Birdwatching guide to Oman
Oman Bird List, Edition 5Dutch Birding, Volume 24, No. 2, 2002, pp.104 - 105
|Hanne & Jens Eriksen and Panadda
& Dave E. Sargeant October 2001. Birdwatching guide to Oman
Al Roya Publishing, Oman. (256 pp.). Available at Euro 35, including postage from Hanne & Jens Eriksen, College of Science, P.O. Box 36, SQU 123, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
The first time we visited Oman was February/March 1995. We rented a Toyota LandCruiser (4WD) and set out to explore the country. It was a revelation. Many interesting birds, beautiful landscapes, interesting culture and very friendly people. We camped in spectacular mountains, wonderful deserts and on lonely beaches. In 1995 there was hardly any in useful information on birding sites in Oman available, only some photocopies with sketchy drawings of sites from Jens Eriksen and the outdated Birds of the Middle East and North Africa of Hollom et al. See for our Oman trip reports: www.rekel.nl/Oman
Five years later, October/November 2000, we went again. Not too much had changed. The country is developing fast, expending towns and cities, hundreds of km more black topped roads, much more cars, but still all the freedom to travel around. We found our way around with the help of the old photocopies, information given to us personally by Jens and Hanna Eriksen and fortunately a new field guide, the "Porter". In December 2001 we went back, although we realised that birdwatching there in winter time is not as good as in spring or autumn, in our luggage the brand new 'Birdwatching guide to Oman'. It gave us a some feeling of frustration, because on our first trips we seemed to have missed several nice spots. But okay, we now would have a chance for re-examination. The first impression of the Birdwatching guide of Oman is: "what a colourful book, beautiful pictures and colourful maps". The book starts with useful instructions about travelling to and in Oman, when to go, useful information on lodging, etceteras. The main part of the book are the site descriptions with detailed, colourful maps. The book ends with a site species list and a short description per species.
My main critic on the book is that the authors are not using the framework of Birdlife International and do not couple their knowledge to Important Bird Areas in the Middle East (D A Scott (1994) in M. I. Evans, eds., Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International (BirdLife Conservation Series No. 2).). The book could however be a good start for a new IBA inventory in Oman. Another critic: the chapter Bird finder is a 40 page summary of the Oman Bird List, edition 5. It could easily be left out, because it is highly advisable also to obtain the Oman Bird List (The official list of the birds of the Sultanate of Oman), packed with straight forward information on the over 460 species of birds recorded in Oman.
During our 2001 visit we could only find some small mistakes in maps, for instance a petrol station at the wrong side of the the Najd Agricultural Research station (site 7.5) - which does not matter as long as the petrol station is there - or a school on the wrong side of the crossing - due to the fact that a new school has been built since the book was completed (site 10.9).
The authors could not describe all interesting sites in Oman, mainly because some are not easily reached. For instance Wadi Gharm, the biggest lake of Oman. Rather deserted in winter, but in 1995 we saw hundreds of Red-necked Phalaropes and Black-necked Grebes on this salty lake. For these places you need a 4WD, a GPS, some off road experience and common sense to stay out of trouble. When you visit the country for a first birding trip, just pick one of the suggested itineraries, but we hope that birdwatchers in Oman will not only visit the places mentioned in the book, but every now and then will leave the beaten tracks and explore a mysterious wadi, an intriguing desert or mountain road or a remote beach. . There is still al lot to discover in Oman, places like Wadi Aydim in the desert near the Yemeni border or the Jabal Sayq, where we found a second place with Yemen Serin.
The Birdwatching Guide of Oman will not only be a perfect guide for foreign birders for some great birding in Oman, but will also be very important for nature preservation in Oman. The threat for a number of the sites in the book is very serious. Fortunately a translation in Arabic is already under progress.
The price: Euro 35 (US $ 30). Not cheap indeed, but not bad for such a "deluxe" book. The book it self is sturdy, it survived our last trip very well! More information about birding in Oman and the described books can be found on www.birdsoman.com .
Jens Eriksen and Dave E. Sargeant. October 2000. Oman Bird List, Edition 5. Oman Bird Records Committee.
Available at Euro 11, including postage from Hanne & Jens Eriksen, College of Science, P.O. Box 36, SQU 123, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
This small booklet is the kind of Bird List a birder wishes for every country in the world. It is simple with a good straight forward lay-out. It gives for every species recorded in Oman a summary of the occurrence and for most migratory species, including many of the vagrants, a histogram based on 10-day intervals with the occurrence during the year. Above that it provides distribution maps, with a 0.5 ° grid (about 80 km). During our 2000 trip it gave us frequently fast information about the occurrence of a bird, is it normal here or overlooked like the Meadow Pipit? Or why do we miss that species now? Above that it really invites the visiting birder to make good notes on the observations, but above all to report the sightings to the Oman Bird Record Committee. Finally, the internet page http://www.birdsoman.com/obl5-additions.html contains additions and corrections on the booklet.
More information about birding in Oman and the described books can be found on www.birdsoman.com
Ruud and Kitty KampfSchermerhorn, The Netherlands
to our Oman index page