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OMAN

Friday 11th November - Saturday 19th November 2016

Mike Watson

Desert Owl, one of the tour highlights (Mike Watson).

Desert Owl, one of the tour highlights (Mike Watson).

Our tenth visit to Oman was a custom tour with a target list of some of the Sultanate’s most sought-after species, particularly Omani Owl. In fact this was our client’s only new bird in prospect! No pressure then. We eventually managed to see one after 24 hours of nocturnal searching, although this investment in hours of darkness on an already whistle-stop, shortened version of our usual itinerary seriously ate into our time for other birding possibilities in the north. However, we still had time to find a wintering flock of up to 13 Sociable Lapwings, a rare sight these days as well as regional specialties including Steppe Grey Shrike, Red-tailed and Hume’s Wheatears, Plain Leaf Warbler, Streaked Scrub Warbler and Striolated Bunting. The owls in the south of Oman were also high on our list of objectives but at least these (Desert, Arabian Spotted Eagle and Arabian Scops) were much kinder to us, allowing a little more time to enjoy the avian wonders of Dhofar, which included Arabian and Sand Partridges, Abdim’s Storks (530), Socotra Cormorant, Greater Spotted, Eastern Imperial and Verreaux’s Eagles, Baillon’s Crakes (five), Long-toed Stint, African Collared Dove, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Grey Hypocolius, Nile Valley Sunbird, the stunning Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak and the underwhelming Yemen Serin. An inshore pelagic boat trip off Mirbat resulted in point blank views of Persian Shearwater, Jouanin’s Petrel and Masked Booby, whilst the usual selection of surprise migrants allowed an opportunity to add Demoiselle Crane, Pied Kingfisher, Black-throated Thrush, European Robin (7th record), Song Thrush, Whinchat and Eurasian Skylark to the Birdquest Oman list. The tally of Birdquest ‘Diamond’ bird species was a worthwhile 39 and a selection of interesting mammals included Rüppell’s Fox, (Arabian) Grey Wolf, Nubian Ibex and False Killer Whale. It was also nice to experience somewhere in the world with normal weather for the time of year for a change, hot and sunny and often with not a single cloud in the sky (nor any tropical storm or cyclone this time). However, the full ‘super moon’, at its closest and brightest for 100 years, did not help our owling - it was like daylight in the mountains at midnight! Oman remains the safest country in the Middle East with a stunning landscape, great road network, generally good accommodation throughout and a warm welcome for tourists.

The critically endangered Sociable Lapwing can still be found wintering in Oman (Mike Watson).

The critically endangered Sociable Lapwing can still be found wintering in Oman (Mike Watson).