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, January 08, 2016

Ayn Hamran, Khawr Rawri and Sanhout Farm; 1st November 2015; Oman


Ayn Hamran was first site on the hotlist today. This site was high on our list of priorities, hence the visit on our second day in salalah. On arrival, we got out of the car and took in a quite remarkable view, the backdrop of mountainous scenery was rather spectacular. Some of the African specialities on offer in southern Oman were wanted here, though we arrived to tough conditions. The incoming cyclone was now looking rther serious and meritted serious consideration. It was now several hundred kilometres to our south and approaching the island of Socotra with malicious intent. Its intended path after that was difficult to gauge. That morning it meant strong winds and dust devils, vicious swirls of sand that we did not want to get caught up in. On arrival though, we immediately had the first lifer, Shining Sunbird. This was a beautiful bird, iridescent greens and a violet crescent on the breast, the bird was feeding in the flowering trees just beside the car park and we enjoyed terrific views. Around the sunken water feature we easily found another target species, African Paradise Flycatcher. This was a bird I had wanted to see, it did not disappoint. They were a joy to behold, particularily the males.There were several sheltering from the wind and a couple of males with full tail plumes were simply breathtaking. I was delighted to see the species so easily and at such close range.


Ayn Hamran. A small water feature provided shelter from the wind lower down and several species were seen here...


The high escarpment over Ayn Hamran was quite a site added a sense of great scale to the place...



Forbes Watson Swift. Many hundreds of Swift were moving east over the montains, presumably getting out of the path of the incoming cyclone. Most were too difficult to identify to species, though we were able to identify a few closer birds to our satisfaction.

  After a few minutes, whilst watching the flycatchers a blue flash caught my eye, I looked up to see a real jewel land on a perch. There was no mistaking my first Grey Headed Kingfisher, it sat at close range and the scope views were jaw dropping. It moved along after a few minutes and we followed suit. The lifers came thick and fast despite the terrible conditions. Abyssinian White Eye fell next, when two feeding birds were located by Wouter. African Rock Bunting took a little effort to get good views of initially, then they seemed to be everywhere we looked. Striolated Bunting were often among them. We got some record pictures and kept birding...


African Paradise Flycatcher, what a bird this is...



Grey Headed Kingfisher, a very welcome lifer and yet another stunning bird....






African Rock Bunting. Initially gave us the runaround, though eventually we has many good views of the species...


African Rock Bunting



African Rock Bunting



African Paradise Flycatcher




African Paradise Flycatcher


 The next species responded immediately to playback. As soon as the call was played, a male Arabian Warbler appeared in front of us, a brute of a Sylvia. It showed really well and even allowed brief scope views and we were all very happy. This was a really wanted bird and a speciality of Oman. A double whammy was completed when 2 Blackstart appeared!
Somewhere whilst all of this was going on the weather deteriorated and were became concerned about the increasingly violent dust devils's. A couple came too close for of liking, appearing suddenly. Then came a remarkable sight, a female Arabian wildcat moving a kitten. We had brief views, though Danny managed a record shot, which allowed us to confirm our identification later on. This was out first good mammal of the trip...
 We then turned our attention to the overlooking mountains. Bonelli's Eagle, Short Toed Eagle and Kestrel were noted here though there was no sign of Verraux's Eagle. The weather was deteriorating now and strong wind helped us to decide to move on, these were no conditions for raptors. 


 Kwahr Rhawli was close by and we made a beeline for it. This site had an excellent reputation and it looked good as we rolled in. The site is in a natural setting, flanked by rocky slopes. We had not got far when the heavens opened and we made a run for the car, returning just in time for the rain to stop!
As we smiled wryly, Danny turned suddenly uttered 'What the *#** is that?' !
  We naturally got onto the bird in question, a large cuckoo, jet black with a crest and white wing patches. Jacobin Cuckoo!! The bird sat atop a bush just briefly before flying of, but the brief scope view was unforgettable. A wonderful bird and a very good record. Good fortune had smiled upon us once more. It seemed as though the deteriorating weather might be bringing some good birds. We proceeded to check the area. Bonelli's Eagles were in evidence, with and adult and a juvenile present. We were not surprised to see the adult attack a Grey Heron. We found the remains of two Grey Heron and a Little Egret on the ground in the area, all raptor kills and Bonelli's Eagle seemed the most likely culprit. The heron escaped on this occasion, but it was an impressive sight. Blackstart were also feeding around this area, we had good scope views of these. An Osprey fed over the water, whilst a Marsh Harrier also dropped in. Common Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail, Common Sandpiper and Common Snipe were also seen. On the way back Wouter flushed a Yellow Bittern, a real result. The bird flew up and over the reeds before pitching down again. Another lifer, this time for us all. Back at the car there were more views of Blackstart, as well as a Common Cuckoo in moult to adult plumage, an interesting bird in a plumage we had never seen in Europe...
We headed back for lunch, but couldn't resist a stop at Sanhout Farm, formerly a birding hotspot, though there is no entry to birders now. We went around the perimeter a looked through the fence. It was stuffed with birds. Perhaps a thousand doves were here, with 15 Roller, 6 Rose Coloured Starling, lots of Isabelline Shrike, Yellow Wagtail and Black Crowned Sparrow Lark. Water Pipit was better, whilst 70 White winged black Tern were a truly remarkable sight, hunting over the green crop field. A stunning adult Eastern Imperial Eagle just overhead was phenomenal, what a view. A second adult was also present, whilst a juvenile was seen in the distance. Then came the lifer, Singing Bush Lark. The birds responded immediately to playback of the song, and hovered in front of us, three birds in total...
 We then stopped off at a public park to search for Crested Honey Buzzard. On entry the park was empty and we had Shining Sunbird straight away. We had only been there a matter of minutes when we flushed a Crested Honey Buzzard which flew through the trees and disappeared. We quickly located it though an it proved to be a stunning adult male. Through the scope the dark eyes, malar area, lovely brick red underpart barring were amazing. We cursed our look when attendant House Crows forced the bird out straight away and we could not relocate it. It seems quite a considerable number of these birds may be wintering here in Salalah. We did have a nice surprise in the form of a Grey headed Kingfisher in the park whilst looking for the buzzard, which was most welcome. The end of the day was close and I spent the last of the light watching gulls as they moved along the beach in the late evening. taing plenty of photographs as I did so.
So another day came to an end with the weather worsening as a huge cyclone brewed to the south, presenting a serious threat to Yemen, where it was due to make landfall. Tomorrow might well hold some seriously unsettled weather...

a. Steppe Gull; 1st Calendar



b. Steppe Gull



c. Adult Sooty Gull



d. Adult type Steppe Gull



e. Caspian Gull type; 1st Calendar



f. Caspian Gull type;1st Calendar



g. Adult Steppe Gull at a typical stage of moult



h. Subadult Steppe Gull, probably 4th Calendar year. Again note the typical stage of moult for the species in early November.


i. Gull billed Tern



j. Sooty Gulls



k. Sooty Gull



l. Sooty Gull



m. Sooty Gull



n. Things got more complex....a second calender bird here. Under wing looks rather clean. Primary moult almost complete. note small mirror on P10. 



o. Another difiicult secong calendar. Steppe or Heuglin's?



p. Third Calendar?  Heavy bill, sloping forehead, dark secondaries and primaries. Big, heavy bird led me to favour a Heuglini here.


q. Steppe Gull; Sub Adult



r. Steppe Gull;Sub Adult



s. Adult Steppe Gull



t. Adult Heuglin's Gull 



u. Heuglin's Gull; Sub Adult



v. Heuglin's Gull; Sub Adult



w. Heuglins Gull, 2nd Calender Year.


SIGHTINGS; 1st November 2015 
Ayn Hamran: Bonelli’s Eagle 1, Short-toed Eagle 1, Grey-headed Kingfisher 1, Grey Wagtail 2, Spotted Flycatcher 5, Arabian Warbler 3. 
Khawr Rawri: Yellow Bittern 1, Bonelli’s Eagle 2, Booted Eagle 1, Jacobin Cuckoo 1, Common Cuckoo 1, Common Whitethroat 1, Red-backed Shrike 1. 
Sahnawt farm: Glossy Ibis 40, Imperial Eagle 3, Greater Spotted Eagle 1, Steppe Eagle 2, White-winged Black Tern 118, Namaqua Dove 1, Roller 25, Rose-coloured Starling 7, Sand Martin 1, Barn Swallow 100, Yellow Wagtail 100. 
East Khawr: Purple Heron 1, Wigeon 1, Coot 1, Ruff 300 (incl. 1 partial leucistic male). 
Ad Dahariz park: Crested Honey Buzzard 1 (male), Grey-headed Kingfisher 1. 

Farmland Dahariz: Scaly-breasted Munia 5. 

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