it for Au$220 for 2 nights inc. breakfast.Friday Jan 28
Next morning I was able to arrange via the desk clerk for a car and driver for D3 per hour, Sharif 973 39883165. he was new to birders but took us along the beach front at Fateh where we saw GBH Gull, and to Arad Fort dating from 1528 but birdless.. Howard King’s Bahrain birding site was useful and I copied the Hypocolius site from there, talking to Howard on the phone (0973 17742739 or mob 39642739) to see what else was about. He’d seen one Hypo the day before and the site is being destroyed. Trip ticks for us were GBH Gull, Lesser Sand-Plover, Terek Sand, Turnstone and Black-c Night-Heron in some garden that was being destroyed.
The Hypocolius site along Sar Road is not easy to find, turn off the Budaiyah Freeway at the MacDonald’s roundabout by a big (Aljoas ?) supermarket, then turn second left past the 24 hr Lebanese supermarket and it is the first open ground with bushes on the left (within 500m), St Christopher’s School is too far.
This unpromising site has date palms and some thorn trees, but tracks are being bulldozed across and rubble dumped everywhere so it won’t be here much longer. The birds usually fly through and dive into trees, but I found a female sitting up and then got onto some small groups sitting low in the thorn trees not far from the road. We saw about 14 individuals, roughly half males and half females, and got great views, though no calls were heard. They were feeding amongst the leaves and disappearing into the dense centres, but we got great views, Hypocolius in 3 countries now!Sat. Jan 29
Met Sharif 1100 and went out via dry and dusty Badaan Farm and almost birdless Dumestan Ponds to the 25 km Saudi-Bahrain causeway, driving out to the centre viewpoint and seeing 3+ GBH Gulls for our troubles.. Gulf Air had cancelled my booking home so I had to waste an hour going to their office in town- hopeless, huge queues, so went to the airport and persuaded their desk to sort out the mess, all this despite my Aussie agent have RR (Reconfirmed and Ready) code on their system- what an airline! We came back to the airport by 1600 glad to see the back of expensive, dusty and over-developed Bahrain. Joan wisely took the offer an earlier flight back to Dubai (her later one was delayed as it turned out…) and I eventually got away an hour late on my QF code share to Singapore.
Acknowledgements: Shukran to the indefatigable action man Steve James, without whom much of this would have been impossible. Thanks to Joan Clark from both of us for the chance to do the trip, and to Sue Gregory and Carol James for their help and forbearance.
Bold type denotes a lifer, NL a non-leader bird, I an Introduced or feral species.
All sightings from Oman unless indicated otherwise.
Little Grebe P. ruficollis Ten were at Whimpey pits, 2 at Khawr Taqa and a couple at Buraimi SP.
Indian Pond-Heron Ardeola grayi Up to 6 at Khawr Taqa, one in particular being aggressive and chasing off any others that came nearby. I took some photos as I was bit uncertain as to whether these were Squacco or Indian Pond Heron, although they did seem heavily streaked and one had a purplish cast to the mantle
Western Reef Egret Egretta gularis Both dark and light morphs were on the coast at Mirbat, Taqa and Salalah.
Great White Egret E. alba Singles were at Al Wassem (Whimpey Pits) Dubai, and Khor Maghsayl.
Little Egret E. garzetta A couple at Al Wassem and singles at Khawr Taqa and Khor Maghsayl.
Intermediate Egret E. intermedia A single at Khawr Rawri, it is rare but regular visitor to S. Oman.
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis Four at the pivot fields and a few in coastal Oman.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea Ninety were at a wetland near Khor Kalba, and a few at Whimpey pits and Dubai wetlands.
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea I saw a single in flight in Dubai near Al Wassem; none seen in Oman where it is supposed to be common on the khors.
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax An adult and an imm. were in some garden that was being ravaged in Bahrain.
White Stork Ciconia ciconia Eight were at Jarziz farm on Jan. 23.
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia Four at Khawr Rawri and one at Salalah Khor.
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus Eight at Pivot fields, 7 at Khawr Rawri and singles at Salalah Khor and Khor Taqa.
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber Small numbers included 22 at Khor Maghsayl, 7 at Khor Taqa, 8 at Khor Maghsayl, 30 at Dubai wetlands and 16 in Bahrain.
Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis Just a single bird flying off Khor Maghsayl.
Great Cormorant P. carbo Fifteen at Whimpey pits, ten at Dubai wetlands and ten in Bahrain.
Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus (I) A single bird flew over at Ghantoot.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Ten at Whimpey pits, singles at Khors near Salalah and 20 at Buraimi SP.
Eurasian Teal A. crecca Two’s and threes around Salalah, 20 at Buraimi SP.
Pintail A. acuta Six at Khor Rawri and 6 at Khor Maghsayl, 2 at Khor Salalah..
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope Two at Khor Maghsayl and 4 at Salalah Khor.
Shoveler A. clypeata Max. 6 at Khawr Rawri, and a couple at Khor Maghsayl.
Gadwall A. strepera Four at Whimpey pits, 4 at Khor Taqa.
Pochard Aythya ferina A male at Khor Maghsayl.
Tufted Duck A. fuligula A male at Whimpey pits, and Steve saw a female at Khor Maghsayl.
Cotton Teal (White Pygmy-Goose) Nettapus coromandelianus 3 f at Khor Taqa Jan 22 and 24., 7 at Khor Maghsayl Jan 23.
Osprey Pandion haliaetus Three at Khawr Rawri.
Black Kite Milvus migrans Just a single at Khawr Salalah, surprisingly scarce.
Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargus A flying directly over male Jan 24 at Ayn Razzat, a ringtail at Al Beed Jan 26.
Pallid Harrier C. macrurous Two ringtails at Jarziz farm Jan 23 and a super male at Al Beed Jan 26.
Western Marsh Harrier C. aeruginosus Small numbers at the khors, max. 4 at Taqa.
Steppe Buzzard Buteo (b.) vulpinus One at the base of Jebel Hafeet Jan 20 and 27, two up near Wadi Nahiz Jan 24.
Long-legged Buzzard B. rufinus A single at Qatbit Jan 21 and one at Jarziz farm Jan 23.
Crested Honey-Buzzard Pernis ptilonorhynchus A single dark phase was perched in a shelterbelt at Jarziz farm Jan 23. Steve had a Pernis at Al Beed that was probably P. apivorus, but it somehow escaped us.
Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga Surprisingly widespread in small numbers in southern Oman, we had up to 5 on several days beginning at Thumrait, last on Jan 27 at Buraimi.
Lesser-spotted Eagle A. pomarina One close near Ayn Sahnawt spring Jan 24, seemingly a rare bird in Oman but probably overlooked.
Steppe Eagle A. nipalensis One at Thumrait near the tip Jan 21, one at Khawr Rawri Jan 22, two on Jan 23 at Jarziz Farm.
Imperial Eagle A. heliaca One on Jan 22 near Taqa, singles on Jan 24 near Wadi Nahiz and Ayn Sahnawt.
Verreaux’s Eagle A. verreauxi Two soaring over the ridge at Wadi Hamran Jan 22 were the only sighting, a pretty rare bird in Oman.
Eagle sp. Aquila sp, Two at Thumrait Jan 21, too far to be sure.
Bonelli’s Eagle Aquila (Hieraaetus) fasciatus One at Wadi Hanna Jan 23 and another at Jebel Qatar Jan 27, a species I’d missed on both previous trips to UAE.
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus Two at Wadi Hamran Jan 22, 3 at Wadi Hanna Jan 23 including a very striking pale bird, and two on Jan 24 at Wadi Nahiz that were very vocal and may have been nesting.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus Singles at Wadi Hamran, Wadi Hanna, Wadi Nahiz and Ayn Sahnawt.
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus There were a couple of smart adults at Jebel Hafeet Jan 20, one near Ibri in Oman the same day, then two near Tawi Atayr Jan 22 and one at Jebel Hafeet Jan 27.
Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Small numbers on most days, in both Dubai and Oman.
Lesser Kestrel F. naumanni A couple seen well at Wadi Hanna and a single Jan 25.
Barbary Falcon F. pelegrinoides A nice flight view of one at Ayn Razzat, flying up the valley just after the Montagu’s Harrier went by.
Common Coot Fulica atra Twelve were at Whimpey pits, ten at Khawr Rawri and one at Taqa.
Crested Coot F. cristata One at Whimpey pits was rather skulking but we got fair views at one point as it swam out, the head is a different shape to Common Coot. It is a vagrant here but has been around now for several years.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus Two were at Whimpey pits, then 40 at Taqa and 15 at Al Maghsayl.
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio A single of one of the pale grey-headed Asian races, presumably either caspius or seistanicus, flew across at Whimpey pits again. Uncertain origin but conceivably a vagrant.
Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla Outstanding views at Khor Taqa on Jan 22 with up to 5 birds out feeding along the reedy edges late in the afternoon and allowing really close views.
Little Crake P. parva A female was seen briefly in Jan 22 at J Khor Taqa, much buffer than any Baillon’s Crakes, and then we had good mid-day views of a female on Jan 25 there. Southern Oman seems to be a crake hot spot.
Grey Francolin Francolinus pondicerianus Quite widespread, especially in the irrigated areas and Al Ain, but it was not seen in Oman.
Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyi Scope views of 5 birds at Al Maghsayl, calling and spied initially atop a boulder. Then another 5 at Jebel Qatar Hanging Gardens, seen well on rocks in the wadi.
Arabian Partridge Alectoris melanocephala They were hard, I saw two briefly at Wadi Hanna, which promptly disappeared, then we had a group of 6 at Wadi Nahiz. They are a big partridge with a dark face and pale grey upperparts. Heard at Wadi Hamran on Jan 24.
Common Quail Coturnix coturnix Steve had one staked at pivot fields, and after a bit of grass bashing we flushed it for Joan’s life bird.
Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus A single winter plumaged bird was on Khor Taqa on Jan 22 and 25. They seem to be regular here in winter.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus Six at Taqa and 3 at Buraimi.
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta Two at Dubai wetlands just before we left.
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus Three first winter birds at Raysut looked really strange, with brownish mantles and big white throats. 5 were at Salalah beach.
Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor Three flying over as we left Ain Sahnawt and ten at Al Beed.
Eurasian Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria One vagrant at the pivot fields, Dubai, was a tick for Joan.
Grey Plover P. squatarola Two near Khor Kalba and 3 at Raysut.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius Nine at Whimpey Pits and odd birds in southern Oman
Ringed Plover C. hiaticula One at Whimpey pits, 3 at Taqa, 4 at Raysut and 4 at Dubai wetlands.
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus Five at Raysut, two at Dubai wetlands and one in Bahrain.
Greater Sand-Plover C. leschenaultii Only seen at Fateh in Bahrain this trip, with 4 birds.
Lesser Sand-Plover C. mongolus Ten at Dubai wetlands, 10 at Fateh in Bahrain, but none in Oman. The race here is presumably the western taxon atrifrons, a potential split.
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus Two at the pivot fields in Dubai.
Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus Only seen in Dubai this trip, up to 30 seen at pivot fields and a couple at Buraimi.
White-tailed Plover V. leucura Twelve at the pivot fields Jan 20, three were in Oman at Khor Taqa on Jan 22. still only my third and fourth ever records.
Sociable Plover V. gregarius These were an unexpected bonus again, with one at the pivot fields Jan 20 and a vagrant imm. at Al Beed Jan 26.
Little Stint Calidris minuta About 15 at Dubai wetlands and up to 30 at Taqa beach.
Temminck’s Stint C. temminckii Forty at pivot fields Jan 20, one at Taqa Jan 22 and 4 there Jan 25.
Curlew Sandpiper C. ferruginea Four at Taqa and one at Fateh in Bahrain.
Dunlin C. alpina Ten at Taqa and seen 15 at Fateh in Bahrain.
Ruff Philomachus pugnax A white-headed satellite male at pivot fields, and one seen at Taqa.
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa Five at Salalah beach and 2 at Raysut.
Bar-tailed Godwit L. lapponica Three at Salalah beach, 4 at Dubai wetlands and 5 at Fateh in Bahrain.
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus Two seen at Taqa, singles at Salalah, and 2 at Fateh in Bahrain.
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata Singles at Taqa and Raysut. with 2 at Fateh in Bahrain
Greenshank Tringa nebularia Small numbers on the southern khors, max. 8. Five at Fateh in Bahrain.
Redshank T. totanus Up to 5 at Taqa and Salalah, and 10 in Bahrain.
Marsh Sandpiper T. stagnatilis One at Khawr Rawri Jan 22.
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola One heard at the pivot fields, one or two at Taqa.
Green Sandpiper T. ochropus Four day records max. two birds in southern Oman.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Five day records max. 5 birds in southern Oman.
Turnstone Arenaria interpres A couple at Fateh beach in Bahrain.
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus Six at Fateh in Bahrain, dashing about on the sand.
Pin-tailed Snipe Gallinago stenura One at pivot fields and one at Khawr Rawri, the dark underwing and lack of white trailing edge easily told from Common Snipe. Had a single quiet gruff call.
Common Snipe G. gallinago Three at pivot fields, ten at Khawr Rawri, 2 at Taqa and 6 at Buraimi.
Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minima One at the pivot fields Dubai was a bonus lifer for Joan and my first since about 1998.
Sooty Gull Larus hemprichii Common in southern Oman, we had day counts of up to 500 around Salalah and 100+ at Taqa and Ras Mirbat.
Great-Black-headed Gull L. icthyaetus A fine adult in near summer plumage at Fateh in Bahrain, and 3 seen along the causeway to Saudi Arabia on Jan 29.
Slender-billed Gull L. genei 150 past Ras Mirbat Jan 25, up to 7 at Taqa and 15 at Salalah, with 3 at Fateh in Bahrain.
Black-headed Gull L. ridibundus From 1 –3 daily in southern Oman, 300 at Fateh in Bahrain.
Caspian Gull L. cachinnans Quite common in southern Oman with up to 2500 around Salalah. The common taxon of what was formerly known as Herring Gull, white headed, bills often banded, mantle fairly pale, yellow legs. There were some 500 around Khor Kalba.
Steppe Gull L. cachinnans barabensis My second record, showing characters of this taxon of what were formerly known as Herring Gull, they had a fairly dark mantle, short yellow legs, a smallish bill and neck with a white head. We saw at least 4, 20 and 10 on 3 days with all the Caspian Gulls at Taqa, Raysut and Salalah. Clements splits it in his last up-date, so technically a tick! The new “Gulls” guide places it with the Caspian Gull group along with cachinnans and mongolicus.
Heuglin’s Gull L. (f.) heuglini Large, dark mantle, yellow legs, very different to neighbouring Caspian Gull, we saw about 100 in the big flocks around Salalah.
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia Singles at Taqa on two dates, and one at Fateh in Bahrain.
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica Singles at Taqa on two dates and 6 in Bahrain.
Crested Tern S. bergii About 50 presumably of this very dark grey taxon velox off Salalah, and a few off Taqa.
Lesser-Crested Tern S. bengalensis Four off Taqa with 6 there next visit, and about 80 in Bahrain.
Sandwich Tern S. sandvicensis Singles off Salalah and Taqa only.
White-cheeked Tern S. repressa One off Khor Maghsayl was a useful trip bird.
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida One at Taqa and one at Khor Maghsayl.
White-winged Black Tern C. leucopterus About 150 were feeding furiously on insects disturbed by the grass baling machines rotary devices at Jarziz farm on Jan 23, flying very close to the whirling blades as the tractors drove up and down the fields. They would swap to another working tractor when one had finished a row and were clearly making the most of an opportunistic feed. We also saw about 6 perched on phone wires, the first time I’ve seen them do this behaviour.
Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus About 400 seen at Muntasar on Jan 20, many of them perched out on the gravel plains and coming in to drink about 0900. Four were seen by the road near Al Beed later that day, and flocks of 7 near Wadi Raqbut and 9 at Al Beed on Jan 26. No Crowned were seen despite careful checking, and the calls were all the disyllabic far-carrying kturr-krurr. Slender winged with a dark trailing edge and pale wing coverts, the narrow black belly showing as a long stripe when flying overhead. Males with long pin-tails, orangey-yellow face and grey chest.
Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse P. lichtensteinii Nice flight views of 3 birds at Hanging Gardens on Jan 27, my first since a pair in Kenya in the 1980’s.
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles exustus 70 at the pivot fields and one flying near Ibri in Oman on Jan 26.
Sandgrouse sp. Pterocles sp. 6 on Jan 25 near Thumrait.
Rock Dove Columba livia Most of the birds in the rocky wadis here are apparently wild individuals, seen daily starting with a couple at Jebel Hafeet and with 120 up on the plateau near Tawi Atayr on Jan 22. Also seen in Bahrain but of uncertain origin there.
Laughing (Palm) Dove Streptopelia senegalensis Abundant throughout, including in Bahrain.
Collared Dove S. decaocto They were quite common in the north but much scarcer in the south, though we saw 20 at Al Beed. None seen at the Dhofar khors. Also seen in Bahrain.
Bruce’s Green-Pigeon Treron waalia I had not seen this species since Nigeria in 1980, but we had great views of 3+ at Wadi Hamran on Jan 22, 12 at Ayn Razzat coming to fruiting figs by the spring, and 2+ at Wadi Hamran again on Jan 25. The call is a typical Treron weird laughing series and you hear them more than you se them as usual with the genus.
Ring-necked Parakeet Psittacula krameri (I) Up to 20 individuals on the first day around Ghantoot and the pivot fields, three at Jarziz Farm and 2 at Al Ain, all seemingly feral. A couple were seen in Bahrain too.
Alexandrine Parakeet (I) Two seen flying over calling at the Hypocolius site in Bahrain.
(Cockatiel) Nymphicus hollandicus Escape One seen feral at Arad Fort in Bahrain on Jan 28, first heard calling then seen flying over!
African Scops Owl Otus senegallus (H) Heard at Wadi Hamran on Jan 23.
Hume’s Owl Strix butleri Fantastic views of one calling at Wadi Maghsayl on Jan 23. It began calling not long after dusk in response to the tape, and we had to walk right down into the wadi past the Bedu camp. It sounded fairly close and flew across to perch up on the cliffs, where we had great spotlight views. I had missed this bird at Ein Gedi in 1988 so I was very keen to see it, besides which owls count double!
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus Six at Al Wassem and 2 at Buraimi in Dubai were all we saw.
Little Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis cyanophrys Singles at Ghantoot, Wadi Maghsayl, Wadi Nahiz and finally 7 at Hanging Gardens on Jan 27.
Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis Just a couple in Al Ain on Jan 27, none seen in Oman.
Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea A single immature male was in Wadi Darbat on Jan 23, quite a rare visitor to Oman.
Wryneck Jynx torquilla One at the Yemen Serin site at Tawi Atayr on Jan 22 was unexpected.
Hoopoe Upupa epops Seven seen in the UAE and just a couple in Oman, one being at Qitbit.
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis Six at pivot fields, Dubai, and I am almost sure I saw an Oriental Skylark fly past as well.
Crested Lark Galerida cristata A common bird of dry open areas in Dubai, and a few seen in Oman.
Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla Six at Al Beed Farm Jan 26th.
Hoopoe Lark Alaemon alaudipes We did well for this tremendous large, long billed striking lark, seeing them at Qitbit, Wadi Raqbut, and a total of fifteen on 26 Jan, 10 at Al Beed and 5 on the drive north.
Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti A dozen were in the Hanging Gardens area in Oman, but none in the south.
Singing Bushlark Mirafra cantillans These quite small relatively short tailed larks were seen well in grassy crops at Jarziz farm, where we flushed at least 4. I had not seen them since the 1980’s.
Black-crowned Finch-Lark Eremopterix nigriceps Relatively few, with 4 at Thumrait on Jan 21, one at Wadi Raqbut and ten around al Beed.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica A few birds around in Oman, still early for them I suppose, but 40 at Jarziz farm were the most we saw.
House Martin Delichon urbica Two at the pivot fields Jan 20, and one at Muntasar in Oman on Jan 21.
Pale Crag Martin H. (fuligula) obsoleta Good numbers in the rocky areas starting at Jebel Hafeet, and quite common in Dhofar, with 120 on Jan 23 around the Wadi Hanna escarpment.
Sand Martin Riparia riparia Two seen at the pivot fields, one at Muntasar and two at Khor Rawri.
Brown-throated Sand Martin R. paludicola Two seen at Taqa Khor Jan 22, a rare migrant here.
Richard’s Pipit A. richardi Three at the pivot fields Jan 20.
Tawny Pipit A. campestris Two at the pivot fields Jan 20, two at Jarziz farm, and 20 at Al Beed Jan 26.
Long-billed Pipit A. similis Small numbers in Dhofar, the first just south of Thumrait and also seen at Wadi Hamran, Wadi Maghsayl, and Ayn Razzat, max. 4 birds.
Water Pipit A. spinoletta Four at the pivot fields, 7 at Muntasar and two at Buraimi SP.
Tree Pipit A. trivialis Four were at Qitbit Jan 22 and heard at Ayn Sahnawt.
Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus Three seen at the pivot fields Jan. 20.
White Wagtail M. alba Twenty at the pivot fields and quite common in Dhofar with up to 150 at Jarziz farm.
Citrine Wagtail M. citreola Three at the pivot fields, 2 at Khawr Rawri, heard at Khor Maghsayl and singles at Al Beed and Buraimi.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava Thirty at the pivot fields including a good male Black-headed feldegg. A few in Dhofar including a thunbergi on Jan 23 at Jarziz farm, max. 4 on Jan 22 and Jan 25.
Grey Wagtail M. cinerea Heard Jan 23 and 2 at Ayn Sahnawt Jan 24.
White-cheeked Bulbul P. leucogenys (I) This species was only seen at Ghantoot and in Bahrain.
Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos A couple seen at Ghantoot then common in Dhofar. One at Ghantoot had a white upper head and looked very strange.
Grey Hypocolius Hypocolius ampelinus The star of the show, we had nice views of two at Ghantoot on Jan 20, surprisingly hard to see as they keep in the centre of thick bushes. The first was an imm. male, then we had another male that was eating a date on the ground across the main road after flying out of the grove, feeding with White-eared Bulbuls. The amazing flight pattern is very distinctive, with a white trailing edge edged by a black band, and with blackish axillaries. They are quite long tailed and rounded winged, reminiscent of fat-bodied minivets. Orangey-pink wash on chin and throat, pale pink legs, broad black tail tip.
I found another in the thorns trees in the motel garden at Qitbit on Jan 21, and we had good views of two males here, an unexpected site. Finally, the soon to be destroyed Sar Road site in Bahrain had about 14 birds on Jan 28, roughly 7 males and 7 females, sitting in the centre of the bushes. The habitat here was thorn trees amidst sandy palm scrub, feeding in the trees and often vanishing into cover, eating insects and perhaps berries. I saw and heard none come in, but found a female sitting atop a bush initially.
Females are much browner than males with an ill-defined pale malar area. Broad dark tip to tail, throat and upper breast warm buffy-vinous. Bill pinky withy dark tip, legs and feet pinkish, prominent dark eye. This was Joan’s penultimate family, nice to finally nail it after dipping last year!
Black-crowned Tchagra Tchagra senegala percivali The race percivali here is small and has bright rusty wings. It does not seem very common, we saws them at Wadi Hamran and Wadi Hanna only, max. 4 birds.
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius A slaty-blue male was at Jebel Hafeet, a couple at Tawi Atayr and one at Ayn Razzat.
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos Odd to see this as a migrant, we had one at Jebel Hafeet, and singles at Qitbit and Al Beed on Jan 26.
Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus A splendid scaly male of the Caucasian race amicorum was on the grass by the Mercure Hotel volleyball courts at Jebel Hafeet on Jan 26. We had missed it on Jan 20 but got very nice views of this large bird on the second attempt. The large off-white breast crescent had dark scallopings, large pale edgings to secondaries and a whitish-grey panel on tertials and inner secondaries. The yellow bill had a dark upper mandible and a black tip, legs and feet blackish, eye dark. It is a rare vagrant here, and I had not seen one for years.
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica Four were seen nicely at pivot fields, and one at Muntasar in Oman as well as one at Qitbit and 2 at Buraimi.
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina Four at the pivot fields, then small numbers in Dhofar max 6 on Jan 26.
Hume’s Wheatear O. alboniger Nice views of three at Jebel Hafeet on Jan 20, and two on Jan 26, one again perched on the volleyball net at the summit hotel! Another at Jebel Qatar in Oman Jan 26
Red-tailed Wheatear O. (xanthoprymna) chrysopygia There was a surprise single at Qitbit in Oman on Jan 26, but this classic speciality of winter birding in the UAE was seen very nicely at the Hanging Gardens, Jebel Qatar in Oman with 7 birds on Jan 27. All were of the red-tailed taxon chrysopygia, it seems pretty clear that xanthoprymna is a different sexually dimorphic species.
Hooded Wheatear O. monacha Two males on Jan 20 and a single male on Jan 27 at Jebel Hafeet near the summit hotel. Another of the UAE winter specials.
South Arabian Wheatear O. lugentoides The male had a whitish crown with a variable amount of grey central mottling, black mantle with brownish remiges, black chin and throat and breast sharply defined from the white belly. The yellowish/ochre wash on the ventral area was quite variable and could be hard to see in bright light, whilst the undertail coverts were white. Females were dingy smoky grey above, pale greyish beneath with rusty ear coverts and diffuse broad greyish streaks on the underparts. Habitat was arid thorn scrub foothills and karst country, often on wires and rocks.
The first were by the road on the escarpment to Tawi Atayr Jan 22, when we saw 8+ individuals, 5 around Wadi Hanna on Jan 23 and 2 on Jan 24 at Ayn Razzat. I was pleasantly surprised at how distinct this wheatear was, with females quite different to males, why it was ever lumped with Mourning is a mystery.
Mourning Wheatear O. lugens A fine male was sheltering in the shade of a rock overhang by the green muzzaffaratt at the base of Jebel Hafeet on Jan 26 had been there for some time, and we had missed it on Jan 20. It was like lugentoides but with extensive broad grey mottling on the crown, narrowly bordered white, and black not brown flight feathers. Quite distinct ochre on the undertail coverts (but not vent), edged by white and very similar to lugentoides in colour.
This may be of the race persica due to the extensive grey on the crown, and was a good pick-up. Size and bill shape were impossible for me to judge, but may be of value for those with lots of experience.
Desert Wheatear O. deserti Common in southern Oman, with 30 around Al Beed.
Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maura A pair were along rough edges at the pivot fields. I am uncertain which to race this belongs, it showed quite a good supercilium and pale rump.
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros There was a female at Ghantoot and couple at Qitbit, and a male and female at Jebel Hafeet. The male was of the rufous-bellied eastern race semirufus, which is very like a rather dark Common Redstart, (oft claimed by pommie birders but unknown in winter here.)
Eversmann’s (Red-backed) Redstart P. erythronotus Steve had found a female at Jebel Hafeet a few days earlier, and luckily for us it was still around on Jan 20 (also Jan 26 when I missed it, being taken up by the Ring Ouzel). This was a real birder’s bird, as superficially it was quite like a female Black Redstart, but with two thin buffy wing bars formed by tips to the greater and median coverts, pale fringes to the secondaries and broad pale tips to the tertials forming a pale wing panel. Tail had reddish outer two thirds, dark central feathers and tip, and outer third of outer tail feathers. Orange red rump and lower back, grey brown upperparts and crown, underparts dingy grey brown similar to nearby f Black Redstart, slight reddy tint to under tail coverts. Pale buff narrow frons, and faint pale supercilium were evident only in good light, with dark lores and dark ear coverts. Pale eye ring, dark eye, blackish bill, legs and feet.
The wing bars, pale-fringed remiges and orange red-rump lower back were good features but it was subtle bird for sure, well done Steve for identifying it!
Blackstart Cercomela melanura This was common in Dhofar, with up to 10 in a day, the first at Wadi Hamran. My first since 1988 in Israel.
African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis harterti These were pretty good, the males having a huge white patch on the scapulars and in the wings. The call seemed softer and less harsh than that of African birds. First at Wadi Hamran Jan 21, then there again Jan 25 with about 6 birds. Also seen at Ayn Razzat and Ayn Sahnawt.
Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva One at Ayn Razzat Jan 22, and Steve had one at Wadi Hamran.
Flycatcher sp. Ficedula sp.?
I had a weird Ficedula type with an odd loud single whistled call at Wadi Nahiz Jan 24, with pale underparts and thin wing bar, but my views were obscured and brief and we never nailed it.
Graceful Prinia Prinia gracilis Quite common in Dhofar and at Buraimi and Jebel Qatar.
Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus Six at Khor Taqa, heard at Buraimi.
Reed Warbler A. scirpaceus (H) One heard singing at a Khor near Taqa.
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca One striking individual at Qitbit on Jan 21, with browny-grey upperparts, striking white underparts, grey crown, black ear coverts and a black tail may have been of the race halimodendri. A regular type bird was seen on Jan 25 at Wadi Raqbut.
Desert Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia (c.) minula Like a small, greyish and washed out Lesser Whitethroat with a small bill, small dark facial area and often rather brownish on the wings. The call was amazingly distinct, a harsh tri or quadri-syllabic scolding series. We saw a couple at Qitbit and again at Jebel Qatar, mostly in thorn or acacia scrub
Menetries’ Warbler S. mystacea Better views this trip, we heard them at the pivot fields and had a couple at Qitbit Jan 21, with 1 on Jan 26, and two at Al Beed, including a male. The blackish tail and nondescript appearance of the females is pretty distinctive, as is the harsh rattly call.
Asian Desert Warbler Sylvia nana Good views at Muntasar, Jebel Qatar and Qitbit, with 10 seen on Jan 27. The yellow eye and legs and yellowy bill with a dark tip were very distinctive, as was the long scolding call, like a longer and faster version of the call of Desert Lesser Whitethroat.
Eastern Orphean Warbler S. (h.) crassirostris (H) We heard an Orphean Warbler call at Qitbit on Jan 21. presumably of this split taxon, but did not get a look.
Arabian Warbler S. leucomelaena We struggled initially, but found a nice one at Wadi Hanna on Jan 23, then 3 at Wadi Hamran on Jan 25. This would be the nominate race, I had seen negevensis in Israel previously
Plain Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus neglectus I was again rather taken with this small but quite distinctive Phyllosc, which we saw nicely at Jebel Qatar, where 3 birds were seen flitting in thorn clumps on Jan 27. It was a small grey-green Phylloscopus, rather dingy looking and pale greyish beneath, with dark legs and bill and a thin dark eyestripe, living in gaf trees and shrubs in the dry desert valleys. The call was highly distinctive, a loud and incisive trrt or trrt trrt, a bit like a short harsh version of the call of Desert Lesser Whitethroat.
This is a real UAE winter speciality, hard to see elsewhere and one of those obscure but distinctive species of which I tend to be over-fond.
Chiffchaff P. collybita Up to 10 at Qitbit on Jan 21 including some singing, with 6 there and Al Beed Jan 26, and single birds in Dhofar.
Wood Warbler P. sibilatrix One nice bright looking individual in the thorn trees at Qitbit on Jan 26 was unexpected in winter.
Arabian Babbler Turdoides squamatus Just four were seen, scrambling over boulders in the wadi at Jebel Qatar and being quite vocal.
White-breasted White-eye Zosterops abyssinica Our first were at Qitbit on Jan 21, which was surprisingly far north, then quite common in Dhofar before the last sightings of two at Al Beed and one at Qitbit on Jan 26. Pale green mantle, pale yellow chin, throat and under tail coverts, vinous buffy breast, whitish belly and flanks, fairly small white eye-ring. I had not seen them since Kenya, and this taxon (presumably arabs) is pretty distinct.
Purple Sunbird Nectarinia asiatica One at Ghantoot and 4 at Jebel Qatar.
Shining Sunbird N. habessinica Unexpectedly a fairly small species, like one of the Purple-banded group. Crimson breast band, metallic iridescent green head and throat, black underparts. We saw up to 6 at Wadi Hamran, first on Jan 22, and a few at Wadi Hanna and Ayn Razzat.
Palestine Sunbird N. osea Fairly common but local in Dhofar, seen nicely at Wadi Hamran and Wadi Hanna, also Ayn Razzzat.
Isabelline (Turkestan) Shrike Lanius isabellinus phoenicuroides Just a few, two at pivot fields, then two records in Oman with three birds at Jarziz farm.
Southern Grey Shrike L. meridionalis aucheri We saw 5 of the local dark grey race aucheri at Ghantoot, then 3 at Qitbit and one at Al Beed. None seen in Dhofar.
Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis A few in the central deserts of Oman from Ibri to as far as Thumrayt, day maximum being 10.
House Crow C. splendens (I)
Regrettably a couple of individuals at Ras Mirbat and Salalah, a pity if this gets to southern Oman. A big flock of 100 in Bahrain somehow figures.
Fan-tailed Raven C. rhipidurus Quite common in Dhofar, the first being as we neared the escarpment south of Thumrait, with counts of 20 most days and 60 on Jan 23.
Rose-coloured Starling Sturnus roseus Five including a couple of nice adults were with Tristram’s Grackles on wires at the Shell servo at Taqa on Jan 25, an unexpected addition to the list.
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris A flock of 22 at Ghantoot Jan 20, and 14 near Taqa Jan 22.
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis (I) A few in Dubai and Al Ain, none in Oman, 6 in Bahrain.
Tristram’s Grackle (Starling) Onychognathus tristramii Fairly common in Dhofar with up to 60 in a day; common at Wadi Hanna and on wires by the road near Taqa.
House Sparrow Passer domesticus Small numbers daily in the urban areas of UAE, and also at Al Gaftan, Al Gabah and Salalah but not at Thumrayt, Qitbit or east of Salalah.
African Silverbill Euodice cantans Fairly common in Dhofar, seen daily there with maxima of 10 birds.
Indian Silverbill Euodice malabarica A small group of 3 were at Ghantoot. Clements inexplicably omits this species.
Yemen Serin Serinus menachensis At least 20 birds at the karst sinkhole at Tawi Atayr on Jan 22, seen in flocks of up to 5 but also two’s and threes. A small nondescript finch with dull mid grey-brown upperparts lightly streaked dark, crown streaked, breast quite heavily streaked dark, rump concolourous with back. Small size but longer tailed than I expected, tail distinctly notched. Face pattern varied, some with pale malar area and malar stripe, but most not well marked. Call a nasal, flat twee twee twee, once a harsher series.
Habitat was dry open woodland around the huge sinkhole, often perched atop bushes or high in trees. This is an outlier from the Yemen populations, with seemingly a 1000km gap
Ruppell’s Weaver Ploceus galbula This was quite common at a couple of sites in Dhofar, the first being 40 at Wadi Hamran on Jan 22, then again at Wadi Hanna and Wadi Nahiz, all in non-breeding dress. The bill was pinkish and flight feathers edged yellowish.
House Bunting Emberiza striolata Heard and glimpsed at Jebel Qatar, though I think we may have overlooked it at Wadi Hanna and Wadi Hamran, dismissing all the buntings as Chestnut-breasted.
Cinnamon (Chestnut-breasted) Rock Bunting. E. tahapisi Very common in Dhofar, the first being at Wadi Hamran.Mammals
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes Seen by the roadside near Muntasar one night, and 2 en route from Wadi Ashawq.
Indian Crested Porcupine Hystrix indica ? One of the sights of the trip, a huge great one nearly the size of an Alsatian was in the road as we came to the Wadi Hamran car park on Jan 21, just amazing and an extraordinary shape, we couldn’t make out what it was initially. Joan even found a couple of small quills next day. The texts describe them as very rare in Oman and this seems to be the only species listed.
Cape Hare Lepus capensis One seen by the road near Muntasar at night.
Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin Sotalia chinensis They seemed to be quite common off Dhofar as we saw 4 on Jan 22 and 6 on Jan 25, with 4 at Taqa and 2 off Ras Mirbat. A dead cetacean in the sea off Ras Mirbat may have been one of these.
Mountain Gazelle Gazella gazella Two running away in Wadi Raqbut Jan 25, with large white rump patches bordered dark. I think I saw this species in Israel in 1988.Reptiles
Leathery Turtle - Steve saw one off Ras Mirbat Jan 25, but Joan and I regrettably missed it.
PG Kuranda 2/06www. cassowary-house.com.au