Days 1 - 4 ARRIVAL IN MUSCAT - SAYQ PLATEAU - 29th Nov 2021 and 5th February 2022
Following a direct overnight flight with Oman Air (departing 20:05pm on 28th Nov and 4th Feb) we will be out of the airport by 9am and heading towards our base for the next 2 nights on the Sayq Plateau. We will also stay at two other hotels in different parts of the northern area, so as to be closer to the wadis where Omani Owl has previously been seen. We may well make a slight detour along the coast for our first taste of birding Omani-style! The Batinah coast holds some decent shorebirds, as well as Grey Francolin, Short-toed Eagle, Red-wattled Lapwing, Indian Roller, White-eared Bulbul, Purple Sunbird and Indian Silverbill to name a few. As we start to ascend the Hajjar Mountains we should find a few specialities of northern Oman such as Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse, Red-tailed Wheatear, Long-billed Pipit and Streaked Scrub Warbler. After checking into our hotel we will have a siesta before an early dinner and then heading out into the night in search of Pallid Scops Owl and have our first crack at the recently discovered Omani Owl.
The rest of our time in this scenicly magnificent area will be spent searching for species such as Arabian Babbler, Red-tailed and Hume's Wheatears, and in the higher region of the Hajjar Mountains we will be searching for Lappet-faced Vulture, Eurasian Woodpigeon, which is an isolated population and a potential split, Streaked Scrub Warbler, and have better chances of finding Hume's Wheatear.
And somewhere over these few days we will come across a few migrants and wintering species that could include Black-throated Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Eurasian Siskin, Pied Wheatear, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler. Striolated Bunting, Long-billed and Tawny Pipits, and the mountain form of Desert Lark are all regular here at high elevations, and there's a chance of Sand Partridge lower down.
Day 5 NIZWA - AL HIJ - AD DUQM
We will leave early and drive four and a half hours to our next hotel at Ad Duqm. An hour or so before reaching the hotel we will find some good spots to scan the amazing multitude of shorebirds present here. Crab Plover is the main priority and we will aim to get decent views of this much-wanted shorebird. What we will find is the sheer quantity of birds can be overwhelming and as well as Crab Plover we should see plenty of Great Knots, a few Terek Sandpipers and a fantastic variety of waders we are more used to seeing in the UK. Stay overnight at Ad Duqm
Day 6 BARR AL HIKMAN - QITBIT
We will head west into the vast interior, known as the 'Empty Quarter', or Rub Al Khali. This drive to Qitbit will give us our first chance of finding the ever-elusive and nomadic Dunn's Lark, and there's a few other species inhabiting this barren land such as Brown-necked Raven, Greater Hoopoe Lark and Bar-tailed Lark. Eventually we will reach the remote outpost of Qitbit and hopefully have a little time to check out the surrounding area. Any self-respecting migrant is going to linger here amidst the lush green trees and there can be a stagering variety of species here. Anything is possible and as well as this being one of the spots Grey Hypocolius winters, other possibilities include Eurasian Scops Owl, Asian Koel, Eurasian Wryneck, Masked & Woodchat Shrikes, Menetries's Warbler, Hume's Warbler and others. Night in Qitbit.
Days 7 - 8 QITBIT - THUMRAYT
We will spend most of the morning around the Muntasar oasis, an excellent site that attracts Crowned Sandgrouse early in the morning and are replaced by Spotted Sandgrouse a little later. There's another chance of Grey Hypocolius here, whilst species such as Cream-coloured Courser, Pied Wheatear, Southern Grey Shrike and Asian Desert Warbler are attracted to this lush oasis. Anything could appear here and we are sure of a surprise or three!
Heading to Thumrayt in the afternoon we can check any irrigated fields or farms along the way, as well as making another concerted effort to find Dunn's Lark if still needed. Other species present along our route include flocks of White Storks, Golden Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, European Roller, flocks of larks usually compromise Greater Short-toed, some Black-crowned Sparrow-Larks and the odd Bimaculated Lark.
During our full day around Thumrayt we will explore the desert areas if Dunn's Lark hasn't been seen yet, and there's several irrigated farms that are worthy of exploration as they prove attractive to species such as Sand Partridge, Cream-coloured Courser, Sociable Lapwing, Chestnut-bellied and Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, African Collared Dove, Desert Lark, Hooded Wheatear and Nile Valley Sunbird amongst others. We will spend two nights in Thumrayt.
Day 9 THUMRAYT - SALALAH
Today is flexible as it depends on what species we still need, but it's bound to be an action-packed day as we will head south to Salalah for a 5 night stay. We might even have a litle siesta at the hotel before heading out after dinner for an owling session, as there's Desert Owl, Arabian Eagle Owl and Arabian Scops Owls all present within an hour of Salalah.
Days 10 - 13 SALALAH
We are in for a very busy stay here in Salalah! Just what we do and where we go each day will vary on what species we are targetting. There are a number of specialities to find and there's plenty of great general birding to be had, with a species mix comprising birds from the Afrotropical, European and Oriental regions all meeting here. Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak will possibly be our No.1 target and we will visit a series of wadis that have streams running through them and so have some green and lush habitat in this desert environment. The Jabal Al Qara escarpment has habitat comprising lightly wooded slopes and grassland where Arabian specialities such as Arabian Partridge, Arabian Wheatear and Yemen Serin can all be found. And one morning we will undertake a pelagic out of Mirbat, just under an hour's drive from Salalah. The edge of the continental shelf isn't too far offshore and with the aid of some chum we hope to entice Jouanin's Petrel, Persian and Flesh-footed Shearwaters, whilst we should also see Masked Booby, Socotra Cormorant, Bridled Tern, Saunders's Tern, Sooty Gull, and hopefully something rarer!
And there's plenty of evenings to get Desert Owl, Arabian Eagle Owl and Arabian Scops Owl too !
The list of other potential species is a mad-mix and we should see quite a sizable portion of the following species: Yellow Bittern, White & Abdim's Storks, Lappet-faced Vulture, Pallid Harrier, Verreaux's, Greater Spotted, Eastern Imperial, Steppe, Bonelli's and Booted Eagles, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Sociable Lapwing, Pacific Golden Plover, Lesser & Greater Sandplovers, Temminck's Stint, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse, Slender-billed, Caspian & Heuglin's Gulls, Diederik Cuckoo, Bruce's Green Pigeon, Namaqua & Laughing Doves, European Nightjar, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Eurasian Hoopoe, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, European Roller, Black-crowned Tchagra, Pale Crag-Martin, Singing Bushlark, Turkestan & Isabelline Shrikes, Desert & Isabelline Wheatears, Blackstart, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Red-breasted Flycatcher, White-spectacled Bulbul, Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin, Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Common Whitethroat (icterops), Arabian Warbler, Graceful Prinia, Abyssinian White-eye, Tristram's Starling, Palestine Sunbird, Shining Sunbird, Forbes-watson's Swift, , Long-billed Pipit, Citrine Wagtail, Fan-tailed Raven, Rüppell’s Weaver, African Silverbill and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting.
Day 14 END OF TOUR - 12th Dec 2021 and 18th Feb 2022
This morning we will transfer to Salalah airport for our departing flights. Current timing is departing Salalah at 11.30am and arriving London Heathrow at 18:25pm).