Owls of the Arabian Peninsula

This video from Oman says about itself:

18 June 2015

Saeed and I left Salalah at 7.15pm and headed to Wadi Darbat in the Dhofar Mountains, spotlighting for night-active animals and owls.

Half-way along the flat far bit of the wadi we heard a strange screeching call on the south side of the road. We could not identify it and went by foot to locate the origin.

It turned out to be an immature Arabian Spotted Eagle-owl, Bubo (africanus) milesi.

We left the bird in peace and it continued to call from the same area for another hour. No adults were seen or heard.

Hopefully Saeed made it back there the next night to record it; I was by then well on my way back to Dubai.

From BirdLife, with photos there:

Birds of the Arabian Night

By Faisal Hajwal, 16 Oct 2016

When the Sun begins to set on the Middle East, the majority of the region’s birdlife settle down to roost for the night. Yet for others, the day is just beginning. We are of course talking about owls – those nocturnal birds of prey that bewitch us with their secrets and unusual behaviours.

We are all surely all familiar with owls; this large and distinctive order of around 234 species spreads its wings across the world, and can be found on every continent except for Antarctica. Despite the existence of such an enormous number of species, the Arabian Peninsula is host to a relatively small number of owls that are considered either resident, transient or migrant.

Nonetheless, these charismatic birds have left their mark on the psyche of the region. In some Middle Eastern cultures, owls are often associated with death and ruin, and are said to represent the souls of those who have died unavenged. For this reason, owls are often considered bad luck in this part of the world, but this perception may be changing, particularly among the region’s farmers. Incredibly effective predators who are specially adapted for night hunting, owls offer great environmental services for humans, reducing the population growth of rodents and helping to maintain an ecological balance.

Because owls are generally active at night, they have a highly developed hearing system and extraordinary night vision. The forward facing aspect of the eyes gives the owl its “wise” appearance, but also more practically gives it tremendous depth perception. Additionally, their eyes are very efficient at collecting and processing light, allowing it to hunt effectively in dark conditions. In addition to that, owls have specialized feathers that enable near-silent flight by altering air turbulence and absorbing noise.

Owl size and weight varies greatly among owl species, with the Great Grey Owl, which is considered the largest species of owl, weighing up to approximately 3 kg with a length reaching up to 76 cm. Other species are very small, with a length that does not exceed 14 cm and weigh 40 g. Although the Arabian Peninsula isn’t typically considered an owl hotspot, these stunning images show that the few species that do make the region their home perfectly illustrate the variety and charisma of this iconic bird family.

Pharaoh Eagle Owl (Bubo ascalaphus)

This striking species, with its eyes as orange as the richest sand dune, is found across most of the Peninsula and in particular the east coast. Also known as the Eagle or Pharaonic Owl, it is the largest species in the area. Its size is about 68 cm, with a wingspan reaching up to 147 cm. It lives in desert environments and use rocky formations cavities as a nest.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

Resident throughout the year and considered the most common species in the region. It is medium-sized with a length reaching 35 cm, and 89 cm wing span. It is easily distinguishable from the rest of other species, with its heart-shaped face and piercing black eyes. True to its name, it likes to nests in abandoned buildings, especially ceilings and concrete gaps. …

Pallid Scops Owl (Otus brucei)

A rare resident, known in Arabic as the Striped Trees Owl. Small, with a length not exceeding 20 cm and 50 cm wing span. It is a resident to the eastern regions of the Peninsula; however, it is not common. It nests in tree holes, often in arid foothills and rocky gorges, but can be found in urban gardens, too. According to our research there is no certain record for its breeding time. In winter, it migrates to the north-western regions of the Indian subcontinent.

Eurasian Scops Owl (Otus scops)

A migrant that is resident in several countries and regions such as northern India, northern Iran, Turkey and the Mediterranean basin. It migrates in winter to Africa, its route running across the peninsula. It is significantly exposed to hunting during the season of migration.

Little Owl (Athene noctua)

Uncommon resident, also known as the small owl or the ringed owl. It reaches 22 cm in length and is often seen in the daytime. Marked by rows of sand colour and a rounded head. It is recorded breeding in most of the Gulf States. It is a widespread species, with a range that spreads from the UK to Eastern China, but the subspecies Athene noctua lilith, which is a softer sandy colour, is found only in this region.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

A rare winter visitor, also known as the Short-Eared owl or the Deaf Owl. Length may reach up to 38 cm. It has been recorded in most of the Gulf States but in low numbers. It prefers open, marshy countryside, where it is active both day and night, flying a few feet above ground and often hovering over prey before pouncing.

Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)

Its size is similar to its shorter-eared cousin, with a length that reaches up 36 cm. This agile predator prefers to roost in woodland, stretching its wings and body to disguise itself as a tree branch. Its migration route does not pass the Arabian Peninsula region, with very few observations in some Gulf countries, such as Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Jail for peaceful dissent in Oman sultanate

Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said addresses the opening session of the Council of Oman in Muscat on 15 November 2015 (AFP photo)

From Middle East Eye:

HRW: Oman should stop criminalising peaceful dissidents

Two activists, including a former parliamentarian, were sentenced to prison this month for their social media publications

Sunday 21 February 2016 11:47 UTC

Human Rights Watch on Sunday condemned Oman for sentencing two activists to prison for their social media posts.

The latest case saw a court in the southwestern city of Salalah on 17 February sentence artist and researcher Sayyid Abdullah al-Daruri to three months in prison for a Facebook post in which he stressed his affiliation to the Dhofar region. Dhofar is Oman’s largest governorate known for its strong cultural and linguistic heritage, as well as a large scale rebellion in the 1960s and 1970s.

“If all of the people from Dhofar chanted in one voice ‘We are Omanis’ then I will stand on the opposite side and say with all my unshakeable belief – ‘and I am a Dhofari and I will never be Omani until the day I die’,” Daruri wrote.

A week earlier, Hassan al-Basham, a former diplomat and parliamentarian, was sentenced on 8 February by a court in Sohar, northern Oman, to three years in prison for insulting God and the country’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, in a series of Facebook and Twitter posts.

Omani authorities should stop prosecuting people for peacefully expressing their beliefs and make sure that there’s space for peaceful dissent,” said Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy director in the Middle East.

Arrests of activists has increased since the 2011 popular protests in the country, where dissidents are prosecuted on charges such as “insulting the Sultan” and “undermining the prestige of the state”.

The government has also been able to curtail online criticism by relying on article 61 of the 2002 Telecommunications Act, which punishes “any person who sends, by means of telecommunications system, a message that violates public order or public morals”.

“Courts are basically criminalising peaceful dissent in Oman,” Stork said. “The Oman authorities should immediately release activists who are imprisoned solely for exercising their basic rights.”

Files on Mark Thatcher‘s dealings in Oman to remain secret for now. Documents on Profumo affair and royal family among other records withheld by No 10 from latest National Archive release: here.

Migratory birds in Oman counted

This video from Israel shows a crab plover and an oystercatcher.

Recently, birders counted waders in Barr al Hikman wetland in Oman.

They counted over 544,000 birds.

The most common species of the Barr al Hikman count, according to a Dutch Vroege Vogels radio interview this morning, was the lesser sand plover: 80,000 individuals.

The second species in numbers was the dunlin.

Third was the bar-tailed godwit.

There were crab plovers, Terek sandpipers, and other species, as well.

Barr al Hikman is a beautiful wetland, attractive for birds. However, it is threatened by ‘developers’. On the other hand, there are plans to protect Barr al Hikman by making it a Ramsar Convention area.

Rare Asian desert warbler on Terschelling island

This video is called Asian desert warbler, Nafoon, Oman 29/12/2011.

Today, there is a rare Asian desert warbler, on Terschelling in the Netherlands, near the marina in the west of the island. It is the third time ever that an individual of this species has visited the Netherlands.

This bird attracted many bird lovers.

Asian desert warbler Terschelling

Some of them photographed it.

Baby clownfish swim up to 400km to find a home

This video says about itself:

Clownfish aka anemonefish e.g. Nemo (Finding Nemo film) fish / fishes Amphiprioninae Pomacentridae

27 March 2014

The most famous clownfish in popular culture is Nemo the main character in the the 2003 animated film Finding Nemo. Nemo’s species is A. ocellaris. Clownfish and sea anemones have a symbiotic, mutualistic relationship, wherein each benefits the other.

Taxonomy – Genus Amphiprion:

Amphiprion akallopisos — Skunk clownfish
Amphiprion akindynos — Barrier Reef Anemonefish
Amphiprion allardi — Twobar anemonefish
Amphiprion barberi
Amphiprion bicinctus — Twoband anemonefish
Amphiprion chagosensis — Chagos anemonefish
Amphiprion chrysogaster — Mauritian anemonefish
Amphiprion chrysopterus — Orange-fin anemonefish
Amphiprion clarkii — Yellowtail clownfish
Amphiprion ephippium — Saddle anemonefish
Amphiprion frenatus — Tomato clownfish
Amphiprion fuscocaudatus — Seychelles anemonefish
Amphiprion latezonatus — Wide-band anemonefish
Amphiprion latifasciatus — Madagascar anemonefish
Amphiprion leucokranos — Whitebonnet anemonefish
Amphiprion mccullochi — Whitesnout anemonefish
Amphiprion melanopus — Fire clownfish
Amphiprion nigripes — Maldive anemonefish
Amphiprion ocellaris — Clown anemonefish
Amphiprion omanensis — Oman anemonefish
Amphiprion pacificus — Pacific anemonefish
Amphiprion percula — Orange clownfish
Amphiprion perideraion — Pink skunk clownfish
Amphiprion polymnus — Saddleback clownfish
Amphiprion rubacinctus — Red anemonefish
Amphiprion sandaracinos — Yellow clownfish
Amphiprion sebae — Sebae anemonefish
Amphiprion thiellei — Thielle’s anemonefish
Amphiprion tricinctus — Three-band anemonefish

Genus Premnas:
Premnas biaculeatus — Maroon clownfish

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Young ‘Nemo’ clownfish roam further than thought, study shows

Australian and British scientists reveal why it was so hard to find Nemo – baby clownfish can swim up to 400km to find a home

Thursday 18 September 2014 02.10 BST

Scientists have revealed why it may be so difficult to find Nemo – baby clownfish can swim up to 400km in search of a new home.

A study, co-authored by James Cook University (JCU) researchers, shows the larvae cross large tracts of ocean to find new coral to settle on, making them better able to cope with environmental change.

“Knowing how far larvae disperse helps us understand how fish populations can adapt,” said Hugo Harrison from JCU’s centre of excellence for coral reef studies. “The further they can swim, the better they can cope.”

He said the results of the study, released in September, offer insight into the long distances travelled by baby clownfish, which feature in the animated film Finding Nemo.

“In the past we haven’t known where they go, but now we’ve been given a rare glimpse into how far they can swim, crossing large tracts of ocean to find new homes,” Harrison said.

He said the larvae moved about but fully grown clownfish spent their entire adult lives under the protection of one anemone.

As part of the international study, researchers collected 400 tissue samples from the only two known populations of Omani clownfish found on two reefs off southern Oman.

By analysing DNA fingerprinting – which reveals which of the two reefs the fish originated from – they found larvae were regularly travelling the 400km distance between the reefs.

Study co-author Stephen Simpson from the University of Exeter in England said it was the longest distance scientists had been able to track the dispersal of any coral reef fish.

“The findings change our understanding of marine populations,” he said. “They’re not small and separate as we often assume, rather this research shows they’re often vast and interconnected.”

The study was published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE.