Arxiu d'etiquetes: yemen serin

Oman Birding Tour 2021 Trip Report

Dates: October 26th to November 4th

Number of participants: 3

Species seen: 205

In the falll of 2021 it looked like the Covid-19 pandemia was at its end, or at least that it was giving us a well deserved truce. Several countries had relaxed their restrictions, and many reopened to tourism, even if still requiring specific tests or documents to go beyond their borders.

Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetos), a common sight in some Omani wetlands. All images in the post by Carles Oliver unless otherwise indicated

In this context, we arranged with a small group of clients a trip to Oman. This tour was delayed from January 2021, but circumstances forced them to choose the end of October to visit the country, even when probably the best season to explore this unique nation goes from mid-November to January. The option proved really productive and interesting despite the rather high temperatures (from 21 to 34ºC), and some windy afternoons, especially in the North of the country.

Day 1, October 26th. The group arrived in stages during the day before (October 25th) to meet during the evening in the inmigration checkpoints at Muscat International Airport, and we all transfer for a welcome dinner in our nearby hotel.

After enjoying the Omani food, our first day was devoted to explore some wetlands inside Greater Muscat. Our first stop was at Al Ansab wetlands, a small area of ponds and reedbeds recently recovered by the local water company. But even before arriving to our first spot, we got a first good surprise in the way of a 1st winter Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) right in front of our hotel. We didn’t know at that moment, but that was our only Woodshrike of the whole tour!

White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis), a common bird in Northern Oman.

Al Ansab was starting to get the winter visitors. There we got good numbers of Eurasian Teals (Anas crecca), Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata), Gadwalls (Anas strepera), Ruffs (Philomachus pugnax), Wood Sandpipers (Tringa glareola), Little Stints (Calidris minuta), Common Snipes (Gallinago gallinago), Pied Avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta) and Temminck’s Stints (Calidris temminckii). A flock of 5 Ferruginous Ducks (Aythya nyroca) was a nice surprise, and the group enjoyed very much the good and different views on Marsh Sandpipers (Tringa stagnatilis) along the lagoon. Here we also had first views on some common species in the area: Purple Sunbirds (Cinnyris asiaticus), Delicate Prinias (Prinia lepida) and Indian Silverbills (Eudice malabarica) were showing all around while flocks of White-eared Bulbuls (Pycnonotus leucotis) were noisily feeding in the tamarisks around. Some dizzing up in the sky announced the presence of some Citrine Wagtails (Motacilla citreola) in the area, moving to the extensive grasses where flocks of Common Mynas (Acridotheres tristis) were feeding. In the distance, the distinctive call of a flock of Grey Francolins (Francolinus pondicerianus) pointed us to the correct corner, and allowed us all good views on them.

Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) in Al Ansad lagoons.

A short walk exploring the area produced a good number of other species. In the reedbeds and scrubs we got good views on Clamarous Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus) and on a fast-moving Savi’s Warbler (Locustella luscinioides). The extensive canopies around had 2 abietinus-like Common Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) and at least 1 Siberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus tristis) answering to the calls + a very vocal Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva), and the first of a long list of Spotted Flycatchers (Muscicapa striata) along the tour. The channels around were full with Great White Egrets (Agrodietus albus) and Western Reef Egrets (Egretta gularis) + 2 Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) and one 1st winter Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea). Small flocks of Arabian Green Bee-eaters (Merops cyanophrys) & Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters (Merops persicus).

In the way out, we still had a chance to enjoy 5 Garganeys (Spatula querquedula), 1 male Wigeon (Anas penelope) and our first Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga) patrolling the wetlands and showing usperbly, but probably the best bird was a male Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka) showing well in our way out of this hotspot.

Garganeys (Spatula querquedula) at sunset

Our second move was to explore some coastal areas, where we had first views on several common waders but also the very firsts Greater Sand Plovers (Charadrius leschenaultii) and Lesser Sand Plovers (Charadrius mongolus) of the tour. Here we also got good views on a flock of Pacific Golden Plovers (Pluvialis fulva), sometimes showing side by side with Lesser Sands. In the sea side we had also good views on Lesser Crested Tern (Thalasseus bangalensis) and good comparition with Greater Crested Terns (Thalasseus bergii) and Common Terns (Sterna hirundo). A fast seawatch revealed here 1 Pomarine Skua (Stercorarius pomarinus) and 3 Common Gulls (Larus canus) moving along with 2 Caspian Gulls (Larus cachinnans).

Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) and Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus)

After some rest we moved to Al Qrum Natural Park for an evening birding. Despite being a bit quiet if compared with other visits, especially when talking about passerines, the area still produced excellent views on Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer), Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica), Citrine Wagtails (Motacilla citreola), Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus), Purple & Striated Herons (Butorides striata), the first Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus) of the tour while it was being harrased by a flock of House Crows (Corvus splendens) , several Indian Rollers (Coracias benghalensis) and a rather surprising Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispanoliensis) male!

Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus)
Indian Rollers (Coracias benghalesis) are common during winter in Northern Oman, but they keep being a rarity in the Southern part of the country

Day 2. Early morning start to explore some of the wonderful inland landscapes in Northern Oman. A short transfer from Mascate allows a substantial change in the landscape, and the impressive Al Harar Mountains show up. This morning we enjoyed some gullies and open, dry plains with scattered thornbush. It is a wonderful landscape and prove to be full of birdlife.

A combination of short walks soon prove to be really productive. The firsts Lesser Whitethroats (Sylvia curruca) were soon seen, some of the singing. Here they all look like from halimodendri, with evident black lores and absence of supercillium. A small flock of Sand Partridges (Ammoperdix heyi) were feeding around, but only allowed short views as they were running away. As we got inside the gullies, we found some normal birds for this landscapes including Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius), Plain Crag Martin (Ptynoprogne obsoleta) and our firsts Persian Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia) and Levant Grey Shrikes (Lanius excubitor aucheri) of the tour + a rather distant Hooded Wheatear (Oenanthe monacha). The areas with some vegetation concentrated several Purple Sunbirds, and along with them Lesser Whitethroats but also 1 Wood Warbler and, at least, 1 Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida). Here we were also delaighted with close views on 2 Arabian Babblers (Turdoides squamiceps), a species often difficult to find! While enjoying these wonderful birds we got a bird sitting in a bush, and turned out to be a Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus). Now the group split into two, with some people admiring the Shrike, while others trying to get good shots in the nervous Babblers. But the party was no over, because right there a pair of Levant Scrub Warblers (Scotocerca inquieta) just showed out in the same scrub where Shrike was shinning out! This was a brilliant moment of the tour, with three top birds showing simultaniously!

Obliging Persian Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia) during our exploring the Al Harar Mountains
Arabian Babblers (Turdoides squamiceps), a bird that keeps expanding its range in Arabia
The first of 2 Brown Shrikes (Lanius cristatus) during the tour appeared at the same time & bush than Arabian Babbler, Levant Scrub Warbler and Sand Pratridge!
Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix)

The sun was already really high, and it was getting warm so we started to move towards our lunch stop. After a good rest and food in the shade, we move to our afternoon location. During the next hours we were to explore one of the many huge gorges in the area. Here we were expecting to find the poorly-known Omani Owl (Strix butleri), but our chances were really decimated due to the strong wind. Even inside the gorge, the wind and the dust made birdwatching quite difficult and uncomfortable. We explored some oasis like corners in the gorge, and despite the difficult conditions, we got good views on Hume’s Wheatears (Oenanthe albonigra), Striolated Buntings (Emberiza striolata), Palestine Rock Dove (Columba livia palaestinae) and a single Plain Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus neglectus). We spend some time scanning the cliffs, despite the poor visibility due to the dust in the air, but we got no sign of the owls. Still, our perseverance was granted with good views on a single Arabian Tarh (Arabitragus jayakari)!

Purple Sunbirds (Cinnyris asiaticus) are extremely common in Northern Oman
Palestine Rock Doves (Columba livia palaestinae) in a large gorge in Al Harar Mountains

Day 3. Early morning transfer to Liwa, the Western patch of mangroves holding a pair of very interesting species. Our hope was to connect with the endemic & scarce race of Collared Kingfisher (Alcyon chloris kalbaensis) living here. The area is also noted for herons and waders. Here we got some Striated Herons & Western Reef Egrets along with Clamorous Reed Warblers, but got no sign of the Kingfisher. Still, the area was filled up with migratory birds. Here we got the only Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) and the only Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) of the trip. Here we also got first views on Desert (Oenanthe deserti) and Isabelline Wheatears (Oenanthe isabellina). We counted 8 Indian Rollers feeding in the wires around, and minimum of 2 Pied Wheatears (Oenanthe pleschanka) moving in the same area. The large scrubby plains around the mangroves also produced excellent close up into Asian Desert Warbler (Sylvia nana), and 2 Eastern Black-eared Wheatears (Oenanthe melanoleuca) feeding along with a flock of Tawny Pipits (Anthus campestris) and Crested Larks (Galerida cristata)!

Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis), a common in Oman
Asian Desert Warbler (Sylvia nana)
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe melanoleuca)
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata), the commonest Lark in Oman. Amazing how distinctive they are from Iberian Crested Larks!

In our way back to Mascate we did a stop in a golf course, enjoying flocks of Ruffs feeding in the short grass and being joined by Citrine & Yellow Wagtails (Motacilla flava). Here we also got some Common Snipes, Lesser Sand Plovers, a single Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) and flyby male Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) before going back to our accommodation.

Day 4. This was the day of our transfer between Mascate and Salalah. And despite the long driving, it was also a great birding day. A number of selected stops produced a really interesting list of birds.

In the North, we enjoyed some birding in the stonnny planes beyond Al Harar Mountains, where we were lucky enough to have intimate views on Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse (Pterocles linchtensteinii) just by the lane! Here we also Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) and Indian Silverbills.

Lichtenstein Sandgrouse (Pterocles lichtensteinii) male in the stony desert
Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)

For our picnic time, we enjoyed a small garden where a Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva) seemed to be waiting for us. Here, already quite in the South, we got our firsts Abyssinian White-eyes (Zosterops abyssinicus) and intimate views on Spotted Flycatchers (Muscicapa striata). In the afternoon we had some time to explore some grass farms along the road, despite having another windy afternoon. It can be said that we arrived at the right time, as the fields were filled up with Greater Hoopoe-larks (Alaemon alaudipes), Isabelline Wheatears and Tawny Pipits. It always fascinated me how these areas, surrounded by hundreds of kilometers of desert, can hold such a wonderful birdlife!

Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva), a scarce bird in Oman during winter
1st winter Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), putative sarudnyi race

The fields were full of birds, and a minimum of 2 Pallid Harriers and 3 Montagu’s Harriers (Circus pygargus) were hunting in the area along with 10+ Common Kestrels. Here we also counted 10+ European Rollers (Coracias garrulus) & Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides). The place was covered with Larks. Beyond the very common Crested Larks, we were surprised by a flying flock of Greater Short-toed Larks (Calandrella brachydactyla) that never stop in the short grass in front of us, but a pair of minutes later we got a small flock of 4 larks stopping close to the fields, and we were all happy to see that they were Arabian Larks (Ammomanes eremodites), formerly considered conespecific with Dunn’s Lark (Ammomanes dunnii), and a scarce bird in Oman!

Crowned (left) & Spotted Sandgrouses (right) in flight
Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis)

Back to the road, we still had a last detour, this time to enjoy some Sandgrouses. Just in time, we were granted with several flocks of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles exustus) flying around us and stopping in the desert, while flocks of both Spotted (Pterocles senegallus) and Crowned Sandgrouses (Pterocles coronata) were also offering excellent flight views! A wonderful way to end our birding time. Only one hour after this we arrived to our accommodation in Salalah to get some rest and comment all the excellent birds that we got along the day!!

Day 5. Our first day in Salalah was one of the most wonderful that I remember in this area. We had an early start and covered the short distance between our accommodation and the first location of the day, and area of open woodland mid way up to the Dhoffar plateau.

Here we were soon enjoying a long list of specialities. The area was fullfilled with Cinnamon-breasted Buntings (Emberiza tapahisi), small flocks of Rüppells Weaver (Ploceus galbula) and some African Silverbills (Eudice cantans). The firsts Palestine Sunbirds (Cynniris osea) were also seen feeding in the highest part of the fig trees while the whistles of Tristam’s Startlings (Onychognatus tristamii) announced the arrival of some of flocks of them.

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting (Emberiza tapahisi)
Arabian Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegallus percivalis)

2 Brown-headed Kingfishers (Halcyon leucephala) were perched in low branches, trying to locate one of the large locustes that they predate on, while the always nervous African Paradise Flycatchers (Tersiphone viridis) looked like concentrated around a small pound nearby. A short walk around the area soon allowed us to find the first of 4 Arabian Warbler (Sylvia mmemelanea) seen that morning while feeding in some dense thickets. This individual was moving along with a Lesser Whitethroat, and allowed a good comparisition of size, structure and behaviour. One bush away, a Isabelline Shrike was also a good find, and a fast check in the thickets below it revealed a wonderful pair of Arabian Black-crowned Tchagras (Tchagra senegallus percivali) and our first Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis). The morning was being wonderful but it took better was a distant pale Shrike was seen. When landed, the Shrike described a cercle with its tail, and that meant only one thing! We fast moved closer and enjoyed good views on a 1stw Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus), a pretty scarce migratory bird in Oman! The bird was quite nervous and didn´t allow any close ups.

African Paradise Flycatcher (Tersiphone viridis)
Lesser Whitethroat (Curruca curruca) type blythi
1st winter Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus), a scarce migratory bird in Oman

Back to the denser area we then found a wonderful mixed flock moving in the thickets: Here there were 2 Tchagras, 2-3 Arabian Warblers, some Abyssinian White-eyes, 4 Lesser Whitethroats, 1 African Paradise Flycatcher and 2 handsome Eurasian Wrynecks (Jynx torquilla) that gave excellent views! Just beside them, but not really moving along, we also got excellent views on one pair of Blackstars (Oenanthe melanura). Another great adding to our wonderful morning list! We then decided to explore better the stream nearby. Here we had good numbers of Buntings, African Silverbills, Laughing Doves and White-eyes that were coming down for a bath. Here it was also a handsome Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) and 2 Green Sandpipers (Tringa ochropus). Suddenly, a Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) landed in a nearby tree. But the most exciting of that corner was the flock of 4 Arabian Grosbeaks (Rhyncosthrurus percivali) flying over us and briefly landing on a tree, some 50 metres away from us. Two o the tree clients got good but brief views on them, but one of the members of the group could not connect with them. We spent quite a long time trying to relocate them, but we got nothing at all. Instead, we got our only Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) along with Spotted Flycatcher, Turkestan Shrike and a minimum of 6 African Paradise Flycatchers feeding in a lovely corner!

Blackstart (Oenanthe melanura)
Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)

After such a wonderful start of the day we moved into a small gorge having a wonderful stream with rich swamp vegetation. Despite the heat, we also got an excellent selection of birds here: 2 Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata) were hunting in the area (one of them hovering for almost 1 minute!), a large flock of 40 Pallid Swifts were also feeding in the skies. Down in the stream, a flock of 4 Wood Sandpipers were a good start. Citrine Wagtails were calling around and some Western Reef Egrets were feeding. Bird activity was low due to heat, but butterflies and dragonflies were at its best! We still spent some time by the stream, and our persistance was finally granted when a Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) flew from a patch of reeds to the next, showing well, but briefly.

Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucephala)
Pearl Emperor (Charaxes varanes)
African Openbill (Anastomus lamelligerus) at Raysut, 2nd record for Oman

After some rest, we went to spend the afternoon in the Raysut river mouth. Here we got a long list of specialities, but probably the most unexpected bird was an African Openbill (Anastomus lamelligerus) resting along ith Grey Herons! It turned out to be only the 2nd record of this species for Oman!

The areas was as good as always about birding. Here we got our first full adult Baltic Gull (Larus fuscus fuscus) of the trip. Also a minimum of 7 Terek’s Sandpipers (Xenus cinereus) that were really celebrated. Largo flocks of gulls (mainly Heuglin’s) were in the shore along with a flock of Greater Flamingoes (Phoenicopterus roseus). Around, several waders that included Lesser Sand Plovers, Curlew Sandpipers (Calidris ferruginea), Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica), Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii) and several Greenshanks (Tringa nebularia). A flock of Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) was flying around, trying to decide where to stop. A nearby Greater Spotted Eagle seemed really interested in the flock, while the 3 Western Ospreys (Pandion haliaetos) in the area were concentrated in the rocky outcrops. Several species of terns were around, including 4 White-winged Black Terns (Chlidonias leucotos), 1 Black Tern (Chlidonias niger) and several Lesser Crested Terns.

Terek’s Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus)

The last stop of this exciting day was in some sea cliffs South of Salalah. Here, the sea was fullfilled with Gulls and Terns. There were literally thousands of Terns, mainly Lesser Crested and Greater Crested, but here we also got Sandwich & Common Terns and at least 12 Bridled Terns (Onychoprion fuscata). Still, the most celebrated bird of the stop was one pretty close Persian Shearwater (Puffinus persicus) that all the tour participants got in the scopes! A wondeful way to end a extremely productive day!

Day 6. A new early start, this time to go back to the desert in search of some of the most iconic species living in Oman. We arrived to the location soon after the sun raising and soon had good views on Blackstarts and a confiding Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica). This oasis is a particularly good place for Grey Hypocolius (Hypocolius amberinus), although it was a bit early in the season for them. We spend some time scanning different corners of the lush vegetation in search of this wonderful bird.

Sand Partridges (Ammoperdix heyi) were singing in the desert around, and a small walk allowed us to have good views in a male singing from the top of a small cliff. When coming back to the oases, a pair of Desert Larks (Ammomanes deserti) stole the show and gave us excellent views, and good photo chances. Back to the oases, 2 Lesser Whitethroats were calling in the trees right at the same moment that the first flock of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses arrived calling and passed over us in search of water. Only a pair of minutes later we had the only Nile Valley Sunbird (Hedydipna metallica) of the tour, as one male showed briefly in the top of one of the trees. Almost at the same time, a flock of 18 Crowned Sandgrouses landed in a nearby plateau. We walked up but, unfortunately, we couln’t refind them on the ground… It was already mid-morning, and hundreds of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses were flying around the oases, providing amazing flight views that the whole group enjoyed very much. From our advantatged point, we also found a Bar-tailed Lark (Ammomanes cinctura) feeding in the bare soil. Here we also enjoyed the best views on Arabian Green Bee-eater (Merops cyanophrys) along the tour. We still spend some more time in the area, trying to find any Hypocolius, but we couldn’t not find any of them and the only remarkable addings to our list were a pair of Desert Wheatears and a distant Turkestan/Isabelline Shrike.

Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti)
Nile Valley Sunbird (Hedydipna metallica)
Arabian Green Bee-eater (Merops cyanophrys)
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouses (Pterocles exustus)

Back to Salalah for lunch and some rest, we spent the afternoon visiting a pair of hotspots around Raysut. Our first stop was to visit a water compound, where we got some European Rollers and a good set of waders including some Marsh Sandpipers and the only Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius). Still, the most remarkable in this site was the flock of 27 Abdim’s Storks (Ciconia abdimii) that were resting around the compounds. This was a very awaited bird for the tour participants, and the presence of 2 White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) made a perfect combination to compare sizes and bills.

Then we moved inland to explore a gorge. In our way, an African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) flew over the car: another extra adding!

Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga)
Ruffs, Stilts, Marsh Sandpipers, Greenshanks & Little Stints at the Raysut compound
Abdim’s Storks (Ciconia abdimii), a very localised bird in Oman

Once in the wady, we enjoyed some good views in 1 male Hooded Wheatear (Oenanthe monacha) while flocks of Sand Partridges were flying all around. It was a really quiet afternoon, and the songs of some Striolated Buntings helped us in our wait to the sunset. Big rock boulders were scattered in the way, and we had good views on a Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis) moving in the rocky terrain. Once the night arrived, it didn’t take long until some “hooloes” came out of the cliffs around, and a pair of minutes after that we got horrific views on 1 Desert Owl (Strix hadorami) calling from different places around us in a magical moment that was considered for most of the tour participants and the best moment of the tour!

Desert Owl (Strix hadorami)

Happy after such a wonderful sight, we came back to our accommodation for a great dinner and rest.

Day 7. After enjoying a good breakfast we lived our hotel and drived North to enjoy a wonderful offshore in search of the good specialities living in the Arabian Sea. It was a pleasant and calm day, a bit warm but excellent to go into the sea. Our short transfer was not free of excitement because along the way we enjoyed the first Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) of the tour and an intimate view on Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetos) when arriving to the harbour.

Once in the getting out of the harbour, we got good views on Striolated Heron before getting out to the Ocean. Only a few minutes after leaving the harbour we got the first bird of interest as 2 Persian Shearwaters flew quite close to our boat. There were several Sooty Gulls around, with some Great Crested Terns passing over and Heuglin’s and Steppe Gulls in the move. A pair of Green Sea Turtles () were seen as getting away from the continent, but they didn’t allow any photo. Only some hundreds of yards away a black silhouette was seen flying over the water: The first Jouanin’s Petrel (Bulweria fallax)!

Striolated Heron (Butorides striata)
1stw Steppe Gull (Larus fuscus barabensis)

During the next 2 hours we enjoyed a minimum of 12+ Jouanin’s Petrels, with some really close views. This was, by far, the best offshore for Jouanin’s of all our trips to Oman. The calm day also allowed us to have good views on 4+ Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Ardenna carneipes), 7 Masked Boobies (Sula dactylora), 2 Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) and a distant Bridled Tern.

3 images of the Jouanin’s Petrels (Bulweria fallax)
Persian Shearwater (Puffinus persicus)

Back to the continent, we headed to the impressive plateaus of the Dhoffar Mountains. In our way up, we found an Arabian Chameleon (Chamaeleon arabicus) and forced up to stop our way up. Once in the upper areas, we soon were enjoying good views in some large flocks of Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhidipurus) that were concentrating in large fig tree along with Tristam’s Starlings. The wires around proved to be producive and time to time a Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus) was sitting on them, providing some great views. Our next target was the rather enygmathic Yemen Serin (Crithagra menachensis). We first tried at the typical place, but got nothing out of a nesting Blackstart and 2 Tree Pipits (Anthus trivialis). Then we drove some miles away to a place that worked really well during our last tour. Soon after parking we saw that the place was full of birds. Here we had 5+ Red-throated Pipits, 2 Tawny Pipits, 1 Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana) flying over, 1 Long-billed Pipit (Anthus similis) showing superbly in a stone wall, 2 Singing Bush Larks (Mirafra cantillans) feeding on the ground and a wonderful Yemen Serin that appeared in the same stone wall by one abandoned house. This was again one of the top moments of the tour, as confidence in finding this bird was low among the tour participants. The place was even more productive than that: 4 European Rollers, 1 Montagu’s Harrier and the first Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) of the trip were an awesome complement to this site list!!

Arabian Chameleon (Chamaeleon arabicus). Image by tour participant Josep del Haro
Yemen Serin (Crithagra menachensis). This time we only found 1 individual!
Long-billed Pipit (Anthus similis)
Arabian Wheatear (Oenanthe lugentoides)
Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)
Tristam’s Starlings (Onychognatus tristamii)
The misty ambient in the Dhoffar plateau

We kept riving North to arrive to some stunning cliffs overlooking the coastal plain and the ocean. In our way, several Isabelline Wheatears were seen along with Tristam’s Starlings and Common Kestrels. Once in the cliffs, we soon had good views on Arabian Wheatears (Oenanthe lugentoides) and Blue Rock Thrushes (Monticola solitarius) plus distant views on 1 Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii).

It was still early afternoon, so we drove back to Salalah to explore some areas in the palm tree orchads. Here we got excellent views on 10+ Spotted thick-knee (Burhinus capensis), Indian Pond Heron (Squacco grayii), 3 Shining Sunbirds (Cinnyris habessinicus), 1 Crested Honey Buzzard and 2 Arabian Chameleo. The sunset was close, so a new short transfer brought us to small gorge where we enjoyed some wonderful owling.

only a few minutes after our arrival we started listening the typical ouling of the Arabian Eagle Owls (Bubo milesi). Formerly considered conspecific with African Spotted Owl (Bubo capensis), this is now a new Arabian endemic and a much sought-after speciality. There were some birds calling around. 3, 4? Difficult to know. They all appeared to be quite high in the cliffs until one bird sunddenly started to call from only 150 metres away from us, in a large tree. We moved close to the tree, trying to locate the bird while was still calling, but got nothing. Fortunately, a 2nd individual appeared in the sky, flying over us and stopping in the same tree! That was a lucky sight!!

Very happy after such a great sight we then concentrated in the many Arabian Scops Owls (Otus pamelae) calling around. It didn’t take long before we were all enjoying a wonderful Scops Owl right in front of us. Another magical moment to add in this tour!! Little Owl (Athene noctua) was also noted calling in the clifffs, despite we never arrived to see it.

Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis)
Arabian Scops Owl (Otus pamelae)

Day 8. This day we started to have a last visit to the open Euphorbia habitats inmediatly South of Salalah. Here we had excellent views on both Steppe and Eastern Imperial Eagles. We were in search of better views on Arabian Grosbeak, but never got them. Still, we did get 1 Steppe Grey Shrike (Lanius pallidirostris) and a 1 “lucionensis” Brown Shrike (3rd official record for Oman if accepted)!

Adult Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
1st winter Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)
Arabian Warbler (Curruca leucomelaena)
Steppe Grey Shrike (Lanius pallidirostris)
Putative adult “lucionensis” Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus lucionensis) at Ayn Harar, Dhoffar.

After this good start, we then drove all the way to the sewage farms beyond Thumrait. There we got some excellent birding despite the intense heat. When arriving, we got 2 males Pallid Harriers having a nap in a small shade. Such a gorgeous sight took most of the group by surprise since they were resting right by the lane! Once inside the farms we were surprised by 4 Namaqua Doves (Oena capensis) flying over the grassy fields. The number of birds was low, but of top quality. Here we found 1 Pied Wheatear, 2 Siberian Stonechats (Saxicola maurus), 1 Eurasian Wryneck and 2 Rose-coloured Starlings (Pastor roseus) that were really celebrated in the group! Here we also got some Tawny Pipits, White Wagtails and a good number of Black-crowned Sparrow-lark (Eremopterix nigriceps) and Crested Larks, the only larks that afternoon.

Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellinus)
Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
Rose-coloured Starting (Pastor roseus)
Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola maurus)
Male Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus). Image by tour participant Josep de Haro

Day 9. After enjoying a wonderful breafkast in our hotel in Duqm we drove North to explore the massive mudflats around Masirah Island. Our main target for that day was to locate some Crab Plovers (Dromas ardeola), a large black-and-white wader specialised in feeding on crabs and other hard-shield arthropodes. Desite their large size, they can be surprisingly hard to find, especially in the vasts tidal plains around Masirah Island. Fortunately we had a good place from previous years, so we headed directly to that place.

This very extensive mudflat concentrates around 1 milion waders in winter, so it is always a great place to visit. Here we had Tereks Sandpipers, Lesser & Greater Sand Plovers, Curlew Sandpipers, Kentish Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Ruddy Turnstones, Little & Temminck’s Stints and also 7+ Broad-billed Sandpipers (Limicola falcinellus), some of them moving in mixed flocks with several other species. We arrived soon after high tyde, so many waders were really close to the shores when we arrived. In the bush around 1 Clamorous Reed Warbler was calling, and 2 Red-throated Pipits were also in the move. Still, the most interesting passerine was being harrased by a Dunlin in the beach. I first thought that it was a Sparrow, but fastly I found myself screaming to everybody since we were having a Turkestan Short-toed Lark (Alaudala heinei) right in front of us! We were lucky because everybody had good views on the bird before the Dunlin became really agressive and defitanely expulsed the lark away from the algae! Excellent!

Tydal plains around Masirah Island, a paradise for waders
Broad-billed Sandpiper (left) & Greater Sand Plover (center,up) feeding along with Dunlins and 1 Little Stint
A pair of images of Crab Plovers (Dromas ardeola)
Heuglin’s Gull (Larus (fuscus) heuglini)
Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)
juvenile Sooty Gull (Ichthyaetus hemprichii)

We were right comenting this rather unexpected adding when they appeared. At the beggining only two of them. Distant. Adult and a 1st winter still asking for being fed. Always great to see one of the most spectacular waders in the world! After almost half an hour more Crab Plovers appeared. Extremely far away, but they were coming every time a bit closer until we got excellent views on a small flock of 5 that provided more than decent views and allowed some shots. At the end of the morning we counted some 55 of them!

Here we were also scanning for Terns and Gulls. Still far from the gull concentrations in winter, we were delighted with several close ups to Heuglin’s Gull, with some Steppe & Caspian Gulls in the middle. A rather Saunder’s Tern (Sternua saundersi) showed up for us, and some further scanning produced 1 Parasitic Jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus) harrasing Slender-billed Gulls. After some more views in the Crab Plovers, we moved to our accommodation for some afternoon rest after 3 very intense days!

Day 10. Very last day of the tour. In our way to Mascate from the East coast we still had time to stop and have some proper birding. In the way North there are a pair of reliable stops for raptors. We didn’t have a lot of time but in our visit to a small recicling place we saw 5+ Lappet-faced Vultures (Torgos tracheliotos) and 27+ Egyptian Vultures (Neophron percnopterus) along with some Brown-necked Ravens (Corvus rufisollis) and 2 Steppe Eagles!

Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos trachelietos)
Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus)

Happy after such a great stop we decided to have a last stop in some meadows near Mascate. Here we were again granted with some good surprises, since we got views on Jack Snipe (Lymnocriptes minumus) first and on 1 Pin-tailed Snipe (Gallinago stenura) later! Here we also got Marsh Sandpipers and a female Pintail (Anas acuta) as the very last species appearing in the tour before covering the short distance to the airport for a late afternoon flight back to Europe!

List of species seen along the tour:

  1. Sand Partridge (Ammoperdix heyi)
  2. Grey Francolin (Francolinus pondicerianus)
  3. Gadwall (Anas strepera)
  4. Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
  5. Pintail (Anas acuta)
  6. Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
  7. Garganey (Spatula querquedula)
  8. Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
  9. Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
  10. Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca)
  11. Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus)
  12. Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus)
  13. Crowned Sandgrouse (Pterocles coronata)
  14. Spotted Sandgrouse (Pterocles senegallus)
  15. Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse (Pterocles lichtensteinii)
  16. Feral Dove (Columba livia)
  17. Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
  18. Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis)
  19. Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis)
  20. Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
  21. Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra)
  22. Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
  23. Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)
  24. Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis)
  25. Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)
  26. Crab Plover (Dromas ardeola)
  27. Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
  28. Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
  29. Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)
  30. Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva)
  31. Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
  32. Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
  33. Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
  34. Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)
  35. Lesser Sand Plover (Charadrius mongolus)
  36. Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii)
  37. Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
  38. Pin-tailed Snipe (Gallinago stenura)
  39. Jack Snipe (Lymnocriptes minimus)
  40. Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)
  41. Eurasian Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)
  42. Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata)
  43. Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
  44. Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)
  45. Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis)
  46. Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
  47. Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)
  48. Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
  49. Terek’s Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus)
  50. Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
  51. Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpress)
  52. Sanderling (Calidris alba)
  53. Little Stint (Calidris minuta)
  54. Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii)
  55. Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
  56. Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)
  57. Broad-billed Sandiper (Limicola falcinellus)
  58. Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
  59. Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
  60. Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei)
  61. Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
  62. Heuglin’s Gull (Larus heuglini)
  63. Lesser-black backed Gull (Larus fuscus)
  64. Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)
  65. Sooty Gull (Ichthyaetus hemprichii)
  66. Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)
  67. Greater Crested Tern (Thalasseus bergii)
  68. Lesser Crested Tern (Thalasseus bengalensis)
  69. Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
  70. Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)
  71. Saunder’s Tern (Sternula saundersi)
  72. Bridled Tern (Onychoprion fuscata)
  73. Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hydridus)
  74. White-winged Black Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)
  75. Persian Shearwater (Puffinus persicus)
  76. Flesh-footed Shearwater (Ardenna carneipes)
  77. Jouanin’s Petrel (Bulweria fallax)
  78. African Openbill (Anastomus lamelligerus)
  79. Abdim’s Stork (Ciconia abdimii)
  80. White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)
  81. Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra)
  82. Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
  83. African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus)
  84. Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)
  85. Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis)
  86. Striated Heron (Butorides striata)
  87. Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
  88. Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii)
  89. Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
  90. Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
  91. Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
  92. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
  93. Western Reef Egret (Egretta gularis)
  94. Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
  95. Great White Egret (Casmerodius albus)
  96. Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)
  97. Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos)
  98. Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetos)
  99. Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus)
  100. Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga)
  101. Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
  102. Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)
  103. Verreaux’s Eagle (Aquila verreauxii)
  104. Bonelli’s Eagle (Aquila fasciata)
  105. Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
  106. Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus)
  107. Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus)
  108. Arabian Scops Owl (Otus pamelae)
  109. Desert Owl (Strix hadorami)
  110. Arabian Eagle Owl (Bubo milesis)
  111. Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
  112. Indian Roller (Coracias benghalensis)
  113. Eurasian Roller (Coracias garrulus)
  114. Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
  115. Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucephala)
  116. Arabian Green Bee-eater (Merops cyanophrys)
  117. Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)
  118. Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla)
  119. Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
  120. Alexandrine Parakeet (Psittacula eupatria)
  121. Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
  122. Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegalensis)
  123. Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
  124. Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)
  125. Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
  126. Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides)
  127. Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus)
  128. Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)
  129. Steppe Grey Shrike (Lanius pallidirostris)
  130. Levant Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor aucheri)
  131. Arabian Babbler (Turdoides squamiceps)
  132. African Paradise Flycatcher (Tersiphone viridis)
  133. White-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus leucotis)
  134. Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus afer)
  135. White-spectacled Bulbul (Pycnonotus xanthopygos)
  136. House Crow (Corvus splendens)
  137. Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis)
  138. Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhidipurus)
  139. Greater Short-toed Lark (Calandrella brachydactyla)
  140. Greater Hoopoe-lark (Alaemon alaudipes)
  141. Turkestan Lesser Short-toed Lark (Alaudala heinei)
  142. Desert Lark (Ammomanes deserti)
  143. Arabian Lark (Ammomanes eremodites)
  144. Black-crowned Sparrow-lark (Eremopterix nigriceps)
  145. Singing Bush Lark (Mirafra cantillans)
  146. Crested Lark (Galerida cristata)
  147. Sand Marting (Riparia riparia)
  148. Pale Rock Martin (Ptynoprogne obsoleta)
  149. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
  150. House Martin (Delichon urbicum)
  151. Levant Scrub Warbler (Scotocerca inquieta)
  152. Graceful Prinia (Prinia gracilis)
  153. Delicate Prinia (Prinia lepida)
  154. Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
  155. Siberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus tristis)
  156. Plain Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus neglectus)
  157. Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix)
  158. Eastern Olivaceous Warbler (Iduna pallida)
  159. Savi’s Warbler (Locustella luscinioides)
  160. Clamorous Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus)
  161. Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus)
  162. Asian Desert Warbler (Curruca nana)
  163. Lesser Whitethroat (Curruca curruca)
  164. Arabian Warbler (Curruca leucomelaena)
  165. Abyssian White-eye (Zosterops abyssinicus)
  166. Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)
  167. Rose-coloured Starling (Pastor roseus)
  168. Tristam’s Starling (Onychognatus tristamii)
  169. Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius)
  170. Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica)
  171. Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)
  172. Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros)
  173. Siberian Stonechat (Saxicola maurus)
  174. Isabelline Wheatear (Oenanthe isabellina)
  175. Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
  176. Desert Wheatear (Oenanthe deserti)
  177. Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe melanoleuca)
  178. Pied Wheatear (Oenanthe pleschanka)
  179. Blackstart (Oenanthe melanura)
  180. Arabian Wheatear (Oenanthe lugentoides)
  181. Hume’s Wheatear (Oenanthe albonigra)
  182. Hooded Wheatear (Oenanthe monacha)
  183. Persian Wheatear (Oenanthe chrysopygia)
  184. Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva)
  185. Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
  186. Nile Valley Sunbird (Hedydipna metallica)
  187. Palestine Sunbird (Cinnyris osea)
  188. Shinning Sunbird (Cinnyris habessinicus)
  189. Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus)
  190. Rüppell’s Weaver (Ploceus galbula)
  191. African Silverbill (Eudice cantans)
  192. Indian Silverbill (Eudice malabarica)
  193. Citrine Wagtail (Motacilla citreola)
  194. Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava)
  195. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
  196. Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
  197. Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris)
  198. Long-billed Pipit (Anthus similis)
  199. Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus)
  200. Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)
  201. Water Pipit (Anthus spinolleta)
  202. Yemen Serin (Crithagra menachensis)
  203. Arabian Grosbeak (Rhyncostrurhus percivali)
  204. Striolated Bunting (Emberiza striolata)
  205. Cinnamon-breasted Bunting (Emberiza tahapisi)

Other wildlife (Mammals)

  1. Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis)
  2. Arabian Tahr (Arabitragus jayakari)

Other wildlife (Reptilians)

  1. Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
  2. Desert Monitor Lizzard (Varanus griseus)
  3. Arabian Chameleon (Chamaeleon arabicus)

Other wildlife (Butterflies)

Coming soon

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!

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OTHER WIlDLIFE

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.