BIRDING IN OMAN
Many people have asked us why we were working on interpretation panels with a focus on birds, and in particular wetland species, in the desert land of Oman. Surely there are not many birds? The fact is that many migrant birds from Eastern Europe and Asia winter at, or pass through Oman and the Al Ansab wetlands. These cover some 40 ha and have been formed by effluent discharged from Muscat city’s sewage treatment works. Haya Water, the administrative authority,
is in the process of developing a world class birding facility with interpretation media and bird hides.
Aerial view of the Haya Water Al Ansab lagoons. Source: Google Earth, 2014
Oman is the easternmost country of the Arabian Peninsula and is ideally situated for a diverse assemblage of African, Oriental and Palaearctic birds, and many seabirds. In total, nearly 450 species have been recorded. It covers 212,500 square km and has 2.5 million inhabitants, half of which are expatriates. The country opened up in 1970 when the current Sultan — Qaboos ibn Said — took over and it has developed tremendously since then. The infrastructure is excellent with good roads and the scenery fantastic. Food, provided you stick to Indian, Chinese or Arabic is cheap and very good. The people are very friendly and relaxed and the country is absolutely hassle-free and clean. Oman also encompasses the peninsula known as the Musandam, bordering the important Straits of Hormuz and separated from the major part of the country by the UAE. There are also some small Omani enclaves in the eastern UAE. Travel to Musandam is possible via domestic flights, 4x4 (slightly more complicated as it requires visas through UAE) or boat.
An oasis somewhere in Oman
Wadi Shab, Oman
Although Oman is 90% desert, mostly gravel desert in the northern area, there are diverse habitats ranging from steep fjords in the far north, mangrove fringed shorelines, saltwater and brackish lagoons, tidal mudflats and forests in the far south.
Muscat, is very hot and dusty in the summer with temperatures reaching 50 degrees C or more. Winter is when you probably want to visit and the temperatures are then very moderate. Salalah, in Dhofar Governate the far south is much cooler in the summer because of the summer monsoon.
Dhofar province near Salalah during the summer monsoon.
The seas off Salalah are deep, with whales, dolphins, turtles and pelagic birds.The spectacular Dhofar province in the south has numerous good birding sites. The “Fat Birder” writes: “… bridled tern, skuas, Jouanin petrel (anywhere off the coast); Audubon’s, pale-footed and sometimes wedge-tailed shearwater, red-necked phalaropes in large numbers, and many other species.
The mountain forests of the south hold many afro-tropical species, such as African paradise flycatcher, shining sunbird, yellow-bellied green pigeon, African rock bunting etc. Hume’s tawny owl, spotted eagle owl, African scops owl and Verraux’s eagle breed. Spotted, steppe, imperial and Bonelli’s and booted eagles are common during the migration/ winter season and rarities such as tawny eagle, long-tailed shrike and lesser spotted eagle have also turned up. So many raptors in fact that Muscat has been called the eagle capital of the world. Of Arabian endemics, Yemen serin, golden-winged grosbeak and Arabian red-legged partridge occur, with Yemen linnet a vagrant.
The coastal khors (saltwater lagoons) are a haven for resident and migrant water birds: pheasant-tailed jacana, lesser flamingo, African spoonbill, long-toed stint being more or less regular, with migrant herons, little bitterns, pintail snipes, Baillon’s crakes and in some years pale rock sparrows. Yellow bittern apparently has its sole breeding area in Arabia here.
The country is under-watched, even if a small local group of birders are very active, and there is much to discover.”
For more on Oman’s birds go to: