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OMAN

Tuesday 21st October - Saturday 8th November 2014

Mike Watson

Grey Hypocolius, Bahrain - we were very thankful to maintain our 100% success rate with this beautiful 'desert waxwing' (Mike Watson)

Grey Hypocolius, Bahrain - we were very thankful to maintain our 100% success rate with this beautiful 'desert waxwing' (Mike Watson)

Our seventh Oman & Bahrain tour was another successful visit to this region, recording a respectable total of 243 species and 58 Birdquest ‘diamond’ species (regional specialities). All this despite the effective loss of the best single birding site in Oman, Sohar Sun Farms, and the failure to get to Masirah Island owing to a tropical storm (again), where we would certainly have added to our total. Oman is well established as the premier birding destination in the Middle East for so many reasons. It is full of regional specialties, offers a fantastic migration spectacle as well as some great sea birding. The highlights this time were Oman’s special owls. We saw Omani Owl again, only the second tour group to see it, as well as Hume’s Owl, Pallid and Arabian Scops Owls and a new addition and potential split, Arabian Spotted Eagle-Owl. A great mixture of Middle Eastern specialities and sought-after migrants included: Arabian and Sand Partridges; Persian Shearwater; Jouanin’s Petrel; Masked Booby; Socotra Cormorant; Sooty and Barbary Falcons; Little Crake; Crab-Plover; White-tailed Lapwing; Long-toed Stint; Broad-billed Sandpiper; Sooty Gull; Saunders’s Tern; Spotted, Crowned and Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse; African Collared Dove; Bruce’s Green Pigeon; Forbes Watson’s Swift; Steppe Grey Shrike; Fan-tailed Raven; Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark; White-spectacled Bulbul; Streaked Scrub Warbler; Plain Leaf Warbler; Sykes’s Warbler; Arabian Babbler; Arabian Warbler; Ménétries’s Warbler; Abyssinian White-eye; Tristram’s Starling; Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin; Red-tailed, Arabian, Variable and Hume’s Wheatears; Blackstart; Nile Valley, Palestine and Shining Sunbirds; Rüppell’s Weaver; Indian Silverbill; Sykes’s Wagtail; Yemen Serin and Striolated Bunting. We also added Baltic Gull, Greater White-fronted Goose, Cotton Pygmy Goose and Red-rumped Swallow to our Oman List and one of us caught a glimpse of a Watercock, an Omani mega.

The Kingdom of Bahrain weighed in again with the most sought-after bird of the circuit, Grey Hypocolius (a wonderful pre-roost gathering of around 200 birds) plus Egyptian Nightjar, Iranian (or Persian/Eastern Mourning) Wheatear and a couple of vagrants, White-crowned Wheatear and Short-toed Snake Eagle. A very good line-up worth the small detour across the Gulf! Oman remains the safest country in the Middle East with a stunning landscape, great road network, generally good food and accommodation throughout and a warm welcome for tourists. It was also good to see that Bahrain has now put the Arab spring firmly behind it and has returned to peace and quiet again, with the exception of its busy roads of course. Our wonderful hosts there made our stay a very special one as usual. It is such a shame that many people are influenced by activities in far off Egypt, Gaza, Iraq and Syria and the whole of the Middle East gets tarred with the same brush!

Sooty Falcon, Al Fahl Island - the 2014 tour saw our best ever encounters with this superb little falcon (Mike Watson)

Sooty Falcon, Al Fahl Island - the 2014 tour saw our best ever encounters with this superb little falcon (Mike Watson)