Last Thursday was the only day during Eid when I had no long distance travelling. I stayed in the Buraimi area on the border with UAE. I visited two sites there: Buraimi sewage plant and Jebel Qatar. Both are conveniently on the same road to Mahdah and barely five kilometres apart.
The sewage plant is modern and organised into cascading holding pools which get progressively cleaner as reeds and exposure to air do their job. The down side of all this modernity is that there is very little cover except thick reeds in organised places and no natural banking to the pools. The best hope of anything special here is Egyptian goose which is regularly sighted at Al Ain pools which are very close but in UAE.
There has only been one accepted record of them at Buraimi though. That was 6 birds on September 30th 2006 and only two other records in other parts of Oman. Unfortunately I didn’t add to the records despite tow visits in one day. The first visit was just after dawn.
With so little cover, two common snipe were found sleeping out in the open. Even when they flew off they were still drowsy.
two common snipe sleeping
Elsewhere, most pools had a splattering of garganey.
garganey with a black-winged stilt
Buraimi like Dhofar, which is 900 kilometres away, still hasn’t seen the arrival of other types of duck in large numbers.
Not unexpectedly, common moorhen were indeed very common and were darting in and out of the thick reeds.
The banks of the pools had an assortment of waders notably green sandpiper, common sandpiper, wood sandpiper, little stint and Temminck’s stint. At the end of the morning session, I wandered off to the scrubland near-by.
grey francolin and laughing dove
It was good to see grey francolin. This bird is common in the north of the country but none existent in the centre and south including Dhofar.
The same goes for purple sunbird.
The near-by rubbish tip was attractive to little green bee-eater and many tens of European collared dove. One small pond created by run off from a washing terminal for dirty water vehicles was arguably one of the best spots on the whole site. Even in the morning birds were landing to drink. These included many of the species already mentioned and two others. These were white-eared bulbul and chestnut-bellied sandgrouse.
chestnut-bellied sandgrouse arriving to drink
I came back in the late afternoon to see if the cast had changed. A few extra birds were seen.
aucheri – Arabian grey shrike
One was an Arabian grey shrike. It was trying very hard to stay cool.
A rubbish dump next to a set of water pools is an ideal location for red-wattled lapwing. I saw some briefly in the morning but had much better views in the afternoon. I finally discovered one duck that wasn’t a garganey.
It turned out to be a teal. I suspect this site could be very good for ducks in winter. Indeed I understand ducks which are rare in Oman and which don’t often make it all the way down to Dhofar are much more likely here. These include ruddy shelduck for example.
I also made two visits to Jebel Qatar. One was after my early morning visit to the sewage works and the second was after my second visit to the sewage works in other words towards dusk. Just as I failed to see my target of Egyptian goose at the sewage works, I failed to find trumpeter finch on Jebel Qatar despite a total of five hours on there. If birding were easy I wouldn’t do it.
The irony is I saw trumpeter finch on my visit to UAE last spring very close to this site but the other side of the border. Nevertheless, there were good birds on or near the mountain. These included Lichtenstein’s sandgrouse and sand partridge as well as striolated bunting.
Several Hume’s wheatear were sighted as was a hoopoe and surprisingly a green sandpiper. I think the latter was on the mountain because there have been recent rains leaving some isolated pools.
I miss Arabian babbler which was common in much of Saudi Arabia but which I had only seen once before in Oman at Al Ansab wetland, Muscat. Three of them at Jebel Qatar were only my second sighting in this country.
Last Friday I moved away from Buraimi heading north at first. This time a target bird was found. I will blog about this next.