There is a flutter everywhere…and it is in many pleasing hues, as a host of colourful migratory birds have started coming into the warm climes of the sultanate to escape the chill elsewhere.
Oman – standing at the crossroads of four regions Asia, Arabia, Africa and Europe – is on the migratory path of several species of birds that travel southwards seeking a warmer climate during the northern winters, and reverse their patterns when winter comes to the southern hemisphere.
Several species have been recorded in Oman, the majority being migrants travelling seasonally between northern Asia, with some as far north as Northern Europe where wadis and lagoons and wetlands form along the coast, acting as a focal point for wildlife, especially birds.
The Environment Authority (EA) recently announced that more than 400 migratory bird species have been registered in Oman. ‘The number of bird species registered in Oman stands at 535, with migratory birds representing 80 per cent of recorded birds or more than 400 species, while 20 per cent are resident species that remain in the country throughout the year,’ EA stated.
The annual migration of birds begins with the onset of winter as birds migrate from the cold northern regions to the warmer regions in the south. The migration path of West Asia-East Africa is the main path of bird migration in the sultanate.
The Bar al Hakman Wetland Reserve, in Al Wusta Governorate, is one of the most prominent sites for migratory birds in Oman. The site is visited by more than half a million birds during the winter season.
Many migratory birds, threatened with extinction globally, are found in the sultanate – such as Sociable lapwing, Egyptian vulture, Great knot, Golden eagle, Collared kingfisher, Lesser white-fronted goose and Socotra cormorant.
‘Globally, artificial light is increasing at least two per cent per year and is known to negatively affect many bird species. Light pollution is a major threat to migratory birds, causing disorientation in flight at night, colliding with buildings, disturbing their internal clocks, or interfering with their ability to make long-distance migrations,’ EA stated.
There are a lot of good birding sites in every region of the country. The coastal lagoons and wetlands offer perfect spots for wintering and migrating water birds, one can find raptors and other smaller birds.
Some of the more spectacular migratory birds to frequent Oman include the stately lesser flamingo, colourful ducks, storks, stilts, plovers, sandpipers, egrets, herons, the glossy ibis and many more.
While Dhofar, Al Wusta and Al Sharqiyah may receive millions of these avian visitors yearly, Muscat is also a good spot for birdwatchers.
Take a look around even in the city, at parks or patches of green, and you just might spot a rare bird in gay abandon, waiting to flee as you aim your mobile phone camera with much aspiration.
(Text: Shaddad al Musalmy)