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

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Oman; 4th November 2015; Raysut Sewage Farm; Al Mugsayl and Hume's Desert Owl


First port of call was Raysut Sewage Farm, we arrived just after dawn. The previous nigh we had the good fortune of talking to Jens Eriksen, who had booked into our hotel and he had kindly advised us on how best to apprroach this site and where to find the best birds. We had been told to first take the track along the outer fence on the near side of the farm before entering. Using the 4x4 this was no trouble at all and it payed off handsomely. One of the first birds was our main  target, possibly the only bird of its species in Salalah this early, Pheasant tailed Jacana. We had perfect views from the car through the fence and got some record shots. This had been high of my list of species precedeing the trip and it did not disapoint, it was a truly wonderful bird to see. We watched it for a while before moving on...

Pheasant Tailed Jacana. Better than Coco Pops first thing in the morning. A lifer and a real stunner...



Pheasant tailed Jacana. This was the olny bird present in Salalah at this point we were reliably informed, so naturally we were delighted to see it...


The birds itself did not disappoint, a great experience. lack winged Stilt, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Little Stint, Little Egret, Indian Pond Heron, Grey Heron, Glossy Ibis and several Greater Spotted Eagle were all seen. Further along the track we added the second target, Spur Winged Plover. The bird was in company of Red Wattled Lapwing and the views were superb, a very smart species and the second lifer of the day for me!
 All through the trip, it seemed we had been steeped in good luck and there were now only a handful of trget species left to hope for at this point, though there was an exception to this statement which would be adressed that very evening...


Greater Spotted Eagles. Two juveniles sat on the fence right beside our vehicle. Alway present arounf water it seemed...


Juvenile Greater Spotted Eagle...



Spur Winged Plover. Kerching! What a smart bird this was....



Bluethroat



Bluethroat



Ruppell's Weaver



Ruppell's Weaver



 Pintail, Shoveler, Teal, Garganey and Whiskered Tern were flying around, whilst a couple of Turkestan Shrike were on the fence among the Ruppell's Weavers and African Silverbills. A young Imperial Eagle circle overhead. Wouter was extremely frustrated by a brief view of a pale accipiter with dark primaries, certainly a Shikra, but it disappeared before it was clinched or e could get on to it, a really tough break. We spent some time scanning the area in the hope of a reappearance but it wasn't to be on this occasion. We made our way back to the road along the fence, seeing a nice Bluethroat on the way and having seconf views of the Jacana.
 Back on the road we dropped down below the farm into a Wai that was full of birds. We had 9 Temminck's Stint as well as a multitude of Yellow Wagtail, of various races straight away and spent some time carefullt going through the stints. We then had the breathtaking spectacle of incoming flocks of Abdim Stork, one flock of over 100 birds, in total we recorded 353 individuals! This was a very high number indeed for a species that can be very rare in Southern Oman in some winters.  The views were stunning as they came in liw towards the Sewage Farm. Also in the air were Steppe Eagle, Booted Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle and a Black Kite.



Feldegg type Yellow Wagtail


Yellow Wagtail


Yellow Wagtail





Abdim's Stork


Abdim's Stork


Abdim's Stork


Black Kite


Great Spotted Eagle; Juvenile


Greater Spotted Eagle Juvenile


Greater Spotted Eagle; Juvenile


Greater Spotted Eagle; Juvenile


Greater Spotted Eagle; Juvenile


Next up was Al Mugsal, a site in the west towards the Yemen border with a good track record for birds. On arrival late morning it was very quiet by its own standards, though there were birds to be seen. We started at the lagoon by the road and found little there. The first Gadwall of the trip were noted here, whilst there were also Little Ringed Plover, a third calendar Eastern Imperial Eagle, 3 Greater Spotted Eagle, Redshank, Greenshank, Western Reef Heron, 1 Gull billed Tern, 3 Glossy Ibis, Whiskered Tern, 3 Squacco Heron, 8 Common Snipe, 10 Blue Cheeked Bee Eater,  16 Moorhen and 1 Purple Heron. Offshore there were at least 75 Bridled Tern, either feeding or resting on buoys. We spent some time looking at adult Greater Spotted Eagle, whilst a nice Isabelline Wheatear was nice to study on the way back to the car. Very quiet it remained, so we decided to break for lunch in a nearby restaurant.

Danny taking a few shots from the hide...



Al Mugsal



The coast at Al Mugsal, a really amazing place to behold...



Tristam's Grackle's calling overhead here in wonderful scenery...



Danny and a big rock...



Al Mugsal, quite stunning I think you will agree...



Panorama at Al Mugsal, as modelled by Danny....







Just the odd Isabelline and Desert Wheatear here...



Birding from the roadside...



The inner laggon was quiet on this day, but boasts a remarkable track record with regard to rarities...



Tristam's Grackle



Tristam's Grackle


 After lunch, which was lamb with rice, we decided it was too soon to head for the wadi and went into the mountains at Jabal Al Kamar. After several kilometers and a couple of stops for photos of the breathtaking scenery, we came to a wadi within the mountains and drove into it over a rough track. The scene was nothing short of magnificent here. It's wasn't long before we had our target, South Arabian Wheatear. A female was first, though eventually we had a stunning male high up on a ridge and got good scope views. This near endemic was a lifer for Danny and I. Somewhat more relaxed we began to scan the skies, eventually picking up a large falcon mobbing an eagle. The falcon was distant, proved to be either a Lanner/Saker, perhaps most likely the former. The eagle almost took second preference until it was properly scrutinised and the long wings, large hand and lofted flight identified it as a Verreaux's Eagle! The views were distant, though still welcome, before the bird disappeared over a ridge and was lost to sight. After that we had several other raptors, which were Booted Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Kestrel and a long wing falcon we felt might well have been a Sooty Falcon. Happily we had seen Sooty Falcon earlier in the trip very well indeed, otherwise this might of been a more painful moment! Roller, Tristams Grackle, Menetries Warbler and Fan tailed Raven were also noted, a very worthwhile detour which provided two of our most wanted birds for the trip...
 It was now time to head for the last point of business, Wadi Al Mugsal. At the start of the track into the mountains we had a close pair of hunting Kestrel, whist some doves on a fence caught our eye. What we intitially though an African Collared dove proved a juvenile Laughing Dove, though it was in the company of a Turtle Dove, which was new for the trip..


Laughing Dove


Laughing Dove



Isabelline Wheatear



Common Kestrel



Common Kestrel


Happily we moved on along a rough dirt road , steadily working our way deeper in to the mountains. A waterhole along the way looked good for Liechtensteins Sandgrouse, but that was not what we were here for. We followed the trail into the mountains and marvelled at the incredible scenery. The mountains and rocky terrain provided the most incredible backdrop. he road was at times difficult and the four wheel drive was certainly needed here.We worked our way right into the Wadi and awaited nightfall.


















Isabelline Wheatear



Rock Dove; A good shout for the real thing in such a remote location...



Desert Lark, not the reddish tones on the undercarriage. Several birds noted...



Remarkable scenery in this area...



Wadi Al Mugsal



Wadi Al Mugsal



Finally, we found our destination, the target was Hume's Desert Owl. We settled down to wait...


We were here for Hume's Desert Owl...
 This was a lifer for all three and a bird of near mythical status. We scanne the cliffs inncessantly, though knew we had little chance of seeing the bird, rather we were here to await darkness and listen for the male calling. In the hour before darkness, we had rather few birds, save for South Arabian Wheatear, a Menetries Warbler, Red backed Shrike and several Tristam's Grackle. As the light began to fade we were treated to a group of Rock Hyrax, which proceeded to feed in the trees at the far side of the wadi. They were wonderful to watch, tremendously entertaining, particularily the young as they played. As darkness fell we lost sight of them and settled down to wait. At dusk another great moment as Liechtensteins Sandgrouse flew over calling. Then a further hour passed. It was now properly dark and we were starting to drip off when the call of Humes Desert Owl rang through the wadi. The bird called four times over a five minute period, before going silent. It was magical to hear such an enigmatic species and we left very happy.
Things were not quite done however. On the way back we watched the headlights whilst I shone a torch over the ground to the right of the vehicle. A toad was seen on the road, a small creamy species with black eyes. Then after ten minutes an electric flash ran through me as I caught eye shine in my beam. We positioned the vehicle to use the headlights to provide light to identify the mammal as a Ruppell's Fox. This was a nice result. Five minutes later I again experience the spine tingling excitement of catching sudden eye shine, this time the animal seemed larger. We swung the landrover around and there in the headlights was a Striped Hyena! We were gobsmacked! What a great sighting. We watched it lope off, occasionally stopping to look back at us. Quite the adrenalin surge, one of the top predators seen well, you hope for such a movement, they come along but rarely. We did not realise quite how lucky we were at that moent, later that evening Jens Eriksen told us he had never seen a Striped Hyend alive despite being twenty years lining here. Oman had provided more magic...

1 comment:

Owen said...

Superb eagle shots. I saw juv greater spotted for the first time last autumn and I don't think there's a more superb plumage on a raptor in Europe.