Owls have taken The Sound Approach to some legendary places. Desert Owl Strix hadorami more than most. Our first recordings came from the ancient rock-cut city of Petra in Jordan. Later we studied their sounds in more detail at Wadi Al Mughsayl in Dhofar, southern Oman. A long wadi twisting deep into the mountains, sometimes broad, sometimes narrow, its dirt track allows you to drive only the first few kilometers. After that there are well-worn camel tracks and leopard spoors. Well, only a hint of those.

At its mouth there are pools where the wadi meets the sea. The Arabian Sea has cut huge cliffs in the adjacent mountains, but a few kilometers inland, only the high humidity hints at its proximity. Recording at Wadi Al Mughsayl is hot, sweaty work, but rewarding. Besides owls, there are many songbirds, including Tristram’s Starling Onychognathus tristramii, Arabian Wheatear Oenanthe lugentoides and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting Emberiza tahapisi. At dusk an otherworldly groaning rumbles from the depths of the wadi. As if someone morphed a chorus of dinosaurs out of slowed down, interwoven Mongolian throat-singers! Eventually a herd of Dromedaries Camelus dromedarius thunders past, heading for camp, an East African herder at its flank. Later, strange calls echo from the cliffs: Rock Hyrax Procavia capensis. Some of our recordings from Al Mughsayl are still unexplained. A solitary carnivore might have produced some. The owls reacted with fear.

 

Wadi Al Mughsayl, Oman

Tristram’s Starling Onychognathus tristramii, Wadi Darbat, Dhofar, Oman, 19 April 2010 (René Pop)

Tristram’s Starling Onychognathus tristramii, Wadi Al Mughsayl, Dhofar, Oman, 07:46, 16 April 2010 (Magnus Robb). Characteristic whistles, including some in flight. Background: Arabian Partridge Alectoris melanocephala, Pale Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne obsoleta and Arabian Wheatear Oenanthe lugentoides.

Wadi Al Mughsayl, Oman

Arabian Wheatear Oenanthe lugentoides, Wadi Al Mughsayl, Dhofar, Oman, 17 April 2010 (René Pop)

Arabian Wheatear Oenanthe lugentoides, Wadi Al Mughsayl, Dhofar, Oman, 05:47, 16 April 2010 (Magnus Robb). Song at dawn. Background: Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyi, White-spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting Emberiza tahapisi.

Wadi Al Mughsayl, Oman

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting Emberiza tahapisi, Ayn Hamran, Dhofar, Oman, 17 April 2010 (René Pop)

Cinnamon-breasted Bunting Emberiza tahapisi, Wadi Al Mughsayl, Dhofar, Oman, 06:44, 16 April 2010 (Magnus Robb). Song of a male. Background: Fan-tailed Raven Corvus rhipidurus, White-spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos, Shining Sunbird Cinnyris habessinicus and African Silverbill Euodice cantans.

Wadi Al Mughsayl, Oman

Dromedary Camelus dromedarius, Wadi Al Mughsayl, Dhofar, Oman

Dromedary Camelus dromedarius, Wadi Al Mughsayl, Dhofar, Oman, 18:44, 15 April 2010 (Magnus Robb). Herd passing through the wadi at dusk. Background: Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, Tristram’s Starling Onychognathus tristramii and Arabian Wheatear Oenanthe lugentoides.

Wadi Al Mughsayl, Oman

Rock Hyrax Procavia capensis, Israel, November 2007 (René Pop)

Rock Hyrax Procavia capensis, Wadi Al Mughsayl, Dhofar, Oman, 21:26, 18 July 2013 (Arnoud B van den Berg). Calls at night. Background: unidentified gecko and orthopteran.