Friday, 18 December 2015

Holiday to Musandam, Oman

Jenny and I flew out to Dubai with an onward two hour journey to a remote area of Oman - the Musandam Peninsula.

It is unusual in that it has no borders with Oman itself and is actually joined only to the UAE.

Our flight arrived at 07.30 (though it was 03.30 in our bodies!) so we half dozed on our journey.

Nevertheless, Hoopoe, House Crow and Red Wattled Lapwing were seen on the journey.

Our home for the next 7 days was Zighy Bay which is isolated on a beach below the Hajar Mountains.

I had spent a few hours literally here on an educational visit and knew that I should get a few birds that are a bit different here from the normal fayre in the UAE.

However, it was a chill out holiday so my birding was restricted to an hour or so first thing or last thing each day.

There are four common birds which were seen everywhere - White Spectacled Bulbul, White Eared Bulbul, Laughing Dove and Mynah.

Strangely, Rock Dove, Collared Dove and House Sparrow were seen much less frequently!

Our accommodation was a small villa with a few palms and trees around.

Chiffchaff visited regularly but was not see outside our garden!

The hotel grounds themselves produced a few additions.

Purple Sunbirds are tiny and fast and seen particularly on palms where they would tend to sit in the heart of the tree heard but not seen. They are in winter plumage so not as striking as the summer but quite exotic nevertheless.

A scrubby area near the staff car park gave Eastern Bonellis Warbler but no photos as it just flitted in and out of the bushes. A female Blackcap did pose briefly and I found this is a rarity for the area!

Lesser Whitethroat and the more common (and lifer for me) Desert Whitethroat were also seen but too flitty for photos.

A walk just outside the hotel gave Indian Roller flying by, Tawny Pipit and the gorgeous Green Bee-Eater.

Pale Crag Martins (also lifer) were common first and last thing of the day. Sand Martins and a solitary Barn Swallow were also noted. Another bird only seen in half light at the beginning of the day was Arabian Babbler. Saw daily in the same distant place but the light was never great.

Towards the end of the resort was a dried up river bed which looked very birdy but was fenced off. I managed to find a gap in the fence on my last morning but added Black Redstart, Woodchat Shrike and Chukkar which were lightning fast across the rocks. One not great photo!

However, this foray was really worth it for a new lifer which I git excellent views. Two Striolated Bunting pecked and played for a full 5 minutes not more than 40 feet away.

A small area of Pampas type grass gave Indian Silverbill which are supposedly very common here but note elsewhere in Oman and UAE

Very quick and hard the photograph so just a record shot here.

One bird I had seen briefly on my last visit but was keen to see again was Hume's Wheatear - a real speciality of the area. However, I found out that they never come into the resort (one did last time otherwise I would not have seen it!). More commonly they were high up in the mountains.

Fortunately, the hotel had a restaurant high up in the hills (where I took my opening photo). I arranged for a car to take me up on the one day the restaurant was closed. It would leave me for an hour then come and pick me up.

It is just barren and rocky up here so hard to pick out birds.

50 minutes and not a single bird!

Then, glancing high on the top of a boulder I saw my target bird.

It did not seem to be phased by me though it was always a fair way off. However, I got a couple of half reasonable shots.

On my last fleeting visit, the massive beach through up a few waders but was mostly bird free.

A scope would have given me more birds as most were way off and not identifiable with binos. I did see Socotra Cormorant again but only a walk to a tiny marine gave me anything more.

However, this did give me Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper and Greenshank.

A single moored fishing boat had a solitary Western Reef Heron in white plumage and, although very distant, I did get it in dark plumage too.

However, there was one tiny area where a handful of Gulls and Terns congregated and ironically, all three species were lifers for me!

Most impressive were Sooty Gulls.

The other two species were Heuglins Gull and Lesser Crested Tern though the Terns always flew as soon as I got my camera to my eye!

Overall this trip was about quality over quantity.

Only 35 definite species but, with a scope I suspect it would have been over 40.

Nevertheless, 6 lifers and some great to see birds.

1 comment:

  1. Some good birds, there. Sooty gull and Hime's wheatear are good finds, as was the blackcap.