OMAN

where birds from Asia, Arabia and Africa meet

 

 

 

 ''This is a 'thank you' for the excellent Oman trip in February. Neatly missing the worst of the English winter, and

    presenting us with a host of interesting birds from a real mix of sources, you could hardly have laid it on better.

      And as someone drawn to raptors, waders, gulls, sandgrouse and wheatears I couldn't have asked for much

more either.''... Mr L, N Yorks.

 

''Just to say thanks again for a great holiday. Wonderful memories of so many eagles and, of course, the Bluethroat!

We both thoroughly enjoyed the experience in what was a new part of the world for us.'' Mr and Mrs T. Jan 2013.

 

 

 

 

                                                                                     

 

click here for a pdf version of this destination write-up  -  easier to print  -  no photos

 

 

Oman is a peaceful, friendly country with strong connections to the UK, virtually no crime, and bird diversity second to none in the Middle East.

 

At this time of year, when the weather is just perfect, there is a very high density of wintering raptors. Greater Spotted, Steppe and even Eastern Imperial Eagles are plentiful and give excellent views. Now rare and local, the negevensis race of the huge Lappet-faced Vulture is regular at a couple of sites. Along the north coast magnificent Great Black-headed Gulls are in full breeding plumage, alongside Sooty, Caspian and Slender-billed Gulls. Crested and Lesser Crested Terns gather together in large roosts. A boat trip should give us close views of dolphins and Red-necked Phalaropes. We have permission to visit a large private farm where migrants can be seen in their hundreds. Irrigated grasslands host flocks of waders and small birds which, in turn, attract raptors including Pallid and Montagu’s Harriers.

 

Our excursion to the deserts of central Oman is to witness flocks of sandgrouse, as well as to search the oases for other specialities. The southern region is influenced by a monsoon, resulting in flora and fauna unique in Arabia. The birds here have an African influence, with Bruce’s Green Pigeon, African Rock Bunting and African Paradise Flycatcher alongside South Arabian Wheatear and Pheasant-tailed Jacana.

 

Oman is a safe, welcoming country, if anything somewhat old-fashioned in terms of good manners and public behaviour. We always look forward to returning, and this will be our tenth visit.

 

 

ITINERARY

 

THE NORTH

After our flight we will go straight to the nearby Majan Hotel in Muscat, our base for the first five nights. From here we have easy access to the best sites along the northern coast and the coastal mountains.

 

The verdant parks and gardens of Muscat provide a good place to start the tour and catch up with the commoner species of the area. Grey Francolin, Laughing Dove, Little Green Bee-eater, Pallid Swift, Isabelline Shrike, Purple Sunbird, African Rock Martin, and White-eared, Spectacled and Red-vented Bulbuls all occur. The Indian influence is felt by the presence of Indian Roller, Common Myna and Indian Silverbill.

 

We will visit the Ras Sawadi peninsula where we will check the extensive beach for Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers. Sometimes we can pick out the distinctive Terek Sandpiper amongst the more familiar species. Both Crested and Lesser Crested Terns rest up on the sand dwarfed by the “king of gulls” the stunning Great Black-headed Gull.

 

Inland the scrub woodland harbours an interesting mix of resident and wintering species. The sociable Arabian Babbler lives here in small family groups amongst the low vegetation. Southern Grey Shrikes sit sentinel on the acacia trees, whilst below them Desert Lesser Whitethroats and Menetries’s Warblers chatter in alarm. This is a regular site for the sought after Red-tailed or Persian Wheatear.

 

Nearby cultivated farms hold flocks of larks and wagtails including Bimaculated and Crested Larks, White, Yellow and Citrine Wagtails. Scarcer pipits may include Buff-bellied, Blyth’s or Richards Pipits as well as the commoner Red-throated. Large congregations of Laughing and Collared Doves attract hunting raptors. We have regular sightings of Pallid and Montagu’s Harriers as well as Steppe, Greater Spotted and Eastern Imperial Eagles.

 

One morning we will visit the old port of Muscat, with its Sooty and Slender-billed Gulls, Crested Terns and Western Reef Herons. From here we will take an inshore boat trip on the sheltered waters, where Red-necked Phalaropes congregate around pods of feeding dolphins. Common, Bottlenose and Spinner Dolphins are the most numerous. On one visit we watched 40 Long-beaked Common Dolphins attacking fish in massive swirling shoals known as bait balls.

 

Red-wattled Lapwing, Pacific Golden Plover, Arabian Babbler and Clamorous Reed Warbler are common, and we will search the local wetlands for the less common wintering species such as White-tailed Plover and Bluethroat.

 

THE DESERT AND QIT-BIT OASIS

Oman is isolated from the rest of Arabia by a vast desert named the Empty Quarter. This desert encroaches into the middle of the country thereby dividing it up, roughly, into three zones: the Indian influenced north; the central desert and the African influenced south.

 

On day seven we will take a short flight south to Salalah then drive deep into the desert to the Qit-bit oasis, for a two night stay. The next morning we will position ourselves at a nearby desert spring to witness the arrival of hundreds of sandgrouse. Spotted and the handsome Crowned Sandgrouse fly many miles every day for this life-saving drink. The gentle yet far-carrying calls of these hardy birds are a memorable sound in this spectacular landscape.

 

The trees and pools around our guesthouse attract Desert Wheatears, Eastern Black Redstarts, and Ménétries’ and Asian Desert Warblers, while Hoopoe Larks often display at this time. The list of migrant birds and rarities here is amazing. Even the Grey Hypocolius has wintered recently; we have seen them on our last two visits.

 

Our drive back to the southern coastal region takes us through a mountain pass that is excellent for South Arabian Wheatear, Arabian Partridge and Long-billed Pipit. Our first groups of Tristram’s Grackles should be seen in the frankincense trees that grow here and once provided Oman with its biggest trading resource.

 

SALALAH

In the quiet seaside town of Salalah we will settle into the fabulous Salalah Hilton for a luxurious five night stay on the coast, with Ruppell’s Weavers, Graceful Prinias and Shining Sunbirds in the gardens. Masked Boobies and Indo-pacific Humpback Dolphins feed just offshore. Ospreys are frequent, and Socotra Cormorants pass by. Brown Booby is scarce but regular.

 

This region has a monsoon season, so the vegetation is quite different. Acacia and Baobab trees are found, giving the area a real African feel. African Silverbill replaces its Indian sister-species. Fan-tailed Raven is the common corvid, Verreaux’s Eagle is resident and the striking African Rock Bunting is easily seen. Wooded valleys are home to Palestine Sunbird, African Paradise Flycatcher, Arabian Warbler, White-breasted White-eye and Black-crowned Tchagra. Fruiting fig trees are worth checking for the handsome Bruce’s Green Pigeon. The coastal lagoons have a good range of wintering waterbirds including Ferruginous Duck, Intermediate Egret and Pheasant-tailed Jacana.

 

There are a couple of large farms here too, where we will look for Sociable Plover, Bimaculated Lark and Pallid Harrier, and various other migrants. A small breeding population of the localised Yemen Serin has been found at a dramatic site in the hills, where Bonelli’s Eagles and Striolated Buntings nest.

 

The sun-drenched, southern coastal wetlands are a magnet for a multitude of terns, waders, raptors and passerines, and are set against a backdrop of the splendid Dhofar Mountains. We regularly see up to 400 Steppe Eagles here, while Crested Honey Buzzards can be seen in Salalah town.

 

In the morning of our last day we will take a shuttle flight from Salalah to Muscat, connecting with our flight back to the UK.

 

PACE

On some days breakfast will be taken at 8am, allowing time for productive pre-breakfast walks in hotel grounds. On other days breakfast will be at 7am so that we can get into the field earlier. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field with short walks on the flat. A little uphill walking is necessary, but this will be at a sensible pace. On hot days there will be a longer break in the middle of the day, with birding in the mornings and late afternoons.

 

ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD

Full board accommodation is provided, with five nights at the Majan Hotel near Muscat, two nights at the Qit-bit Hotel and five nights at the Hilton Hotel in Salalah. All hotels are of good or excellent standard, with good food, except at Qit-bit, which is simple but clean. All rooms are en suite. Picnic lunches will be the norm, although we will have lunch in restaurants on a couple of occasions.

 

PRICE INCLUDES …..

All birdwatching excursions with expert leader, full-board accommodation (starting with lunch on 27th, ending with breakfast on 8th), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-coach, boat trip, internal flights, international flights and airport taxes.

 

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED

Travel insurance. Cost of obtaining a visa on arrival (£35), items of a personal nature, alcoholic drinks, laundry.

 

INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS

Return flight from London Heathrow to Muscat using the scheduled services of Oman Air. Outbound flight departs in mid-evening; return arrives back early evening. Domestic flights from Manchester and other UK airports are available on this tour. See booking form for details.

 

 

 

13 nights including

one overnight flight:

                               

Principal leader:

 

Maximum group size:

 

Cost with discount

(if you book before

13th October 2014):

 

Full Cost:

 

Single supplement:

 

Deposit:

 

 

           

26th January to 8th Feb. 2015

 

John McLoughlin

 

10 clients with one leader

 

 

 

£3330 per person sharing

 

£3480 per person sharing

 

£590

 

£600

 

A ground only price is available. Please contact our office.

 

 

 

Cream-coloured Courser can sometimes be found at the large irrigated farms

 

Sooty Gull, an attractive gull of coastal regions

 

A young Steppe Eagle near Salalah, hundreds winter in this area

 

Black-crowned Tchagra sometimes show themselves

 

Desert Wheatears are a common winter visitor to Oman

 

Barbary Falcon

 

Lesser Crested Terns gather with gulls and other terns on the sandy beaches of the north coast

 

Crowned Sandgrouse coming in to drink at a water hole in the "Empty Quarter"

 

 

 

 

click here to see the photographs in our Oman Album

 

 

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