Oman has two main areas of high bird diversity: in the north the coast and Al Hajar mountains, and in the south the monsoon-watered coastal strip around Salalah. In between is a vast expanse of rather flat desert, where very few birds survive. Those that do, like the Greater Hoopoe-Lark Alaemon alaudipes, often defend vast territories in order to safeguard the scarce resources they contain.

On their long journeys through the desert, only a few tiny oases offer migrating birds places with vegetation where they can rest and feed. For birdwatchers making the same journey, Muntasar oasis makes it well worthwhile driving the vast distance, instead of catching a plane. Magnus and René arrived in the dark, slept on the sand, and explored the oasis first thing in the morning. They were not disappointed. Several migrant Rufous-tailed Scrub Robins Cercotrichas galactotes had also arrived during the night, as well as a Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus, Upcher’s Warblers Hippolais languida, Eastern Olivaceous Warblers Iduna pallida and Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata, to name but a few.

The real highlight, however, was to experience hundreds of Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus and a few Crowned Sandgrouse P coronatus coming for their daily refreshment. The pool that lured them was very shallow and only a few metres across, but it was the only water supplying a very large area.

Muntasar Oasis, Oman

Greater Hoopoe-Lark Alaemon alaudipes, Nimr oil camp, Dhofar, Oman, 20 April 2010 (René Pop)

 

Muntasar Oasis, Oman

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin Cercotrichas galactotes, Muntasar, Dhofar, Oman, 15 April 2010 (René Pop)

Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin Cercotrichas galactotes, Muntasar, Dhofar, Oman, 08:22, 15 April 2010 (Magnus Robb). Calls of several migrants. Background: Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus.

Muntasar Oasis, Oman

Upcher’s Warbler Hippolais languida, Muntasar, Dhofar, Oman, 15 April 2010 (René Pop)

Upcher’s Warbler Hippolais languida, Muntasar, Dhofar, Oman, 07:05, 15 April 2010 (Magnus Robb). Calls of a migrant. Background: similar but higher-pitched calls of Eastern Olivaceous Warbler Iduna pallida, and Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata.

Muntasar Oasis, Oman

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata, Muntasar, Dhofar, Oman, 15 April 2010 (René Pop)

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata, Muntasar, Dhofar, Oman, 07:53, 15 April 2010 (Magnus Robb). Tsak calls of a migrant. Background: Upcher’s Warbler Hippolais languida.

Muntasar Oasis, Oman

Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus, Muntasar, Dhofar, Oman, 15 April 2010 (René Pop)

Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus, Muntasar, Dhofar, Oman, 09:14, 15 April 2010 (Magnus Robb). A flock flies past the drinking pool, then one individual comes particularly close. A second, smaller flock comes in to land towards the end.

Muntasar Oasis, Oman

Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus, Muntasar, Dhofar, Oman, 15 April 2010 (René Pop)

Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus, Muntasar, Dhofar, Oman, 08:26, 15 April 2010 (Magnus Robb). A small flock has already landed and is walking, then flying towards the pool. We hear them drinking, then taking off rather suddenly.

Muntasar Oasis, Oman

Crowned Sandgrouse Pterocles coronatus, Muntasar, Dhofar, Oman, 15 April 2010 (René Pop)

Crowned Sandgrouse Pterocles coronatus, Muntasar, Dhofar, Oman, 09:53, 15 April 2010 (Magnus Robb). Calls of at least two calling quietly at the drinking pool, then taking off and flying away. Background: Spotted Sandgrouse P senegallus.