The Al Hajar mountains of northern Oman have been very kind to The Sound Approach. It was here that we discovered Omani Owl Strix butleri in 2013. We first visited in 2010, when Magnus and René drove a rough track through high mountain passes on their way south to Dhofar, oblivious to any undiscovered owls. In total we have now visited the area some eight times, giving us plenty of opportunities to sound record its commoner bird species, although some have still eluded us. 

Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotos breeds in the Al Hajar mountains. René photographed some when he and Magnus came across a roost. However, we have not yet been lucky enough to find them calling in a place suitable for sound recording. Hume’s Wheatear Oenanthe alboniger, Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus and White-spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos are very common in the mountains. Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus may seem a surprising inclusion in a section about barren mountains, but we heard them almost every night, apparently passing overhead, in spring 2013.

A thunderstorm in a jagged Arabian ‘jebel’ with reflective cliffs all around has to be heard to be believed. The echoes were immense, and often it was a tone of around 165 Hz with its second harmonic around 330 Hz (an ‘E’ for a musician) that seemed to resonate the longest, eg, at 0:20-0:28. Perhaps not coincidentally, 320 Hz is close to the average frequency of Omani Owl hooting. Or are we now so tuned in to this frequency that we can’t help hearing it in the thunder? Could this just be a ‘gestalt effect’, like seeing creatures in the flames of a fire?

 

Al Hajar mountains, Oman

Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotos, Jabal Shams, Al Batinah, Oman, 22 April 2010 (René Pop)

 

Hume’s Wheatear Oenanthe albonigra, Jabal Shams, Al Batinah, Oman, 14 April 2010 (René Pop)

Hume’s Wheatear Oenanthe albonigra, Al Jabal Al Akhdar, Al Batinah, Oman, 06:23, 30 January 2015 (Magnus Robb). Song at dawn. Background: Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyi, Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis, White-spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos and Striolated Bunting Emberiza striolata.

Al Hajar mountains, Oman

Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus, Al Batinah, Oman, 23 March 2013 (René Pop)

Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus, Al Jabal Al Akhdar, Al Batinah, Oman, 08:25, 3 February 2015 (Magnus Robb). Calls in flight from right to left, then various calls possibly amounting to a song. Background: Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis, Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti, Pale Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne obsoleta and Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inquieta.

Al Hajar mountains, Oman

White-spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos, Barka, Al Batinah, Oman, 23 October 2008 (Killian Mullarney)

White-spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos, Al Jabal Al Akhdar, Al Batinah, Oman, 05:22, 27 April 2013 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Song at dawn. Background: Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyi, Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis, Long-billed Pipit Anthus similis and Striolated Bunting Emberiza striolata.

Al Hajar mountains, Oman

Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus, Al Batinah, Oman, 13 April 2010 (René Pop)

Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus, Al Jabal Al Akhdar, Al Batinah, Oman, 00:39, 28 April 2013 (Magnus Robb). Nocturnal calls in barren habitat: presumably birds passing through the wadi. Background: insects.

Thunder storm, Al Hajar mountains, Al Jabal Al Akhdar, Oman, 23:42, 23 April 2013 (Arnoud B van den Berg)