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

Saturday, December 05, 2015

30th October 2015; Muntasar Oasis and Dawkah Farm, Oman.


We awoke at our camp a short distance from the Oasis and began to break camp. In between activities such as brushing our teeth there was a roar from Wouter. The two words were 'Desert Warbler' and the response was immediate. The bird was flittling around a tiny bush just behind the landrover, out in the desert. It was incredibly fortuitous, but we enjoyed great views for a couple of minutes before it flitted out into the desert, using occasional scrub as cover. Asian Desert Warbler was high on the wanted list of Danny and I and we were elated, what an amazing start to the day! Another target species in the bag and we hadn't even made our beds...


Our parking spot at the oasis. We didn't see a single traffic warden during our whole stay..


Looking for Crakes at the edges of the oasis. They were surely present, but we did not see any at this location...

The plan was quite simple, we had until 9am to birdwatch, at which point we would be in position for the arrival of the sandgrouse. Once again there were lots of birds. Turkestan Shrike, Daurian Shrike, Southern Grey Shrike, Roller, Lesser Whitethroat and Blue Cheeked Bee Eater were all picked up quickly. We worked our way around to the ditch at the south of the site first. We were interested to see what new species we might see today. First up was an Isabelline Wheatear, a nice bird to see well at any time. It gave excellent scope views. This was not an obviuos male type with blackish lores and we took in the features for a few minutes before moving on...


Isabelline Wheatear

As we approached the ditch we noted the Cream Coloured Courser was still present. We were in a position with a good view of the area now as the Courser fed along the ditch. A Tawny Pipit was feeding in the area as well and we were looking at this when a movement caught Wouter's eye again. Soon, we were delighted to be taking in the features of an Asian Desert Warbler for the second time that morning, only this bird remanied in the area for a lot longer. We had cracking views of this pale sylvia as it fed actively around the ditch. It was an incredibly energetic, absoloubtly tiny little warbler. As I watched I marvelled as to how this species could reach as far a western Europe as a vagrant, quite incredible. We really enjoyed this bird..


Asian Desert Warbler.


Asian Desert Warbler.


Asian Desert Warbler.


Asian Desert Warbler.


Asian Desert Warbler.


Tawny Pipit


Tawny Pipit


Cream Coloured Courser


Cream Coloured Courser


Desert Wheatear


 We got to the pools at the north and had a nice surprise in the form of an adult male Pallid Harrier winging south over the desert in the distance! The bird was winging it's way steadily south, actively migrating low over the desert and was a remarkable sight. It was quickly lost in the distance. This was quickly followed by a Golden Eagle, a bird perched in the distance on a small bush. This was a resident bird however, a small population is still clinging on in the desert here in Oman. The population has been decresing and we were very fortunate to see this bird as it turned out, a difficult species to see in Oman. It would remain in the same position for the rest of the morning, unmoving.
 We continued to look around the small pools. Several Desert Wheatear were feeding here, as was a Pied Wheatear. It was instructive to see all these species together. The Pied Wheatear gave good views and would remain in the area for the morning. Up to 5 Blue Cheeked Bee Eater hawked insects and plunge bathed as we looked on...


The pools to the north of Muntasar, a well known site for three species of sandgrouse...


Blue Cheeked Bee Eater, bathing at the pools in the early morning.


Blue Cheeked Bee Eater in flight..



We worked our way back to the car and waited in the vehicle for the Sandgrouse. As we watched a Grey Heron flew in over the arid desert and landed at the pool and began to drank, it was simply amazing to see a bird like this crossing hundreds of miles of desert! Then the Hooded Wheater reappeared, as did a small group of Swallow. We were heartened by distant calling Spotted Sandgrouse twice, but inexplicably, time passed and they simply did not materialized at the pool. This was an unexpected twist for the worse, a big disappointment, and at 10.15am we decided we had to move on. The site is regarded as a cert for three species, though perhaps the birds have found somewhere else to drink away from visiting birders and the camel he refers present at the oasis. We would later dicover that the Berber settlement close by was thought to be a factor for the birds not visiting the site. Either way, it was a hard pill to swallow and a real setback. We had no choice but to follow our schedule and hit the road. Soon we were back on featureless desert road heading due south..


Above and below; A Roller at point blank range at Dawkah Farm, right beside the vehicle...




A hundred kilometers on we turned off the road at Dawkah Farm, a large irrigated crop farm in the southern desert. We asked for permission at the gate, as always the reception was incredibly friendly. Not only were we granted access, we were offered a meal! Driving out through the the fields, it was immediately apparent that there were masses of Wheatears present. Desert Wheatear were everywhere you looked, with quite a few Isabelline Wheatear in evidence too. A Northern Wheatear was new for the trip amongst these. Also on the fields were many Short Toed Lark, Black Crowned Sparrow Lark and a few Crested Lark. On the ground Blue Cheeked Bee Eater lined up, with large numbers of  Eurasian Roller also hunting locusts over the crop fields. The first better bird came in the form of a male Eastern Black Redstart, a really dapper bird with full red belly. It was a real firecracker! We moved around the fields in the landrover, picking up another gem, a juvenile Rock Thrush. This bird was really close, right beside the road and we had wonderful views and got nice photographs. Then came Hoopoe Lark, the first of three birds, this was nice birding. There were birds everywhere and we were constantly finding something good to view.


A male Black Crowned Sparrow Lark, an abundant species at the farm....


A juvenile Rock Thrush, which was more unexpected and very welcome.


Feeding on the ground beside the vehicle, note the rusty orange tail. A wonderful bird...


Rock Thrush


Rock Thrush


Rock Thrush


Black Crowned Spearrow Lark


Above and Below: A Hoopoe Lark, a real desert speciality and an unforgetable bird. This one gave us our best views of the trip of this enigmatic species...




  We decided to check a palm tree copse, walking a little apart from each other. The first bird was Red breasted Flycatcher, a calling bird.  Then, as we walked down the grove, I flushed a bird that I didn't see well, that confused me. It proved to be a Eurasian Scops Owl, eventually relocated in one of the palms and we had nice views of this migratory species before moving on. I had two Black headed Bunting overhead, whilst a Blackcap was new for the trip. A small group of deciduous shrub and low trees was an excellent area. We had Reed Warbler, Blackcap, 'tristus' Chiffchaff, a second Scops Owl, 2 Menetries Warbler, 13 Rose Coloured Starling, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and several shrikes, both Daurian and Turkestan. We checked through everything carefully. Over the fields, a brief ringtail harrier sp. managed to disappear without being seen well. This was a little frustrating as it looked good for Montagu's Harrier.


Eurasian Scops Owl among the palm trees.


An adult Eurasian Roller, a real blast of colour everytime it took to the wing...




A Steppe Grey Shrike, which we found in company of Rose Coloured Starlings, a very welcome bird indeed.

Steppe Grey Shrike, race 'pallidostris'. Note th rather poorly marked loves, pale bill and large headed appearance...


Steppe Grey Shrike, race 'pallidostris'.


Steppe Grey Shrike, race 'pallidostris'.


Steppe Grey Shrike, race 'pallidostris', resting amongst Rose Coloured Starlings. Not an everyday sight...

Steppe Grey Shrike, race 'pallidostris'. A very useful flight shot, which we waited some time to get. Note the large white basal primary patch, some white on outer secondaries and the parge amount of white in the outer tail. The central tail feathers were damaged.


 Back out on the fields there was more of the same, though careful looking produced a real bonus, a Pallidustris Great Grey Shrike, in company of Rose Coloured Starlings. It showed really well and we got good images, which can be viewed above...
Close by we found a Red Tailed Wheatear. The latter came so close it ended up under the vehicle! A great few hours birding it was, though we had an appointment to keep with the south coast. Salalah beckoned..


                                                            Red Tailed Wheatear


Red Tailed Wheatear


                                                            Red Tailed Wheatear


                                                              Red Tailed Wheatear


Red Tailed Wheatear


                                                               Red Tailed Wheatear


                                                               Red Tailed Wheatear


                                                              Red Tailed Wheatear

Red Tailed Wheatear

                                                                 Red Tailed Wheatear


 This, however, was Oman. A hundred kilometers south, out of nowhere, two sandgrouse flashed over the road in front of the landrover and disappeared into the desert to the west as we screamed to a halt. A little further on we hit the jackpot when 10 Spotted Sandgrouse flushed from the side of the road and flew around before returning to the side of the road 100 metres away! As we approached these two birds flew up and we were gobsmacked to realize they sported dark bellies and primaries, this was a pair of Chestnut bellied Sandgrouse! They gave good views in superb light as they flew off, whilst the Spotted Sabdgrouse returned to land, this time on the road. We had another view of these at good range. It was such a relief to catch up on these birds after the disappointment at the oasis earlier. There were figh fives all around in the transport as we moved off for or last leg to Salalah. The Spotted Sandgrouse repeatedly returned to the road and we gained excellent views of the flock before eventually they disapeared into the desert. The relief was palpaple, we had earlier that morning been so disappointed to miss these birds, there had been a real possiblity we would not see the species at all. Now, just a few hours later, we had safely seen not just Spotted Sandgrous, but also Chestnut bellied Sandgrouse. We moved off to the south, our last leg of the desert journey almost complete and now Southern Oman was beckoning...


Spotted Sandgrouse, what a save on the roadside!




An hour later it was obvious the desert trip was coming to an end. Vegetation became more abundant quite suddenly and then there were hills ahead of up. We suddenly found ourselves atop a high escarpment and then we were descending from the hills, dropping into the southern coast of Oman. The sea came into view and the view was truly breathtaking. There were birds all of a sudden. The calls of Tristrams Grackles rang out above us on the slopes and Steppe Eagles perched along the roadside! We soon descended from the hills and found our way into Salalah. We found our hotel with little difficulty, right on the beach. Evening was now upon us as we checked in, eventually getting sorted. After three nights camping in the desert we were all looking forward to a meal and a shower. The view from the balcony was stunning. We had so much more to look forward too...


The view from our hotel in Salalah...


Birds of Note;
Muntasar: Pallid Harrier 1 (male), Golden Eagle 1, Spotted Sandgrouse 5 (distant calling – did not come in to drink!), Cream-coloured Courser 1, Desert Warbler 1, Pied Wheatear 1, Hooded Wheatear 1, Isabelline Wheatear 1.  
Dawkah farm: Marsh Harrier 2, Sparrowhawk 1, Common Kestrel 2, Common Cuckoo 1, European Scops Owl 2, European Roller 15, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater 40, Short-toed Lark 50, Hoopoe Lark 3, Red-throated Pipit 1, Tree Pipit 1, Tawny Pipit 5, Red-tailed Wheatear 1, Isabelline Wheatear 30, Northern Wheatear 1, Rock Thrush 2, Spotted Flycatcher 3, Red-breasted Flycatcher 1, Eastern Black Redstart 1, Siberian Chiffchaff 4, Blackcap 2, Common Whitethroat 1, European Reed Warbler 1, Turkestan Shrike 1, Steppe Grey Shrike 1, Rose-coloured Starling 31, Black-headed Bunting 2. 



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