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

Monday, January 11, 2016

Oman; 2nd November 2015; Day 9. Ayn Atoum, Ayn Hamran; Khawr Taqah, Khawr Rawri.


We were up before the sun rose, as was now our habit and we had coffee and discusses the coming day before leaving. It was windindy, though there was no evidence the Cyclone was any closr and we figured it had changed course. We confirmed this online and it seemed as it the strm was now hurtling towards Yemen after devastating the island of Socotra. Little did we knnow then, our concern for the weather would not affect out dat badly, we were, in fact, about to have an incredible day in the field. Looking back as I write now, this was certainly on of the top days we had in the field.
 After getting some good information from a visiting Swedish birder the previous evening, we headed of Ayn Atoum to find a tough species, Golden Winged Grosbeak. On our way the roadside provided an unexpected bonus in the form of 6 Chestnut bellied Sandgrouse on the roadside, the birds sowed quite well before flying off strongly. We were really happy with this, a superb way to start the day and completely unexpected. We had large numbers of Blue Cheeked Bee Eater by the roadside, and 75 birds was a conservative estimate. We had good views before we continued on our way.
 The species we were after was Golden winged Grosbeak, a very rare species with a world population of just a few thousand and a severely restricted species by way of range. We had hoped to see it the previous day, thouh dipped. We had been told of a sighting here the previous day and a water pump near Ayn Atoum and decided to take a chance here. Initially we missed the precise location, a water pump for cattle, which was attracting the birds. Having gone too far we had great views of the wooded hillsides, as well as African Paradise Flycatcher, African Rock Bunting and Palestine Sunbird. We doubled back after realizing we had gone too far and pulled up at the site. Looking out to our left we saw four birds in a low tree and were stunned when we quickly realized they were all Golden Winged Grosbeaks! At first we looked from the car, then realized the birds were quite relaxed and got out and scoped the birds. The birds were perched on bare branches at close range and we were able to photograph the birds well, whilst the video grab was simply stunning. They then moved a short way to drink at the water source, so we followed. We had some very friendly locals stop to talk with us at this point, quite comically at times, during which time were stunned to realized there were at least12 birds present! We did not know at this point that this equalled the national record count!  We enjoyed great views throughout. The birds were loseely associating and drinking at a pool on the ground and we enjoyed amazing views of what really was a beautiful bird. We were ecstatic, we knew thiwas a tough species and we were thrilled to have seen it. We moved on very happy indeed, naturally, this was a lifer for us all...


Video footage here of a wonderful Golden Winged Grosbeak, probably the best piece of footage of the whole trip, given the rarity of the species...




Four Golden winged Grosbeak from the car first thing that morning....


Golden winged Grosbeak


Showing the locals the birds. This gentleman was a wonderful character and even turned on the water for us in order to fill the pool on the ground...


The low forested hills here must be an incredible place to be during the breeding season...


The worst shot in the history of mankind of Chestnut Bellied Sandgrouse, a real surprise in the morning...

On then to Ayn Hamran, we had unfinished business there after the day before. On arrival we stepped out of the car to a Blackstart! Both Palestine and Shining Sunbird were quickly picked up in the flowering trees. Overhead on the mountain ridge we had 3 Short Toed Eagle, 2 Kestrel and a pair of Bonellis Eagle, which were a wonderful sight as they hunted for Partridge. Then we began the search for an Oman speciality, Bruce's Green Pigeon. The previous day we had blanked on these birds and we were keen to make amends for that today. Whilst looking we had 4 Arabian Warbler, three of which were males! A goat herder passed with his herd and Wouter flushed our quarry from the ground near some running water. The bird flew to a large fig tree where three more were located due to Danny's keen eyes. We had amazing views of this special bird, a real looker. Two of our main target species had now fallen and we moved along up to the slopes at the back of the Wadi. Overhead over the next few hours we had a large Swift passage east, 3 Short toed Eagle, several Fan tailed Ravens and an amazing group of 6 Imperial Eagles! We made our way a little east, flushing a large dark bird with white wing patches and tail corners, our second Jacobin Cuckoo of the trip! This one did us the courtesy of showing well, allowing photos and video to be shot. It was clearly a first calender year bird and showed signs of moult. I was delighted to get good video footage of this bird after the brief adult a couple of days previously. As we watched the bird Goldfinch like call drew my attention and before we knew it we had Golden Winged Grosbeak again in our sights! Three birds showed well, a really tough species to see now recorded at two different sites in one morning, a total of fiftenn birds now for the day!. Things were happening for us. We climbed up to a rocky outcrop and waited. Before long a dark passerine flew in low to a nearby bush, we strained to identify it as it skulked. Before long though, it showed, Black Crowned Tchagra, another African species and target bird. Moments after it disappeared I picked up movement on the slope in front of us and soon we were watching a pair of Long billed Pipit! Magical stuff, we were on a real roll. The two pipits were wonderful to see and were feeding on the rocky ground on the slopes, amongst the vegetation. A very distinctive pipit when seen well. A Blue Rock Thrush then sat in a tree in front of us in all its cobalt glory, again, the views were sublime. Try as we did, there was no evidence of Arabian Partridge at the site and the much hoped for Verraux's Eagle didn't show. Nevertheless, this was a really successful morning and it meant many of our target birds had now been seen. At noon we decided it was time for lunch and moved away.









Above; Three photos of Bruce's Green Pigeon, a very placid bird not given to sudden movements. A stunning bird to see...


Blackstart, several seen at Ayn Hamran in the morning...



Jacobin Cuckoo, our secong record of this rare migrant, a good bird in Oman.



Video footage of the Jacobin Cuckoo preening and showing off that stunning tail...



A goat herder and his animals, wonderful to see this way of life continues here...



Long billed Pipit...Score!



Ayn Hamran









Above; Three images of a superb Blue Rock Thrush

Some video footage of a wonderful morning at Ayn Hamran....


 Lunch was the now familiar biriani, it was with batteries recharged that we headed to Khawr Taqah. We found thousands of gulls on the beach, an incredible sight. We scanned these as best we could with nothing unusual to show for it, the majority of birds being Steppe Gulls. Lesser Crested Terns were also present, whilst waders were around too.  I gave the gulls as much time as I could and then turned my attention to the waders. 2 Terek  Sandpiper were picked out and showed well, as did several Little Ringed Plover. Little Stint, Greenshank, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Black winged Stilt were all present. Best of all was a juvenile Pacific Golden Plover which showed well for Danny and I, until a Marsh Harrier flew through the gulls and everything went too hell. The bird flew and did not return, so we decided to look elsewhere, quickly locating a flock of 70 birds. We spent some time studying these birds, which was great. Most were adults in moult, as it turned out. We tried getting up close in the car, but the ground was dodgy and after almost getting stuck in the soft sandy ground we decided not to push out luck any further. We spent time by the flock until they moved, then we checked out the reedy pools by the Khawr for Jack Snipe and Crakes without success. The Khawr water levels were high, there were no surface lilies or vegetation and as a result the hoped for Pheasant tailed Jacanas were not present...


Pacific Golden Plover


Pacific Golden Plover


Pacific Golden Plover


Pacific Golden Plover


Pacific Golden Plover


Pacific Golden Plover



Some of the gulls present along the beach...



Eurasian Roller



Osprey with prey, a rather dark bird and possibly a wintering individual...

 We moved on the Khawr in the evening to look for Crakes primarily. We arrived and hour before sunset and walked down the reedbed. At the first open pool we scanned the verges for Crakes and were stunned when Wouter exclaimed 'Painted Snipe'!! It was one of the moments of the trip, the surge of adrenaling that following was finally tempered when I got eyes on the beast. The bird was very well concealed, though the obvious white eyering had given its position away and we all had great views of Oman's eigth Greater Painted Snipe. We could of easily missed the bird, but here it was in our scopes, an adult female as well. It was a fantastic moment and there were high fives all round. We took care to document the bird by way of photos and video footage. Then we sat back and watched the bird, before moving on.


The first view of Oman's eight Greater Painted Snipe, through the scope at x30.













For full effect, heres the video footage of this wonderful bird, a really curious looking wader....



Things were quiet at the Khawr however, it was very windy and there was no sign of the Malachite Kingfisher reported at the site a few days previously. We then returned to the reeds where we staked out the two spots were there where the pools smade it uitable for crakes and waited. An hour would pass, during which time we would record two juvenile Spotted Crake, several Common Snipe,  Moorhen, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Little Bittern and a Yellow Bittern. At dusk the Painted Snipe showed out in the open briefly, judging from the size of the eyes, very much a nocturnal feeder. We had hope for Baillions Crake, though went home elated after an unforgettable days birding. Oman is truly an amazing birding destination..










Above; A cracking Citrine Wagtail





SIGHTINGS; 2nd November 2015
Taqah: Blue-cheeked Bee-eater 75. 
Turnoff for Ayn Athoum: Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak 12. 
Ayn Hamran: Short-toed Eagle 4, Steppe Eagle 2, Imperial Eagle 6, Bonelli’s Eagle 2, Booted Eagle 1, Grey-headed Kingfisher 1, Jacobin Cuckoo 1, Common Cuckoo 2, Forbes Watson Swift 100, Long-billed Pipit 2, Lesser Whitethroat 1 (blythi-type), Spotted Flycatcher 5, Red-breasted Flycatcher 1, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler 1, Blue Rock Thrush 2, Daurian Shrike 3, Black-crowned Chagra 1, Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak 3.
Khawr Taqah: Osprey 3, Marsh Harrier 3, Terek Sandpiper 2, Common Snipe 20, Pacific Golden Plover 70, Little Ringed Plover 5.

Khawr Rawri: Little Bittern 1, Yellow Bittern 1, Purple Heron 1, Greater Spotted Eagle 1, Spotted Crake 2, Greater Painted Snipe 1, Common Snipe 15. 

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