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Salalah, Oman. Oct 2013

Discussion in 'Field Herping and Reptile Studies' started by moloch05, Oct 16, 2013.

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  1. moloch05

    moloch05 Well-Known Member

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    Our visit to the Salalah area in the south of Oman was the highlight of the trip to me. Salalah was not at all what I expected. I was thinking that it was a small, sleepy country town. Instead, we found a modern, vibrant city with beautiful new homes, landscapped boulevards and shopping malls. Street lights were ornate with gold bases and lattice work below the actual lights. "Aladdin's lamps" featured along some of the streets. Round-abouts were often fancy with statues or even gardens with waterfalls. Restaurants in town were excellent and Ted and I feasted on Lebanese, Turkish or Arabic dishes each night.

    Salalah appeared to be an wealthy place with giant grocery stores called "Hypermarkets". These certainly put ours in Australia to shame with regards to choice. We saw 10 kinds of bananas on sale, an equal number of chilies, all of the "standard" northern fruits, southeast asian fruits including daurians, mangosteens, dragon fruits. It was like that throughout the store with most products. I guess that the Omanis can afford to import and buy anything that they desire.

    In general, we did not see women out in town with the exception of the hypermarkets. There, families were busy shopping just as they would be here in Australia. I would love to have taken photos of people if I could. We saw women wearing a variety of burkas that ranged from no visible face including the eyes to simple head scarves with the entire face exposed. It seemed funny in a way to see women dressed like that but shopping for makeup. The apparael of the guys varied equally. Most wore immaculate white robes but their head dresses varied greatly. Some wore white cloth scarves with black braids. Most wore a brimless cap that extended down to the ears. Some guys had braided hair. Their kids were just as noisy and demanding as kids in a supermarket in Australia. It was a very interesting experience.

    Salalah is below an escarpment formed by the Dhofar Mountains. This area has a monsoonal climate with a wet season during the northern summer months. Our visit was a month or two after the wet but the hillsides were still green. Much of the upper slopes of the Dhofar Mountains were covered with dense forest. This quickly disappeared at lower altitudes where the desert conditions returned. Temps in Dhofar were pleasant with highs about 30C and fairly humid conditions.

    The Dhofar Mountains were often enveloped with clouds during our visit:
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    North of Salalah, the coastal area became very dry. This was the home of several interesting reptiles including Carter's Semaphore Geckos (Pristurus carteri), Blue Rock Agamas (Pseudotrapelus jensvindumi), a recent split from Pseudotrapelus sinaitus), and best of all, Bent's Mastigure (Uromastix benti).
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    Blue Rock Agamas (Pseudotrapelus jensvindumi): We saw several of these beautiful lizards.
    male:
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    female:
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    Carter's Semaphore Geckos (Pristurus carteri): These little guys were common and they ran like dragons. They sometimes would curl their tail over their back like a scorpion when disturbed. Their size was about like that of a Military Dragon in Australia or a Side-blotched Lizard in the States.
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    Probably, Rock Semaphore Gecko (Pristurus rupestris). These tiny day geckos looked very different to those in the Hajar Mountains. I would not be surprised to find that they are split in the future if not already.
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    Bent's Mastigure (Uromastix benti): This lizard was one of the species that we wanted to see the most so we were happy to encounter them. They have a limited distribution that includes parts of southern Oman and then a few areas within Yemen.

    The first was a female that was sunning from the top of a rock pile next to the road. She ran as soon as I stopped the car.
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    Next, we reached a good, rocky area so I stopped the car and scanned the rocks. Within a minute, I spotted a pair that was sunning on a fairly flat rock about 75m from the car. They ran for cover as soon as I stepped out. This is a highly cropped shot but you can see the pair and also see that the male is already watching the car even though I have not yet stepped out. Talk about wary!
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    Ted and I walked over and found that they had retreated beneath a shallow rock that could be moved. I don't really like to disturb the animals but in this case, it was the only possibility for photos. These were gentle lizards that could not run fast and never attempted to bite.
    ... male:
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    ... female:
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    Dhofar Dragon (Pseudotrapelus dhofarensis). Ted and I visited the Tawi Atair Sinkhole near the top of the Dhofar Mountains to see some interesting birds including the localized Yemin Serin (looks like a small version of a female House Finch). We found this along with a pair of big Bonelli's Eagles and others. We climbed into the sinkhole and descended as far down as we could go. This proved good for birds and we had excellent views of the Serin. More exciting, though, was this gorgeous male Dhofar Dragon. I stayed with it for about an hour and it slowly adjusted to my presence. At first, it would race into a crevice when I moved. Eventually, it decided that I was not a threat and it went to sleep in the sun. Wow, what a gorgeous lizard!

    habitat in the sinkhole:
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    male:
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    ... sleepy lizard:
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    ... female
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    South Arabian or Mourning Wheatear. These black-and-white wheatears are a challenge to identify. We think that this is a South Arabian Wheatear but can't be certain. Other wheatears such as Northern, Isabelline and Red-rumped were much easier to recognize.
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    Oriental Garden Lizard (Calotes versicolour): We found one of these introduced lizards as we climbed into the sinkhole.
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    singing Cinnamon-breasted Bunting:
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    African Paradise Flycatcher:
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    I photographed this lycaenid while we descended into the sinkhole:
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    Strange Euphorb with coloured stems and only an occasional leaf:
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    Slug near the water at the bottom of the wadi:
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    Baobab Site: We visited the monsoonal forest at a site with Baobabs on the Dhofar Mountains. It was not far from Tawi Atari. The habitat was dense monsoonal forest with a flowing stream at the bottom of a gorge. It was a fabulous place for migrant birds and we saw many interesting species such as Nightingale, Rufous Scrub-Robins, Red-backed Shrikes, White-breasted Silvereyes, Ruppell's Weavers, Tristam's Grackles and many warblers, wagtails, ...
    Roosting Nightingale:
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    ... a strange, vine-like Euphorb grew in this tree:
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    Baobabs:
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    ... this euphorb was huge and incredible. It looked like a candelabra growing up on the cliff:
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    We found this Fan-footed Gecko (Ptyodactylus sp). right on the trunk of one of the baobabs one night.
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    Hemidactylus sp. were common on trees and rocks within the wadi.
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    flowering pea of some sort:
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    These flowers were attractive to the Shining Sunbird, a dazzling bird that was green, purple and with a crimson band on the breast.
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    Rough coastline at the bottom of the hill below the Baobab site:
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    Seabirds including several of the Herring Gull splits that seemed inseparable to me, Sooty Gulls, Caspian Terns, Sandwich Terns, Common Terns, Crested/Lesser Crested Terns, Grey Herons, Reef Egrets and others:
    [​IMG]

    Migration was in full swing. We saw thousands of Common (Barn) Swallows that decided to roost on the ground near the coastal cliffs:
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    Huge Orb:
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    Bruce's Green Pigeon. We almost missed this Dhofar special. We finally found two on our final morning in Salalah near this spring:
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    ... I will add more photos tomorrow from sites south of Salalah
     
  2. ronhalling

    ronhalling Subscriber Subscriber

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    Love those Blue Rock Agamas, very stately looking lizard, is blue the usual theme for alot of lizards over there or is it just the few you took pics of, there is some magnificent scenery there, more than i thought there would be, thanks for taking us on your journey. :) ..........................Ron
     
  3. moloch05

    moloch05 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, Ron. Blue seems to be a common thing with the Omani agamids. They are a confusing lot with a number of species. I found out elsewhere that I don't have the names quite right here so I will add a correction soon. I am eagerly awaiting the new field guide to reptiles of Oman that should be out soon.

    Oman is a beautiful place. The far southwestern coast in particular is really stunning. I also like the Hajar Mountains in the north and I will have a post from there before too long.



    We drove south from Salalah one day to the blowholes. The coastline here was spectacular.
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    We headed inland a little to wadi with water. We were hoping to find a few more of the desert birds. By chance, we found a hillside that was covered with succulent plants some of which were flowering. The best one to us was the spectacular Desert Rose (Adenium arabicum). These were numerous on the hillside. Ted and I spent a couple of hours just wandering around and enjoying these beautiful plants. These are relatives of Oleanders.
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    Aloes were numerous and some of these were flowering.
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    More succulents:
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    http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c386/moloch05/Oman/October

    Odd, flat-topped tree. Spiny.
    [img]http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c386/moloch05/Oman/October%202013/Salalah/acacia_zpsced0c1a8.jpg


    Rock Semaphore Gecko (Pristurus rupestris). I suppose that it is this species although it did look to be quite different to those in the north of Oman. This was common on the slope with all the succulents.
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    Hemidactylus sp. (pale). These were absolutely abundant at night in some areas. We would see one every few meters.
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    Hemidactylus sp. (bold). Another very common species on some of the rocky slopes.
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    Common Tiger. A widespread butterfly that even makes it to Australia.
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    Pierids
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    Small Salmon Arab
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    Lycaenid
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    Blue Argus
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    Juvenile Bonelli's Eagle:
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    Camels at a wadi with water
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  4. jamesn48

    jamesn48 Active Member

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    Absolutely loving these posts from the Arabian peninsula, not an area you see herping posts from often
     
  5. moloch05

    moloch05 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, James. I will have two more yet.


    Here are a few final shots from the Salalah area. This is a scenic place and well worth a visit.


    Dhofar Agama (Pseudotrapelus dhofarensis).
    Ted's shot of a male:
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    Ted's shot of a female:
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    Ted's shot of a Bent's Mastigure (Uromastix benti):
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    More shots of the Rock Semaphore Gecko (Pristurus rupestris)
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    Ted's shot of a Spotted Flycatcher. These were abundant migrants at the moment in Oman.
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    Ted's shot of Carter's Semaphore Geckos (Pristurus carteri):
    [​IMG]




    Here are a few more shots of the slope south of Salalah that had the Desert Rose and other succulents. Higher up were Dragon's Blood Trees but we needed a 4x4 to get into the area where they occurred.
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    ...succulent:
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    Blackstart. This is a Dhofar specialty and we saw several on the hill with the Desert Rose.
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    Wetland near the blowholes south of Salalah:
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    Greater Flamingo. This lone bird was in a wetland near the blowholes south of Salalah:
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    Western Reef Egret: These birds varied considerably in pattern. Some were dark grey, some white and a few like this were a mix of grey and white. They were about the size of a Little Blue Heron in the States.
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    Small Salmon Arab: I love the colour of these common little pierids:
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    These photos were from the Tawi Atair Sinkhole.

    A close up of the beautiful male Anderson's Rock Agama (Acanthocercus adramitanus):
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    Ruppell's Weaver: These were a common Dhofar speciality.
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    South Arabian Wheatear:
    male:
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    ... interesting sign:
    [​IMG]
     
  6. PythonOwner25

    PythonOwner25 Active Member

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    Your trips, photography and finds are stunning mate, as always! Keep up the good work! :D
     
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