Sitting right at the crossroads of three continents — Europe, Africa and Asia — The Sultanate is not only a vital point for sea routes but also the perfect spot for migratory birds to rest on their way further south away from the harsh winters of the northern hemisphere. Bird watching has been popular in the Sultanate for many years but in the last few years, with the influx of international tourists, more people from around the world are bringing along their binoculars to try and spot the hundreds of varieties of birds that make the Sultanate their home for the winter months.
The best times to see the migrating species are from late August to November and from February to May, with December through to February being the best for winter birds and also the coolest time of the year. Most of the indigenous species can be seen in the winter, although some breeding species do not arrive until May, particularly in the Dhofar Governorate. There are good birding sites in every region of the country. The coastal khawrs (lagoons) offer perfect spots for wintering and migrating water birds, including ducks, waders and terns.
If you’re looking into going “birding” yourself, here’s the best places around the country where one can see these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.
On the mainland, Al Ansab Lagoons AKA Ansab Wetlands along with Al Qurum Natural Park are perfect places in the capital city to go bird watching in. In these areas, commonly found birds are Omani breeding species such as grey francolin, red-wattled plover, laughing dove, little green bee-eater, yellow-vented bulbul, Arabian babbler, purple sunbird and Indian silver-bill.
Damaniyat, Sawadi & Fahl Islands
The Damaniyat Islands during these months are not only home to marine dwellers but also welcome in a multiple varieties of breeding bridled and white-cheeked terns, with small numbers of common noddies, ospreys and western reef herons. Al Sawadi Islands and Al Fahl Island — located about 4 km off Ras Al Hamra, in Muscat — hold breeding sooty falcons with the latter site also having nesting red-billed tropicbirds. For those interested, boat trips to and from the Al Fahl Island can be easily be arranged in the Muscat.
Bar Al Hikman and Masirah Island
Both these regions (the latter is accessible by ferry only), is perhaps one of the most popular places for bird watching enthusiasts to go to. At the right time of the year, the region holds perhaps a million wintering water birds, herons, egrets, waders and gulls. Exciting species such as crab plover and great knot are present in winter. A good area to watch at high tide is Filim, 19 km south of the town of Al Hij, where great white egrets, greater flamingos, crab plover, terek sandpiper, broad-billed sandpiper and slender-billed gulls can be seen.
Qatbit & The Dhofar GOVERNORATE
When making your way down south to the Dhofar Governorate, stop by the desert oasis of Qatbit — an excellent place to find desert species of birds like the crowned and spotted sandgrouse and greater hoopoe larks.
Along the Dhofari coastline are a series of khwars which are perfect little spots for a wide range of waterbirds throughout the year. For Arabian endemics and Dhofari specialities, the wooden ravines inland of the coast are the
places to visit in the spring,
particularly Ayn Hamran just
22 km from Salalah.
The Musandam Peninsula is
dubbed the ‘Norway of Arabia’ for its beautiful khors (rocky inlets), small villages and dramatic, mountain-hugging roads. This is also where breeding Lichtenstein’s sandgrouse, chukar and Hume’s wheatear, and wintering eastern pied wheatear, red-tailed wheatear, Eversmann’s redstart and plain leaf warbler can be seen.