Arxiu d'etiquetes: arabian grosbeak

Oman Birding Tour 2023 Trip Report

Dates: From January 15th to 25th, 2023

Number of participants: 4

Number of species seen: 203

All images in this trip report by tour leader Carles Oliver except by the especifically signed under a different name. All rights reserved.

Overview: 7th tour exploring Oman, a country that seems to hold countless surprises for any birdwatcher. In the crossroad between the Horn of Africa, the Western Palearctic and the Indian subcontinent, Oman shows a wonderful variety of winter and passage birds.

Some birds living in the coastal Dhofar hills, isolated by the sea but also by the massive sand desert that goes on for over 1000 miles well inside Saudi Arabia, have walked down an interesting speciation process, producing a number of endemics. At the same time, this area keeps being colonised by a number of African species, arriving from Yemen via the Aden Strait.

The weather during the tour was sunny and pleasant, always between 20ºC to 25ºC, out of a pair of days of stronger heat in the North of the country. In the South, we had a pair of windy days, but the wind didn’t destroy any of our birding options, and we kept enjoying an excellent birding in the Dhofar. On birds, it is interesting to note that this winter was poor in Harriers. Normally, one can expect double figures of Montagu’s or even Pallids during the tour, but this time we only got one of each! Numbers of Steppe Eagles were also low, and looks like the main overwintering spot for the bird has been definately re-establised inside Saudi Arabia.

In the same way, both numbers of Ducks and Shrikes were low, especially in the wetlands in the Dhofar, where Ducks can be very common depending on the year. Still, it was a good variety of ducks, and we got good views on both Turkestan & Isabelline Shrikes.

It is also worrying how rare the Arabian Grosbeak is getting during the last years. By the other hand, happy to see more Sandgrouses than ever before in the trip, with hundreds & hundreds of Chestnut-bellieds’s, and really good numbers of both Spotted & Crowned.

Day 1. After an afternoon flight we landed in Muscat International Airport. Once the whole group was assembled there, we moved to our accommodation placed only a few miles away from the airport.

The next morning we had a lovely breakfast and the group enjoyed the very first Common Mynas, Pale Crag Martins and House Crows of the trip. It was a sunny and rather warm morning in Muscat. Our first stop was devoted to explore Al Ansab lagoons. This small wetland has been closed due to maintenance works. Unfortunately one of the works have consisted in a new pavilion next to the main view point over the best lagoon for waders and ducks. Hopefully this will not affect the variety of birds that the area is normally holding.

In Al Ansab we got the very first views on some common birds in the north of the country including Grey Francolin, Indian Silverbill, Red-wattled Lapwing, Delicate Prinia, White-cheeked Bulbul and Purple Sunbird. Beside this, the lagoon offered a good array of waterfowl and waders including Black-winged Stilts, Greater Flamingo, Eurasian Teal, Common Snipe, Kentish Plover, Pintail, Whiskered Tern, Eurasian Moorhen, Crested Lark, Common Ringed Plover and the first of some Marsh Sandpipers. The grass around had 3 Citrine Wagtails, 1 White Wagtail, Desert Wheatear and 1 Western Yellow Wagtail.

Grey Francolin (Ortygornis pondicerianus) around our accommodation. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

From Al Ansab we went to Muscat River, where we were delighted by hundreds of waders. Dunlin, Little Stint and Greenshank were propably the commonest species but we also got good views on several Lesser Sand Plovers, Temminck’s Stints, Western Reef Egrets, 4 Black-tailed Godwits and 2 Marsh Sandpipers. The area was also nice for terns and in two different mixed flocks we counted 4 Common Terns + 2 Whiskered & 1 White-winged Black Tern. In the way to the beach we were surprised by tens of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses in the way to their drinking ponds.

Once in the beach, we noted 2 Greater Crested Terns along with several Slender-billed Gulls, Sandwich Terns and the beautiful Lesser Crested Terns. Here we also had the chance to see together Greater Sand & Lesser Sand Plovers, and it was useful to see how different the birds are in attitude, size and coloration. The small sand bar at the end of the river was also having several Heuglin’s & Steppe Gulls (both now considered Lesser Black-back Gull races) and the always gorgeous Sooty Gull.

One of the many flocks of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles exustus) flying around the water ponds. Image by Carles Oliver

From here we drove some miles away to look for the tiny population of Black-winged Kites living in Oman. It didn’t take long before we found two adults, probably the same birds that we found nesting in the area back in November 2022. We really enjoyed this wonderful bird, and the stop was also granted with the firsts Arabian Bee-eaters of the trip, and the first Indian Roller! Back to the coast, we scanned some flocks of gulls in search of Palla’s Gull, and again didn’t take long before we found 7 of them, with some individuals showing a wonderful black head. What a beast! A further scanning of the flock revealed not only some Black-headed Gulls but also 2 Caspian Gulls. Beyond, the beach was also having Eurasian Whimbrel and Oystercatcher.

After a nice lunch we explored some parks around Muscat. Unfortunately Al Qurm was closed, and the only accessible point was the coastal promenade so we turned around and went to Al Wustah, where we got good views on 2 Alexandrine Parakeets, Red-vented Bulbuls, White-spectacled Bulbuls and a flyover Bonelli’s Eagle. Late in the afternoon we went back to the Al Qurm promenade, where we enjoyed with the many Pallid Swifts passing by, and good (but distant) views on Pacific Golden Plover, Eurasian Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit to end the day.

Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus), still a big rarity in Northern Oman.

The impressive Palla’s Gull (Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus) along with Steppe Gulls (Larus fuscus barabensis)

Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus), a really common bird in Northern Oman.

Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis), another common view in Northern Oman.

The impressive Alexandrine Parakeet (Psittacula eupatria) around Al Wustah

Day 2. Driving South from Muscat, we went to explore the very impressive mountain landscape of the Al Harar Mounts. These peaks, reaching 3000+ meters above the sea level, extend for over 700 kilometres in Northern Oman and neighbouring Emirates. We spent the morning in a small valley immediately below the mountains.

Here we chose to explore a small plain that leads into a gorge. We did a number of stops along the tracks of the plain. Persian Wheatear was the very first specialty to be noted. Up in a wire, we had good views on the first of many Levant Grey Shrike, now considered to be inside the Great Grey Shrike complex. A bit beyond, 2 Desert Larks were seen so we decided to go for a small walk, and we were glad to see that the Desert Larks were actually moving along with 2 Striolated Buntings. Suprisingly, these were the only Striolateds of the tour!

Further inside the plain, we had a stop in the dry river bed (called wadi in Arabic). Here we saw some Lesser Whitethroats, Black Redstart and several White-cheeked Bulbuls. An Eastern Orphean Warbler showed briefly while a pair of Indian Rollers were moving in the rocks nearby. When coming back to the vehicle we got the first Plain Leaf Warbler of the tour, and a wonderful Hume’s Wheatear was perched nearby, providing good photo opportunities.

There were certainly some good birds in the area so we decided to go further on in the valley, but the upper walk didn’t produce anything beyong Purple Sunbirds, Plain Leaf Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats. Back the vehicle, we were granted with a Lappet-faced Vulture appearing up in the sky! Always a wonderful bird to have!!

The acacia thornbush in Al Harar Mountains

The recently split Arabian Bee-eater (Merops cyanophrys)

The very smart Hume’s Wheatear (Oenanthe albonigra), a specialty from Northern Oman living in gorges, gallies and broken terrain.

Persian Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia) in the plains.

Plain Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus neglectus) prefers large, dense evergreen canopies along wadis

After lunch we drove into a massive gorge. This breathtaking corner of the world is one of the very few sites where Omani Owl is known to exist! It was early in the afternoon, and in our way in we had more Hume’s Wheatears and Indian Rollers. We also explored a small corner with oasis-like vegetation, and we got some Siberian Chiffchaffs calling and performing well and the first Grey Wagtail of the trip. In the distance, two Egyptian Vultures were noted in the top of the cliffs. We did wait until dusk, expecting to get something from one of the most unknown Owls in the planet, and our efforts were well granted. First with really distant houls, but even before dusk we got 1 Omani Owl calling up in the cliffs while flying and, later in the evening, a male was heard singing at least twice not really far away.

Of course, we did look for this closer bird for some time, but we absolutely failed to get anything else from such an enygmatic bird. After this we drove down the gorge and covered the short distance to our accommodation, where we had the chance to taste the local cuisine.

Delicate Prinia (Prinia lepida), a common bird in Northern Oman.

Day 3. Early morning start to transfer South to Salalah. Despite the big distance, we did once again very well. After breakfast, we drove South some miles and, taking advantage of the wonderful morning light, we had some birding. We didn’t have to walk far from our vehicle to get a Ménétrie’s Warbler feeding on the lush vegetation. We followed the bird tree to tree and got good views, but we were distracted by an Asian Desert Warbler that popped up from a bush only a pair of metres away from us. Indian Rollers were flying around, as there were the first Brown-necked Ravens of the trip. We kept walking the area and only 5 minutes later we found some Arabian Babblers calling in the distance. We had to move fast to catch them up but finally got good views on this specialist of desert scrublands and oasis-like places. When following the Babblers a wonderful party of Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouses flew off from the bare soil, leaving the group wanting more from them! When scouting the area in search of the Babblers we got 2 juvenile Tawny Pipits.

Arabian Babblers (Turdoides squamiceps) were a bit elusive this time. Image by tour participant Moisés Zozaya.

Ménétriés’s Warbler (Curruca mystacea) showed really well while looking for food in the wady srcubalnd. Image by tour participant Moisés Zozaya.

After such a great stop we had some driving, and our next real birding stop didn’t come until the afternoon. Our typical picnic place was this time empty of birds, and only 1 Isabelline Shrike & 1 Western Marsh Harrier were noted. But in the afternoon we had plenty of time to explore the famous desert farms in the way to Salalah. Here we had soon several Isabelline & Desert Wheatears along with a Northern Wheatear. We drove around looking for anything moving, and we were granted with a lovely male Pallid Harrier that the tour participant Otger was fast to catch up when flying low. We enjoyed this beuatiful bird of prey when he was really busy, flying into the green fields, where it was hunting boles, and moving later to the bare ground around to feed on them. The Pallid Harrier repeated the operation three times, and our group was delighted to see this uncommon behaviour once and over.

A further drive in the area brought us to an open fleld beyond the farms. This is a place that normally concentrates a large number of Sandgrouses, and this time was not different. Soon, we had tens of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses moving around, and we got good scope views on them and also in Spotted Sandgrouses, far more scarce here. A Marsh Harrier was patrolling the area, moving flocks of tens of Sandgrouses once and over as he was patrolling the area. Back to the farm, a large flock of Namaqua Doves provided good looks, with some obliging individuals. In the distance, a large flock of 80+ White Storks were circling up in the sky. We decided a do some walk in the area, and we were lucky to find 2 Pied Wheatears (one adult male, and one putative 1st winter female) feeding around along with a male Siberian Stonechat and the only one Greater Short-toed Lark of the trip!

From here we drove to our accommodation in Salalah, even if we had to go into a lay-by due to a Short-toed Snake Eagle that was standing by the road.

Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka) moulting to adult male.

Isabelline Wheatear (Onenathe isabellinus) , the commonest Wheatear in Southern Oman.

Namaqua Doves (Oena capensis) were fairly common this year in the desert.

Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) male

Day 4. Early morning start to explore the gorgeous South of Oman. Our first morning stop was devoted to go to Ayn Hamran, a plentiful birding location and one of the corner of wonders in the country. Here went fast through a number of common species in the South. African Silverbills, Rüppell’s Weavers, Cinnamon-breasted Buntings, Abyssinian White-eyes, Arabian Sunbirds, African Paradise Flycatchers and Tristam’s Starlings were fastly seen. A female Eurasian Sparrowhawk was quite a surprise, considering that they are really scarce so far South. A 1st year Imperial Eagle just passed over us but it did it in a wrong moment since we were tracking a secretive Arabian Warbler moving inside the canopy. We had excellent views on it, and while searching for this bird we just found the first Eastern Olivaceous Warbler of the morning. We then moved around the stream, and we were lucky to be fast in finding a gorgeous & obliging Arabian Grosbeak! This is one of the most scarce and difficult to find specialties in the area. The bird showed up for at least 15 minutes and we could register its song, take videos and really enjoy this wonderful bird. A second bird was noted to be calling around, but we never found it.

Close by, a Black-crowned Tchagra was feeding on the ground, and the group again had excellent views in the rather small and delicate Arabian race of this common species in Africa.

The morning was already wonderful, and it was only 9:00! We kept walking around. Delicate Prinias were also showy, but they could not compete with the Grosbeak! A Turkestan Shrike was seen at close range but in a difficult angle, and Clamorous Reed Warblers were heart, but never seen. A Red-breasted Flycatcher were heard around, and after some scanning we found the bird catching flies low in the fig trees. For our surprise, a second individual was also calling in the area.

This year we got really wonderful views on the always challenging Arabian Warbler (Curruca leucomelaena)

This was the first of out of four Red-breasted Flycatchers (Ficedula parva) seen during the tour!

Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida)

The very scarce Arabian Grosbeak (Rhynchostruthus percivali) keeps being one of the most sought-after birds in Oman!

Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegallus percivali), often a difficult species.

Bruce’s Green Pigeons (Treron waalia) trust on their plomage to avoid being located.

From here we walked to the large fig trees. This is a place attacting several birds. There were plenty of Bulbuls, White-eyes, a 2nd Eastern Olivaceous Warbler and, after several scanning and some walk, we got to have close views on a beautiful male Bruce’s Green Pigeon. The blue of its eyes is something that many birdwatchers dream to see once in their lives! 3 more Bruce’s flew out the same tree while several African Paradise Flycatchers were hunting around.

After such a great start we came back to the coast, not without a stop in the desert-like plain to see the firsts Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark of the trip, and a lovely flock of 6 Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses that the tour participant Magda saw when we were only a few feet away! In the coast was windy, but not that much. While enjoying our picnic in East Khawar, we had a view on the wildfowl around. Here we had the firsts Squacco & Indian Pond Herons of the trip, and some Citrine Wagtails were walking in the patches of tall grass around. 3 Eurasian Spoonbills were roosting in an island. Waders in the area included Black-tailed Godwit, Little Stint & Wood Sandpiper but also Marsh Sandpiper, Ruff and Temminck’s Stint. 1 Greater Spotted Eagle came to provide close views while taking an eye on the several Gulls and Terns roosting around. Here we had 4 Gull-billed Terns, Caspian Tern, Common Tern and 1 White-winged Black Tern. The gulls were all Steppe, Sooty, Heuglin’s and Slender-billeds, with only 4 Black-headed Gulls in the large flocks. In the water there were small parties of Garganeys and a single 1st winter Purple Heron was also seen moving in a close patch of vegetation.

Slender-billed Gulls (Chroicocephalus genei)

Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola)

The afternoon was still young so we drove South of Salalah to check a major wetland. In the way, Booted & Greater Spotted Eagles were noted. Once South of the city, it didn’t take long before we got the first Terek’s Sandpipers feeding in the mudflats along with Lesser Sand Plovers, Dunlins, Common Redshanks, Ruddy Turnstones and a couple of Bar-tailed Godwits. Out in the sea, Moises located the first Brown Bobby fishing close to the coast, followed by 3 more and 1 Masked Boobby. Socotra Cormorants were also present, fishing in small parties or alone, and allowed lovely scope views. Back in the shoreline, we found the African Openbill that has been in the area since the last fall. It spent a lot of time feeding in shallow water, surrounded by several Western Reef Egrets and Grey Herons. On the beach, 13 Ospreys and 2 Greater Spotted Eagles were counted sitting on rocks or directly on the bare sand. There were also some terns, including some Lesser & Greater Crested Terns.

Far South, we still had another stop in a wetland, this time a bit twitch the Lesser White-fronted Goose that had been there during the last weeks. Twitch is not something you can do really often in Oman, and it is always welcome! It didn’t take long to locate it feeding in the grassy patches at the river mouth along with some Pintails and Grey Plovers. Here we also got 8 Red-knobbed Coots, several Garganeys, a distant Indian Pond Heron, and close views on Pacific Golden Plover. A further exploration of the place produced 2 lovely Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, one of them showing a little bit of its majestic nesting plomage. A bit of sea watching nearby produced little of interest out of 10+ Brown Boobies and a small party of Socotra Cormorants feeding around.

While vesperting we drove some kilometers in a nearby wady. Even if the access was difficult, it was worth it when a Desert Owl started calling in the area despite the wind! It took us some time and some walk around, but we finally got breathtaking views on this amazing and poorly known owl!

Lesser White-fronted Geese (Anser erythropus), only the 5th record for Oman!

One of the two Pheasant-tailed Jacanas (Hydrophaisanus chirurgus) seen during the tour.

Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster)

The Desert Owl (Strix hadorami) was discovered in Oman only 10 years ago!

Day 5. After the amazing day before, we could not expect much more, but the day proved us wrong! An early morning stop in a reedbed produced little out of a Crested Honey Buzzard that Moises saw in our way back to the vehicles and that turned out to be the only one of the trip!

From the coast we decided to climb up to the Dhofar highlands, probably the most remarkable place for birds of prey in Oman. The area was filled up with Imperial Eagles, and we counted at least 12 of them! 1 Short-toed Snake Eagle was also seen before stopping forced by a running flock of the endemic Arabian Partridges in one side of the van. Arrived to the top of the mountain, we could enjoy the gorgeous cliffs that are facing the Arabian Sea. Here we enjoyed several Fan-tailed Ravens but also Pale Crag Martins, Common Kestrels, and a lovely pair of Arabian Wheatears. Verreaux’s Eagles proved harder, as it could not be in another way, and required some scanning from different places but finally we got a nice adult soaring around that, even if distant, were one of the highlights of the day!

Imperial Eagle (Aquila helicaca) during our day in the Dhofar highlands.

Arabian Wheatear (Oenanthe lugentoides), another Arabian endemic, formerly considered to be conspecific with Mourning Wheatear.

Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii) showed well but briefly.

Tristam’s Starling (Onychognathus tristamii)

Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhidipurus) riding Bactrians in the highlands.

Eurasian Griffon (Gyps fulvus). The origin of these Griffons is unknown.

Some Rock Hyrax were feeding around, or hiding in the shades from the very powerful eagle that is always looking for them! The Hyraxes led us to two lovely Red-legged Buzzards that were patrolling the area. When leaving, a Long-billed Pipit was also seen moving in the rocky slopes. When moving in the Dhofar one should always have an eye in the sky, and once again proved correct, since we got both Lappet-faced Vulture & Eurasian Griffon moving around, both being scarce species in Southern Oman.

From here we drove to a proper place for picnic, and after enjoying our packed lunches we moved in search of some specialties. Both Palestine & Arabian Sunbirds were seen, although not at close range. Cinnamon-breasted Buntings were virtually everywhere along with African Silverbills, and we were lucky to picked up some Yemen Serins feeding on the ground along with them! At the beggining we saw only 3 but a further scanning produced at least 10, some of them providing really close looks. Here we also got 4 Tree Pipits. But the most surprinsing was to see a large flock of nearly 50 Bruce’s Green Pigeon leaving a tiny tree next to our group. We had been in this area, enjoying the Yemen Serins, for almost 15 minutes and nobody notice any single of the 50 Bruce’s

Back to the vehicles we drove down to the coast, with a nice stop to enjoy the small population of Baobabs that subsists in the Dhofar. Here we got Arabian Warbler, Common Chiffchaff and a lovely African Paradise Flycatcher in shining nesting plumage and showing out its 2 long tail feathers. What a cracker!

Baobabs up in the Dhofar hillsides.

African Paradise Flycatcher (Tersiphone viridis) in full nesting plomage. A cracker!

Yemen Serin (Cithragra menachensis), a scarce and elusive species.

Juvenie Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata) vs Osprey (Pandion haliaetos). Not a great shot but something not to be seen every day.

“fulvescens” Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga)

Once in the coast, we take a look into a pair of small corners but we got little, and probably the most interesting sights in both places was a “fulvescens” form of Greater Spotted Eagle, and a juvenile Bonelli’s being moved by an Osprey; definately not a common combination to see in the sky!

After a coffee stop, we did drove back to the hills to explore a wonderful corner: A stream that runs down the mountains and that is covered with lotus and floating vegetation, small reedbeds and mangrove-like bushes. What a great place! Here we did a walk along the stream, and soon we got the first Bluethroat of the trip; a female. Grey Herons, Wood Sandpipers and Little Egrets were around in good numbers, and a low scanning produced great views into 2 White-breasted Waterhens. This bird, often really elusive, was another of the highlights that day. Two Snipes flew off, and one of them really sounded like a Pin-tailed Snipe but unfortunately we could not relocate the bird, neither hear it again… Here we also got 4 Black-crowned Night Herons, Indian Pond & Squacco Herons, 3 Citrine Wagtails at close range in lovely afternoon light, a showy male Bluethroat and a calling Diederick Cuckoo that called 3 times from a large tree but never showed out.

Female type Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)

We were lucky to catch up good views on the elusive White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus)

Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii)

Yet another Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola)

Day 6. Early morning start. This was the morning of our offshore. But before arriving to the harbour we had a stop in a small river mouth. Here, in previous tours we have counted tens of Rose-coloured Starlings living the reedbeds where do they roost, but this time we only got one along with several Common Mynas, some Western Marsh Harriers, Rüppell’s Weavers, 2 Yellow Wagtails and 1 adult Purple Heron. Once in the boat, we sailed out and fastly discovered that it was a quiet day, with very little movement in the sea. Despite this, we got excellent views on a number of Persian Shearwaters passing by the boat, some at close range. Small flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes were flying around, as there were some Masked Bookies, including some great views inmediatly above the boat and on the sea. Both Green & Loggerhead Turtles were seen a number of times, again quite close. But the clymax came when a Jouanin’s Petrel showed up in front of the boat! It was quite distant but still possible to see its typical shape and jizz and the long body. Unfortunately, not eveyone in the group catched up with the bird…

Back on the harbour, we got some close views on Striated Herons before living for our next stop. In the way back to Salalah, we scouted a large plain and our efforts were rewarded with a flock of 10 Cream-coloured Coursers that showed really well along with Isabelline Wheatears. After lunch, we revisited a pair of river mouths but we didn’t get that much different from our previous visits so we moved to check one of the typical places for Spotted Thick-knees to be roosting. They were there, and we enjoyed lovely views on 12 of them before moving for our last stop.

Persian Shearwater (Puffinus persicus)

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra)

Striated Heron (Butorides striata)

Cream-coloured Courser (Cursorior cursor) is quite uncommon in Southern Oman.

Juvenile Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)

Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga)

Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis)

Back to the forested valleys, we explored a small stream, where we were surprised to find another Red-breasted Flycatcher having a bath along with Citrine & Grey Wagtails and 2 African Paradise Flycatchers. We enjoyed long views on the Flycatcher while searching for other goodies to appear, but everything we could find was a Hottetotta genus Scorpion. Here we waited until sunset, and with the very last lights of the day we were surprised to hear a Rufous-scrub Robin calling from the bush land. We scanned a bit but the last light of the day didn’t help and we never got a visual on this always wonderful ground flycatcher. Only a few minutes after the Robin was calling, we got the first call of an Arabian Eagle Owl coming from the opposite slope. During the next half an hour we struggled to find and approach the bird but every second of it was worth it when we finally got this endemic owl only a few meters away in a really unforgettable experience for all of us!

Not a day whithout a portrait on a Citrine Wagtail!

Blackstart (Oenanthe melanura), currently considered to be a Wheatear.

This time we enjoyed really intimate views on an Arabian Eagle Owl (Bubo milesi) while moving in the woodlands. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

Day 7. The morning of this day was devoted to explore the oases at Mudday. This is the only reliable place for Grey Hypocolius in Oman, and there were only 2 birds reported at the end of December (in our trip on early December 2022 we were lucky to see 4 of them!). The Hypocolius proved to be as hard as ever, and it really took us an extra effort and patiente to finally connect with one of them, even if shortly! In the meanwhile we had time to enjoy at least 4 Nile Valley Sunbirds, 3 Blackstarts (they were suprisingly scarce this time in all the places we went!), several Sand Partridges including some birds drinking from a water hole, my first African Collared Dove in the place for some years, an Imperial Eagle, a lovely male Caucasian Bluethroat, the only Montagu’s Harrier of the trip, 1 Arabian Bee-eater and a lovely Hooded Wheatear!

A part from all of this was the experience to see 60+ Crowned Sandgrouses coming down to drink water in different flocks. Their calls, the very shy movements and behaviour and the very special beauty of the Sandgrouses on the ground at close range keep being for me one of the most wonderful birding experiences on Earth!

The very first glympse of the male Hypocolius was when it was feeding in a bush, only a few meters from us. The bird flew off before everyone in the group could have something of it, but it looked like not being far. We accurately scanned all the bushes and palm trees around, but we didn’t have a clue. From there we moved to check other corners around, getting our range of search bigger and bigger. Finally we dediced to come back to the exact place where we first saw the bird and scanned around for several minutes. Finally, right was I was about to give up, the bird appeared right in the same bush as it was the first time! Didn’t stay long there, though, and we still had to follow the bird up in the palm trees where it was hidden and, after a slowy scan, finally got excellent views on this amazing species, and eveyone had really good looks on it.

Sand Partridge (Ammoperdix heyi) in lovely morning light

Hooded Wheatear (Oenanthe monacha) overseeing the wadi.

Nile Valley Sunbird (Hedidypna metalltica) showing its amazing array of colours!

African Collared Dove (Streptopelia roseogrisea)

Hundreds of Crowned Sandgrouses (Pterocles coronata) were attending the water holes.

Grey Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus) male hiding in the palm trees.

Really glad for this amazing view we went back to Salalah to have some lunch and rest. In the afternoon, we went to check the well known Raysut ponds. It was cloudy when we arrived, even about to rain! But of course, it didn’t rain at all. Here we counted 120 Abdim’s Storks, double figures of Whites‘, and 9 Red-wattled Lapwings (including one of the spur-winged x Red-wattled hybrids that live in the area). Other interesting species here included several Little Grebes, 1 Marsh Sandpiper, 1 Common Snipe (little numbers of Snipes this year) and Temminck’s Stints.

Abdim’s Stork (Ciconia abdimii) in the Raysut ponds. Image by tour leader Carles Oliver

Red-wattled x Spur-winged Lapwing hybrid (Vanellus indicus x spinosus). Image by tour participant Moises Zozaya.

Back to the coast, we headed to West Kawhar, a place that very few people check (because normally is very little there). But we were lucky, not only because of the flocks of Pacific Golden Plovers at close range that provided great views but especially because we were lucky to find a Long-tailed Cormorant! Checking the dead trees around I was surprised to find this juvenile, small Cormorant with a long tail and a vivid red eye. The bird was extremely small (for a Cormorant) with a humbed head and whitish underparts. It may not be very exciting for those that have visited tropical Africa, but it happens to be a first for Oman! Very happy for our luck, we did some photos of the bird and pair attention to all main details with the scopes before leaving to our last wetland stop in a in the Dhofar.

Our last river mouth produced little out of a lovely flock of 5 Cotton Pygmy Goose. This is actually one of the best corners for ducks but it was almost empty…

Another point that is well worth checking in Salalah are the several farms around. You can choose any of them, for sure you will get excellent birds. Our farm was close to the beach, and just arriving to the place we found a tiny pond with some reeds. Here, a Clamorous Reed Warbler eluded us again, but we were happy to enjoy some Citrine Wagtails, Bluethroat and Green Sandpiper. Once in the fields, we soon had a large flock of Rosy Starlings flying around, that eventually stopped in the top of a thicket allowing really good scope views. Here we got another large flock (200+) of Pacific Golden Plovers, one of them showing what it look to be a complete summer plomage. Another surprise was to find 2 Common Cranes here, and we enjoyed them while some Red-throated Pipits and Yellow Wagtails were flying above us. The visit ended with brief views on a Siberian Stonechat.

To end the day, we chose another visit to wooded valley, and here we got really nice views on 1 Arabian Scops Owl. At least 3 more were heard singing around before going back to our accommodation for a very deserved rest.

Long-tailed Cormorant (Microcarbo africanus), a putative 1st for Oman was a big surprise for all of us! Images by tour leader Carles Oliver

Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva), a common overwintering bird in Oman

Cotton Pygmy Goose (Nettapus coromandelianus), a very scarce winter visitor to Oman.

West Khawar in Salalah, a wonderful birding location.

Arabian Scops Owl (Otus pamelae), another Arabian endemic

Day 8. After breakfast we went back to explore farms. This time we had a first stop in a different one. Surprisingly we didn’t have any Harrier at all, but the place was literally fullfilled with Yellow Wagtails. Hundreds, thousands of them were moving around, following the tractors but, in fact, everywhere. Both feldegg & beema races were noted, with some thunbergi probably also there. Large flocks of Ruffs were in the move along with Glossy Ibises. On the ground, we got some lovely views on Red-throated Pipits including some salmon-breasted ones. But the most celebrated bird here was an Oriental Skylark that landed only a few meters away from us, and after some accurate scanning of the soil, showed well for some seconds before leaving.

The visit had been so great so we decided to do a fast stop to the farm where we had been birdwatcher the previous afternoon. There, we got lucky to find the Rose-coloured Starlings bathing in a small pond only a few meters away from us. Besides, 4 Little Ringed Plovers were also seen at close range. Back to the proper farms, we listened some Red-throated Pipits before a wonderful Richard’s Pipit appeared and stop only some 20 meters away from us. All the group enjoyed wonderful views on the bird both with the scope and with the bins before the bird moved to a taller grass corner.

Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus)

Rose-coloured Starling (Pastor roseus)

Richard’s Pipit (Anthus richardi), another uncommon winter visitor in Oman.

From here we drove back to the desert. In this day we faced a transfer North for an overnight in Duqm, but we still didn’t give up of birding! After a pair of hours of car we stopped in a new farm. Just driving the road we got some flocks of Sandgrouses flying in the distance so we decided to explore the fields around. Here we were granted with 12 Cream-coloured Coursers, Isabelline Shrike, tens of Chesnut-bellied Sandgrouses, Black-crowned Sparrow-Larks and some Levant Grey Shrikes.

Back to desert, we kept driving North. To cross the desert is always wonderful and not absent of birding opportunities, and after some miles we got a pair of Greater Hoopoe Larks nicely moving in the bare soil. We got even lucky to listen its beautiful song, a long whistle that is often (like this time) joined by a short displaying flight. Really happy with these great views we went back to hit the road until the afternoon, when we did a last stop to enjoy the lovely light. There, not far from Duqm, we did a stroll around and we got really good views on 1 Asian Desert Warbler doing its way while following a male Desert Wheatear.

Soon after that we arrived to our nice accommodation in Duqm, where we enjoyed a well deserved rest before dinner.

A bit of off-road was required but we finally got excellent views on Greater Hoopoe Lark (Alaemon alaudipes).

Asian Desert Warbler (Curruca nana)

Day 9. After breakfast, our day started by doing a short walk to the small garden of our accommodation. Here we found a Red-breasted Flycatcher during our last visit in early December and, suprinsingly, the bird was still moving in this tiny garden! Purple Sunbirds were also seen here. A short drive led us then to a small canal with a rich reedbed where we saw 3 Wood Sandpipers, some Eurasian Teals, a Green Sandpiper and the very firsts Mallards of the tour (a flock of 6).

From here we transfered North to the massive mudflats around Masirah Island. There is an estimation of 1 million waders overwintering here, and once you visit the area you may consider this estimation as conservative. Soon, we had some Kentish & Lesser Sand Plovers along with Dunlins, Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints. We took some time to check some of the several flocks of Gulls around, but nothing different appeared despite the good photo opportunities.

Greater Crested Tern (Thalasseus bergii).

3rdw Heuglin’s Gull (Larus fuscus heuglini).

Back to the mudflats we enjoyed with the arrival of thousands of waders to the feeding areas. Bar-tailed Godwits were really common, as there were Dunlins, Common Redshanks, Grey Plovers, Eurasian Curlews and Greater Sand Plovers, some of them showing already a promising summer coloration. The scan around produced the very first Broad-billed Sandpiper, that was celebrated in the group. At the same time, a Clamorous Reed Warbler showed out from the mangrove vegetation, and we all finally got some views on a species that had been eluding us for all the tour long. A small flock of 7 Spotted Sandpipers were also seen, and when we were checking this gorgeous waders the very first Crab Plover appeared right in front of us! Always a gorgeous bird, almost the size of a Little Egret, the Crab Plovers move often here in pairs that consist in an adult with a juvenile that constantly beg for food. Little by little, more and more Crab Plovers were arriving, and we were able to see some birds catching and feeding on crabs. In only 30 minutes we counted up to 70 birds. Other species also appeared here including Caspian & Gull-billed Terns. We hoped for some Little/Saunder’s Terns to appear, but we didn’t have luck on this.

Our final stop of the day was to check a different corner of this massive mudflats. Here we had barely the same birds than in our previous stop out of Crab Plovers. Still, we got at least four more Broad-billed Sandpipers, 1 Striated Heron in the mangroves and some Eurasian Whimbrels for our day list.

From here we transfered to our accommodation, arriving there a bit after sunset.

Crab Plovers (Dromas ardeola) feeding surrounded by ither waders.

Broad-billed Sandpiper (Limicola falcinellus).

Greater Sand Plovers (Charadrius leschenaultii). Image by Moises Zozaya.

Day 10. Last morning in Oman. We drove the distance between our accommodation from Muscat with some stops in the way to take a look on some raptors. First a lienatus-like Black Kite, but later 3 Lappet-faced Vultures joined by 1 Imperial Eagle and some Egyptian Vultures were a good entertaiment for the very last miles before arriving to Muscat. Our last serious birding stop was devoted to explore the famous Al Mouj Golf Courser in search of the White-tailed Lapwing that had been seen during the last weeks. We were not lucky on the lapwing, but we still had some nice addings to our list including Ferruginous Duck (1 male), Eurasian Wigeon and 3 Greater White-fronted Geese. Along with them, we also had several Red-wattled Lapwings, Indian Rollers, Ruffs, Western Yellow Wagtails and Little Grebes in the ponds.

From here we just drove the very short distance to the airport, and got ready for our flights back to Europe!

And this is how we ended our 7th tour to Oman. Already looking forward our trip in 2024 to have more incredible sights in this awesome birding country!

Lappet-faced Vultures (Torgos trachilaetos) are surprisingly common in Northern Oman.

Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis) in a cloudy day to end the tour!

Species of birds seen during the tour:

  1. Arabian Partridge (Alectoris melanocephala)
  2. Sand Partridge (Ammoperdix heyi)
  3. Grey Francolin (Ortygornis pondicerianus)
  4. Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)
  5. Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus)
  6. Cotton Pygmy Goose (Nettapus coromandelianus)
  7. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchus)
  8. Gadwall (Anas strepera)
  9. Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
  10. Pintail (Anas acuta)
  11. Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
  12. Garganey (Spatula querquedula)
  13. Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
  14. Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca)
  15. Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus)
  16. Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus)
  17. Crowned Sandgrouse (Pterocles coronatus)
  18. Spotted Sandgrouse (Pterocles senegallus)
  19. Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse (Pterocles lichtensteinii)
  20. Feral Pigeon (Columba livia sp.)
  21. Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
  22. African Collared Dove (Streptopelia roseogrisea)
  23. Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis)
  24. Namaqua Dove (Oenas capensis)
  25. Bruce’s Green Pigeon (Treron waalia)
  26. Common Crane (Grus grus)
  27. White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus)
  28. Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
  29. Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra)
  30. Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata)
  31. Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollius)
  32. Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
  33. Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis)
  34. Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)
  35. Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)
  36. Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
  37. Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophaisanus chirurgus)
  38. Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)
  39. Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva)
  40. Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
  41. Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
  42. Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
  43. Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)
  44. Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus)
  45. Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii)
  46. Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
  47. Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)
  48. Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)
  49. Eurasian Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
  50. Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata)
  51. Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
  52. Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)
  53. Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis)
  54. Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
  55. Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)
  56. Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
  57. Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus)
  58. Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
  59. Ruddy Turstone (Arenaria interpres)
  60. Little Stint (Calidris minuta)
  61. Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii)
  62. Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
  63. Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)
  64. Broad-billed Sandpiper (Limicola falcinellus)
  65. Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
  66. Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
  67. Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei)
  68. Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
  69. Heuglin’s Gull (Larus fuscus heuglini) / Steppe Gull (Larus fuscus barabensis)
  70. Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)
  71. Palla’s Gull (Larus ichthyaetus)
  72. Sooty Gull (Larus hemprichii)
  73. Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)
  74. Greater Crested Tern (Thalasseus bergii)
  75. Lesser Crested Tern (Thalasseus bengalensis)
  76. Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
  77. Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)
  78. Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)
  79. Little Tern (Sternula albifrons)
  80. Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus)
  81. White-winged Black Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)
  82. Persian Shearwater (Puffinus persicus)
  83. Jouanin’s Petrel (Bulweria fallax)
  84. Abdim’s Stork (Ciconia abdimii)
  85. White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)
  86. African Openbill (Anastomus lamelligerus)
  87. Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra)
  88. Brown Bobby (Sula leucogaster)
  89. Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
  90. Socotra Cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis)
  91. Long-tailed Cormorant (Microcarbo africanus)
  92. Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)
  93. Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
  94. Striated Heron (Butorides striata)
  95. Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
  96. Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii)
  97. Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
  98. Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
  99. Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
  100. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
  101. Western Reed Egret (Egretta gularis)
  102. Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
  103. Great White Egret (Casmerodius albus)
  104. Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)
  105. Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)
  106. Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos trachelietos)
  107. Osprey (Pandion haliaetos)
  108. Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus)
  109. Black Kite (Milvus migrans)
  110. Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga)
  111. Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
  112. Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)
  113. Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii)
  114. Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata)
  115. Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus)
  116. Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)
  117. Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
  118. Black-winged Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
  119. Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
  120. Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)
  121. Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus)
  122. Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufius)
  123. Arabian Scops Owl (Otus pamelae)
  124. Desert Owl (Strix hadorami)
  125. Omani Owl (Strix butleri)
  126. Arabian Eagle Owl (Bubo milesis)
  127. Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
  128. Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis)
  129. Arabian Bee-eater (Merops cyanophrys)
  130. Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
  131. Alexandrine Parakeet (Psittacula eupatria)
  132. Ring-necked Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
  133. Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegallus)
  134. Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
  135. Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
  136. Levant Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor aucheri)
  137. Arabian Babbler (Turdoides squamiceps)
  138. African Paradise Flycatcher (Tersiphone viridis)
  139. Grey Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus)
  140. White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis)
  141. Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)
  142. White-spectacled Bulbul (Pycnonotus xanthopygos)
  143. House Crow (Corvus splendens)
  144. Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis)
  145. Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhidipurus)
  146. Greater Hoopoe-Lark (Alaemon alaudipes)
  147. Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti)
  148. Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrela brachydactyla)
  149. Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark (Eremopterix nigriceps)
  150. Oriental Skylark (Alauda gulgula)
  151. Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
  152. Pale Crag Marting (Ptyonoprogne obsoleta)
  153. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
  154. Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis)
  155. Delicate Prinia (Prinia lepida)
  156. Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
  157. Siberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus trists)
  158. Plain Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus neglectus)
  159. Clamorous Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus)
  160. Asian Desert Warbler (Curruca nana)
  161. Lesser Whitethroat (Curruca curruca)
  162. Eastern Orphean Warbler (Curruca crassirostris)
  163. Arabian Warbler (Curruca leucomelaena)
  164. Ménétries’ Warbler (Curruca mystacea)
  165. Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida)
  166. Abyssinian White-eye (Zosterops abyssinicus)
  167. Common Myna (Acridothere tristis)
  168. Rose-coloured Starling (Pastor roseus)
  169. Tristam’s Starling (Onychognathus tristamii)
  170. Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)
  171. Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)
  172. Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola maurus)
  173. Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)
  174. Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
  175. Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)
  176. Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
  177. Arabian Wheatear (Oenanthe lugentoides)
  178. Hume’s Wheatear (Oenanthe albonigra)
  179. Hooded Wheatear (Oenanthe monacha)
  180. Persian Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia)
  181. Blackstart (Oenanthe melanura)
  182. Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva)
  183. Nile Valley Sunbird (Hedydipna metallica)
  184. Palestine Sunbird (Cinnyris osea)
  185. Arabian Sunbird (Cinnyris hellmayrii)
  186. Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus)
  187. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
  188. Rüppell’s Weaver (Ploceus galbula)
  189. African Silverbill (Euodice cantans)
  190. Indian Silverbill (Euodice malabarica)
  191. Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola)
  192. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
  193. Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
  194. Western Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava)
  195. Richard’s Pipit (Anthus richardi)
  196. Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)
  197. Long-billed Pipit (Anthus similis)
  198. Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
  199. Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus)
  200. Yemen Serin (Cithraga menachensis)
  201. Arabian Grosbeak (Rhynchostruthus percivali)
  202. Striolated Bunting (Emberiza striolata)
  203. Cinnamon-breasted Bunting (Emberiza tahapisi)
A lovely Blackstart (Oenanthe melanura) to end another wonderful tour in Oman!

Oman Birding Tour 2022 Trip Report

  • Dates: January 16th/26th, 2022
  • Tour participants: 3
  • Species seen: 208

Day 1. After a long flight the day before, our small group had a nice breakfast before exploring the hotel grounds. Common Mynas were everywhere, as Laughing Dove did. A five minutes transfer allowed us to visit the Al Ansab Lagoons, always a pretty interesting place.
Here we did have a first contact with several of the common species in Northern Oman including Grey Francolin, Indian Silverbill, Delicate Prinia, Purple Sunbird, Arabian Bee-eater as well as Red-vented and White-cheeked Bulbuls.
Once there we were informed that the area was having the access limited due to recent rains, so our visit limited to the Eastern lagoon. There were several Common Snipes in the area, feeding along the shores along with Common Redshanks but also 2 Marsh Sandpipers that were really celebrated in the group. Among the ducks, Pintail was having good numbers this year, and so it was Eurasian Teal and Northern Shoveler. 16 Greater Flamingoes were providing a exotic note while we were suprised to find a small flock of 4 Gadwalls, a rather scarce species in Oman.
Our visit to Al Ansab was shorter than usual, but we do still managed to get a pair of bonus birds; the first Greater Spotted Eagle of the trip and a Clamorous Reed Wabler skulking inside the bush.

Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga) during our first day of tour. All images in this trip report by Carles Oliver

Once we leaved this lovely Nature Reserve, we drove a few miles to explore a well known corner for waders, terns and gulls. A short walk in the area allow us to see a long list of species, including several good views on Lesser Sandplovers with useful comparitions on size and structure with local Kentish Plovers. Western Reef Egrets were really common, especially in its dark form, but including also some lgihts. Here we did also find several Little Stints, and a roosting flock of 50+ Black-tailed Godwits. A Western Osprey was also roosting in the channel itself, surrounded by tens of Dunlins and some Temminckˋs Stints. Greenshanks and Redshanks were also common. We walked the channel down to the see, enjoying this good variety of waders. 2 terns were roosting along with them, and we found out that they were actually White-cheeked Terns! A nice find of a quite scarce species.

Dunlins, Little Stints & Lesser Sand Plovers in the River Muscat

We were already really close to the sea shore, and here we found the first of many Oystercatcher and Ruddy Turnstones. A pair of White-winged Black Tern just landed upper in the channel, joining a mixed flock of waders. Here we also found another Marsh Sandpiper, and we could compare it with both Greenshanks and Redshanks. We were just scanning all this amazing activity when 2 Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses appeared from nowhere and stop in our path, only 100 metres away from us. Carefully, we approach them and we all enjoyed amazing views on both the male and the female!

A further scanning of the area and sea shore produced a lot of more species: Frist views on both Heughlinˋs & Steppe Gulls, 3 adult Caspian Gulls, and first views on pass-over Sooty Gulls. Still, what our clients celebrated more was the change to compare Great Crested, Lesser Crested, Caspian & Sandwich Terns all together in a mixed flock. A wonderful way to find our the differences between them!

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus) male.
Female Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus)

We still had some time before lunch so we drove a bit until the Natural Reserve, a small dot of open Acacia thornbush in the middle of the city. The area was having a big density of both Indian Silverbills and Purple Sunbirds. Arabian Bee-eaters were also feeding all around, providing excellent views. But all became nothing when a gorgeous male Long-tailed Whydah flied over us showing out its amazing tail, joined by another small bird that we could not identified. The bird flied over and took us some minutes to refind the bird, nicely showing right in the top of one Acacia and joined by several Silverbills. This incredible birds was not only causing a big excitation in our group of birdwatchers, but also in the birds around.

The Long-tailed Whydah is a bird in the __ family, that inhabits a variety of Acacia thornbush landscapes, gardens and open woodlands in the Horn of Africa, and East Africa.

This is probably the first record for this species in Oman. A former record of Whydah exists in Oman, as a male Pin-tailed Whydah was seen in Salalah some years ago. Still, the bird was finally considered as an scape. In this case, even if it so, it was a sight and we can count ourselves as lucky to have enjoyed this amazing bird. Really happy after enjoyed such a wonderful beauty, we still spent some more time in this tiny natural park, and we were granted with good views on 2 Bonelliˋs Eagles circling along with 2 Brown-necked Ravens.

Long-tailed Paradise Whydah (Vidua paradisaea), one of the surprises of the tour

It had been a great morning, and after such a successful time, we drove back to our accommodation for an early lunch. After enjoying the Omani cuisine, we did drive throught the packed Mascate traffic to arrive to Al Qurm Natural Reserva and park. Here we got both Squacco Heron and Indian Pond Heron, Little Grebe, Puple Herons, a lonely Tufted Duck male, Alexandrine Parakeet and excellent views on Indian Rollers that were chasing large insects from the park lights.

A short walk along some shaddy areas allowed us also to connect with our first Isabelline Shrike while 2 Sedge Warblers were calling from a small patch of reeds. Some waders were also noted, including Temminckˋs Stint, 2 Green Sandpipers and Eurasian Curlews. Pallid Swifts and Pale Crag Martins were patrolling the sky in the search of insects, while flocks of Bulbuls were feeding brambles. 2 Garganeys were also spotted in a small pond along with 1 male Mallard (probably the only one along the whole trip). To end this really intense first day, we chose the mouth of the Al Qurm Natural Reserve, where we enjoyed more views on Lesser & Greater Sand Plover and Eurasian Whimbrel. A good scanning of the gulls in the beach produced our only 1 Pallaˋs Gull of the trip (a 1st winter), and with the last lights of the day, we enjoyed the static beauty of a Striated Heron while fishing from some rocks.

Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis), a real stunner!
Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus), an extremelly common bird in Northern Oman
White-eared Bulbuls (Pycnonotus leucotis)

Day 2. Early morning breakfast to explore the breathtaking Al Harar Mountains landscapes. During the day we did a number of spots, exploring a good variety of corners. Our first stop was in an semi arid stony landscapes, with scatered Acacias all around. Here we got an amazing number of Striolated Buntings, a bird that can be hard to spot. Over 30 of them were seen in different flocks here! Along with them, Indian Silverbills, but also some Desert Larks and our first Long-billed Pipit. This ambient is excellent for Warblers, and we soon had our firsts Lesser Whitethroats “taking” from the trees and provinding good views. After some scanning around, something bigger appeared and soon we were all enjoying a skulking Eastern Orphean Warbler moving in the canopies. It took as some minutes to have proper views! When leaving, a lovely Persian Wheatear (also known as Red-tailed Wheatear) appreared to provide excellent views!

Striolated Bunting (Emberiza striolata)
Ménétriés’s Warbler (Curruca mystacea). A scarce overwintering bird in Oman
Hume’s Wheatear (Oenanthe albonigra) is only found in Northern Oman

After this good start we moved to a close gorge totry to find some of the goodies living there. In our way, a Variable Wheatear appear in the top of a large boulder. Our walk inside the wady proufed soon to be a good idea. A lovely Ménétriesˋs Warbler appeared right in front of us, providing good views not only on its markings, but also in the lovely movements of its tail. It could not be more different from a Sardinian!

A further walk produced several Purple Sunbirds but also a superb Variable Wheatear and a lovely Levant Scrub Warbler that fly over us to stop a bit beyond! Happy after such a great stop, we came back to our van, where another Hume’s Wheatear was waiting for us!

While searching for proper views on Hume’s Leaf Warbler we found some Arabian Toads (Bufo arabicus)
The impressive Al Harar Mountains

At the end of the morning the temperature raised. It was time to drive a short distance to a local restaurant to have some food and rest. The afternoon was going to be long!

During the afternoon, we explore one of the largest gorges in the Al Harar mountains. Here we were expecting to find the extremely unknown Omani Owl, that was discovered in 2004 and it is only known from this gorges. But first we were to explore some some oases that can concentrate some good birds. Just arrived we had some Lesser Whitethroats moving in the trees along with our firsts Plain Leaf Warblers. This tiny Phylloscopus breeds in Northern Iran and Western Turkmenistan so it is always a treat! The area was having good warbler activity, but not even in our best dreams we expected what was next. Suddenly, a Mountain Chiffchaff started calling in a small tree right by our side. We played the call of the bird, and it came! It showed really well the really white supercilium, that came to its maximum above the lore. Also, it was possible to see a nice white contrast in its throat. We enjoyed good views for some seconds, and everybody in the group got to see the bird before it flew off to go somewhere else. We still listened the bird time to time! This Mountain Chiffchaff was relocated and photographed by Markus Craig on February 24th, 2022.

Right when the Moutain Chiffchaff called and showed in front us, another call came from more distant canopies. I really didnˋt want to trust my ears, but it really sounded like a Humeˋs Leaf Warbler! So, after some listening we decided to get closer (the bird sounded from a quite dark corner of the oases with not a really easy access). Once there, we spent half an hour trying to see the bird. Time to time clearly heard the call, sometimes really close inside a large, dense bush. We all got views on Lesser Whitethroat and Plain Leaf Warbler in that corner, but the best we could manage on this Humeˋs Leaf Warbler was a poor view on the wing bar…

Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos), a scarce resident bird in Northern Oman

Back to the open, the first Grey Wagtail of the trip apperared in the most open area of the oases. It was time, anyway, to move to the best corners for owl. We did a good wait, and despite scouting the walls we were uncapable to have any contact with such a mysterious bird. Instead, we got good views into Blue Rock Thrush and 2 Egyptian Vultures flying by the large walls, but probably the best was the good views on 3 Lappet-faced Vultures that soared above our heads in lovely afternoon light.

The day had been great and full of surprises, but it was now time to go our accommodation and get some rest.

Day 3. The first was the day of our transfer from the North of the country to the Dhoffar region, in the far South of Oman, and neightbouring Yemen. It is a long drive that, surprisingly, can be really productive in term of birds.

After the successful finds of the afternoon before, we decided to go back to the that oases and try to have some pictures in these really scarce Warblers (both rarities for the country). We did spent about 2 hours in the area, but we were uncapable to do so. Mountain Chiffchaff was showing brief but nicely in a tree before flying away for over 150 metres. It called sometimes and we were all satisfied with that. The Humeˋs Leaf Warbler was much worst as it only called twice and no one in group managed to have any views on the bird.

A bit disappointed after this unproductive stop we kept going with our long transfer South to Salalah. We didn’t have any proper birding until mid-day, when we did stop for lunch in Qitbit, in the abandoned grounds of a closed hotel. After our picnic we enjoyed a short walk in the shade. There were several White Wagtails around, and we had our first hammomedri Lesser Whitethroats of the trip, with their characteristic, Wren-like calls. The grounds were rather low in term of birds but our short walk was still providing us with a pair of surprises, a Song Thrush came out from the bush, a Great Reed Warbler was moving inside a small reed patch in the grounds (the only one Great Reed along the trip) and a surprising Western Barn Owl flew out from a palm tree and gave us good views for a while. It was a big surprise to find out a Barn Owl in such a small orchad in the middle of nowhere!

Western Barn Owls (Tyto alba) inhabitates desert oases in Oman

A bit more of driving allowed to explore one of the many — farms in this part of the desert. We are about 2 to 3 hours of driving West of the Dhoffar, and here there is water in the subsoil, allowing these kind of farming. We different areas, all of them having good numbers of both Desert and Isabelline Wheatears. Here we also had our firsts Tawny Pipits and Greater Hoopoe-Larks of the trip. Small flocks of Brown-necked Ravens were all around, while tens (yes, tens) of Eurasian Kestrels were hunting the very common insects in the place. Just arrived, a flock of a very promising larks were moved out from our location by a Kestrel so we just came closer to the area and wait. There were several Yellow Wagtails, but also Tawny Pipits and Crested Larks. Large flocks of Sandgrouses were moving in the distance, mainly Chestnut-bellieds, and some of the moved closer, including a pair of Spotted Sandgrouses that flew right above our heads, providing excellent views!

Ranking high in the worst-ever-Bimaculated-Lark-image…

Some minutes after our waiting was regarded as a lovely flock of 26 Bimaculated Larks just came back to field to feed on the ground. They allowed excellent views in flight, showing their brownish underwing and tiny, rounded tails. For me, far more used to see Calandra Larks than Bimaculateds, it was a pleasure to have such a good views on this species! Moreover, when the flock flew over, 1 Arabian Lark was seen flying along with them, and it could be identified thanks to the tail pattern. The meadows still provided good views on 4 Common Snipes, several Western Marsh Harriers and distant views on 2 circling Pallid Harriers.

Levant Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor aucheri)
One of the several Isabelline Wheatears (Oenanthe isabellinus) during the tour

Leaving the area, we still enjoyed more views on Desert & Isabelline Wheatears, before going back to the main road and drive the last 2 hours until Salalah, where we did arrive before dinner time.

Day 4. Our first day complete day in Southern Oman provided an amazing array of birdlife, including some of the finest Dhoffar specialities and a good variety of the wildfowl overwintering in this stunning region.

Our first stop was at one of the best known areas for variery and amount of passerines. Here we find an open forest, with several fig trees right at the footstep of the impressive Dhoffar mountains.

Right after leaving the van we got some of the first birds of the day. In the open plains around Salalah we got our firsts Black-crowned Sparrow-Larks, a lovely flock of 3 males and 2 females feeding on the ground along with Isabelline Wheatears. Nearby, flocks of Cinnamon-breasted Buntings & Rüppell’s Weavers were fiding in the area along with African Silverbills and a pair of beautiful Blackstarts. After enjoying these wonderful birds we just walked 50 meters before a “taking” called our attention. Soon, we disovered a Eastern Olivaceous Warbler moving up in a thornbush, joined soon by a Lesser Whithethroat and handsome Graceful Prinias! Things were happening fast, and a pair of minutes later we found a Long-billed Pipit walking among the trees while the firsts Arabian Sunbirds were showing up in the trees around. In the distance, a Turkestan Shrike appeared, and we were lucky to move that way, since 50 metres away from the Shrike a superb Arabian Chameleon was taking a sunbath! We all enjoyed amazing views on the Chameleon, that was really exposed to any potential predator!

Tristam’s Starling (Onychognatus tristamii)
Arabian Warbler (Curruca leucomelaena)
Arabian Chameleon (Chamaeleo arabicus)

After such a lucky finding we came back the main woodland. Flocks of Tristam’s Starlings were coming into the fig trees, joined by White-spectacled Bulbuls and some superb African Paradise Flycatchers. A very short walk produced then the first of up to 7 Arabian Warblers that morning. It took us some time to enjoy a full view on this individual, but it was worth the time invested not only because of the great views at the end, but also because a small break in our particular fight with this Arabian speciality produced great views on a Pale RockFinch that simply arrived at the top a small tree next to us! That bird created a huge wave of happiness in the group, since it is a really scarce species, normally relicted to the far Nort West corner of Oman, with scattered sights anywhere else!

Still more activity. Even before leaving the Arabian Warbler, another great bird appeared. A black and white, long-tailed bird was moving 50 metres away in the lowest part of the trees. Yes, it was a female Masked Shrike! Well, we did move little to enjoy this masterpiece of the shrikes. After spending some minutes admiring such a pearl, we just realised that we were right beside our car! Everything happened in a 150 metres cercle around!!

Masked Shrike (Lanius nucibus). Probably the same individual that we found in October 2021
Arabian Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegallus percivali), a serious candidate to become a new full species.
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida)

Well, this time we took it seriously to go a bit beyond. Once we were about 200 metres away from our car, a new set of species appeared. An (Arabian) Black-crowned Tchagra just appeared from the tree next to us to offer us great views. Here, Green Sandpiper & Common Sandpipers were feeding in the stream, along with flocks of Tristam’s Starlings, African Silverbills and Buntings. 4 Common Snipes flew up from a really muddy corner, and a short exploration of the area produced a lovely Pin-tailed Snipe that flew up, calling in flight, and showing its very dark underwing. Bingo!

Here the area becomes shady, and African Paradise Flycatchers take over the place. 5, 6 individuals chasing flies and other insects. Bulbuls were everywhere, but also 2 Hoopoes and 1 Eurasian Wryneck was moving along with them!

Finally arrived to the proper corner, and while explaining how to tell apart the call of the target here, some birds starting to chirring over our heads. And there were there, 7 Arabian Grosbeaks feeding right above our heads!!!

Well, little can be said to explain the emotion of the moment. We had 2 of them feeding at only 5 metres away. This is a scarce, extremely difficult bird to find, and we were granted with walk-away views on them! The birds were feeding in green berries, and for the 25 minutes that we spent with them, they never stopped feeding them!!

Arabian Grosbeak (Rhynchostruthus percivali), probably the most sought-after and difficult bird in Oman!
We were granted with amazing views on Arabian Grosbeaks!

Well, that was an amazing way to finish our first stop in the Dhoffar. It was only 10:30 in the morning!!!

Second stop of the morning, this time to explore a small coastal wetland, one of the many along the coast around Salalah. Not a huge amount of birds but still got our firsts views on Citrine Wagtails in the tour, plus 3 Pacific Golden Plovers, another Turkestan Shrike, several Western Reef Egrets and a majestic fulvescens Greater Spotted Eagle, a scarce form of this wonderful raptor that shows creamy wing and body coverts, and that recalls a compact Tawny Eagle! But the best bird in this spot appeared in our way back to the van, when a superb Richard’s Pipit just came out the wady to stop on a branch some 20 metres away from us! After staying there for half a minute, it flew over to stop on hte top of a close cliff. Another bird that was really celebrated in the group!!

A “fulvencens” Greater Spotted Eagle. Always a wonderful bird to see!
This Richard’s Pipit (Anthus richardi) popped out in a rocky outcrop!

For our picnic, we went to a nearby wooded spot, where we had a pleasant brise and flocks of Abyssinian White-eyes moving around. It was warmer than usual in this season, so we agreed a short break in our accommodation and enjoy a good rest.

In the afternoon, we visited another wetland, one of the best around Salalah actually. There, in a lovely afternoon light, we enjoyed a long array of species. 200+ Glossy Ibises were feeding and moving in the river mouth. Around, small parties of waders (Ruffs, Black-winged Stilts, Black-tailed Godwits, Temminck’s Stints and Dunlins) were also feeding while 100+ Greater Flamingoes were lighting the river mouth with its colourful plomages. Among the Glossy Ibises we foung our only Intermediate Heron of the trip, and also a lovely juvenile African Spoonbill, a good ratiry in Oman!! About 40 Garganeys were also present, as so they were 3 Eurasian Wigeons and several Common Pochards. An accurate scanning of the area revealed 3 Ferruginous Ducks and 7 Cotton Pygmy Geese! In the shoreline, Terns and Gulls were starting to concentrate: Heuglin’s & Steppe Gulls mostly, but also 2 Caspian Gulls. We also got close views on Caspian Terns resting along with Slender-billed Gulls (always shocking to see that they are as big as these lovely gulls!), and 3 White-winged Black Terns + 2 Gull-billed Terns were also noted. It was already late afternoon, and dozens of House Crows and some hundreds of Common Mynas started to concentrate on its roosting site, a densed vegetated island in the river mouth. Without doubt a great way to end our first day in the Dhoffar!

Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia) along with Slender-billed Gulls
African Spoonbill (Platalea alba). Another surprise!
Cotton Pygmy Geese (Nettapus coromandelianus)
Ruff (Calidris pugnax) at sunset

Day 5. Back to the desert. After a gorgeous 4th day, this day we faced an early start to explore the desert in search of the good specialities living in the oases. The day was ruff and cold (for the desert startards) with several clouds and some wind. A wind that will join us for the next days and make our journey a bit more difficult, and slightly less productive.

Our morning visit to Mudday was quite productive. Early in the morning, we enjoyed some potential Siberian Chiffchaffs, and at least 3 of them proved their identity by calling several times. The area was not so filled up with birds as other times, but we still had some views on 2 Lesser Whitethroats and 1 Bluethroat in a tiny muddy spot. Our main target here was the mythical Hypocolius, a bird that we had seen here twice in previous issues. But despite checking all the corners of the oases, we couldn’t find any this time… However, the area was really interesting and our short walks around produced excellent views on 2 Namaqua Doves male, Blackstarts, Arabian Bee-eater and 2 superb Eastern Imperial Eagles that made the effort worth it. A further scanning revealed 4 Desert Larks feeding on the ground.

Siberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus tristis) keeps small overwintering populations in Oman

But the morning was passing and we didn’t have sign of any Sandgrouse (another good reason to explore Mudday). The weather was cold and cloudy, so we decided to take the car a prove a different spot, some miles away. Here we had more luck, a got some small flocks of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses flying around, and after some waiting, we got to see a gorgeous flock of 12 Crowned Sandgrouses coming to drink water into a tiny pond! Delighted after the views on the Sandgrouses (but at the same time surprised for the chilly weather and low occurrence of birds, we still moved further South.

There, we didn’t find any other Sandgrouse but 14 Sand Partridges moving in the desert that provided the group with good views while moving in the rocky slopes. A short walk around produced also our only 1 Nile Valley Sunbird of the trip feeding in Lobellias as well as an extra flock of Desert Larks!

Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis) during our morning in Mudday
Crowned Sandgrouse (Pterocles coronata)
Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aqula heliaca)
Blackstart (Oenanthe melanura)

Back to Salalah, we realised how windy was in the coast. During the coming days, the Dhoffar was going to be hit by a tropical (wind) storm, with speeds raising over 80kms/hour. A metheorological phenomenom really uncommon in this part of the world. Despite the situation, we decided to explore some areas around Raysut that, surprisingly, were sheltered against the wind.

A fast exploration around the Raysut landfill produced 100+ White Storks and close views on over 40+ handsome Abdim’s Storks. Moreover, the first Steppe Eagle of the trip just flew over the van when we were enjoying the Storks! But here was windy and unconfortable so we moved to the coast to explore another river mouth. Here, after locating a sheltered corner where to set up the scope, we got a unforgettable birding session.

The river mouth was filled up with waders. Up to 15 species of them, with special remarks on 10+ Terek’s Sandpipers feeding nearby and several Lessers & Greaters Sandplovers. Dunlins, Little Stints, Grey Plovers, Eurasian Curlews, Whimbrels, Kentish Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Greenshanks, Oystercatchers and Turnstones were all seen among other species. 5 Greater Spotted Eagles were sat at different corners, 1 of them quite close to us, and dozens of Gulls and Terns were in the river mouth itself. A bit beyond, a massive bird was resting in the shallow water: a Dalmatian Pelican!!! I seriously thought that we were the first to see this amazing bird (2nd for Oman?) but once in the hotel I saw that the bird was present since November…

Well, that was something to enjoyed, especially after the Pelican was moved by a Greater Spotted Eagle, and came closer to us!! We were still not recovered from this when a further scanning revealed an African Openbill in the river mouth! Gorgeous! Probably the same bird that we found here during our tour in October 2021!! It was really too good to be real. We spend quite a lot of time enjoying these birds and scanning the flocks of Terns and Gulls in search of any different species, but we only got 3 Common Terns and a flyby African Sacred Ibis (there is a tiny population of this bird nesting in Southern Oman. No scapes, but a natural expansion from Yemen and the Horn of Africa).

After some time, the dust in the air became a bit uncomfortable, so we decided to go back to our accommodation for a kind of early end of the day! Despite the wind, this was a wonderful 2nd day in the Dhoffar.

Obliging Abdim’s Stork (Ciconia abdimii)
Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus) along with gulls & terns
African Openbill (Anastomus lamelligerus)

Day 6. This day our group went to explore the Dhoffar uplands. The day was still very windy, and this affected the number of birds along the day. Our first stop was to explore a well known corner in the uplands, about 800 metres high.

Here we got excellent views on Palestine & Arabian Sunbirds, but also Tree Pipits, African Paradise Flycatchers, Long-billed Pipits and really close views on a wonderful male Siberian Stonechat, a scarce overwintering bird in Oman. Here, the area is covered by large grasslands with large, scattered fig trees and small villages. The whole area is great for birds of prey and it didn’t take long before we had our firsts Steppe Eagles flying around. Soon after, 2 superb Eastern Imperial Eagles appeared in the sky followed by 1 Short-toed Snake Eagle.

Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola maurus)
African Paradise Flycatcher (Tersiphone viridis), one of the most wonderful African specialites living in Oman
Arabian Sunbird (Cinnyris hellmayri), already considered as a full species in some lists

Along our short walk we also had 12 Arabian Partridges, another endemic that sometimes can be hard to find. Our second stop of the morning produced Isabelline Wheatears but also lovely views on a pair of Arabian Wheatears. Here, massive cliffs hosts good populations of Fan-tailed Ravens, and we also got excellent views on Blue Rock Thrush. One of the goals to come to these cliffs is to look for Verreaux Eagle, a large eagle living in broken terrain that has in the Dhoffar a small population.

Unfortunately we could not find any Verreaux Eagle during our visit, but got proper views on a Long-legged Buzzard, another really sought-after bird of prey in this region.

Arabian Partridge (Alectoris melanocephala) & Arabian Wheatear (Oenanthe lugentoides), another 2 Arabian endemics

Early in the afternoon we went to explore the palm groves inmediatly around Salalah. This is a large area that also includes some interesting open corners. Again, the wind made our exploration a bit more difficult than usual but still we got excellent views on at least 3 Crested Honey Buzzards and 14 Spotted Thick-knees. En route, we also enjoyed 2 Greater Spotted Eagle and the only one Booted Eagle along the tour.

It was already bit late in the afternoon so we went back to the hills to explore a small, narrow valley. Full of hope to be sheltered against the wind, we arrived there at 16:30, and after enjoying the wonderful small gorge surrounded by a lovely decidous forest, our efforts were granted with good views on 4 Bruce’s Green Pigeons in a tree nearby. Happy after this rather unexpected reward, we moved up in the gorge until we reached a proper corner, really sheltered from the wind.

Here we all waited for the sunset, and some minutes later we were all enjoying wonderful views on 2 Arabian Scops Owls, a recent split from African Scops Owl (2004). Really happy after the a quite productive day, we went back to our accommodation for a good dinner and rest!

Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis)
Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus)
Arabian Scops Owl (Otus pamelae), a recent (2004) split from African Scops Owl

Day 7. After 3 days of strong winds, we finally woke up in a calm, very promising day! An early start was mandatory today to catch up with our offshore starting North from Salalah. But before arriving to the departing harbour, we did make a stop en route to check some superb reedbeds. Here, at raising, we enjoyed excellent views on 4 Pheasant-tailed Jacanas while feeding on the floating vegetation. 2 Whiskered Terns were patrolling the area, crossing in the air with the many Western Marsh Harriers leaving their roost. These reedbeds are not only refugee for the Harriers, but also for 3 Barn Swallows and hundreds of Common Mynas that were also leaving at that time. A carefully checking of the flocks revealed a Rosy Starling, then 2 more. Later a small flock of 6, 10, 14 and scattered individuals all along with Mynas! At the end, we estimated no less than 42 Rosy Starlings moving out from the reeds!!!

Well, went to the harbour, but had to do a last stop before arriving, an obliging Abdim’s Stork was having a short walk along the road itself, just a mile away from the harbour! Once by the boats, we enjoyed excellent views on Heuglins & Sooty Gulls, and close ups to Western Reef Egrets. The sea was calm, and beyond the typical views on the roosting Black-crowned Night Herons, this offshore provided as a starter magnificent views on a 60+ False Killer Whale pod, and got quite long and close views on these large dolphins!

Part of the False Killer Whale (Pseudoorca crassidens) pod during our offshore

On birds, we did have as many views on Masked Booby as never before. No less than 25 individuals were counted, mainly passing by but also on the water along with Sooty Gulls. Persian Shearwaters were not uncommon, and we all enjoyed really good views in passby birds. After a careful scanning, we finally found 2 Jouanin’s Petrels that, even if didn’t allow us close views, provided excellent comparitions with both Persian & Flesh-footed Shearwaters. When we were coming back, a Leatherhead Sea Turtle emerged in front of boat, allowing a short but good view.

In our way, a pod of Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins provided really good looks, and a single Red-necked Phalarope was the perfect end for our pelagic!

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus). The only individual that we had during our offshore
Jouanin’s Petrel (Bulweria fallax) didn’t show for long this time, but well enough!
Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) along with Sooty Gull

Once on the ground, we came back to the hotel for an early lunch, and after a short break, we drove South to explore some wetlands. Our first stop was to see what we could find in a small river mouth. As usual, it was fithered with waterfowl: Greater Flamingoes, Eurasian Teals, Eurasian Curlews, Black-tailed Godwits, Wigeons but also 5 Eurasian Spoonbills, 17 Garganeys, 28 Greater White-fronted Geese, 5 Terek’s Sandpipers and 1 Red-knobbet Coot (the only one of the tour!).

A second stop was devoted to do some sea watching. It didn’t take long to see our first targets: large flocks of Socotra Cormorants emerged from the see, flying in dense formations towards South. 1, 2, 3, 4 flocks, each one numbering 100 to 200 individuals! Around, tens and tens of terns (Lesser Crested but also Greater Crested, Sandwich and Common) and 5-7 Brown Bobbies with some “close” views.

Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons)

To end the day, we drove inland all along a valley. Our purpose was to explore a small wady with some jewels living on them. Only a few minutes after arriving, a Hooded Wheatear appeared in the area, providing really good looks. For the next speciality we had to wait until sunset, but was worth it not only because of the caravans of camels in their way to their resting place, but also (and especially) because of the wonderful views on a hadsome Desert Owl that came out from the darkness. Very satisfied after such a great views, we still had a last surprise in the form of a Eurasian Stone Curlews that appeared under the lights of our van to end the day!!!

Our group enjoyed lovely views on Desert Owl (Strix hadorami)

Day 8. Our time in the Dhoffar was ending, and today we were facing a long transfer. But we still had some time for enjoying great birding. Our first stop was inmediatly West of the Dhoffar massif. Here, a short walk in desert like ambient allowed us to contact with two lovely Asian Desert Warblers, a bird that we were missing until that moment!

From there, we drove a bit until arriving to the first of two locations where to explore the wonderful grass fields in this part of the country. Our first stop didn’t produce much our of Yellow Wagtails until 1 male Amur Falcon just appeared in front of us!! This is an amazing falcon, quite similar to Red-footed Falcon. It nests in Central Asia and overwinters in Southern Africa. In Oman it is a scarce migratory and winter speciality, always pretty scarce!

Our second location, only 40 minutes away from the first one, offered us 3 Namaqua Doves, 2 Pallid Harriers, small flock of Bimaculated Larks and 4 Greater Hoopoe Larks.

After lunch, we just finished our transfer, reaching Duqm well before dinner.

Asian Desert Warbler (Curruca nana) took some time to show this year
This handsome male Amur Falcon (Falco amurensis) was probably the most surprinsing bird of the tour

Day 9. This day was devoted to enjoy the massive tydal planes around Masirah Island. Here, a section of coast extending for more than 50 miles, it is thought to be the main wintering pole for waders in Arabia with 1 milion birds estimated!

But before reaching this Eden, we had to do a stop en route. A small wady, usually totally dry, had water! Stop and check. Desert Wheatear and Levant Shrikes were noted, also 3 Citrine Wagtails and an interesting flock of 23 Wood Sandpipers were feeding in the stream along with 6 Temminck’s Stints. While checking for something else, 4 flocks of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses passed over us. Two of them stopped up in the stream, but we could not located on the ground.

This beautiful corner in the desert produced 23 Wood Sandpipers!

Almost two hours of road separate Duqm from our secret corner for Crab Plovers. When arrived, it was late morning. A large mudflat was in front of us, and large amounts of waders were feeding on it. Here we had many Curlew Sandpipers feeding along Little Stints, Dunlins and some Sanderlings. Both Lesser Sandplover and Greenshanks were common all along, with many Redshanks and Bar-tailed Godwits here and there. We took our time to check some flocks of gulls, but nothing interesting came out this time…

Steppe & Heuglin’s Gulls (Laurs fuscus barabensis & heughini) along with Sooty Gull and 1 Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans) at the top left of the image

After some scanning, we finally found our first flock of Crab Plovers: 4 individuals appeared in the distance! After some waiting, more and more Crab Plovers were arriving, totalling 47 in the best of our accounts. We really had great views on these massive birds, walking in the mud or having small arguments with the very common Western Reef Egrets!

In the afternoon, we moved 30 miles to the South to check a different spot. There, again by the mudflats, we were surprised to find 4 Spotted Redshanks (our only 4 of the tour!), but also 4 handsome Saunder’s Terns fishing in front of us at close range, all of them showing the well defined outer black primaries. In the mud, 2 Broad-billed Sandpipers were found and allowed good views along with Dunlins and Curlew Sandpipers. But the very best of the stop were the 4+ Great Knots that were roosting along with Bar-tailed Godwits. Even if far away, the birds allowed good views on their unmistakable bill when one of them decide to have a look around.

Greater Crested Tern (Thalasseus bergii)
Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola). Always a cracker!
A dream for many European birdwatchers: Greater Sandplover (Charadrius leschenaultii) chasing a Terek’s Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus)

Day 10. Last full day of the tour. A sunny, calm day to enjoy our last birding. During the morning we had a pair of stops expecting to improve the views that we had on Lappet-faced Vulture during the second day of the trip. Unfortunately, we failed to find out any of them. Instead, we had 3 Crested Honey Buzzards, Egyptian Vulture and lovely views on typical Northern species including Arabian Bee-eaters, Indian Rollers, Delicate Prinias and Indian Silverbills.

1st winter Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) male. The very last adding to our trip list!

Once in Muscat, we still had a pair of hours to explore Al-Qrm Park before going to the airport, so we enjoyed several White-eared Bulbuls, Bluethroat, Eurasian Whimbrels and Pallid Swifts in close views as they were coming down to drink water in a stream. But the real treat of the visit was a handsome male Yellow Bittern that appeared that showed up well inside a mimosa tree that was by the water. A wonderful addition to our list and a great way to end our tour to Oman.

After sunset, we still had time for a final stop by one of the most amazing, smart and surprising mosques in the city. A good way to say goodbye to this country, that hosts a gorgeous array of birdlife, and where every single stop can produce great surprises!

See full planing here:

Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis)

Species of bird seen along the tour:

  • 1. Arabian Partridge (Alectoris melanocephala)
  • 2. Sand Partridge (Ammoperdix heyi)
  • 3. Grey Francolin (Francolinus pondicerianus)
  • 4. White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)
  • 5. Cotton Pygmy Goose (Nettapus coromandelianus)
  • 6. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
  • 7. Gadwall (Anas strepera)
  • 8. Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
  • 9. Pintail (Anas acuta)
  • 10. Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
  • 11. Garganey (Spatula querquedula)
  • 12. Northern Shoverler (Spatula clypeata)
  • 13. Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
  • 14. Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca)
  • 15. Tutfed Duck (Aythya fuligula)
  • 16. Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus)
  • 17. Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus)
  • 18. Crowned Sandgrouse (Pterocles coronata)
  • 19. Spotted Sandgrouse (Pterocles senegallus)
  • 20. Feral Dove (Columba livia)
  • 21. Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
  • 22. Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis)
  • 23. Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis)
  • 24. Bruce’s Gree Pigeon (Treron waalia)
  • 25. Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
  • 26. Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra)
  • 27. Red-knobbet Coot (Fulica cristata)
  • 28. Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
  • 29. Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
  • 30. Eurasian Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus)
  • 31. Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis)
  • 32. Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)
  • 33. Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)
  • 34. Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
  • 35. Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophaisanus chirurgus)
  • 36. Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)
  • 37. Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva)
  • 38. Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
  • 39. Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
  • 40. Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
  • 41. Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)
  • 42. Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus)
  • 43. Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii)
  • 44. Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
  • 45. Pin-tailed Snipe (Gallinago stenura)
  • 46. Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)
  • 47. Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)
  • 48. Eurasian Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
  • 49. Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata)
  • 50. Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
  • 51. Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)
  • 52. Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis)
  • 53. Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
  • 54. Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)
  • 55. Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
  • 56. Terek’s Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus)
  • 57. Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
  • 58. Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
  • 59. Broad-billed Sandpiper (Limicola falcinellus)
  • 60. Sanderling (Calidris alba)
  • 61. Little Stint (Calidris minuta)
  • 62. Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii)
  • 63. Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
  • 64. Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)
  • 65. Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris)
  • 66. Ruff (Calidris pugnax)
  • 67. Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
  • 68. Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei)
  • 69. Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
  • 70a. Heughlin’s Gull (Larus fuscus heuglini)
  • 70b. Steppe Gull (Larus fuscus barabensis)
  • 71. Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)
  • 72. Palla’s Gull (Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus)
  • 73. Sooty Gull (Ichthyaetus hemprichii)
  • 74. Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)
  • 75. Greater Crested Tern (Thalasseus bergii)
  • 76. Lesser Crested Tern (Thalasseus bengalensis)
  • 77. Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
  • 78. White-cheeked Tern (Sterna repressa)
  • 79. Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)
  • 80. Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)
  • 81. Saunder’s Tern (Sternula saundersi)
  • 82. Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus)
  • 83. White-winged Black Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)
  • 84. Persian Shearwater (Puffinus persicus)
  • 85. Flesh-footed Shearwater (Ardenna carneipes)
  • 86. Jouanin’s Petrel (Bulweria fallax)
  • 87. Abdim’s Stork (Ciconia abdimii)
  • 88. White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)
  • 89. African Openbill (Anastomus lamelligerus)
  • 90. Masked Booby (Sula dactylara)
  • 91. Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster)
  • 92. Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
  • 93. Socotra Cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis)
  • 94. African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus)
  • 95. Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)
  • 96. African Spoonbill (Platalea alba)
  • 97. Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
  • 98. Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis)
  • 99. Striated Heron (Butorides striata)
  • 100. Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
  • 101. Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii)
  • 102. Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
  • 103. Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
  • 104. Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
  • 105. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
  • 106. Intermediate Heron (Ardea intermedia)
  • 107. Western Reed Egret (Egretta gularis)
  • 108. Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
  • 109. Great White Heron (Agrodiaetus albus)
  • 110. Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus)
  • 111. Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)
  • 112. Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos)
  • 113. Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetos)
  • 114. Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus)
  • 115. Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga)
  • 116. Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
  • 117. Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)
  • 118. Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata)
  • 119. Booted Eagle (Aquila pennata)
  • 120. Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)
  • 121. Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
  • 122. Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)
  • 123. Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo rufinus)
  • 124. Western Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
  • 125. Arabian Scops Owl (Otus pamelae)
  • 126. Desert Owl (Strix hadorami)
  • 127. Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
  • 128. Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis)
  • 129. Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
  • 130. Arabian Bee-eater (Merops
  • 131. Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)
  • 132. Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
  • 133. Amur Falcon (Falco amurensis)
  • 134. Alexandrine Parakeet (Psittacula eupatria)
  • 135. Rose-ringed Parakeet (Pstittacula krameri)
  • 136. Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegalensis)
  • 137. Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)
  • 138. Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
  • 139. Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
  • 140. Levant Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis aucheri)
  • 141. African Paradise Flycatcher (Tersiphone viridis)
  • 142. White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis)
  • 143. Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)
  • 144. White-spectacled Bulbul (Pynonotus xanthopygos)
  • 145. House Crow (Corvus splendens)
  • 146. Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis)
  • 147. Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhidipurus)
  • 148. Greater Hoopoe-Lark (Alaemon alaudipes)
  • 149. Black-crowned Sparrow-lark (Eremopterix nigriceps)
  • 150. Arabian Lark (Eremolauda eremodites)
  • 151. Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
  • 152. Bimaculated Lark (Melanocorypha bimaculata)
  • 153. Pale Crag Martin (Ptynoprogne obsoleta)
  • 154. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
  • 155. Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis)
  • 156. Delicate Prinia (Prinia lepida)
  • 157. Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
  • 158. Siberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus tristis)
  • 159. Plain Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus neglectus)
  • 160. Hume’s Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus humei)
  • 161. (Caucasian) Mountain Warbler (Phylloscopus sindianus lorenzii)
  • 162. Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida)
  • 163. Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
  • 164. Clamorous Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus)
  • 165. Streaked Scrub Warbler (Scotocerca inquieta)
  • 166. Asian Desert Warbler (Curruca nana)
  • 167. Lesser Whitethroat (Curruca curruca)
  • 168. Eastern Orphean Warbler (Curruca crassirostris)
  • 169. Arabian Warbler (Curruca leucomelaena)
  • 170. Ménétriés’s Warbler (Curruca mystacea)
  • 171. Abyssinian White-eye (Zosterops abyssinicus)
  • 172. Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)
  • 173. Rosy Starling (Pastor roseus)
  • 174. Tristam’s Starling (Onychognathus tristamii)
  • 175. Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)
  • 176. Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)
  • 177. Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)
  • 178. Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)
  • 179. Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola maurus)
  • 180. Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)
  • 181. Desert Wheatear (Onenanthe deserti)
  • 182. Blackstart (Oenanther melanura)
  • 183. Arabian Wheatear (Oenanthe lugentoides)
  • 184. Variable Wheatear (Oenanthe picata)
  • 185. Hume’s Wheatear (Oenanthe albonigra)
  • 186. Hooded Wheatear (Oenanthe monacha)
  • 187. Persian Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia)
  • 188. Nile Valley Sunbird (Hedydipna metallica)
  • 189. Palestine Sunbird (Cinnyris osea)
  • 190. Arabian Sunbird (Cinnyris hellmayri)
  • 191. Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus)
  • 192. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
  • 193. Pale Rockfinch (Carpospiza brachydactyla)
  • 194. Rüppell’s Weaver (Ploceus galbula)
  • 195. Long-tailed Paradise Whydah (Vidua paradisaea)
  • 196. African Silverbill (Euodice cantans)
  • 197. Indian Silverbill (Euodice malabarica)
  • 198. Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola)
  • 199. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
  • 200. Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava)
  • 201. Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
  • 202. Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)
  • 203. Long-billed Pipit (Anthus similis)
  • 204. Richard’s Pipit (Anthus richardi)
  • 205. Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
  • 206. Arabian Grosbeak (Rhynchostruthus percivali)
  • 207. Striolated Bunting (Emberiza striolata)
  • 208. Cinnamon-breasted Bunting (Emberiza tahapisi)

List of mammals seen during the trip:

  • 1. False Killer Whale (Pseudoorca crassidens)
  • 2. Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops aduncus)

List of reptilians seen during the trip:

  • 1. Arabian Chameleon (Chamaeleo arabicus)
  • 2. Leatherhead Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
  • 3. Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

List of amphibians seen during the trip:

  • 1. Arabian Toad (Bufo arabicus)
Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) was a good adding for our Omani list

Oman Birding Tour 2020 Trip Report

Dates: February 5th to February 14th, 2020

Number of participants: 5

Number of species: 195

All images in the trip report by tour participants Bauke Kortleve & Philippe Marchessou and tour leader Carles Oliver.

Flocks of Tristam’s Starlings (Onychognatus tristramii) can be seen in rocky scarpments in the Dhofar, but also inside mountain villages.

Day 1. Coming all tour participants from a variety of countries, we all flew into Oman along February 4th. We met for dinner, and those arriving later in the evening, for breakfast early in the morning, in February 5th. 

After enjoying our delicious breakfast we left the accommotadion and started the tour. Temperature was 18ºC in a lovely sunny day. After negotiating the traffic in Muscat we did arrive to Al-Ansab Lagoons, a small natural reserve inside Muscat providing really good birding.

Despite some diversion at the main gate, we did arrive to the typical places. Inmediatly after getting out of the van we got the firsts Purple Sunbirds of the tour. A lovely male singing in bright glossy black coloration and a female feeding in the rich vegetation of a rocky slope. White-spectacled Bulbuls were also seen around.

Delicate Prinia (Prinia lepida), one of the first birds to appear in the tour.

One of the view points over the lagoons was offering a wonderful spectacle. A flock of 9 Greater Flamingoes was an evident spot in the lagoon while waders were coming in and out. We soon noticed some Marsh Sandpipers feeding along with Ruffs, Little Stints and at least 1 Temminck’s Stint. In the wàter surface there were several Mallards, Gadwalls, Northern Shovelers, Pintails as well as Little Grebes and Eurasian Coots. The few bushes around the view point were also having some nice birding activity, and we got our first Clamorous Reed Warbler, and 3 lovely Indian Silverbills and some Delicate Prinias feeding on the grassy vegetation.

A short walk around produced several Common Chiffchaffs (probably all of them abietinus race) and 2 Grey Wagtails in a nearby stream. A second pool was flattered with ducks, including several Common Pochards, 1 Tufted Duck and 3 Garganeys. In the shores of the lagoons, some Great Cormorants were roosting along with Great White Egrets and Grey Herons. And with them, 1 first winter Purple Heron was trying to don’t be discovered.

Purple Sunbirds (Cinnyris asiaticus) are a common view in Northern Oman.

Al-Ansab has three different hides, and from the last one we enjoyed the first Citrine Wagtail of the tour, a bird highly celebrated in the group. Several Common Moorhens were feeding in front of the hide, but everything moved fast when Keith spotted a Grey Francolin beside the reedbed! The bird provided with really short views before it went behind a tamarisk. Decided to improve our views, we just walked to the opposite side of the hide and got good views on 3 birds moving around. While looking for the bird we got our first Lesser Whitethroats of the trip! Some Green Bee-eaters were flying around, showing superbly, and the photographers in the group hap time to enjoy with them while some Pale Crag Martins were flying around. Beyond, in a hilly area, we found 1 Persian Wheatear at the same moment that 3 Pallid Swifts screamed in the sky because of the fast flight of a Western Marsh Harrier. That was definately a good start for our tour. 

We later came back to this same spot for our picnic lunch, with a similar list of species and the only (and really interesting) adding of 1 Eastern Orphean Warbler that move from a low bush in front of us and produced short but decent views before flying back up to the canopies, and blind out.

Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola) in almost full summer plomage.

After such a good start we moved to the coast, a short transfer of 15 minutes, to explore a number of mudflats. In two locations we got a good list of waders including a flock of 15+ Temminck’s Stints, Lesser Sand Plover, several Ruffs, Common Snipe, Wood Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Ruddy Turnstone, and Dunlins.

We then move to the Al-Qurum Natural Reserve, inmediatly East of Muscat, where we did two stops, seaside and inland.

In the seaside we had the change for first views on Caspian Gulls along with Greater Crested, Lesser Crested & Sandwich Terns. Heughlin Gull were common, as they were the Steppe Gulls. In the beach we also got Eurasian Whimbrel and a nice flock of mixed Lesser & Greater Sand Plovers roosting on the river mouth. Everything under the close view of Common Mynas.

Small numbers of Crested Honey Buzzards (Pernis ptilorhynchus) overwinter in Oman.

Our second stop was to explore a pair of corners inland., just following along a small stream. We parked the car and inmediatly had two raptors in the sky, being moved by House Crows. There were 2 juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle, one of them quite pale, that were having some difficulties against the crows. Happy with such a nice encounteer we entered the path to stop again as 1 Isabelline Shrike catched our attention. The bird was standing high up in a bush, with a lovely afternoon light. Few minutes after the group was delighted to see 1 Crested Honey Buzzard circling quite low above the area, joined in the blue sky by the first Western Osprey of the tour. The path brought us to a nice corner of marsh while Rose-winged Parakeets were calling in the sky. A short walk around revealed a lovely and rather surprising Desert Whitethroat, a bird considered still a race of Lesser Whitethroat (treated sometimes as a form of Asian Lesser Whitethroat) for many, but considered as a full species for others. The bird was showingly small and extremely pale, depending on the angle being almost as sandy as a Asian Desert Warbler, with a slight contrast between the mantle and flight feathers. It gave us a great view of some minutes long, being able to have proper looks to the rather dark lores, well contrasted with the sandy mantle. Once everyone in the group had good looks on the bird, we all kept moving along a rich vegetated corridor, where 1 Song Thrush flew out of our way. Just few metres beyond, 2 Clamorous Reed Warbler were showing superbly in the dense vegetation, joined by a Great Reed Warbler some meters away!

Clamorous Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus) showed really well in Al Anqsar.

Once in the marsh we enjoy some nice waders and kept scanning the few Common Snipes, hoping for a Pin-tailed Snipe to appear. Never did it. Al-Qurum Natural Reserve is having several interesting corners. A short-walk around brought us to a place with some big trees and several open spaces, here we had 3 Indian Rollers flying around and showing really well in the afternoon light.

Indian Rollers (Coracias benghalensis) are common in a variety of landscapes in Northern Oman.

The well known central lagoon was the only place during the trip where we saw Indian Pond Herons, a minimum of 3 of them were seen along with some Squacco Herons. A correct identification of these species is always challenging, and the best way to tell them apart is from the bill and lore coloration. Indian Pond Heron is always having a black final area in the lower mandibule, a well defined and contrasted patch (above 30% of the bill length) while Squacoo Heron shows a more difuse blackish area in the lower mandibule. Besides, Indian Pond Herons usually shows blackish lores, helping a lot in a correct identification of the bird.

The central pond not only produced all Indian Pond Herons of the trip, but also 2 Red-crested Pochards females (scarce bird in Oman), 1 female Tufted Duck, Gull-billed Tern, and the firsts Striated Heron and Black-crowned Night Heron of the tour. 

Back to the car, we just drove to a different corner of the park while enjoying the sunset. Was not still dark when we got inside a lovely, quiet corner, having some big trees. After some minutes of scanning we found our goal for that evening, a wonderful Pallid Scops Owl singing and showing superbly. We had the bird for about 25 minutes, barely 15 metres away from us. The view was so great that even some local people came to enjoy the views in the scope!!!

Pallid Scops Owl (Otus brucei) produced long views in our first evening in Oman.

Glad after such a good start for our tour, we came to our accommodation for a great dinner based in Arab, Indian and International cuisine.

Day 2. After a good rest we drove West to a small river mouth with rich mangroves, a good place to look for some specialities. Our main hope was to contact with the local race of Collared Kingfisher, a splitable population with slim populations along the Eastern coast of Arabia. We arrived quite early to the place, enjoying good views on Indian Rollers along the last part of the road, but despite our efforts we could not contact with any Collared Kingfisher. Instead we had 2 Common Kingfishers moving in the mangroves, Western Marsh Harrier, Western Osprey, Lesser Sand Plovers, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, Lesser Whitethroats (blithy), and the best views on Greater Hoopoe Lark along the tour as one bird was singing and displaying just beyond the mangroves.

Numbers of Steppe Eagles (Aquila nipalensis) were less spectacular than in previous years, but we still enjoyed tens of them during the tour!

We then had a stop and some rest before driving up Al Hajar Mountains, where we were going to spend the rest of the day, staying there a bit beyond sunset. After a 60 minutes transfer we did a first stop in the mountains, in a savannah-like ambient. There we enjoyed good views on 1 female Hooded Wheatear just next to 1 Isabelline Shrike. Once around the gorge, we explore a bit the area, and we all got good views on 3 Desert Larks feeding on the wadi, but also Eastern Black Redstart, Hume’s Wheatear, Pale Crag Martin, 1 juvenile Blue Rock Thrush and 3 singing Striolated Buntings that never produced a proper view. But probably the most interesting bird at that point was 1 Variable Wheatear moving in the rocky slopes, a bird that is one of the long list of scarce winter visitors to Oman.

White-spectacled Bulbul (Pycnonotus xanthopygos), the commonest Bulbul in Oman.

After this exploring we move to our last destination that day, one of the impressive gorges West of Samail. Here we had some time explore the bush in the wadi, producing really good looks on 1 Hume’s Whitethroat, Striolated Buntings and at least 4 Plain Leaf Warblers moving in the small trees in the wadi. The afternoonn was advanced and we spent some time scanning the cliffs in search of the most enygmathical bird in Oman, the poorly known, Omani Owl.

Plain Leaf Warbler (Phyllosocpus nitidus), one of the smallest on its genus, overwinters in small numbers in montane oases in Northern Oman.

In the time we were scanning, we were lucky to find out a nest of Egyptian Vultures high up in the cliffs, and enjoyed good views on the scope. A further scanning in the skyes around produced 4 more Egyptians, joined in the sky by the massive shape of a Lappet-faced Vulture. The birds were soaring and the Lappet-faced started to fly lower and lower above one slope, until it landed. Despite it was far away, everyone in the tour had excellent views on the scope of this scarce giant of the Omani skyes!

The impressive gorges in Al Hajar Mountains are home for the poorly known Omani Owl.

Glad aftert such a good selection of species, we waited until it was dark. Our scans in the cliffs were unseccful to find any roosting owl. Once the darkness arrived, we were soon surprised by the song of an Omani Owl coming from high up in the cliffs. A short series of 4 or 5 “uuu”, not really different from the typical Tawny Owl song. We had the bird singing 3 times, and for a while it looked like it was a second Omani Owl replaying far down away in the gorge. Still, and despite our efforst, it was not possible to get anything else than these impressive calls in the middle of the quiet night.

Day 3. After a good breakfast we transfer South. A 90 minutes drive brought us to a different landscape of open acacia grassland, and the first oases of the tour. But earlier we had a roadside stop, since about 40 Steppe Eagles were flying around, quite close. They were also on the hills around, and a proper scanning around produced as well several Egyptian Vultures, 1 Griffon Vulture, 1 Greater Spotted Eagle adult and 2 Eastern Imperial Eagles! Along with, several Brown-necked Ravens. The images of the raptors in the sky was an amazing and all enjoyed really much! Other good birds around included 2 Striolated Buntings (best views on the tour were here) and 2 Hume’s Wheatears.

Striolated Buntings (Emberiza striolata) can be suprisingly difficult to spot.

Once arrived to the oases we spent some exploring. It was plenty of Little Bee-eaters and 5 Indian Rollers spotted, very vocals at that location. Graceful Prinia, Purple Sunbird, Common Chiffchaff (abietinus race), and distant views on Lesser Whitethroat were also noted, including a very pale individual. Here we came to look for Yellow-throated Petronia and, in the search, we found 1 Red-breasted Flycatcher, a really appreciated bird for the tour participants. When coming to the car, a slim sparrow appeared right in front of us. With the dark and long bill, plane and dark head, this Yellow-throated Petronia showed up only for few seconds before flying away, and unfortunately most of the tour participants never contacted with the bird. We still had time scanning around the oases, but we could not refind the bird.

Indian Silverbill (Euodice malabarica) keeps good populations in Northern Oman.

After this stop we just did a fast stop in the grassy savannah like ambient next to it, having our first looks in the trip for Desert & Isabelline Wheatears. Common Kestrel and Crested Lark were also noted.

Day 4. After a mostly transfer day went for a pre-breakfast walk around our accommodation, located in a remote coastal area i North-east Oman. A short-walk around the hotel produced wonderful views on Black-crowned Sparrow-larks. We could see them singing and displaying in the sky as well as feeding on the ground in small flocks, including both males and females. At the same time, a flock of 8 Tawny Pipits were seeing, as well as Brown-necked Ravens, Indian Silverbills, Desert Larks, a closeby Isabelline Wheatear and some Desert Wheatears

Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark (Eremopteryx nigriceps), the second commonest lark in Oman.

After breakfast we drove South to the area were Crab Plovers are normally found. Along the way, a sandy desert of golden dunes offered incredible landscapes. Some kilometres South of our accommodation we saw a tiny area with water and some bush. Taking advantage of this, we did a stop and explore around. Inmediatly after living the car we had 1 Persian Wheatear, an encouraging start. The tiny water pond didn’t look like having so much else, until a Sylvia warbler flew out from a bush, a Menetries’s Warbler! The bird flew away, but not far. We had all to run a bit and scan a lot but finally everybody got excellent views in actually 2 Menetries’s Warblers (one of them a male showing a slight pinkish tint in the breast, as James noticed).

Menetries Warbler (Sylvia mystacea) male.A scarce overwintering bird in Oman.

Happy all after such a wonderful spot we came back to the van for a final, short drive. We were at place about 10 o’clock. The huge bay, was full of Sooty Gulls and Slender-billed Gulls. Heuglhin’s & Steppe Gulls were also common. A first scan of the area produced big numbers of Western Reef Egrets, Bar-tailed Godwits, Little Stints, Eurasian Oystercatchers, Lesser & Greater Sand Plovers, Dunlins, Grey Plovers plus about 30 Curlew Sandpipers, some Sanderlings, and some Eurasian Curlews. Some Gull-billed & Caspian Terns were flying here and there. But no Crab Plovers. We kept scanning, and scanning. But nothing. Waves and waves of waders were moving into the bay, mostly Bar-tailed Godwits and Dunlins, but not only.

And then Bauke suddenly noticed that we were having 3 Crab Plovers right in front of us, really close! We all had excellent views, and a fast re-scanning produced produced 14 of them! Suddenly all appeared. Only ten minutes later, a counting along the shore produced 47 Crab Plover!!!!

We enjoyed wonderful views on Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola), a massive, elegant a really sought-after wader.

We had time to enjoy of the Crab Plovers, and all the waders around, including 1 Greater Sand Plover in almost full summer plomage. 1 Clamorous Reed Warbler was in the small mangroves by the shore, and 2 Little/Saunder’s Terns were flying around,1 of them showing clear characters of Saunder’s (An extended blakish, well contrasted primaries from P9 to P7 or P6). After long enjoying the Crab Plovers and the birding expectacle around we moved a bit, to scan for different kinds of Gulls. Our main goal was Palla’s Gull, but we couldn’t find any this time as we were a bit in the season for them, this year. Instead we got nice views on 1 full adult Baltic Gull (Larus fuscus fuscus) and several Greater Crested, Lesser Crested & Sandwich Terns.

After some more birding we came back to our accommodation for some rest and eventually enjoy of the swimming pool.

Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii) in almost complete summer plomage.

Day 5. Long transfer until Salalah, but with interesting stops in the middle. First stop early in the morning to explore a nice desert patch with some vegetation. Here we got our first Southern Grey Shrike (aucheri race) and nice views on Desert Wheatears. But the best was the nice views on the first Asian Desert Warbler of the tour. We got the bird tipically moving in the low, small bushes but also literally running on the sand, for long just following a male Desert Wheatear, a behaviour related several times to this species nesting in Central Asia.

Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti) is the commonest among the wide variety of Wheatears in Oman.

The second stop was a bit later in the day, to explore the formerly famous an excellent Qitbit Hostel. This accommodation is now abandoned, and its gardens are not any more a magnet attracting specialities. Here we only got 1 Eurasian Hoopoe, and a small flock of Common House Martins joined by 1 Barn Swallow

Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis aucheri), a resident bird in Omani deserts.

As this location was empty of any interest we drove some more miles, to explore some Sewage Farms. Here we found an authentical magnet for birds. Just got into the farm, a harvested field was filled up with birds. Both Isabelline & Desert Wheatears (the second with interesting examples of 1st winter birds) were common. Also White & Yellow Wagtails. Tens of Tawny Pipits were also feeding in the many insects. A nice surprise was a flock of 9 Cream-coloured Coursers feeding in the area, allowing nice photo opportunities. The field was also having tens of Crested & Black-crowned Sparrow-Larks. 3 Marsh Harriers & 4 Common Kestrels were feeding in the many grasshopers, and a male Pallid Harrier was really celebrated by the tour participants.

Cream-coloured Coursers (Cursorior cursor) in the sewage fields. A magnet for birds in the desert.

A bit beyond, a second field was also having a good birdlife. In this case, out of the regular species, we enjoyed 4 Common Cranes and 1 female Montagu’s Harrier scanning the field on search of any potential prey.

As the sun started to go down we came to the road, whilling to arrive to Salalah. But some Sandgrouses made this to happen later than expected. Some Greater Hoopoe Larks crossed the road just minuted before a small flock of Chesnut-bellied Sandgrouses flew off from the side of the road. We stopped the car inmediatly, but unfortunately nobody connected with birds, this time. More flocks were in the air so we decided to drive slowly to scan properly the surrounding areas. Just few miles away, a wonderful flock of Spotted Sandgrouses were flying low around, and decided to stop in front of car, right by car, providing excellent views to all tour participants! 

Happy after such a wonderful end of the day, we just covered the last miles to our hotel in Salalah, where we enjoyed the first of a row of wonderful dinners, and a good rest.

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellinus) is a common bird in Oman during winter.

Day 6. Our first in Salalah was devoted to get proper views in some of the many sought-after species living around this city. We explore the well known Ayn Hamrat, a location combining indigenous decideous forest, riverside & savannah like ambients, with a nice bushland and a wonderful stream.

Just got out of the car and we got our firsts Cinnamon-breasted Buntings, a wonderful bird that was coming in small flocks to drink water from the stream. Common & Green Sandpipers were spotted along the stream, as well as 1 Grey Wagtail. We went for a short-walk when James spotted 1 juvenile Shikra perched in a fig tree, overlooking the main pond in the stream. 

Shrikra (Accipiter badius) keeps

Right after a Palestine Sunbird flew over, providing with a first glence of this beautiful species. The attention of group was captured then by Keith, whom spotted a small flock of Arabian Partridges running away from us. They climbed up the hill, providing us with excellent views. Many Abyssian White-eyes were around, in small (and sometimes not that small) flocks. The first of several African Paradise Flycatchers was seen, and the group was enjoying with such a wonderful bird when Keith went on again, this time with our first Arabian Warbler skulking in the vegetation a bit up in the slope, around from where the Partridges were moving. But got really good views but another bird claim of attention, since a wonderful Eastern Imperial Eagle was soaring low in the slope, probably hoping for a Partridge. The bird, slowly circling, showed the beautiful barring in the head and extending also to the throat. What a bird!

Arabian Warbler (Sylvia leucomelaena) inhabits forest edges and tall bushland.

But Keith was not giving up and again hit us, this time with a Black-crowned Tchagra low in the bushes! The bird was moving on the group, tacking advantage from the shady area to discover and capture insects. Few meters beyond we found our first Blackstart, quite confiding and showing us the beautiful black of its tail as it was open it several times. A pair of Shinning Sunbirds was in the same tree were the Blackstart was, and all the group had great views on the shinning green coloration of the male, but we got distracted by a small flock of African Silverbills that shortly landed in front of us. By that time we had a different bird in the sky, now was time for a 1st winter Short-toed Snake Eagle, that soared low among the decidious trees. At that moment Bauke had the 2 first Fan-tailed Ravens of the tour flying up in the cliffs, and we could even listen their toy-like calls from the distance. That was right before we had our firsts Long-billed Pipits moving in the bare ground, under the trees. These birds showed really tame, just as the African Paradise Flycatchers around, for enjoyment of the photographers in the group.

African Paradise Flycatcher (Tersiphone viridis), a wonderful drop of African birdlife in Oman.

We then decide to go down a bit the stream, prior taking a look the dry plains around. Some Black-crowned Sparrow-Larks were around, and James spotted our first Steppe Grey Shrike in a branch, overlooking the open space. Back to the woods, we took a look to the well vegetated stream, were we got 2 White-breasted Waterhens calling from the dense vegetation, a 1 Common Snipe flying from the shore.

Flocks of Tristam’s Starlings were coming to drink water, locating them by their beautiful wistles far before we could see them. They were joined by several Ruppell’s Weavers, and many Cinnamon-breasted Buntings. The fig trees above the area was having some Sunbirds, including two wonderful Palestine Sunbirds, for admiration of the group. 

We kept scanning around, the trees filled up with birds, when 1 Asian Koel just appeared in front of us! This is a really overwintering bird in Oman, and almost became the hit of the day for at least 1 member of the group! 

Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus), a really scarce overwintering bird in Oman.

After some time by the stream we decided to do a second short-walk, this time a bit beyond, and our effort was really worth it. At some point, a small flock of 4 Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeaks passed over us, calling and stopping a bit beyond. A bit of running was required but we arrived at the place were the birds landed. They were calling all around, even singing! A really long half a minute passed away until we relocated the birds in a distant bush. Great! We got everybody in the birds, with excellent views despite not being inmediatly close to us.

This is probably the best image that the group could get in Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeaks (Rhynchostruthus percivali).

We dediced to go back bu the stream, maybe the Grosbeaks were coming to drink water…They never did. For instance we got 1 Isabelline Shrike. After a nice picnic by the shade of the many trees we just went to the next location, overlooked by 1 Booted Eagle.

We spend some time in afternoon exploring Raysut. Unfortunately this year there were few Steppe Eagles in the area, and that day more interesting bird we had at the rubbish dump was a solitary White Stork. We also got 1 Citrine Wagtail, 1 Temminck’s Stint and 5 Little Ringed Plovers and a small flock of Whiskered Terns by visiting different ponds. 

As Raysut was not as great as the last years, we just went to the sea, where big flocks of birds were waiting for us. At least 15 Terek’s Sandpipers were seeing in the place, along with several Lesser & Greater Sand Plovers, Little Stints, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 1 Intermediate Egret, several Heughlin’s Gulls, Caspian Terns, 12 Western Ospreys, 1 Black-eared KIte, 4 Steppe Eagles, Grey Plovers, Dunlins, and mixed flocks of Citrine & Yellow Wagtails (beema & thumbergi races.

We still got time for a last stop, and we went to explore the Museum. There we got unforgettable views on Spotted Thick-knees, sometimes just a few meters away from us! We counted a minimum of 10. Other interesting birds in the gardens of the museum included Ruppell’s Weaver, Palestine Sunbird, Citrine Wagtail, Laughing Dove and Squacco Heron.

Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis) in glorious afternoon light.

A really short drive brought us back to our accommodation for a well deserved rest.

Day 7. This day we basically explored the some spots North of Salalah, and in particular the mountainous areas in Dhoffar. 

But before we went up to the hills we did spend some time in the early morning. We left the car right beside a big river moth, and got the firsts birds of the day. Green Sandpiper, Eastern Black Redstart and Isabelline Shrike. A fast scanning of the lagoon revealed 9 Cotton Pygmy Geese, including a drake male. Marsh Sandpiper and Black-tailed Godwit were both feeding in the shores and it didn’t take long to locate the first of 3 Pheasant-tailed Jacana, feeding on the floating vegetation or even swimming along with Common Moorhens.

Cotton Pygmy Goose (Nettapus coromandelianus) has become really scarce in Oman in recent years.

1 Greater Spotted Eagle was standing up in a tree, thinking about possible preys. In the water, 4 Garganeys were spotted, while the shore produced Temminck’s Stint, Lesser Sand Plover, and 1 Curlew Sandpiper. The only one Eurasian Spoonbill of the tour passed over us while 2 White-winged Black Terns were roosting on a floating branck. Happy after such a good selection of birds, the group started to move, but we then we found 2 Red-knobbed Coots! Despite they were not very close, we all got good views on the main remarks.

Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata) keeps being considered a rarity in Oman, with some individuals overwintering around Salalah.

After such a great place for allus we drove up to hills, to keep having some incredible birds.

A 30 minutes drive brought us up to the hills. In the way, some Steppe Eagles offered good views and a few Long-billed Pipits crossed the road. Once in the area, Bauke spotted the first Arabian Wheatear of the trip in a wire. It was a nice male, and was busy feeding 2 hungry young birds that allowed beautiful views on this small species. 

Arabian Wheatears (Oenanthe lugentoides) are early nesters.

Just arrived to our main destination, we parked the van and started scanning around. 1 gorgeous Bonelli’s Eagle was patrolling the area, in really low, and slow flights producing what was the best views I ever had in this species! During the next hours we saw this same individual patrolling a small patch of land, always extremelly low. What a present for all of us!

This Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata) kept flying above our van for several minutes in the Dhofar Mountains!

This hillsides are literally filled up with Cinnamon-breasted Buntings. It is difficult to understand how they can be so common… Wherever you look around, there were small flocks of these birds. Still, there are many other birds around. As we were walking around, Keith pointed out 2 Arabian Partridges. Both Shinning & Palestine Sunbirds were seen feeding around, while flocks of Tristam’s Starlings were flying over. Fan-tailed Ravens were also common, with rather nasal, short calls emerging from the sky as they were diving in groups going after the raptors they could find in the sky. Now was time for a juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle to be joined by the ravens…

Arabian Partridge (Alectoris melanocephala), another Arabian endemic that provide with excellent views.

As we walked around we found a number of Tree Pipits, overwinter in the area in good numbers, but also Lesser Whitethroat, Tawny Pipits, African Silverbills and Ruppell’s Weavers. Suddenly, a tiny rock got alive from under our feet and became a wonderful Singing Bush Lark that stand for us for a walk-away views that allow all tour participants enjoy all the details of birds, including those alula lovers in the group!

Singing Bush Lark (Mirafra cantillans) is a common bird in the Dhofar high grasslands.

Some uplands in Dhofar region are full of beautiful Tree Pipits (Anthus trivialis).

Our walk was being really productive and improve after we found 1 Eurasian Wryneck feeding on the ground along with Cinnamon-breasted Buntings. Some Blackstarts were also present, one pair even nesting in a wall hole, and 1 Short-toed Snake Eagle flew over us, getting an advice from the local Bonelli’s, you better don’t do that again.

And finally, after some hours of scanning, we got a small flock of Yemen Serins drinking water along with Buntings. We were really lucky this time, and at the same time that we saw them, a flock of 5 just came directly to us, stopping in a wire right in front of us and providing excellent views. They were calling and soon some 10 birds more joined the party. They were in the wires but also on the ground and even on the roof of a close building!! We enjoyed the birds for ten minutes and then decided to move for a further exploration of the area.

After some scanning we got excellent views on a flock of Yemen Serin (Crithagra mechanensis).

The Yemen Serin is endemic living in mountain plateaus in Yemen and Oman, with only a handful of locations where to see the bird. Nowadays Oman is the only place where to try to see the bird safely.

A short drive lead us to an advantaged point where scan for raptors and small passerines. Unfortunably the area was now foggy, but we still got excellent views on a pair of Arabian & Desert Wheatears, Eastern Black Redstart and amazing views on a juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle perched on a dead tree few metres away from the van!!!

juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca), in an impressive view by our van.

Arabian Wheatear (Oenanthe lugentoides) inhabits mountain rocky areas in the Dhofar.

This was a wonderful end of the day. We still had a chance for a stop in local bakery and enjoy nice local sweets before we head back to Salalah.

Back in the city, we still invested some time in its famous Sun Farms. There we had some interesting birds including a flock of about 120 Pacific Golden Plovers along with at least 3 European Golden Plovers resting in a plugged field. Not far from there, a flock of 7 Whitewinged Black Tern were flying around in a small marshy area inside the same farm. 1 Yellowbilled KIte was seen flying around the area. It was time to come back to the our accommodation for a nice rest and dinner.

Pacific Golden Plovers (Pluvialis fulva) in Salalah Sun Farms.

Day 8. Offshore day. We arribed early morning to the harbour. There, the many traditional fishing boats were filled up with Sooty Gulls, allowing wonderful views. Around the smaller boats, some Grey Herons and Western Reef Egrets were a good entertaiment while our boat was ready.

Once out of the harbour, we enjoyed a really plain sea. Heuglin’s Gulls were flying around, and small flocks of Greater Crested Terns provided excellent views. It didn’t take us long until we got the firsts Red-necked Phalaropes feeding in floating algae. During the 4 hours of the boat trip we got several flocks, totalling at least 50 birds.

Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) are a common view offshore Dhofar.

The Arabian Sea around Salalah is also really good for sea mammals and we were pleased to find a big herd of more than 200 Indian Spinner Dolphins. These small dolphins were swimming quite fast to the South, and we enjoy close views as we followed for some minutes. The image of these small dolphins, spinning and jumping around was a really enjoyable moment!

Spinners Dolphins (Stenella longirostris) were a good company while scanning for sea birds in our offshore North of Salalah.

Back to duty we turn again into the sea, to keep a bit of distance from the coast. Soon, we have the first Masked Booby flying over, and some minutes later we had good views in a flock of 4 of them while Red-necked Phalaropes were busy feeding and wondering around. We kept scanning around and we had short views on a distant dark Shearwater. The bird looked like a Fled-tailed, but was a distant, brief view so could not identify. 

Masked Boobies (Sula dactylatra) nest not far from the continent in Oman.

The density of birds is low in this sea, but we were lucky to have a Red-billed Tropicbird passing above us, and the whole group enjoyed great views in a bird that was really celebrated. That was brilliant! And only a pair of minutes after we had a dark, long-tailed Petrel flying around, a Jouanin’s Petrel! Unfortunately it was too fast for some of the tour participants, but not a bad view at all. We kept fighting for a better view until Keith just saw another Jouanin’s coming directly to us from the back of the boat, and this time everybody got excellent views on the Petrel as only passed 20 metres away from us!! Happy after the great views in such a scarce bird, we still were scanning for some time, looking for Persian Shearwaters. During the next half and hour we still had 2-3 more Jouanin’s, but never got any Shearwater.

The vey scarce Jouanin’s Petrel (Bulweria fallax) is normally one of the top targets for any birder visiting Oman.

Glad after the good offshore, we just came to our accommodation to have some rest before going for an afternoon outing.

After having a good rest we did have some late afternoon birding to explore some planes North of the Salalah, where we had some interesting birds including a flock of 11 Eurasian Stone Curlews in flight, 1 Eastern Imperial Eagle and flocks of Greater Short-toed & Crested Larks. As the sunset was arriving we went to a forested area. There we had our first Red-tailed Shrike of the tour perched in some death vegetation, and while we were enjoying this beauty we got our first Arabian Scops Owl singing from the woods. 

After some scanning we finally connected with a wonderful male Arabian Scops Owl that provided us with stunning views. At least other 3 birds were singing around in a sight that was highly celebrated! Happy after such a nice encounter we came to the accommodation for a good rest.

Arabian Scops Owl (Otus pamelae) proved that can cooperate for photo tours!

Day 9. Really early morning start with a short transfer to the desert to look for a number of desert specialities. We had some drive until Mudday, a small oases some 35 kilometers to the Yemen border. Here we first had a break to enjoy our take away breakfast just after the raising. 

Both Laughing & Eurasian Collared Doves were singing in the place along with Whitespectacled Bulbuls. A pair of Blackstarts were also a nice view while enjoying our breakfast. A first walk around produced little out of 2 Lesser Whitethroats (halimomendri race), 1 Song Thrush calling in flight and 1 Brownnecked Raven passing by. 

Then we walked until the corner where we enjoyed most birds one year ago. After a pair of minutes of searching we were grateful to find 1 male Nile Valley Sunbird, calling and showing really well in the wires and in the palm trees around. This bird was really celebrated by the group, and it was soon joined by a female! 

Nile Valley Sunbird (Hedydipna metallica) male, a typical inhabitant of oases in Oman.

Only a pair of minutes later, and when most of the group was still enjoying the Sunbirds, a bird came in flight, it was a female Grey Hypocolius!!! The bird directly landed in the wires right in front of us, giving us wonderful views before diving into a thick young palm tree. Everybody was extremely happy at that moment as the Hypocolius is one of the most sought-after birds in the region!!! The bird only showed for half a minute,and we were just talking about this point when a second Hypocolius landed in the same wire. And this time was a superb male!

Grey Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus) male & female (below), probably the most celebrated birds of the tour, showing superbly in early morning light.

This time everybody enjoyed of a long sight in the Hypocolius allowing several shots,and even went vocal a pair of times before diving as well in the same thick bush where the female went down from the wire!

It is difficult to explain how happy the group was at this point. And it was only the beggining of the day! After enjoying the Hypocolius we just did a short walk around and got the second Redtailed Shrike of the tour catching the morning light in some dead bush. Was not even nine in the morning! In the area where the vegetation was more rich we got some Common Chiffchaffs moving up and down but the surprise was to find the second Red-breasted Flycatcher of the tour moving in the low palm trees along with an African Paradise Flycatcher. What a strange pair of hunters in the middle of the desert!!

One of two Red-tailed Shrikes (Lanius phoenicuroides) that we enjoyed in the last days of the tour.

As was still early in the morning we went to have a look in a nearby oases. Only 3 miles away there is another corner with luxurian vegetation and some palm groves around. But the area was surprisingly empty of birds. We had a pair of short walks and were productives at the end, as we enjoyed the best views on Asian Desert Warbler of the trip, and a Desert Lark that landed in a small clay cliff in front of us.

Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva) in palm groves at Qitbit.

Back to Mudday we soon were surprised by the calls of tens of Sandgrouses. Flocks and flocks of Chestnutbellied Sandgrouses flew over the oases. Among with them, we got good views on 12 Crowned Sandgrouses flying quite lowl. We decided to follow them, and after some minutes we got the place where they seemed decided to land.

Crowned Sandgrouses (Pterocles coronatus) are a difficult target in Oman. In this issue we got unforgettable views!

After a short wait, the first 4 Chestnutbellieds landed in a hillside, fastly followed by more and more, and by a small flock of Cronwed Sandgrouses that decided to land just beside us!!! Suddenly we looked like surrounded by Sandgrouses, with the Crowneds decided to approach a tiny pond of water, and the more numerous Chestnut-bellieds offeing us extremely good views as about 40 birds were coming to drink water in a small stream!!!!! What a wonderful sight!!!!

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles exustus), the commonest Sandgrouse in Oman.

We had a wonderful hald an hour, enjoying flocks of Sandgrouses coming to drink water in the tiny pond. And after this time they vanished as fast as they arrived! Extremelly happy after such a wonderful morning, we started the way back to Salalah, with a nice stop in our way to enjoy a lovely Bartailed Lark in the side of the road.

Back in our accommodation, we enjoyed a short break to recover from the early start, and we went South of the city to explore some coastal areas.

The first stop could not be more productive, as we enjoyed good views in a massive flock of over 200 Socotra Cormorants feeding in the sea. They typically move in extremelly dense flocks, and keep feeding all together in giant fisheries. Along with them there were several Sooty Gulls but also 12 Brown Bobbies, some of them quite close to the coast. Some Tristam’s Starlings came to the view point, adding some excellent photo chances to the place!

Liltte Stints (Calidris minuta) were common in many coastal mudflats and other wetlands.

A bit more to the North, a superb river mouth reaches the Arabian Sea. A stop there was mandatory, and we had a good variety of birds including some Garganeys, Tufted Duck, Greater Whitefronted Goose, 5 Pintails, LIttle Stints, 2 Curlew Sandpipers, Eurasian Teals, Greater & Lesser Crested Terns, Blacktailed Godwit and several species more.

As we still had some time, we did a small detour exploring a nearby wadi, and we were lucky enough enjoy 4 Sand Partridges running in the rocky slopes as well as a close by Arabian Wheatear male!

Part of the group exploring a wadi around Salalah.

Typical Dhofar coastal area.

Day 10. Last day of birding of the tour. In the early morning we went back to a palm grove are in Salalah, hoping for some views on Bruce’s Green Pigeons, a bird that had been scaping from us along the tour. We spend some time in the area, adding 1 Crested Honey Buzzard and good views on Yellow Wagtails (meena) but being uncapable to find any pigeon.

We then moved to the Sun Farms of the city, where we did have Sand Martins and Whitewinged Black Terns. Unfortunately was quite windy and we didn’t get permit to get inside the farms so we decided to move to a nearby wetland to spend the last time before taking our plane back to Muscat.

Blackstart (Oenanthe melanura), a common but localised bird in Dhofar area.

Once in the wetland, we were once again surprised by the variety of birds. Despite the wind, the water was full of ducks including Garganey, Eurasian Teals, Northern Shovelers and 2 Pintails. Common, Gullbilled, Whiskered and 8 Whitewinged Black Terns were all added to the list of the place. Marsh Sandpipers and Temminck’s Stints were the most interesting waders. Blackwinged Stilts, Greater Flamingoes and Graceful Prinia were all noted. As a good end, James spotted a Namaqua Dove in a fence.

This Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis) was the last adding to the tour list.

After this last birding we headed to the Salalah Airport, where a short internal flight brought us to Muscat for a comfortable overnight before everyone could take a plane back home!

In 2021 we will go back to Oman, join us for a good fun and a great birding!   \


Variable Colotis (Colotis phissada) in Sun Farms 150 miles from Salalah.

Diadem Butterfly (Hyppolimnas myssipus)

One-pip Policeman (Coeliades anchises) at Al-Ansab lagoons.

Blue Pansi (Precis orithya) was present in some well vegetated locations.

Mantidae sp. in a desertic area close to Masirah Island.