Salalah from a birdwatcher’s perspective

 

Titash Chakraborty –

Everywhere, seasons are often differentiated not just by temperatures but by the colours that surround us — the icy whites of winter, bright florals in the spring and warm reds and oranges of autumn. For us here in the Middle East including those in the tropics, we don’t get to experience a varied extent of seasons. But we do experience these changes in colour happening in nature.
In Oman, whilst the summers are dry and arid, the winters are welcomed with flowers in full bloom and the array of brightly coloured birds migrating to the region. Salalah, in the Dhofar Governorate, located in the southernmost region of the Sultanate, is known famously for its tropical weather changes.
Bavish KB a 27-year-old IT Tech Support engineer and a part-time photographer had been to Salalah several times and shared his fascination about this gem of the Dhofar region.
“Salalah is my favourite place in Oman,” he said.
Bavish makes it a point to visit every year during Khareef and during the winter.
“I name the seasons by the colours green and orange because in the Khareef season, all the pictures I take have strong hints of green in them and the same places in the winter, the photos come out orange,” he shared.
His journey as a photographer first started in 2011 when he was the assistant photographer to guru KB Girish who was his main inspiration that pushed him into this hobby. At the time, Bavish started with a regular Sony point and shoot camera. Since then, in 2013 he invested in his first DSLR, a Canon 60D and currently uses a Canon 7D Mark 2.

 

Bavish’s interest in photography lies in nature which speaks for his love for Salalah. In 2016, he had the opportunity to visit Salalah for the first time in August during the peak of the Khareef season. Bavish set out a checklist of birds to photograph and went on along with a few other people who also shared similar photography interests.
Bavish had the opportunity to meet Zakir Hussain, a fellow photographer, who showed him around the city and gave him the perfect introduction to the wonders of Salalah. During this visit, Bavish got the opportunity to grab shots of a large variety of birds (although he had previously been told that there wouldn’t be as many birds).
At Wadi Darbat, Bavish recollected that “My friend, Baiju Jose called me to show me a bird sitting on a tree, it was raining at the time. When I checked, there was an Arabian Partridge sitting on a tree in the rain. I changed my tele lens very quickly to try and get a shot of the bird. I felt as if that bird was posing for me. ‘Arabian partridge in rain’ is my favourite shot. On that trip, I got many lovely shots like the ‘Ripplers weaver’ bird making nest, ‘Bunting’ in the rain, ‘gray-headed kingfisher’ etc.”
“While we were having tea in a coffee shop in Ayn Akthoom Waterfalls, I heard the call of a cuckoo. I then saw a ‘Diderick cuckoo’ in a tree. I felt as if it were calling me. That was my lucky day because I never thought that I would ever get the chance to shoot that beautiful bird,” he said.
With Salalah all green and vibrant, it was an unforgettable experience for Bavish. He said they were “days I will never forget.”
After that first trip, Bavish promised to return. He did it again, this time during the winter. Bavish knew that Salalah in winter welcomes thousands of migratory birds from around the world.

Winter in Salalah
In the same year, Bavish along with fellow photographer Altaf Abdul traveled to Salalah in December 2016.
What he saw was different from the scene that welcomed him during the Khareef season. In December, everywhere was autumnal colours. With no rain and no waterfalls, it brings out the exotic side of the enigmatic Dhofar region.
Bavish travelled with Altaf in various coastal areas of the region and it is during this trip that he witnessed a diverse variety of migratory birds that made the region their home to escape the harsh winters of the north. He said that at one point, they spend the whole day just watching and photographing birds.
To him, the most memorable destinations were beaches of Mugsayl and Dhahris along with the Raysoot Wetlands and Water treatment plant where the birds built their home.
Bavish shared, “I wish that every season I have the opportunity to visit Salalah, although I’m aware that most of the time I will find the same birds, it doesn’t change my interest and passion to photograph them. I wish I am able to do this for many years to come.”

Avian life thrives even in Muscat
Bavish does not limit himself to the rich landscapes of the Dhofar region in Salalah to capture photos of birds. Even in Muscat, he manages to discover places where they frequent. These places include Qurum Natural Park, Seeb wetlands, and Yiti Beach.
Although proud of the work and measures that are taken by the local government to ensure the protection and sustainability of flora and fauna in Oman, he shared that many birdwatchers and photographers often throw stones and make sounds to disturb the animal in order to take their shot. This is the reason why many areas have strict rules and require permission in order to see and photograph the birds.
Although most people in this country are love and respect the environment and its flora and fauna, Bavish believes that more people should get educated about these animals, their habitat, and the environment and how to avoid disturbing or destroying it.
Bavish shared bird’s life cycle during the breeding season. He said, “birds build the perfect nest carefully to make the perfect home for their young ones. Once the pair of birds gets together, they lovingly build their home (nest) and whilst the female stays back, lays her eggs and raises the young as they hatch, the pair then co-parent.”
He added that co-parenting requires one of the parent bird to hunt for food while the other protect the nest from predators. He said that this life cycle is interrupted when trees are cut down.
Bavish urges that cutting should not be done between April and May which is the breeding season. He also urges that everyone should take care of these fragile beings.