Thursday, 23 February 2017

Oman Day 6; Ayn Hamran & Salalah

Ayn Hamran
We spent the night at a site a little west of Ayn Hamran, and started our birding there in the morning. Our main target for the morning was the elusive Golden-winged Grosbeak, but a small watering trough at the site provided us with a good chance to see them drinking in the morning. The site was a small vegetated valley and we had a good number of the Dhofar specialities that we had seen regularly since we arrived in the south; African Silverbill, Tristram’s Starling, Spectacled Bulbul, White-breasted White-eye, Shining Sunbird etc. The Cinnamon Breasted Buntings here showed incredibly well coming down to drink at the trough, and there was also Arabian Warbler and Black-crowned Tchagra present, both showed well.
In the bushes around the trough we were treated to quite a show by the local shrikes. As many of four birds were present, 2 adults and 2 juveniles. For the first time on our trip we were able to attribute individuals to race, with both adults clearly showing features of Turkestan Shrike. Also in the bushes we found our first Namaqua Dove of the trip, a cracking male. We had waited about 2 hours for the Grosbeaks to show up and were at the point of giving up when a single Arabian Golden Winged Grosbeak alighted in the Acacia next to the trough. It sat for around 30 seconds before flying off up the valley.
-Spectacled Bulbul
-Turkestan Shrike
-Namaqua Dove
-Black-crowned Tchagra
-Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak
After scoring on the Grosbeak front we headed into Ayn Hamran itself to hopefully catch up with green pigeons. Again at Ayn Hamran the species composition was very similar, with African Paradise Flycatcher and Rüppell’s Weaver being the only Dhofar specialities to add to our list from the morning. Black-crowned Tchagra was present again, as was another Turkestan Shrike. Here we had our first Hoopoe of the trip, but they were quite common in the valley. At the top of the valley there was a small flock of Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeaks, including a singing male. Their goldfinch-like calls could be occasionally heard across the valley, indicating their widespread presence in the woods there. The Bruce’s Green Pigeon proved a lot more elusive than we had envisioned, but once we located their preferred location, in the fig trees alongside the road, we got good views of them. The road runs alongside a small stream, and this was a great spot for drinking and bathing birds. Spectacled Bulbul, Rüppell’s Weaver and a cracking Red-breasted Flycatcher all came down to use the stream. Common Snipe and Green Sandpiper could also be seen easily along this stream. An unexpected bonus, and a trip highlight, was the spotting of an Arabian Chameleon in the trees in this area. A stunning animal and a species really not expected to actually encounter.   
-White-breasted White-eye
-Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak
-African Paradise Flycatcher
-Red-breasted Flycatcher
-Common Myna
-Tristram's Starling
-Bruce's Green Pigeon
-Arabian Chameleon 
-Cream Boarded Charaxes

Species List:
Ayn Hamran: Spectacled Bulbul, African Silverbill, Laughing Dove, Black-crowned Tchagra, Tristram’s Starling, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Arabian Warbler, Turkestan Shrike*, White-breasted White-eye, Common Myna, Rock Martin, Blackstart, Collared Dove, Namaqua Dove*, Shining Sunbird, Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak*, Desert Wheatear, Hoopoe, African Paradise Flycatcher, Blackstart, Grey Wagtail, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Fan-tailed Raven, Common Snipe, Bruce's Green Pigeon*, Rüppell’s Weaver, Common Kestrel, Common Myna, Plain Tiger Butterfly, Cream Boarded Charaxes Butterfly, Epaulet Skimmer, Arabian Chameleon,

Sahnawt Farm
By mid-morning we wrapped up our time at Ayn Hamran and headed into the Dhofar capital of Salalah. We decided to have a look in the Salalah farmlands for sociable plover, specifically Sahnawt Farm. It took time to gain access to the farm, and in the end we were only allowed an hours access. We failed to find any sociable plover on the fields, but we had amazing views of Black-headed Wagtails (feldegg) and Sykes’ Wagtails (beema). White Storks could also be seen using the fields. We found Singing Bush-lark to be fairly common within the farm, with a number of birds singing from the crop fields. A single Namaqua Dove was perched up on the farms perimeter fence, and in the car we were able to get quite close to it. Rose-coloured Starlings were also abundant and extremely vocal.
-Rose-coloured Starling
-Syke's Wagtail
-Black-headed Wagtail
-Singing Bush-lark

Species List:
Sahnawt Farm: Rose-coloured Starling, Common Myna, Grey Wagtail, African Silverbill, Laughing Dove, Crested Lark, Collared Dove, White Wagtail, White Stork, Black-headed Wagtail*, Sykes’ Wagtail*, Namaqua Dove, Singing Bush Lark*, Little Ringed Plover, Ring-necked Parakeet, Feral Pigeon, Graceful Prinia, House Crow, Barn Swallow,

East Khawr
East Khawr is another large water body on the outskirts of Salalah. The species composition was generally very similar to Khawr Rawri with good numbers of wader, Heron and wildfowl species. There were a few additions however, such as Ferruginous Duck, Spotted Redshank and Citrine Wagtail. More unexpected additions included 3 Spur-winged Lapwing on the bank of the lake, which are unusual at this time of year. 2 Collared Pratincole were also on the scrapes at the south end, as was a stunning Long-toed Stint with a small group of Temminck’s Stint. Long-toed Stint was one of our most wanted species for the trip so we were pleased to connect with one.
-Collared Pratincole
-Pheasant-tailed Jacana
-Graceful Prinia
Offshore from the Khawr we had our only Brown Boobies of the trip. It’s difficult to judge how many individuals there were as we only saw singles at any one time, but it seemed that there was more than one bird going up and down the coast. As we left the Khawr we experienced a raptor extravaganza. Our first stop was for a fulvescens Greater Spotted Eagle which was soaring over the north end of the Khawr. Just a little further up the road into Salalah we pulled over again to find a Booted Eagle, Crested Honey Buzzard and probably a Barbary x Peregrine Falcon hybrid, all in the sky directly above us. It was quite a sight to jam in on.
-Brown Booby
-Greater Spotted Eagle (fulvescens)
-Booted Eagle
-Crested Honey Buzzard & Barbary x Peregrine Hybrid
-Crested Honey Buzzard

Species List:
East Khawr: Spotted Redshank, Spur-winged Lapwing*, Citrine Wagtail, Collared Pratincole*, Temminck’s Stint*, Brown Booby*, Long-toed Stint*, Glossy Ibis, Great-spotted Eagle*, Coot, Moorhen, Pintail, Garganey, Little Stint, Sanderling, Dunlin, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Sykes’ Wagtail, African Silverbill, House Crow, Graceful Prinia, Greater Flamingo, Black-winged Stilt, Grey Heron, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Squacco Heron, Sooty Gull, Slender-billed Gull, Heuglin’s Gull, Masked Booby, Greater Crested Tern, Caspian Tern, Oriental Honey Buzzard*, Booted Eagle*,

Ar Dahariz Park Salalah
Late afternoon we stopped off at a park on the coastline of Salalah. The grassy areas of the park had Hoopoe, Sykes’ Wagtail and Citrine Wagtail feeding on them, and the trees of the park had Rüppell’s Weaver nests. House Crow was a common species in the park area.

Species List:
Ar Dahariz Park: Common Sandpiper, Sykes’ Wagtail, White Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail, Rüppell’s Weaver, White-breasted White-eye, Hoopoe, Blackstart, Collared Dove, Laughing Dove, House Crow,

Al Baleed Archaeological Park
For the last hours of daylight we headed to the Al Baleed Archaeological Park in the hope of seeing the parks resident Spotted Thick-knees. It was late before we located them, under the trees on the north side of the river, but we found them they showed extremely well. We even encountered 2 chicks on the south side of the river. Along the river itself we had outstanding views of Indian Pond Heron, with multiple individuals all of which were very approachable. Both Caspian and White-winged Black Tern were flying up and down the river.
We headed down the park river to a view-tower which overlooked the whole of the park, in the hope of seeing raptors coming into roost. The tower provided an opportunity to scope the open areas of the park and as a result we added a flock of Pacific Golden Plover to our trip list. Purple Heron and Great Reed Warbler were also picked out in the reeds at the side of the river. From the tower we spotted a kingfisher fly in behind us. As it perched up it was immediately recognisable as a Malachite Kingfisher. The bird did not sit for long, soon moving from the near side to the far side of the river. And then, after less than 2 minutes it flew off up-river. We were all somewhat stunned. This is the 11th/12th record for Oman.
-Indian Pond Heron
-Malachite Kingfisher
-Common Sandpiper
-Spotted Thick-knee

Species List:
Al Baleed Archaeological Park: House Crow, Marsh Harrier, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Indian Pond Heron, White-winged Black Tern, Caspian Tern, Laughing Dove, Collared Dove, Malachite Kingfisher*, Rock Martin, Spotted Thick-knee*, Ringed Plover, Pacific Golden Plover*, Common Myna, African Silverbill, Great Reed Warbler,

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