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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Discovering Pied Crow in Masirah

Derrel-Pinto
Derrel-Pinto

Burdening himself with a heavy tripod and a Canon 7D Mark II, a young bird enthusiast roams around Masirah Island in his free time tracking new birds.


One such lazy hunt on a winter evening in 2018 led him to find a Pied Crow for the first time on the Island.


Derrel Pinto, the birdman of Masirah, is solely credited with having the first recorded discovery about the Pied Crow. He shared the news of his discovery with the birding community in Oman. A positive reply from the birding couple, Hanne and Jens Eriksen, renowned as Oman’s premier birder, thrilled him no end.


Jens has confirmed the discovery of Pied Crow at Masirah Island by Derrel Pinto in 2018 as the first photo record for the Sultanate adding to the 531 species on the bird list.


Derrel was tipped by the resort gardener about a crow with a larger bill. It had a glossy black head and neck interrupted by a large area of white feathering from the shoulders. By its features, he first imagined it to be a raven.


The next day, he noticed something similar to raven’s drinking water and feeding on discarded fish at the beach. Upon examining closely, he found it to be Pied Crow. He took aim from his camera and got a couple of shots.


Derrel, who works as a restaurant captain at the island resort for 9 years could not believe his eyes when he saw the crow and resorted to a double check.


Finding one in Masirah was a mystery as he says crows cannot travel far distances overseas.


After years in bird catching, Derrel was quite excited about his success in spotting a new bird in the Sultanate. “I believe the Pied Crow must have caught up on a passing ship and made its way to the island as these are widely distributed African bird species,” he reasons.


The Pied Crow structurally is better thought of as a small crow-sized raven, especially as it can hybridise with the Somali crow where their ranges meet in the Horn of Africa.


Derrel says the island is a bird’s paradise and a photographer’s delight. During the season the shores of Masirah are filled with plenty of waders (water birds). The best season for travel is from September to February, as one can see both resident and migratory birds. Besides bird life there are also a lot of reptiles, marine life and other mammals which offer the best breeding ground for the turtles especially loggerhead turtles.


The island he says attracts numerous water birds with different species of ducks, gulls, terns and large flocks of flamingos. The vast expanse of water also attracts birds of prey which includes Marsh harrier, Osprey, Booted eagle, Peregrine falcon, Kestrels and European honey buzzard.


Masirah is one of the best places for the Egyptian vultures, a nearly threatened species to Oman. White-breasted kingfisher, Amur Falcon, Eurasian scops owl are a couple of his rare sightings in the island.


His days off at work are spent long hours at the island where he sets up a hideout among the bushes. Camo-clad and armed with his Canon 1DX Mark II and Canon 7D Mark II, he patiently waits long hours to take shots of birds in their natural habitat without disturbing them.


Derrel who hails from Mangalore, South India, was fascinated by nature and wildlife from his young days. It was sheer passion which drove him to pursue this hobby.


His vacations were always spent at the nature reserves, treks and camping in the wild where he could learn more about feathery friends. In his village, Derrel is known as a guy who rescues wounded birds, nurses them, and releases them in the wild and his home resembles a ‘mini zoo.’


“I always wanted to photograph these beauties in their natural habitat, but the camera gear was expensive. Once I started to save money, I managed to buy my first camera and lens. From then on there has been no looking back,” he concludes.


 


Liju Cherian


@cherianmathiker


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