Tuesday, 14 February 2017

A quick dash to Oman!

I needed to do a visa run for the UAE immigration & Khalifa put the idea of the Omani Owl into my head, so I needed no further encouragement! We met up in Al Ain on 12th February & crossed the border at Meyzad & drove to Jebel Akhdar. 

The fabled location!

Late afternoon.

It really is a very nice spot.

Khalifa & his trusty chariot.

Khalifa & I.

One of the ancient watch towers
 which used to guard the wadi.

We arrived on site around 4.30 pm, it was a bright sunny afternoon with a little breeze. Not bad conditions at all! Khalifa had done all the homework & we set about checking the area for an owl to be sunning itself! After about an hour, we both heard a series of owl calls high up about 500m from us. We rushed to the area but couldn't see the bird as it was calling from behind a ridge (& it was impossible to climb). One possibly two birds called for around nine minutes, then silence. Fifteen minutes later, one possibly two birds called in duet. It is difficult to be certain because of possible echos in the wadi.

Arabian Red Fox.

It got dark, nothing calling at all. We started the search by torchlight & after about one & half hours Khalifa thought he saw an owl fly, but I didn't see it & it was quickly lost to sight. We spent quite a while looking for it but without success. We then moved on about another 300 m & I picked eye shine up in the torch. It was the Owl perched in a tree, but partially hidden! We tried to get better views but it turned its head so no eye shine & we lost it. We spent another hour in the field but no further sightings or indeed calls. No photos I am afraid. We slept in the car & was woken by a large herd of goats in the morning!

An Omani dawn.

It is a long & windy road to the very top.

Small groups of feral donkeys roam the hillsides.

After again briefly searching the area we left to explore Jebel Akhdar. This is a spectacular location & it rises far above the surrounding plains & it is so big! Birds were thin on the ground but we recorded both Lappet faced & Egyptian Vultures; Humes & Red tailed Wheatears; Plain Leaf Warbler, plenty of Desert Lesser Whitethroat & Eastern Black Redstarts but little else.

Al Ain

Looking down into the village.

Fruit gardens

Male Eastern Black Redstart


Male Purple Sunbird

Arabian Toad

Found in the falaj system.

Terraced farm land.

An abandoned traditional house.

Omani homes often having elaborate doors or gates.

The more modern part of the village.

Khalifa in his natural habitat?

An unusual mosque.

We spent quite a bit of time in the villages of Al Ain (a different one from the one in the UAE) & Sayq looking for the Black throated Thrushes which had been seen recently. But no luck.

The hotel.

The hotel is in a fantastic setting 
on the edge of the canyon.

The view.

Yours truly!

Hume's Wheatear

The interior was equally spectacular.

The library.

We then retired to a spectacular hotel for a very nice, if expensive lunch amid grand surroundings. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the mountain & then we once again visited the Omani Owl site, but the wind had picked up & we neither heard nor saw anything. We then made our way back to the UAE & I arrived home at 1.30 am, tired but pleased with the trip.

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