If you are a birder, fortunate enough to travel, then perhaps you know that kid-in-a-sweet-shop feeling when entering completely new territory. For Arnoud, Magnus and René, Dhofar in southern Oman was such an experience. Even after getting to know the birds of northern Oman, Dhofar is a world apart.

Although we include it in the Palearctic, many species undeniably link Dhofar with Africa, such as Rüppell’s Weaver Ploceus galbula and the recently unmasked Forbes-Watson’s Swift Apus berliozi (formerly ‘Dhofar Swift’). However, Palestine Sunbird Cinnyris osea for example is much more widespread in Arabia than in Africa, and there are other species that subsaharan Africa lacks, such as Arabian Partridge Alectoris melanocephala and Bonelli’s Eagle Aquila fasciata.

During certain times of the year, the sea off Dhofar has upwellings that attract the world’s most genetically distinct and isolated Humpback Whales Megaptera novaeangliae, and a wide range of seabirds. Arabian Red-billed Tropicbirds Phaethon aethereus indicus breed at several locations along the coast. One unforgettable afternoon, Magnus and René watched their displays near a colony, while Bridled Terns Onychoprion anaethetus foraged offshore. In the deep green-blue below the cliff, Loggerhead Turtles Caretta caretta and manta rays Manta swam slowly by.

Eastern Dhofar, Oman

Rüppell’s Weaver Ploceus galbula, Ayn Hamran, Dhofar, Oman, 17 April 2010 (René Pop)

Rüppell’s Weaver Ploceus galbula, Wadi Darbat, Dhofar, Oman, 13:12, 15 July 2013 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Song of a male. Background: Abyssinian White-eye Zosterops abyssinicus, Tristram’s Starling Onychognathus tristramii and Blackstart Oenanthe melanura.

Eastern Dhofar, Oman

Forbes-Watson’s Swift Apus berliozi, Dhofar, Oman, 15 April 2010 (René Pop)

Forbes-Watson’s Swift Apus berliozi, Wadi Darbat, Dhofar, Oman, 17:57, 16 April 2010 (Magnus Robb). Calls while circling high above the wadi at dusk. Background: Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis, Fan-tailed Raven Corvus rhipidurus, Tristram’s Starling Onychognathus tristramii and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting Emberiza tahapisi.

Eastern Dhofar, Oman

Palestine Sunbird Cinnyris osea, Ayn Razat, Dhofar, Oman, 19 April 2010 (René Pop)

Palestine Sunbird Cinnyris osea, Ayn Razat, Dhofar, Oman, 07:32, 19 April 2010 (Magnus Robb). Quiet tak calls leading into a very quiet, intricate song, as two males interact. Background: Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus, White-spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos, Tristram’s Starling Onychognathus tristramii and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting Emberiza tahapisi.

Eastern Dhofar, Oman

Arabian Partridge Alectoris melanocephala, Ayn Hamran, Dhofar, Oman, 17 April 2010 (René Pop)

Arabian Partridge Alectoris melanocephala, Ayn Hamran, Dhofar, Oman, 06:32, 17 April 2010 (Magnus Robb). Song of a bird from the same covey as in René’s photograph. Background: Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis, Blackstart Oenanthe melanura and African Silverbill Euodice cantans.

Eastern Dhofar, Oman

Bonelli’s Eagle Aquila fasciata, between Taqah and Mirbat, Dhofar, Oman, 19 April 2010 (René Pop)

 

 

Eastern Dhofar, Oman

Arabian Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus indicus, between Taqah and Mirbat, Dhofar, Oman, 19 April 2010 (René Pop)

Arabian Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus indicus, between Taqah and Mirbat, Dhofar, Oman, 15:16, 19 April 2010 (Magnus Robb). Display flights. Background: Indian Ocean.