I have finally waded through the pictures from Oman. Here are a few more pictures, and there are many more on my OneDrive, on my Oman 2023 page.
The hunt for the Omani Owl turned into something of an epic, involving a post-midnight finish, followed by a 0130 start the following day. We didn’t see it, but we did hear it.
After we left the plateau we had a long drive down to the coast for a night to see some waders, including about 1000 Crab Plovers. Our efforts were hampered by taking an hour to remove two of our cars from the deep mud they had gone into. This was followed by a very long drive into the desert, which is largely flat, barren, featureless sand and grit, but we did see some impressive dune systems. A long day ended with us going out to a local oasis for some Nightjars, with amazing results. We had ultra-close views of European and Egyptian Nightjars.
This morning a return to the same oasis found classic desert birds, such as Greater Hoopoe Lark and Cream-coloured Courser, both of which dash around on the ground like mad.
Our trip to Oman has proven to be an exercise in sleep deprivation, with very early starts for travel to Oman and also hunting for the Omani Owl.
Yesterday had a boat trip to see some Sooty Falcons, fantastic birds, and a look around some cultivated fields that were rich in birds, particularly Bee-eaters and Rollers.
Today was a very early start to go into “Wadi Mac” hunting for the Omani Owl. We had no luck with that, but did get Pallid Scops Owl and a good few other cracking birds that specialise in the habitat. A stunning place to be half asleep. This afternoon we drove into the mountains, ready for tonight’s visit to another wadi in search of the owl.
We went to Finland in 2014 to see the northern lights and spent a week looking at thick cloud. Since then it has become an obsession for Karen, staring at the sky every time the Aurora Watch app suggests there might be some activity. (The facts that we’re in the south of England, and it’s cloudy seem not to deter her). At 0251 on Monday morning in Flamborough, we finally managed the combination of latitude, solar activity and starry sky. Obviously I had all the wrong cameras with me, so all we managed were some rubbishy shots on our phones, but they’re still way more impressive than you can see with the naked eye. You could definitely see columnar structure and colour wash, just not the detail and saturation the camera manages.
Elsewhere on our trip up north, there were two lifers. We twitched the Brown Booby on the Tees: it left the close perch just before we arrived, but at least it hung around for us. A few days’ seawatching at Flamborough proved productive, with four species of Shearwater, including Cory’s, a UK lifer, and four species of Skua. It’s a good job that the seawatching was good – there was nothing at all on land.
A plan for a lazy Sunday fell to pieces at lunchtime, when a report of an Aquatic Warbler at Beeding Brooks arrived. It was in walking range, but this was a world lifer, and a really tricky bird to catch up with – they don’t turn up reliably anywhere, and they don’t hang around when they do appear. A drive over got us to within 200 yards of the bird while it was showing beautifully, unfortunately on the wrong side of a bridge that had been closed, unbeknownst to us, leaving a mile detour. Needless to say, being greeted quarter of an hour later with the words “it showed brilliantly 10 minutes ago” was galling. After a false alarm with a Sedge Warbler, I eventually found it and had a superb view at close range for a few seconds. Karen missed it, and when it appeared on the other side of the bush, where we couldn’t get to without flushing it frustration levels went up another notch. The next couple of hours yielded only a few very brief flight shots, but eventually we got a few half-decent views, although it was never easy.
A return to the scene of the crime this evening yielded more of the same: rubbish views in flight and occasional half decent views across the river, but always brief. Nevertheless, a beautiful and very tricky bird to catch up with made it a special day.
Autumn migration is really underway now, with large numbers of Spotted Flycatchers, and Redstarts on the Downs, although there are still none down around us yet. The local Little Owl finally put in an appearance, having been absent all year, much to my chagrin, and our first rarity of the autumn, a Red-backed Shrike, lured us to Shoreham on Monday. A return to long walks after a pretty lethargic summer.
July was a damp squib, with pretty horrible weather every weekend. That coincided with the birding midsummer doldrums, so moths and butterflies took centre stage.
A few autumn migrants are trickling though the downs now, but until today there was nothing to speak of at home, but a glance out of the window this afternoon found a Turtle Dove sitting in a bush behind the garden. That’s only the third we’ve had at home, and a bird that gorgeous is always welcome.
We spent last week in Norfolk with my family. There were some good birds around, but they were all rather distant. The insects were rather better, though and there were some nice orchids too.
Nightjars have been the focus of the last two weekends. Last Sunday we did our annual walk to Pulborough to get them on our on-foot list. It was a successful walk, with Little Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit and Golden Plover added to the list, but the Nightjars were a disappointment, with just churring and no views. The wind made our walk back through the night a slog without much interest. Last night we visited Iping Common (we were driving past anyway) and the Nightjar action was much better, with them even posing for us.
A singing Quail dragged us up to Cissbury today. We heard it, just, over the wind noise, but it wasn’t too rewarding. Far more rewarding was the Scarce Chaser we found on the way back home – a new dragonfly for us.
The mill stream at Woods Mill seems to be the place to be for Turtle Dove this year, at least for everyone else. We spent about 4 hours there on 9th, and all we heard was someone telling us that there had been one purring on the reserve earlier. Another two hours on Sunday yielded nothing, but we went on to the reserve, where it had been the previous time, and had nice views of a purring bird. 49 miles for a bird is a bit of an effort, though.
On the way back we had a very showy Banded Demoiselle by the river, and on the down behind us a very cooperative Beautiful Demoiselle, much more friendly than the ones at Woods Mill.