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Introduction

 

After our nice trip in Feb 2009 to northern Oman we decided to travel again to this beautiful country to explore not only what some of us already knew, but also the southern part of the country and the landscape along the newly built road along the coast.

 

Out team consisted of Thomas Bader, Richard Kopeczky, Gerald Ochsenhofer, Christoph Riegler and Franz Wieland. We flew overnight from Vienna via Doha to Muscat and arrived at about 3 a.m. local time. We picked up our Nissan Pathfinder and started immediately - direction Wahiba. Break of dawn was about 5.15 and the sun came out exactly at 6 a.m. We had a plan for each day, not only the travel route but also the daily activity: Getting up at 5 a.m. – out in the field (no breakfast) – searching during sunrise until it gets too hot – looking for night spots – eating/driving/sleeping – at about 4 p.m. driving to the evening/night spot, searching until we had enough and then back to the accommodation. We weren’t sure if we could always find some rooms, so we brought tents and sleeping bags but finally we always found some guest houses. Sometimes, especially on the east coast, the quality of the accommodations was very low, but who cares, if the search results are rewarding!

 

Reiseroute Oman 2014

route through the Oman 

 

Team Oman 2014

Team: Christoph, Franz, Richard, Thomas and Gerald

 

 
Day 1 – 27th of April, Wahiba Sands

 

During winter, as well as the days before our arrival, a lot of rain must have fallen, because all Wadis were full of water and several puddles were standing along the road. Also the vegetation in the north seemed quite green compared to our last visit.

 

At 07.30 we arrived at the edge of the Wahiba Sands in Mintirib, a place we already knew quite well. Many young and adult sand fish (Scincus mitranus) were climbing the dunes, but it was quite difficult to take pictures of them. The mating season of Acanthodactylus schmidti was already over and the rather rarely observed lizards showed an inconspicuous look, very disappointing compared to the colorful numerous observations of February. Same was true for all fringe toed lizards, because we found few lizards and sometimes only juveniles. An exception was Acanthodactylus haasi, which we found farther inside the dunes on the same day. 

  

Stenodactylus-leptocosymbotus-kl

 Stenodactylus leptocosymbotus

 

Ornithological highlights were nectar birds and Egyptian nightjar. After lunch we checked in to the Oriental Nights rest house and slept for a while before we went out for the night excursion, where we spotted the omnipresent Pristurus minimus, Bunopus tuberculatus, Stenodactylus leptocosymbotus, S. doriae, S. sharqiyahensis and many mice of the genus Gerbillus and some Jaculus. So much food and no snake yet, but finally Gerald found our first Eryx jayakari, lying unmotivated on the sand outside. We all were very happy, because we didn’t find this species in 2009.

 

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Day 2 – 28th of April, Wadi Bani Khalid

 

At about 5 a.m., when Hemidactylus faviviridis was still active in some trees and buildings near the hotel, we left for Wadi Bani Khalid, where we arrived at 6 o'clock. Bani Khalid has the highest discharge of water from all Wadi in the Eastern Hajar. This time, the water was rather green and dirty compared to 2009. Arabian toads were numerous, even with eggs and tadpoles.

 

We followed a sign for a cave, but after a 90 min walk up the mountain we gave up. Along this walk we found several Omanosaura jayakari, Pristurus rupestris and Trachylepis tessellata. Near the canyon a high diversity of dragonflies and butterflies was present. After our return we took a bath in the warm water. At about 11 it became too hot and we checked the lower part of the valley for a possible night excursion, which seemed to be promising. 

 

Wadi-Bani-Khalid kl

Wadi Bani Khalid


Back at the hotel, after a cosy nap we started back to the mountain Wadi, where we reached at 6 p.m. The perfect time for the night excursion, because all diurnal reptiles enjoyed their last sunbeams, before the season of the night creatures started. Christoph spotted an Ablepharus pannonicus and Gerald scared away a Wadi Racer which escaped in the river, but Thomas found it after a while under water. During twilight we observed a breathtaking combat between two rivaling squeaky Ptyodactylus orlovi (formerly hasselquistii). The fight, which was followed by us and two female geckos, lasted about 10 minutes, first on a rock before they fell down to the ground. The rivals were completely out of control and couldn't be disturbed neither by our torches nor the near cameras. 

  

Echis-omanensis-kl

Echis omanensis


Along the falaj system – irrigation canals – we found our first specimen of the Hemidactylus hajarensis group (formerly persicus) on some rocks near the water. Finally Richard spotted our target species of the day, a beautiful saw scaled viper – Echis omanensis. After an intensive photo session our night trip ended. At home we took some pictures of Hemidactylus robustus, H. flaviviridis and a huge camel spider in our hotels garden. In a small dune near by the hotel Franz caught a juvenile sand boa, some Stenodactylus doriae and Bunopus tuberculatus. A very successful and long day had ended.

 

 
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Day 3 – 29th of April, From the Wahiba Sand to Bar al Hikman


The day started at 5.30 just half an hour before sunrise. Between Jalaan Bani and the coast we stopped twice at really interesting spots, and once we got stuck in a sand bed, because it was still very wet from the previous rain. Good to have 4 strong dozers in the car! The sand dunes looked very promising with lots of snake traces, also some Cerastes tracks from the previous night. Unfortunately we only found Pristurus minimus, P. carteri and A. schmidti.

 

Acanthodactylus-schmidti-GO-kl

Acanthodactylus schmidti

  

A shame we couldn't stay for the night, because we had a long way to go. It got warmer and so we drove along the cost southwards. In the area where we caught the Varanus in 2009 not less than 4 freshly overrun V. griseus were lying on the road, but no living specimen was observed. The traffic was very low and only about one car each 10 min was seen. Farther south at the end of the Wahiba sands suddenly an Arabian toad headed agama was sitting on a big stone in the middle of nowhere, watching the territory.

 

This behavior is known for several different agamas, but we have never observed it on this sand dwelling species. But we were even more astonished by a Pristurus carteri with the same behavior on a neighboring stone in the middle of the sand desert. Some more Phrynocephalus arabicus suddenly appeared in the middle of the highest sand dune out of nowhere. This part of the east coast is very original and people are living just from traditional fishery. In the afternoon we checked in to the only (very low standard) accommodation in Mahut village. The sabkhas in this area are home of Pseudoceramodactylus khobarensis. We searched for this gecko for a while without success. These sabkhas were very disappointing, so we drove to the beach to small fishery harbor, where carcasses of Chelonia mydas, rays and other sea dwellers were lying around. And some coastal rocks many huge Pristurus sp. 1 were running around. 

 

Nachtexkursion-Tag-03-kl

 promising habitat for the onset of night excursion

 

Back on the road we saw a promising sand dune in a distance, which we checked out for the night excursion. The sand dwelling geckos S. leptocosymbotus, S. doriae and S. sharqiyahensis were found. In total we found five sand boas and four Lytorhynchus diadema this night and one fresh track of a Cerastes unfortunately the search for the snake was in vain.

 

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Day 4 – 30th of April, From Bar al Hikman to Duqm

 

Just after sunrise we made a photo session at our night sand dune and released all animals. The additional morning records for the dune were Acanthodactylus schmidti, Trachylepis tessellata, Scincus mitranus and of course the omnipresent P. carteri and P. minimus. On the way down the sand dunes ended and the soil became harder – in this area we had sympatric records from Phrynocephalus arabicus with Pseudotrapelus dhofarensis. The composition of species changed and suddenly we found Uromastyx aegyptia and Mesalina adramitana and Pseudotrapelus became the dominating species, although P. carteri, P. minimus and P. sp. 1 - now also in higher densities - were still present.

 

Duqm – remember this name! In this area Oman is developing a high standard tourism area with 5 star hotels, an international airport etc. The Duqm city hotel was a good reasonable hotel with WIFI and good breakfast. On the beach, some miles away the first 5* hotel has opened and several other will follow. The destruction of the beach is proceeding quickly. All the more we were surprised to see a Gazella gazella cora near the construction sites. 

 

Telescopus-dhara-kl

Telescopus dhara in situ

 

In the surroundings of Duqm we visited two Wadis for the night excursions. It was rather cool and very windy. During twilight some Pseudotrapelus enjoyed the sun and a big Psammophis escaped in a bush. During the night P. carteri and P. minimus disappeared and S. leptocosymbotus became the dominating gecko. The sensation started when Richard found the first orange cat snake – Telescopus dhara on the top of a bush. After a while he found the second one and then more and more Telescopus were found until it ended in a result of seven cat snakes in this one night! Most of the cat snakes were found on top of small bushes. While the younger ones were bright orange they pale when they get older. The longest snake measured about 1m.

 

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Day 5 – 1st of May, Labor Day – From Duqm to Wadi Shuwaymiyah

  

After an early morning photo session, we went back to Duqm city hotel for a pleasurable breakfast, our first on the tour. We started quite late and so we tried to drive a bit quicker, which resulted in a big tragedy with an interesting aftertaste. Near Ras Madrakah something crossed our way and we weren't sure whether we hit it or not. Unfortunately we run over a lovely but now flat Uromastyx thomasi. The area was really disgusting, but of course we went out to search for this species. Franz found a second Uromastyx carcass nearby under a stone.

 

Beside a single Mesalina adramitana only several Pristurus carteri were running around. During our search, Christoph shouted to come along. We run to him and he told us, that while he was photographing an orange colored P. carteri, a Psammophis schokari dashed under his shoes to the gecko, bit and strangled his prey for a few minutes until it was dead. The snake was a bit disturbed by us but didn't interrupt its forage. The thin snake carrying its heavy prey was searching a while for a shady bush but couldn't find one. The snake was completely exhausted and we decided to leave the scenery, which was one of the best events so far, beside the combat of the Ptyodactylus the other night. Unfortunately we couldn't find another Uromastyx thomasi

 

Psammophis-schokari-kl

 Psammophis schokari and Pristurus carteri

 

During our next stops we found some Acanthodactylus, most probably A. opheodurus. Christoph could also take a picture of an Acanthodactylus masirae. It was shortly before midday and after a while the lizards disappeared and we also decided to drive farther south to our target, Wadi Shuwaymiyah.

 

Before entering the Wadi, we checked in to the Ash Shuwaymiyah guest house, which was the worst accommodation of the trip, but the only one in the village. Wadi Shuwaymiyah is famous for its sulfur oases, which look like Garden Eden, but smell like a fart museum. These oases are situated several miles up the Wadi on a gravel track. Right next to the oasis Thomas flipped a stone and marveled at a huge Echis of about 65 cm. We misleadingly thought, it was a Echis coloratus, because Echis khosatzkii is described with a maximum length of 50 cm and we believed to be far too much North for khosatzkii.

 

Finally it turned out, we were wrong. Only three rows of supralabials and the typical brownish color identified the snake to be Echis khosatzkii. During our night excursion we found a freshly beheaded Chelonia mydas on the beach. The lower part of the Wadi is rich of geckos, namely Hemidactylus festivus, Pristurus carteri, Pristurus sp.1, Ptyodactylus dhofarensis and Tropiocolotes scortecci. Richard and Christoph completed the day with another Echis khosatzkii and a baby Telescopus dhara.

 


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Day 6 – 2nd of May, The Mirbat area and the Khor Rori estuary

 

Wadi Shuwaymiyah is the easternmost foothill of the Dhofar mountain chain. From here a brand new road to Hasik has been built and shortly opened for public. The mountain scenery is fantastic and it must be stated, that this road is a real masterpiece of engineering. At the time of our visit the end of the dry season had come and many landscapes were burnt and dried out. We stopped in a Wadi and marveled the famous frankincense trees and gathered some resin drops. Our next target was the area between Hasik and Mirbat, known for the beautiful Uromastyx benti. Actually several beautifully colored dragons were monitoring the surroundings from their rocks and boulders. They appeared in several colors, from yellow to orange, bluish and black and some were checkered in different colors. Unfortunately most of them were quite shy and disappeared after stopping the car. But we finally could take some good pictures and were really happy about this astonishing species.

 

Offroad Khor Rori kl

Better get out of the car - confidence in the driving skills was moderately

  

Farther west we approached the UNESCO heritage Khor Rori from a prohibited area with our off-road vehicle and suddenly we were in the center of Khor Rori, without paying the entrance fee. On this way we again watched another Gazella gazella cora. Khor Rori is the estuary of Wadi Darbat and was an ancient harbor with a huge water mouth. It now holds an enormous diversity of birds. On the fenced beach we saw a fresh nesting track of a sea turtle. Near the cultural building we observed a Trachylepis brevicollis, but these skinks are so shy and we couldn't manage to take a picture. When we left the heritage we had to pay the entrance fee and the guards were wondering, how we came in.

We drove to Salalah and checked in to the beach villas hotel, where we stayed for three nights. In the evening we drove back to Khor Rori for the night excursion. Unfortunately we didn't consider the mosquitos along the river and Richard had allergic reactions and soon took refuge in the car. Gerald observed an Atractaspis andersonii and Franz found another Echis khosatzkii on a steep rock, which escaped soon. The ground gecko Hemidactylus paucituberculatus was running and jumping around in the dry river bed. After a suspicious local molested us, we soon stopped our disappointing mosquito tour.

 


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Day 7 – 3rd of May, Mughsayl and Wadi Ayun

 

Early in the morning we were heading towards Yemen and stopped shortly after Mughsayl. We didn't search in the Wadi but in the hilly area farther west. It was extremely dry at the end of the dry season but some plants already seemed to expect some rain shortly, because they were blooming. In terms of herpetology it was a rather poor morning. The highlight was a very shy Trachylepis brevicollis, but Richard managed to take a picture. Gerald observed a spiny mouse, which looks like a crossbreed of a hedgehog and a rat. At the shore we played with some blowholes and watched some birds (Emberiza striolata, Merops orientalis, ...). Rather disappointed in terms of herpetology, but still happy to see some Baobab and Frankincense trees, we drove back for breakfast and a short nap.


After lunch we decided to visit the famous Wadi Ayun, which is located in the hinterland of Salalah. Interestingly the dense subtropical forest, which is limited to the southern slopes behind Salalah, was completely bald. Immediately when reaching the plateau, the landscape changed and the trees were green, thronged by an immense number of cattle. After a while we reached the top of Wadi Ayun, looking down to the lake in the valley. It was a quite steep way down but finally we reached the Wadi bottom and soon the sun was gone.

 

The edge of the lake was full of giant reed (Arundo) and some dromedaries and hundreds of goats were grazing. Wadi Ayun is known for an extremely high diversity of species but unfortunately May is not a good time, because the rainy season starts in June and therefore not many herps were active. We found some Dhofar toads - Duttaphrynus dhufarensis in smaller ponds up the valley. On the rocks Ptyodactylus dhofarensis and Pristurus sp.1 were quite abundant. Hemidactylus festivus was present in the upper part of the Wadi slopes, while Hemidactylus minutus (formerly H. homoeolepis) populates the edges of the river bed. We searched for a long time but finally Gerald found our desired gecko species Hemidactylus lemurinus, a beautiful endemic gecko with huge eyes and a lovely face. We found only one specimen. Gerald also caught a tiny little hooked thread snake – Myriopholis macrorhyncha, a juvenile specimen.

 

Hemidactylus-lemurinus GO kl

Hemidactylus lemurinus - endemic to this area

 

Finally while we were heading back to the car Gerald spotted a juvenile Echis khosatzkii on the track. The snake was very calm and not at all aggressive. In the Wadi we saw fresh Leopard tracks. On our way back through the night we observed two shiny eyes and a shape that escaped up the slope with soft leaps. Perhaps it was a leopard but the distance was too far for our headlights to determine the animal definitely. The Arabian Leopard – Panthera pardus nimr – is the smallest and most endangered subspecies with only about 200 free living specimens. We also observed a red fox as well as a golden jackal while driving back.

 


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Day 8 – 4th of May, Tawi Atayr Sinkhole and Wadi Darbat

 

After breakfast we started an easy relaxing tour to a karst sinkhole called Tawi Atayr, the "well of birds". Not far from our hotel in Salalah we observed a male bloodsucker Calotes versicolor on a stone wall. This introduced Asian species has been well known for many years. What was new for us was the immense range extension of Calotes at least in north-eastern direction. On the way to Wadi Atayr we saw many bloodsuckers beside the road. Also the gravel fields in Wadi Tawi are densely populated, nearly every larger boulder was occupied. The Tawi Atayr sinkhole is about 200m deep, and measures a diameter of 150 m on top and about 60 m on the lower level, which can be accessed. An overhanging old platform can be accessed to look down, but the bottom isn't visible. An endemic fish (Garra dunsirei BANISTER, 1987) species was described shortly from the sinkhole. The well of birds is indeed an ornithological highlight. Many colorful birds (e.g. Ploceus galbula, Emberiza striolata) were singing and flying around and a couple of Bonelli's eagles were feeding their chicks. 

 

Acanthocercus-adramitanus CR kl

Acanthocercus adramitanus 

 

In terms of herpetology we only saw a quickly disappearing Trachylepis tessellata climbing and hiding on the rocks. When we climbed up we already wanted to quit but then we discovered a cave on the other side of the crater and we hiked there and found our first Hemidactylus alkiyumii inside the cave. Outside Christoph descried a wonderful couple of Acanthocercus adramitanus. The astonishing but very shy blue male and the grey female alternately basked outside of their burrow on a rock.


After this adventure we inspected Wadi Darbat, our target for the night. Wadi Darbat is a permanently water filled Wadi with a high diversity of birds, reptiles and mammals. On the way an African Paradise Flycatcher was sitting on a tree and near the water we spotted a Grey Headed Kingfisher as well as several yellow bayas. Jürgen has sent us a picture of a cobra, recently photographed by a Dutch guy, swimming in the Darbat pond.

 

Unfortunately we weren't that lucky to observe one. We drove home for a sleep and came back in the late evening. The vegetation was completely grazed by the dromedaries and cattle and nearly nothing was left to hide in the river bed. First we only found some Duttaphrynus dhufarensis, sleeping Calotes versicolor and Pristurus sp.1. Gerald surprised us with a huge about 70 cm long glossy Atractaspis andersonii, an absolute highlight of our trip. We searched for a quite long time but after a while only Hemidactylus alkiyumii came out, although in high numbers. Franz and Gerald flushed a genet in a forest, which escaped on a nearby tree. Although we found some highlights during our Dhofar nights we realized, that in fact the dry May is not really a good time for herping, because the number of animals is really low.

 

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Day 9 – 5th of May, Goodbye Dhofar, the desert between Thumrayt and Haima
 
On our last morning in the Dhofar we tried to find sandy beaches east of Salalah for Acanthodactylus species, but the soil was dug over everywhere. A freshly killed Telescopus dhara on the road and some Pristurus sp.1 and Pseudotrapelus dhofarensis were our only records there. So we started our way back via the inland road to Thumrayt, which is a well-known place for Echis coloratus and Cerastes gasperettii. We reached Thumrayt around lunch time and discovered the surroundings of the city, which didn't look very promising at all. We found Acanthodactylus opheodurus, Pristurus carteri and Mesalina adramitana and took a picture of a sandgrouse. Farther north the desert became more and more dry and scraggy. On our way north suddenly we observed a dragon on a stone during the hottest time of day. It was a completely white female of Trapelus flavimaculatus, not at all shy but after a while the color became a bit darker. In the surroundings of this site nearly no vegetation was growing. 
 
Trapelus-flavimaculatus CR kl

Trapelus flavimaculatus 

 

The landscape became even poorer but still some reptiles seem to survive in such conditions. Uromastyx aegyptia and Mesalina adramitana were present even in a desert with hardly any plant. The landscape was really frustrating! Between Quitbit and Haima not a single interesting looking site was present so we drove without any brake/break. Even Haima was quite an uninteresting place, where we found four species during our evening trip: Pristurus carteri, Bunopus tuberculatus, Stenodactylus leptocosymbotus and Mesalina adramitana. Compared to the road along the coast the inland road is very monotonously. The highlight of the evening was a blue-cheeked bee-eater swallowing a large yellow locust.
 
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Day 10 – 6th of May, Back to Nizwa, Wadi Tanuf

 

We left the Haima hotel early in the morning and drove farther north. The net of petrol stations is quite low on the main road and one should use every possibility to fill up. Unfortunately one station ran out of petrol and so we took the risk to drive farther to the next one in Adam, although we were quite low on fuel. Our board computer calculated 4 more km to go when we reached the pit stop in Adam and the 75 l tank was filled up with 74,377 l. A short stop in the oasis town of Adam was disappointing and so we proceeded directly to Nizwa.

 

The city of Nizwa was a complete construction site at this moment and every main road was renewed and enlarged, even the Mosque was in scaffolds. After a longer search we took a hotel in the southern part of the town, the Safari hotel. In the evening we drove to the entrance of Wadi Tanuf, where the ruins of the ancient city of Tanuf are located. Tanuf is a typical clay ruin oasis and of course a tourist attraction. As soon as a bus with Dutch tourists arrived, we left for the spectacular Wadi. While the sun was still shining, we observed some Arabian toads, Trachylepis tessellata, Pristurus celerrimus and P. sp.1. In a cave we spotted several mouse-tailed bats (Rhinopoma) of an unknown species, maybe someone can help? 

 

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Asaccus platyrhynchus

 

During sundown we drove back to the end of the road, where a small village sticks on the rocks, and waited for the night to come. Several gecko species are living in this Wadi. We spotted the recently split northern Ptyodactylus form P. orlovi as well as the former persicus form Hemidactylus luqueorum. For sure the highlight was the wonderful gecko Asaccus platyrhynchus, which we also found later back at the ruins. Unfortunately we missed the smaller A. gallagheri, which also lives in this Wadi. It was still a good evening after the dry and meager desert.

 

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Day 11 – 7th of May, The tour Wadi Qurai – Barzman – Manah

 

Wadi Qurai was the place, where we spotted an Omanosaura cyanura in 2009 and so we wanted to check out this beautiful Wadi with a constant flow of water again. A high number of dragonflies escorted us through the Wadi with its highly developed Falaj irrigation system. Omanosaura jayakari was present in high numbers. Huge males kept their territory under surveillance and it seems that these lizards are living together in pairs. After an hour walking we arrived at the pools, where some Duttaphrynus arabicus and many Garra barreimiae were bathing together with us. These cyprinid fish were nibbling at our feet, which felt like a kind tickling. After our cooling bath we went back and saw the same species as the day before: P. rupestris, P. celerrimus, T. tessellata and P. orlovi.

 

After a short discussion we decided to search for some sand dunes in the western edges of the Wahiba sands in order to maybe find a Cerastes. Unfortunately this wasn't a good idea because still after a long drive no sandy areas occurred and so we stopped in the ancient clay town Barzman, where we only found some Pristurus rupestris and D. arabicus.

 

Our last stop of the day was the clay town of Manah, where we already knew the population of Pristurus gallagheri in the old town center. It was already dark and so we only spotted three or four individuals of this interesting and rare species. Back in Nizwa we visted the old Souq with some Hemidactylus flaviviridis and Thomas' relatives in the Al-Bader phone shop.

 

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Day 12 – 8th of May, Highlights at the Sayq plateau

 

We left Nizwa very early in the morning and arrived after the passport and 4WD control at the Sayq plateau shortly after 6 a.m. Behind the Sayq airport and the military base some Wadis are cutting into the landscape. We visited the Wadis Qtm and Sayh from the nearby road. As in 2009 we recognized that Pristurus celerrimus was the dominating species and the density of P. rupestris was lower. Omanosaura jayakari was also found in high numbers and under a stone Franz saw an Ablepharus pannonicus and nearby a Trachylepis tessellata. Many butterflies and dragonflies were observed and exactly at the same place as in 2009 we found a stick insect.

 

Omanosaura-jayakari CR kl

Omanosaura jayakari

 

After lunch we checked in to the Jebel Akhdar hotel and slept until 4 pm. We decided to check out a completely new area, far away from villages and civilization and so we drove to the area above Wadi Tanuf. There we found a promising Wadi. We used the last sunbeams for our search and after a very short time Richard found his first Omanosaura cyanura and while shooting pictures Gerald found a second one, which is quite unusual, because mostly only single individuals are found. We really enjoyed watching these fantastic lizards, which forage, similar to our European rock lizards, in small cracks and gaps. The second lizard seemed to be pregnant. Omanosaura jayakari was much rarer here and also the two Pristurus species seemed to be less abundant than in Wadi Qtm.

 

During dusk we enjoyed the view to Nizwa and the full moon, which arose at the horizon. We checked out the same Wadi during the night. Although Drew Gardner described the two former H. persicus species as allopatric we believe that we found Hemidactylus luqueorum as well as Hemidactylus hajarensis together here in this Wadi - although in different locations. The beautiful Asaccus montanus surprised us by its small size compared to its relative A. platyrhynchus at lower elevation. Some Duttaphrynus arabicus were swimming in the remaining pools from the recent rainfalls. We were surprised not to find Echis omanensis, because our Czech colleagues found them in rather high numbers near Sayq, although in September.

 

 

Pseudocerastes-persicus CR kl

 Pseudocerastes persicus

 

So much the better was the record of a superb Pseudocerastes persicus by Richard, on top of the Wadi slope and it was quite a coincidence and luck, because he already passed by and heard something behind him, turned and saw the hissing but well camouflaged snake, just coming out from its hole. The Persian false horned viper was an absolute highlight of our trip and the main target on the Sayq plateau. Highly satisfied we went back to the hotel and treated ourselves to a beer, the only one during our trip. The kitchen was already closed and so we had to stitch the waiter to get one. In the night we heard howling wolves – or was it just the flush of the beer?

 

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Day 13 – 9th of May, The crossing of Jebel Akhdar to the Batinah

 

After breakfast we left Sayq, because we already found, what we were looking for. We decided to take the spectacular road crossing the Jebel Akhdar, which we already knew from 2009. In the area of the Al Hotta cave we saw several huge Acanthodactylus boskianus, one specimen was driven over. On the mountain road we observed some Egyptian vultures, a dead Echis omanensis on the road, large Omanosaura jayakari and a huge Platyceps rhodorachis in a Wadi oasis together with some Arabian toads. We also passed the famous snake canyon, where many tourists were guided by some locals. The dragons in this area were shortly separated to the new species Pseudotrapelus jensvindumi, although we were not able to separate this polymorphic species neither from P. dhofarensis nor from P. sinaitus.

 

Echis-carinatus-sochurekiEchis carinatus sochureki

 

We arrived at the Batinah in the afternoon, checked in to a hotel nearby the airport and tried to find a natural place in the Batinah, which is not easy anymore, because this beach is highly populated and the industrial and touristic development is extremely high. But still we found a good spot, where Franz went out of the car, turned some stones and immediately found two young Echis carinatus sochureki. After this surprise we intensively searched but only found some juvenile Acanthodactylus blanfordii - no adult specimen was seen. Also here May seemed not a good month for fringe toed lizards.

 

We had some dinner at a food shop and our new husband Franz went to the hairdresser in order to look clean cut again for his wife at home. In the night we went back to the beach and found some Hemidactylus robustus in trees, Bunopus tuberculatus and Stenodactylus leptocosymbotus. While we went back, Gerald spotted one more Echis carinatus, hiding under a bush.

 

 

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Day 14 – 10th of May – Wadi Abyad, Muscat and our flight back

 

Although it was our last day, we took the risk and drove to the beautiful Wadi Abyad on the northern slopes of the mountains, where we bathed in 2009 in wonderful pools. At the Wadi entrance we realized, there was a lot of water and it was quite difficult crossing the river bed, which is sometimes necessary, but in the end our Pathfinder did a good job, although it was quite cramped in the back seats with three persons. On some point we had to stop and walk farther. It was already 9 a.m. when we started our walk and after some minutes we found a large Echis omanensis crossing the river bed. For us it was the first recorded saw scaled viper which was active during day light. These snakes are hunting for Arabian toads, which are very common along the stream.

 

When we reached the area of our pool, we realized the pool was gone - most probably by a flood - but some meters down the stream we found a site which was good enough for a swim. Some palms made a shade and so we had a perfect morning. Gerald found a big Wadi racer (P. rhodorachis) foraging for Garra barreimiae and several dragonflies were flying in the air. We went back, had a short stop in the capital of Muscat, visited the Souq in Seeb, bought some souvenirs in a store and went to the airport. We flew back with the Dreamliner to Doha and then back to Vienna. A fantastic trip had ended – one of the best until now!

 

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Observed Species, approx. number
1. Duttaphrynus arabicus 50+
2. Duttaphrynus dhufarensis 20+
3. Asaccus montanus 3
4. Asaccus platyrhynchus 6
5. Bunopus tuberculatus 15+
6. Hemidactylus alkiyumii 10
7. Hemidactylus festivus 5
8. Hemidactylus flaviviridis 6
9. Hemidactylus hajarensis 8
10.  Hemidactylus lemurinus 1
11. Hemidactylus luqueorum 2
12. Hemidactylus minutus 5
13. Hemidactylus paucituberculatus   6
14. Hemidactylus robustus 10
15. Pristurus carteri 50+
16. Pristurus celerrimus 15+
17. Pristurus gallagheri 4
18. Pristurus minimus 50+
19. Pristurus rupestris 50+
20. Pristurus sp. 1 20+
21. Ptyodactylus dhofarensis 20+
22. Ptyodactylus orlovi 8
23. Stenodactylus doriae 5
24. Stenodactylus leptocosymbotus 40+
25. Stenodactylus sharqiyahensis 5
26. Tropiocolotes scortecci 1
27. Acanthocercus adramitanus 2
28. Calotes versicolor 15+
29. Phrynocephalus arabicus 5
30. Pseudotrapelus dhofarensis 50+
31. Pseudotrapelus jensvindumi 5
32. Trapelus flavimaculatus 1
33. Uromastyx aegyptia 4
34. Uromastyx benti 10+
35. Uromastyx thomasi 2
36. Acanthodactylus blanfordii 8
37. Acanthodactylus boskianus 4
38. Acanthodactylus masirae 1
39. Acanthodactylus opheodurus 6
40. Acanthodactylus schmidti 10+
41. Acanthodactylus haasi 3
42. Mesalina adramitana 6
43. Omanosaura cyanura 2
44. Omanosaura jayakari 40+
45. Ablepharus pannonicus 2
46. Scincus mitranus 10
47. Trachylepis brevicollis 2
48. Trachylepis tessellata 8
49. Varanus griseus 4 (tot)
50. Myriopholis macrorhyncha 1
51. Eryx jayakari 8
52. Lytorhynchus diadema 4
53. Platyceps rhodorachis 3
54. Psammophis schokari 2
55. Telescopus dhara 9
56. Atractaspis andersonii 2
57. Echis carinatus 3
58. Echis khosatzkii 4
59. Echis omanensis 3
60. Pseudocerastes persicus 1
61. Chelonia mydas 3 (tot)