Sur, Oman. Oct 2013

Discussion in 'Field Herping and Reptile Studies' started by moloch05, Oct 22, 2013.

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  1. moloch05

    moloch05 Well-Known Member

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    Omani Flag:
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    After leaving Salalah, we drove 1100km up to Sur. We again passed through the empty quarter before turning northeast at Adam. Along the way, we passed the enormous sea of dunes known as the Wahiba Sands. A storm blew through and before long, we could hardly see the road due to blowing sand. Fortunately, we were able to get through this without problem. The long drive was not a problem since the roads were good and the speed limit was usually 120kph.

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    In the Sur area, we visited rocky headlands at Ras Al Hadd and Ras Al Rhabbah (B), the Wahiba Sands (D) and Wadi Tiwi (C), a scenic gully with towering hillsides.
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    Sur Harbour. The waterfront was very nice or old Arab buildings and a watch tower. Several dhows were anchored or under repairs here.
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    Ted’s shots of the harbour area.
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    Here is a Sinai Rock Agama (Pseudotrapelus sinaitus) or recent split. It completely ignored the Laughing Dove that walked nearby (Ted's photo).
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    Turtle Beach Resort. This would be a nice place to stay with the possibility of seeing nesting Green Turtles. The only problem would be the isolation. It was about an hour back to Sur where there was a much better choice of restaurants and shops.
    Ted’s shot of Turtle Beach.
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    Ted's lovely shot of a dhow in the bay near Turtle Beach Resort. The water was so warm and clear. It would have been ideal for a snorkel but we did not have time and continued on with our hunt for birds and reptiles.
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    Desert Race-runner (Mesalina adramitana). We saw several of these lizards near Turtle Beach Hotel. They were fast but not overly shy.
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    Shade was in short supply so this one ran to the shadow of my boot.
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    ... Desert Race-runner and Carter’s Semaphore Gecko habitat:
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    Carter's Semaphore Gecko (Pristurus carteri). These were common lizards on rocks near the Turtle Beach Resort.
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    Ted's photo:
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    Here is a shot of me photographing the gecko. As you can see, the geckos were not very shy although they could run fast when they wanted to.
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    We visited the Ras Al Hadd area for birds. This area was great for waders with the best species being the big Crab Plover.
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    Here is a mix of Lesser Sand Plover, a few Greater Sand Plovers, a Ruddy Turnstone and a few Kentish Plovers.
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    We saw several Crab Plovers in the estuary below the mosque.
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    Ted’s shot of the mosque:
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    Tamarisk is native to the area and it only grew as isolated small trees.
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    Habitat of Eastern Sand Geckos, Least Semaphore Geckos and Desert Race-runners.
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    Least Semaphore Gecko (Pristurus minimus): This was a new gecko to us. It looked and acted like a small lacertid. It was fast but occasionally lifted its tail over its back like other Pristurus sp. It tended to race from one shrub to the cover of another. After I took a few photos, I lost it as it zipped off to another shrub.
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    Rock Semaphore Gecko (Prirustrus rupestris). Only saw a few of these in this area.
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    Ras Al Khabbah is a famous site for watching seabirds. We did not find many of the species but did see distant Persian Shearwaters, a variety of terns and many migrating gulls.
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    … Ted sea watching.
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    Baluch's Ground Gecko (Bunopus tuberculatus). These were speedsters that looked and acted much like Bynoe's Gecko (Heteronotia binoei) in Australia.
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    ... I will post more photos from the Sur area tomorrow night.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 22, 2013
  2. reptilezac

    reptilezac Well-Known Member

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    some amazing pictures there the gecko is awesome :)
     
  3. moloch05

    moloch05 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, Slowwy.

    Eastern Sand Gecko (Stenodactylus leptocosymbotes). These were common geckos especially on flats with a mixture of gravel and sand. We found a number of these whenever we walked this type of habitat at night.
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    This was a largish and active carab beetle. One of my FB friends identified it as a Domino Beetle (Anthia duodecimgutatta). It lived on the same dunes as the Eastern Sand Geckos.:
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    One night, we drove about 120km southwest of Sur to a gravel road that approached the Wahiba Dunes near Bidiyah. We drove as far as it was safe and then walked from there. We never actually reached the big dunes but we did walk through an area of small dunes that were separated by gravel flats. In general, it is difficult to actually get into the dunes without a 4x4. Sandy habitats were much more accessible in the UAE where paved roads crossed dune fields.

    Spider: This one was big and agressive. It would jump at me whenever I took a photo.
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    Eastern Sand Geckos also lived on the dunes but they were more common on gravel flats.
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    Sand Gecko sp. (Stenodactylus sp): The geckos were common on the dunes. The third shot was typical of how we first observed them near the base of shrubs.
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    The feet of these looked so different here when compared with the webbed-footed species in the UAE. The upper photos are from the Wahiba Sands and the lower photos are of an Arabian Sand Gecko (Stenodactylus arabicus) from Al Ain, UAE. I found out from a FB friend that the Wahiba Sands geckos are a known but undescribed species of Stenodactylus. For now, they go by the name of S. cf. arabicus.
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    Dune Sand Gecko (Stenodactylus doriae): These geckos also looked different to those in the Al Ain area of the UAE. I thought at first that they were S. slevini due to the crescent marking on the nape but according the the Stenodactylus paper that I read, the species does not occur in the Wahiba Sands.

    ... upper shot from Wahiba Sands, lower shot from Al Ain, UAE.
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    Baluch's Ground Gecko (Bunopus tuberculatus): We found one on the edge of the dunes where they met the gravel flats.
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    Cheesman's Gerbil. These little rodents were abundant on the dunes. They looked and acted much like Kangaroo Rats in the deserts of California. We trapped one on a gravel flat and prevented it from running back to its burrow in the dunes. After a few attempts, it decided to get out of trouble by digging. It did not take long for it to completely disappear but it would periodically emerge to see if we were still there.
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    burrow with trails. The trails extended for many meters from the burrow so it seems that they use the same paths whenever they emerge. Must be easy for Arabian Horned Vipers to find and feed on these animals.
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    Wadi Kiwi. We birded this area but did not take any reptile shots. We did see the common little Rock Semaphore Geckos, a Sinai Rock Agama (or recent split) and one of two snakes recorded on the trip. The snake vanished into cover before we could either catch or photograph it. The Wadi looked like a good place to explore at night.
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    Ted's shot of the side mirror on the car.
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  4. moloch05

    moloch05 Well-Known Member

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    I've been studying the paper "A review of the geckos of the genus Hemidactylus (Squamata: Gekkonidae) from Oman based on morphology, mitochondrial and nuclear data, with descriptions of eight new species" and think that I have names for some of the geckos. Hemidactylus is diverse in Oman with many representatives including a number of newly described species. They are a confusing lot!


    These boldly marked animals with tubercles from the monsoonal forest with baobabs in the mountains above Mirbat (northwest of Salalah) were probably Hemidactylus alkiyumii.
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    These boldly marked animals without tubercles from the dry, coastal plain northeast of Salalah I think to be Hemidactylus paucituberculatus
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    These smooth skin animals from a dry wadi in the mountains southwest of Salalah I think to be Hemidactylus homeolepis.
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    I found that the fan-fingered geckos in Salalah have indeed been split from their northern relatives. These have the name Ptyodactylus dhofarensis.
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    Ted's shot of an old fort at Mirbat:
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  5. Bushman

    Bushman Very Well-Known Member

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    Another wonderful account with stunning photography. I particularly like the architecture and gecko close-ups, especially the feet. 8)
    I'm very impressed with the number and variety of herps that you managed to find there David. I'm also amazed that so many delicate creatures like geckos survive there, with temperatures reaching as high as 50°C in summer! It looks like there's nowhere to escape the heat. Do you know where they might seek shelter from such extremes of very high temps and severely dry conditions?
     
  6. borntobnude

    borntobnude Guest

    Might just be weird but I love the mirror shot -- I assume it says (objects in the rear-view mirror may appear closer than they are ) Also a great Meatloaf song :)
     
  7. moloch05

    moloch05 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, Bushman and Rodney/Sue.

    The lizards in Oman were certainly heat tolerant. We saw Semaphore Geckos active in the open when temps were in the 30s.

    This agama absolutely amazed Ted and I. We found it when crossing the empty quarter on our way north. The air temp was in the low 40Cs so the asphalt must have been nearly 50C or so, yet the lizard appeared to be basking! I just came across another name for these agamas in Oman. It appears that the Yellow-spotted Agama was split earlier this year and the Omani representatives would be Trapelus jayakari. Looks like reptile classification in Oman and the UAE is in a state of flux. There should be a new field guide to reptiles out before long. It was scheduled for this past summer but has been delayed. I imagine that all the taxonomical changes must be causing problems.
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    ... another shot of the Desert Racerunner
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    Last edited: Nov 1, 2013
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