Alan Dalton post's birding diaries and original artwork from Sweden. Established in 2006, this now long running blog is now a complete overview of my birding experiences. As an artist I greatly enjoy sketching birds in the field and you will find a wide selection of that work here, from fieldwork to finished paintings. I am very passionate about my artwork and try to depict birds in their natural habitat, as I see them in the wild. My artwork is for sale and can be viewed at http://www.alandalton.net/
As regards to my photography, since 2008 I have used a Nikon D90 DSLR camera coupled with a Sigma 150-500mm OS lens for since March 2012 for bird photography, all previous images being digiscoped. Regarding sound recording, I have been usung a Telinga Stereo Dat Mic and parabol to record birds in the field, coupled to a Marrantz 661 digital recorder, a superb piece of kit. Interest in butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies has recently seen the accquisition of a Sigma 150mm macro lens. I hope you enjoy the blog and please feel free to leave comments or contact me at alandltn@gmail.com

Friday, November 27, 2015

Oman; Bar Al Hikman; 28th October 2015


We awoke to the sun rising over the Arabian Sea, it was a wonderful sight. We got up at dawn and stretched our legs around the campsite. Three male Desert Wheatear were present as we did so, whilst a couple of Osprey flew over fron the direction of the sea, having bathed. The perched along the road on the wires and began to dry their feathers as the sun rose. We headed straight for the beach road to scan the waders on the rapidly incoming tide. Broad billed Sandpipers were a highlight at close range. An unexpected bonus was a Namaqua Dove, a lifer for me. It appeared briefly beside us, perched on the fence to our right. It was an n incredibly small bird! It declined to pose for photos however, and quickly flew off after the briefest of cameo's. Back to the mudflats, which were teeming with waders, mostly Sandplover, Bar tailed Godwits and Dunlin. Several Terek Sandpipers were dashing around in typical fashion. We Had stunning views of Osprey, before a couple of Striated Heron showed very well as the tide filled. Waders rolled past and were now restless. The light was difficult and we made a decision to move location in the hope of improving out chances of picking out a good wader. The sun was directly in our face and it's low angle were making identification extremely difficult from the beach road at Filim. We headed north and swung to the east in order to get to the far side of the vast bay...


 A pair of Heuglin's Gulls were present on the mudflats first thing in the morning, though again they were wary and I could only mange a few digiscopes of these birds...


 Above and below; Broad billed Sandpiper. This particular bird gave us tremendous views at close range.



 Striated Heron. This individual appeared as the tide was filling and gave us excellent views, before disappearing into a small stand of mangroves. It was great to see the species in good light, having seen on at dusk just a few days previously.


 Curlew. This bird showed a very long bill. These birds interested me as the eastern race of Curlew, 'orientalis, predominates here. Many curlew showed long bills and legs, like this bird. In addition, the belly and underrated were rather whitish, whilst in flight the underwing covert's and axilleries showed as very clean white.


 Osprey. We had begun to wonder whether the very pale birds we were seeing were local birds. On occsion, darker birds were seen that looked as we would expect of european birds. Oman has a healthy breeding population of resident Osprey, which are joined by wintering birds from further north.


After a drive of 30 kilometres we found ourselves moving south along the bay with the sun at our backs. This area produced phenomenal views of waders from the transport. Sanderling was quickly added to the trip list, as was Spotted Flycatcher. On arrival we worked our way along the road watching waders at close range. More Broad billed Sandpipers were a highlight. A moment of hope was provided by a smal, dark falcon perched on the wires, though it proved to be a Hobby and not an Amur Falcon. Little Stints and both Sandplover species were present on huge numbers ans large flocks of small waders were seen at roost, stretching out over the mudflats. Dunlin, Turnstone, Sanderling, Ringed Plover. Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover were all in evidence, though we could not locate any larger species at this location. We moved steadily along the road, checking through the small waders as we went.


 Waders at Bar Al Hikman


 A little further south, at the ferry terminal to Masirah Island, we took the opportunity to photograph Sooty Gull, Saunders Tern(3), Sandwich Tern and an incredibly close Osprey. We spent around 30 minutes at the site. The birds here were at close range and we took the opportunity to take some photo's..
Several Western Reef Heron were present and one bird gave very close views on the pier wall.  The port was busy and local camels were in evidence, attracing curious tourists. I spent some time photographing Sooty Gull, whilst an offshore Saunder's Tern was a juvenile and was of interest.
We made out way back to the base of the pier slowly, stoppping to roll down the windows and photograph Sandwich Tern. An Osprey above us at this point gave remarkable views.


Camels. These to were chilling in the back of a Toyota HiLuxe!

Western Reef Heron. A common species in the area. Several were fishing around the harbour...


Sooty Gull


Sooty Gull; Close of of the same bird as above...

Sooty Gull; Adult type

Sooty Gull; This individual had lost a foot...

Sooty Gull in flight. Note the moult in the inner primaries, a late moulting strategy....

Sooty Gull in flight. Note the dark bar on the secondaries...

Sooty Gull, another close up...

Sooty Gull in flight. Again, an adult type showing rather worn tail feathers.

Sooty Gull


Sandwich Tern at rest. A widespread species in Oman, though generally in small numbers...

Sanwich Tern in flight.


Sternula Tern sp; 1st Calender Year. Note the greyish rump. This bird was present with two adult birds, one of which was certainly a Saunders Tern, fishing offshore.

Sternula Tern sp; 1st Calender Year. Here the lack of dark in the outer primaries points to Little Tern?

Sternula Tern sp; 1st Calender Year.



Sooty Gull in flight

Sooty Gull in flight.



An unforgettable view of Osprey. They often sat on street lights and were rather unafraid of humans. This one was very tolerant as long as we stayed inside the vehicle.



This was the reaction to three of us hanging out of the windows with cameras...

The bird is in active moult, as can be seen here. Again, a rather pale individual.

Osprey. Woderful to get to close to these birds, which were very widespred and seemingly everywhere along the coast in Oman.


View from the vehicle as a couple of Camels lok back at us from the desert. ll around the area was rather featureless desert...


Driving through the desert, thank god for good music...


Sanderling


Kentish Plover.


Waders at Bar al Hikman. A Lesser Sandplover to the left.A small group of Turnstone and a Terek Sandpiper to the right...


Greater Sandplover with Dunlin.


Dunlin and Lesser Sandplover. The Dunlin here were rather large, with large bills and a rather dark general appearance.


Greater Sandplover. Note the large billed appearance. A much heavier bird in direct comparison to Lesser Sandplover.


Greater Sandplover. Again, a much heavier appearance with large bill adns small eyed impression.

The plan for the afternoon was to get to the east coast for the evening, where we wold camp. We found the track out across the desert eventually, several kilometres of it. The terrian here was not what it seemed from the road. We saw that the whitish sheen in the distance was not a mirage, but salt. Brackish salt pans, mixed with mud in fact. As we drove futher towards the coast we realized there was more and more water trapped in the ground, this was not safe for the vehicle and we were forced ro reassess the situation. The consequences of being mired far from the road in the desert were simply to great to risk. This was a remote area and such a disaster could cost us days. We decided to give up on the plan to camp at the coast amongst the waders. This was a real shame as we had hoped to witness the awesome wader flocks at the site, as well as give ourselves an excellent chance of connecting with Great Knot. We decided to try further along the coast istead, it was simply too dangerous at this point...
 Further down the coast we found a small settlement to the east and drove through it and attempted to get to the coast there. Again we found soft ground and treacherous saltpans and abandoned the idea. Close to the sttlement we did find some resting gulls though and stopped to take some photo's. There were mostly Steppe Gulls as well as a handful of Caspian Gulls and Heuglins Gull. 
 We decided to head back to Filim through the desert. On the way we passed through a vegetated area and decided to stop and have a look around. It didn't take long to locate larks. A Crossbill like call proved to be that of Black Crowned Desert Lark. There were several birds in the area. As we watched these Wouter picked up a Hoope Lark and we were thrilled to enjoy good views of this wnderful bird. It was amazing to watch this much wanted species stride around the desert, though when it took to the wing my pupils certaily dilated a little. Also here we had what may have been a Dessert Warbler, though we could not nail it down and had just a brief view. A common Whitethroat was of the asian race, a really odd looking bird, rather dark looking...
 It was hard work moving around the dunes and the heat was stifling. We were glad to get back to the vehicle and turn on the air conditioning and rehydrate. We moved on again...



Hoopoe Lark. What a beast this was, a real desert speciality. This was my first and it cetainly did not disappoint. Not difficult to identify by any means, particularily on the wing, when it was simply breathtaking...


Hoopoe Lark. Striding around on the ground, as they do. Quite quick on the deck....


Lesser Sandplovers.


Lesser sandplover wih a Turstone.


A Greater Sandplover, top left, looks back at a Turnstone and a Lesser Sandplover.


Lesser Sandplover.


Lesser Sandplover. At times these birds looked very high on their heels and small.


Little Stint, a juvenile bird. A little worn and not as fresh as when seen on passage in Sweden in autumn. Seeing these birds later in the year, in such different light and conditions was a great experience..


Little Stint. Note the dark legs, rusty tones and breast sides. 


Dunlin


Dunlin


Curlew in flight. Note the rather pallid appearance, whitish undertail and belly and rather white underwing covert's. Again, a rather long billed individual...


Lesser Sandplover


Bar Al Hikman.


Birding the inner bay on the east side of Bar al Hikman..

After a while another area that seem to have received rain was found. We checked the area and found it to be full of displaying Black Crowned Sparrow Lark. We also had thirty or more Short Toed Lark here and a cuple of Common Whitethroat. Desert Wheatear were also abundant in this area.


Hoope Lark in Habitat.


Black Crowned Sparrow Lark.


1st calender Steppe Gull.


Caspian Gull, cachinanns type. Note the dark eye, slim bill, light tone of upperparts, long legged appearance.


Stepper Gull, a sub adult bird. Note that P10 is old and not an adult feather.(no white tip)


1st Calender Steppe gull.


These rather light birds were thought to be cachinanns, or Caspian gull.


1st Calender Steppe Gull.


Steppe Gull.


Three caspian types, perhaps all Steppe Gulls, though the rear birds could be a cachinanns.


A pristine adult Steppe Gull, a cracking bird.


A Heuglin's Gull, not the darker mantle, light bill, placement of eye. Sub adult bird.


Steppe Gull; Adult type.

Trying Bar Al Hikman we found salt pans barring our way, deep saline areas which were to dangerous to tackle several kilometers off road in case we got stuck. Begrudgingly we went to plan b. Another site on the coast, but got slightlylost on the way. This led to pulling over by an area with some dry low bushes and green grasses. It was fortuitous and led to Black Crowned Sparrow Lark in display. Whilst watching this we stumbled onto Hoopoe Lark and then, completing a trio of lifers, Asian Desert Warbler! Whilst both larks gave excellent views the warbler was brief, though this was still a result...


Desert Wheatear in Habitat.


Black Crowned Sparrow Lark in typical breeding habitat. Once we had located the vegetation, we found this species in large numbers...


Above and below; The flight display of Black Crowned Sparrow Lark.



A little further up the road the car again slid to a sudden halt after a buteo was spotted along the roadside. It proved to be a stunning pale juvenile Long tailed Buzzard. It performed wonderfully, giving great views and then coming back for seconds. We got some nice photos and the views were sublime. Other birds here were Tawny Pipit and many Short Toed Lark. We quickly moved along and headed back towards Filim...

Long legged Buzzard. A pale morph juvenile here, showing the upper parts wonderfully well...

Long legged Buzzard. A pale morph juvenile. Note the unmarked tail with reddish tones. A large buteo species, long winged and showing a bulging secondary profile. Dark carpals, primary tips and trailing edge, very contrastingly marked.
'
Long legged Buzzard. A pale morph juvenile.

Long legged Buzzard. A very striking bird. Note the fresh retrices and tail. 


     Back at Filim we had three hours left until dusk. It was spent looking around, firstly at waders. To out delight, further out on the flats were there 40 Crab Plover, they were distant, though very welcome. Broad billed Sandpipers, Marsh Sandpipers, Terek Sandpipers and commoner species were enjoyed. On the tideline 24 Caspian Tern were fishing, an impressive sight. A male Desert Wheatear completely surrendered to the cameras, as did a Tree Pipit. Other birds included Quail, Red backed Shrike, an interesting Yellow Wagtail, Bluethroat and Marsh Harrier before dusk fell and we set up camp again. We camped in the same spot as the previous night, this time slepping out under the stars on the campbeds. it was a memorable experience. There was a little dissapointment, having not reached an area we had looked forward to. Wouter had been there before and had been upset not to be able to get there, though it was certainly the right decision not to press on. We still had so much to look forward to, not least the following dat, when we would arrive at the Oasis at Muntasar.
 Darkness fell and we again ate by an open fire. The sky darkened and the moon rose, an epic night sky above us and the sounds of waders rang out in the night...



Lesser Sand Plover. Note the short bill and large eye. The rear is not so attenuated and the bird looks small and compact.


Desert Wheatear



Tree Pipit feeding along the tideline.

Tree Pipit feeding along the tideline.

Tree Pipit feeding along the tideline.


Desert Wheatear. This individual was a star. I spent some time taking digiscoped images of this bird in the evening...

Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatear, fanning it's tail and showing the extensive black tailband...

Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatear


Bar tailed Godwit.A very common species at Filim in the evening...


Greater Sandplover. A resting bird...


Marsh Sandpiper. always a little distant, so only managed a few digiscoped images of these elegant waders...


Greater Flamingo. A feeding juvenile bird...


Red backed Shrike. Juvenile bird present again in the same area...


Bluethroat. Digiscoped image of a bird around the water puddle in the evening...


Yellow Wagtail. A first calender bird. These birds were always interesting and several race were seen. This was assigned to 'Black Headed Wagtail' type. There are several races of Yellow Wagtail occuring in Oman, this was one of those I wished to see...


Above and below; The second desert area where we stopped and found breeding Black Crowned Sparrow Larks...



Filim; Bar Al Hikman as the sun dropped down on our final evening at the site...



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