Sunday, 29 November 2015

Oman: Dhofar 1

We left the central desert and drove south towards the coast:

Our target, Salalah, the coastal khawrs and the wadis of the Dhofar Mountains:

The Dhofar Mountains are unique in Oman, as they are green. The extreme southern coast of Oman benefits from the influence of the monsoon, which provides rainfall between June and September, something that is a scarcity in the rest of the country. This year was an El Niño year, so the monsoon was weak, with the locals complaining of low water levels. Nevertheless the contrast between the Dhofar coast and the rest of the country was striking. We drove south from the arid central desert and found ourselves crossing mountains covered in vegetation, with trees with green leaves:

The wadis that drain water from the mountains almost feel like African savannah. The bird life reflects this too, with many African species present that are not found in the rest of the country:

We arrived in Salalah late afternoon and went straight to a East Khawr, a body of water immediately east of the town. The sun was behind us and we spent a pleasant hour enjoying the high tide wader roost:

Ruff were the most numerous wader species present, with around 300 present. Two white birds stood out:

Black-winged Stilts, Spotted Redshanks, Greenshanks and Marsh Sandpipers (below) were all seen, with Squacco, Grey and Western Reef Herons. Ducks included Garganey and Pintail, with Osprey and Marsh Harrier making up the raptors:

Over 100 Glossy Ibis were present, they left in large flocks in the late afternoon:

The bushes on the east side held Rüppell's Weaver, Desert Wheatears, Chiffchaffs and Graceful Prinia... 

 ...and our first Shining Sunbirds. The males were stunning:

We planned to base ourselves in Salalah and checked into this hotel on the beach. From here we could get to all the local sites within 45 minutes drive, a relief having spent the best part of two days driving the length of Oman:

The beach at Salalah gave us our first experience of Omani beach culture. The women all worn burkas, البرقع, the long black garment that covers the head and body:

But burkas don't protect you against everything. As the sun went down, the Sooty Gulls closed in on their prey, circling their victim, as she desperately called for help. There was no mercy.

Next: Shawadi Wadi birding at Dhofar's finest sites. 

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