450 species of birds have been identified in the Sultanate
of Oman: some are passage migrants, some are resident while
others are breeding visitors. There are just over 85 resident
birds living in Oman all year round, while the majority are
"migratory" birds which visit the country only at
certain times of the year. In Muscat, Indian Rollers, Little
Green Beeeaters, Yellow-Vented Bulbuls, Graceful Prinias and
the Purple Sunbirds can be seen at any time of the year. Muscat
is also one of the best places in the world to study the Steppe
Eagle and one may see up to 100 at any one time. Travel by
boat to the Daymaniyat Islands nature reserve. The birds that
visit the islands to breed in summer include the Sooty Gull,
Roseate Tern, White Cheeked Tern, Bridled Tern and the Western
Plain stretching between the mountains of the Western
Hajar and the Gulf of Oman from Muscat to the UAE border holds
farmland which is attractive to birds flying high during migrations.
There are several important bird sites in this region: the offshore
Sawadi Islands have breeding Sooty Falcons in summer, and the
Daymaniyat Islands in the Gulf of Oman have breeding Ospreys
in winter and thousands of Bridled Terns and other tern species
Lagoons lie about 30kms west of Muscat. In summer hardly
any water can be spared for the ponds and water-level drops
daramatically, exposing large muddy areas - ideal for waders.
During the winter months when less water is needed for irrigation,
the ponds fill up again. The lagoons have turned into the most
interesting site for birds in the capital area. To date almost
200 species of birds have been recorded here. A visit any time
from September to May is likely to produce a list of over 50
species. From early autumn, waders from their high Arctic breeding
grounds start to arrive. Little Stint, Temminck's Stint, Dunlin
and Curlew Sandpiper are there in good numbers. The noisy Wood
- and Green Sandpipers are easy to find and even the two uncommon
Spotted Redshank and Marsh Sandpiper usually put in an appearance.
Members of the
Crake family are usually very hard to see as they tend to hide
in reedbeds and other dense vegetation during the day. At Al
Ansab Lagoons, however, we have often seen Spotted Crake and
Baillon's Crake completely out in the open in clear sunshine.
During the autumn months the number of Black-Necked Grebes gradually
increases at the lagoons until a maximum of 30 to 40 is reached
in December. The fact that the numbers build up slowly indicate
that these birds regularly migrate through the area. The Grebes
must just have continued unnoticed before the lagoons came into
existence. Now the birds find the area to their liking and settle
in for winter. Their cousin, the Little Grebe stay all year
and a few pairs have nested in recent years.
raptors of several species become more apparent. On hot days
we have seen 25 to 30 Steppe Eagles sitting next to each other
drinking water from one of the ponds. In addition to Steppe
Eagles, Imperial and Great Spotted Eagles are commonly encountered.
The whole area must be one of the best in the world for large
birds of prey. More than once have we seen five species of eagles
within half an hour. In mid-winter ducks are common. About ten
species are usually seen with Green-Winged Teal being the most
numerous. Various species of herons frequent the ponds and even
White Spoonbill and Glossy Ibis are regularly recorded.
During the spring
months the number of birds gradually declines as they start
to move north. Attention now turns to the breeding populations
of Black-Winged Stilts and Red-Wattled Lapwings. It is amazing
that the eggs and chicks can survive, as both species breed
in the hottest time of the year: May and June. The first breeding
record of Black-Winged Stilts in Oman was here at Al Ansab lagoon
in 1987, when three pairs successfully raised their young. Since
then up to 15 pairs have nested there each season.
Witness the arrival
of Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse. These birds come to drink only
when it is almost dark. Then they seem to drop straight out
of the sky. Suddenly they are there. Hundreds of Pied Wagtails
take off in groups of 20 to 50, presumably to head north towards
their breeding grounds. Scores of Barn Swallows and Sand Martins
are in abudance. In addition to birds the area is well endowed
with plant and insect life. Even the shy Arabian Gazelle has
been sighted having a drink at midday.