Welcome to Birdquest
Following our recent successful visits to Oman to see the newly described Omani Owl we have revised our Oman & Bahrain itinerary to incorporate a visit to its home deep in the Al Hajar Mountains of Northern Oman.
Omani Owl is not to be found in any field guides yet so, just in case you are wondering what it is, here is some background to its discovery... or rather rediscovery! Early in 2013, whilst recording the vocalisations of Pallid Scops Owl, our friends at the Sound Approach made the exciting discovery of a previously unknown Strix owl call. Subsequent events resulted in them describing a new species 'Omani Owl'. However, a recent museum study has claimed that, rather than being a 'new' species, Omani Owl actually represents the type specimen of the bird we have long known as Hume's Owl (Strix butleri), which was thought to have originated in Baluchistan. Hume's Owl is now thought to comprise of two separate species, 'Omani Owl' (or rather now simply Hume's Owl, as this was the first form described) and the newly described Desert (Tawny) Owl, which many of us will have already seen in its extensive range from Egypt, across Israel and Arabia to southern Oman. To add further spice to an already complex situation, there is a recent claim of 'Omani Owl' from Iran, supported by some stunning photographs. Whilst we have probably not heard the last of this taxonomic event, particularly as DNA evidence from the owls in northern Oman has yet to be obtained, whatever Omani Owl ends up being known as, it looks likely to remain a separate species from what is now proposed as Desert (Tawny) Owl. We were the first tour group to see Omani Owl as well as playing a part in the discovery of a second site for it, where we have already returned to see it again. The owl's domain is the deep and cavernous wadis of the jagged limestone Al Hajar Mountain range and we will spend two full nights here on our revised Oman & Bahrain itinerary searching for it. It appears to be strictly nocturnal so we will search for it at night and apart from some early morning daylight birding in the mountain wadis we will generally rest during the day.
We see some other great owls on this tour, including the 'new' Desert (Tawny) Owl (we have never missed this one!) as well as a potential further split, Arabian (Greyish) Eagle-Owl (split from African Spotted and then from Greyish Eagle-Owl!), a recent split, Arabian Scops Owl and an old favourite, the sought-after Pallid Scops Owl.
A host of regional specialities includes Jouanin's Petrel, Persian Shearwater, Socotra Cormorant, Sooty Falcon, Arabian and Sand Partridges, the strange Crab-Plover, Sooty Gull, Saunders's and White-cheeked Terns, Egyptian Nightjar, Spotted and Crowned Sandgrouse, Plain Leaf and Arabian Warblers, Arabian Babbler, Hume’s and Iranian (or Eastern/Persian Mourning) Wheatears, Blackstart, Nile Valley and Palestine Sunbirds, Yemen Serin and of course, number one on most folks' wish lists, Grey Hypocolius, the sole member of its family.
Oman and Bahrain offer a brilliant mixture of easy desert birding, superb migration ‘hotspots’ and some exciting Arabian and Middle Eastern specialities that can be enjoyed in two safe countries.
Take a look at our revised OMAN & BAHRAIN tour itinerary which includes both these remarkable owls and much more besides!