Oman, June 2013

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moloch
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Oman, June 2013

Post by moloch » June 15th, 2013, 3:25 am

I am just back from a few days in the UAE and Oman. This report will cover my two nights in Oman. I stopped there while on the return trip from Spain where I worked for a couple of weeks. The UAE and Oman are great places for reptiles and have a good diversity of species. A new field guide to the reptiles will be out soon and that will help with identifications. For the moment, I use photos on the following birding site to help me sort out some of the species:

http://www.uaebirding.com/photos-reptiles.html

With Dubai now becoming one of the world's major air hubs, access to these countries has become so much easier. The infrastructure of both countries is excellent and includes good highways/freeways. The people are also incredibly friendly and hospitable. For the second time now I was inivited to dinner with strangers who saw me out taking photos.

On this trip, I returned for two nights to the Bahla area in the Hajar Mountains of northern Oman. One day, I travelled to Jebel Akhdar and the next, I headed up Jebel Shams. In the map below, "A" is the Jebel Shams area and "B" the Jebel Akhdar area.

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I visited Jebel Akhdar in February when the weather was cool so I was interested to see if there were many more animals active now in the summer. Here is a link to my February report:

http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... 6&p=183126

On this trip, the temperature in the lowlands was high and reached a peak of 43C one day. It was much cooler, though at the upper levels of the mountains known as Jebel Akhdar and Jebel Shams.

I visited scenic Jebel Akhdar area one afternoon. This area was especially nice in Feb when the air was clear and dry. On this trip, the skies were grey and the air was humid so scenery shots were difficult.
Jebel Akhdar area:
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These little Rock Semaphore Geckos (Pristurus rupestris) were common in the above habitat. The were sunning in the open late in the day and usually would allow close approach.
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At night, I tried a combination walking the wadis (drainages) and driving to find reptiles. Geckos on the first night were numerous. Strangely, I saw very little on the second night. I am not certain why but it may have been related to the slightly cooler, more humid conditions.

The most common gecko was one I quite like with its strange toes. I found Hasselquist's Fan-Footed (Ptyodactylus hasselquistii) on rock walls of the wadis, in a cave and even on the road.
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habitat:
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I returned to a small cave that I found in Feb. A small stream flows out of a fracture in the wall of the cave. This place was great for geckos and I usually saw at least 10 on a visit. The most common species was this large gecko with long legs. I believe that the males have a yellow tail and females a white tail.

cave (shot from Feb):
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Asaccus platyrhynchus
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I saw several of these smaller geckos on rocks near the cave as well as on a night walk further up Jebel Akhdar. I think that they are Gallagher's Leaf-toed Geckos (Asaccus gallagheri) and like A. platrhynchus, I think that the males had yellow tails whereas females had white tails.
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Banded Ground Gecko (Bunopus spatalurus) were common, especially at the higher altitudes.
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The following is what I assume to be Yerburis Leaf-Toed Gecko (Hemidactylus yerburii). These were big geckos that lived in the same places as Asaccus platyrhynchus.
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Bosk's Fringe-toed Lizard (Acanthodactylus boskianus) were one of the fews species of diurnal lizards observed on the trip.
burrow:
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habitat:
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male
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female
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I found this Wadi Racer (Platyceps rhodorachis) at dusk as I walked from the road to the base of a wadi. It would hide under small stones and that was how I would lift these for a photo or two before the snake raced under new cover.
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habitat:
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Oman Saw-scaled Viper (Echis somanensis). I was very happy to find one of these on the road at night. It would side-wind on the road but crawled normally once on the rocky road shoulder. Unfortunately, it did not make a sound while I photographed it. I've read that saw-scales can make a loud, strange sound by rubbing their body scales together when alarmed.
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Photos from the drive up Jebel Shams. This is a beautiful area and near the top of Jebel Shams is a small road that drives along a deep gorge known as the Grand Canyon of Oman. I did not go that far on this trip since conditions were hazy and would not have been good for photos. I plant to be back again in October so hopefully there will be less moisture in the air and I will be able to take a few shots of the place.
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I saw these ancient ruins at the base of the acent to Jebel Shams. It looks like people have lived here for a very long time.
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Sinai Agama (Pseudotrapelus sinaitus). I saw two of these spectacular lizards in the same area of Jebel Shams. Both were sitting at the tops of piles of rocks. They would do "push-ups" as I approached and then ran while I was still several meters from them.
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This solifugid was enormous. Its legs had a spread similar to a tarantula. It was fast moving and was hard to follow. I attempted several photos but this was the best that I could come up with. Galeodes sp.?
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Scarlet-tip (Colotis sp.)
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Ruxs
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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by Ruxs » June 15th, 2013, 4:11 am

It must have been a weird experience to go looking for reptiles in a place where you aren't familiar with what's what. I've always wanted to try that but read up way too much in advance for anywhere I go, which I guess is the best thing to do if you plan on catching snakes... :crazyeyes:

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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by mrichardson » June 15th, 2013, 6:02 am

A very interesting post. I especially like the the viper. Did you come across any mammals in the short time you were there?

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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by Ribbit » June 15th, 2013, 6:17 am

Thanks so much for putting this account together. As always, the photos are fantastic and the narrative enticing. Now I want to go to Oman.

It's hard to pick favorites from such an amazing set of critters, but I'll try anyway. I love the little hooded eyelid on the Rock Semaphore Geckos, especially in the first photo. The fan-footed geckos are clearly from another planet, which is always nice to see here on Earth. And the first photo of the probably-Gallagher's-Leaf-toed-Gecko with the curled tail is just perfect.

John

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Martti Niskanen
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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by Martti Niskanen » June 15th, 2013, 8:20 am

Very nice post. Cheers for that.

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moloch
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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by moloch » June 16th, 2013, 2:32 am

Thanks very much, guys.

Ruxs, I looked at al the photos that I could find on the net but some groups like the Acanthodactylus lacertids and the Hemidactylus seem to be in a taxonmical state of flux. I am really looking forward to the new field guide that will be out this summer. It hopefully will include distribution maps and keys that will provide clues as to how to separate overlapping species. It is lots of fun to go to a place like that where recognizing the species is hard going.


mrichardson, I did not see any of the larger mammals with the exception of camels that were everywhere. I did see several foxes, one of the small native cats and then a few rodents.


Thanks, John. I also really like those fan-footed geckos ... what incredible feet! When I saw them on the road, they were usually dazzled by the bright lights. They would become confused and then leap and flip as if trying to reach a boulder. They were speedy creatures especially on a rock face.

Thanks, Martti.



Regards,
David

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-EJ
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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by -EJ » June 16th, 2013, 6:34 am

Posts like this are insane. It just totally boggles my mind how casual it seems. The photography is excellent. I never realized that there was such gecko diversity in that area.

Can I ask what situation took you to that area? Did you feel safe?

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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by CCarille » June 16th, 2013, 6:41 am

Some pretty neat stuff! I love the "spiny" tale of the first geckos and the feet of the fan-footed geckos really are unique! Great post!

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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by reako45 » June 16th, 2013, 2:58 pm

Those geckos were awesome. What a great variety. How big was the solufigid? The biggest ones I've seen here in CA and in AZ are about 4-5'.

reako45

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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by SnakeDude » June 16th, 2013, 3:21 pm

Oh man! (HA get it?) that saw-scaled is amazing. cool gecko shots too.

Ian

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moloch
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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by moloch » June 17th, 2013, 1:47 am

Thanks, EJ.
Oman and the UAE are perfectly safe and the people are so friendly. As an example, one night I was spotlighting in the dunes not far from a road to Al Ain. A car stopped and then flashed its lights at me. I thought that it might be the police so I walked up to the car. Turned out that the guy saw my lights and thought that I might have problems so he stopped to help. He was obviously a wealthy guy with a brand new Lexus 4x4 that was full of electronic equipment. He, like most of the locals, was dressed in an immaculate white robe and head dress with braids. His English was excellent and he was very interested in wildlife. I showed him some of the photos that I had taken and he was pleased to see these and knew most of the animals. Before long, he invited me and my family over to dinner the next night. I would love to have done so but was off to Oman early the next morning. I am sure that his place would have been opulent and it would have been so nice to have the real authentic Arab cuisine. That is the second time in two trips that I have met such friendly people and had such an invitiation.

On another occasion, I had a minor fender-bender with a water truck. It turned out to be my fault because I did not understand the Omani road rules. As soon as we both stopped, the driver jumped out, shook my hand and smiled. Other cars stopped and the people also shook my hand. A government car stopped and the official, who spoke perfect English, told me what I needed to do and reassured me that there was no problem. He left me his mobile number in case I had any questions. Later, when the police arrived, we all shook hands again and then followed the police to their station in a nearby town so that I could have a report prepared for insurance reasons. At the end of the process, I paid the other driver 50 OMD ($130 AUD) for his broken headlight, we all shook hands again and then "Insha'Allahs" were given. It all was smiles and politeness ... no yelling, profanities or other bad behaviour. It was quite amazing.


Thanks, CCarille

reako45, the leg span of the solifugid would have been roughly 5". I did not realize that there were any that large in the States. When I was young, I saw a few but none were very large.

SnakeDude, :-)

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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by WW** » June 17th, 2013, 7:23 am

moloch wrote:Thanks, EJ.
Oman and the UAE are perfectly safe and the people are so friendly.
I absolutely second that (I was in UAE and Oman in 2006)! A visit to that part of the world is a real eye opener from the very negative image that most of us have formed over the last decades.

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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by -EJ » June 17th, 2013, 1:01 pm

That sounds absolutely amazing. I would have changed my schedule given the opportunity to sit down with a family.

Did you go there just for the herping and photography?

moloch wrote:Thanks, EJ.
Oman and the UAE are perfectly safe and the people are so friendly. As an example, one night I was spotlighting in the dunes not far from a road to Al Ain. A car stopped and then flashed its lights at me. I thought that it might be the police so I walked up to the car. Turned out that the guy saw my lights and thought that I might have problems so he stopped to help. He was obviously a wealthy guy with a brand new Lexus 4x4 that was full of electronic equipment. He, like most of the locals, was dressed in an immaculate white robe and head dress with braids. His English was excellent and he was very interested in wildlife. I showed him some of the photos that I had taken and he was pleased to see these and knew most of the animals. Before long, he invited me and my family over to dinner the next night. I would love to have done so but was off to Oman early the next morning. I am sure that his place would have been opulent and it would have been so nice to have the real authentic Arab cuisine. That is the second time in two trips that I have met such friendly people and had such an invitiation.

On another occasion, I had a minor fender-bender with a water truck. It turned out to be my fault because I did not understand the Omani road rules. As soon as we both stopped, the driver jumped out, shook my hand and smiled. Other cars stopped and the people also shook my hand. A government car stopped and the official, who spoke perfect English, told me what I needed to do and reassured me that there was no problem. He left me his mobile number in case I had any questions. Later, when the police arrived, we all shook hands again and then followed the police to their station in a nearby town so that I could have a report prepared for insurance reasons. At the end of the process, I paid the other driver 50 OMD ($130 AUD) for his broken headlight, we all shook hands again and then "Insha'Allahs" were given. It all was smiles and politeness ... no yelling, profanities or other bad behaviour. It was quite amazing.


Thanks, CCarille

reako45, the leg span of the solifugid would have been roughly 5". I did not realize that there were any that large in the States. When I was young, I saw a few but none were very large.

SnakeDude, :-)

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moloch
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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by moloch » June 22nd, 2013, 4:15 am

Hello EJ,

Yes, the trip was for photography. I wanted to find a few more herps that I missed on my first visit in Feb (winter).

In October, I plan to spend two weeks touring the southern portion of Oman with a friend of mine from AZ. We will be too late for the monsoon (June to Aug) and herp activity associated with that, but we should find all sorts of interesting species. I can't wait to return!

Now is a good time for a visit to Oman. There are not that many western tourisits yet. The people are friendly, it is safe and a really interesting experience. At this stage, people are very happy to see western visitors in the more remote areas.

Regards,
David

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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by -EJ » June 22nd, 2013, 4:33 am

David,

Thanks much.
moloch wrote:Hello EJ,

Yes, the trip was for photography. I wanted to find a few more herps that I missed on my first visit in Feb (winter).

In October, I plan to spend two weeks touring the southern portion of Oman with a friend of mine from AZ. We will be too late for the monsoon (June to Aug) and herp activity associated with that, but we should find all sorts of interesting species. I can't wait to return!

Now is a good time for a visit to Oman. There are not that many western tourisits yet. The people are friendly, it is safe and a really interesting experience. At this stage, people are very happy to see western visitors in the more remote areas.

Regards,
David

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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by mfb » June 29th, 2013, 10:00 am

This is an amazing and inspiring post. I'd love to visit the middle east sometime. Do you speak any Arabic?

Those herps are great - the white toes on the gecko are especially fascinating!

Mike

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moloch
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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by moloch » June 29th, 2013, 7:25 pm

Thanks, Mike.


I think that I mis-identified the Hemidactylus. I found an interesting paper of a recent study of this group. An amazing 8 new species of Hemidactylus were described including 2 new species from the Jebel Akhdar area where I found mine. Based on range maps and info in the article, I assume the Hemidactylus that I photographed would be either H. luqueorum or H. hajarensis. The pattern the geckos at low elevation differed a little from those higher up Jebel Akhdar so I might have encountered both species.

http://molevol.cmima.csic.es/carranza/p ... d_2012.pdf

... some interesting info on recent studies of Oman's reptiles:
http://omanherpetology.org/background

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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by krisbell » June 29th, 2013, 11:25 pm

Great post David, I love the P.rupestris and that Agamid. I'll be spending a night in Muscat in a few months time and I would be ecstatic to see some of the critters you've photographed.

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moloch
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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by moloch » June 30th, 2013, 2:43 am

Thanks, krisbell. Muscat is beautiful and you should enjoy your time there. It is too bad that you can't spend a little more time.

These are a couple of additional habitat shots along the Jebel Shams road.
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Near the top of Jebel Shams is a road that eventually ends at an amazing overlook. This area is known as the "Grand Canyon of Oman". It does look much like the Grand Canyon with enormous cliffs. Here is a link to photos:
http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&s ... xvsJBxv0TA

These Sinai Agamas are apparently only coloured like this during the breeding season. Thereafter, they become dull.
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Another view of a Hasselquist's Fan-footed Gecko. I saw these many times on this trip.
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Shot of a Asaccus platyrhynchus that had reacted to the preflash.
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This Yellow Pansy (Precis hierta). This is a gorgeous butterfly when the wings were open but it unfortunately landed like this most of the time. The upper wings were mainly yellow with patches of blue.
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This is the view from the Jibreen Hotel where I stay in Bahla. I would recommend it to any of you who head this way. It can be booked online.
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Jibreen Hotel
http://www.jibrenhotel.com/

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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by Kevin Messenger » June 30th, 2013, 3:29 am

very awesome post - I love seeing shots from new places! tons of awesome geckos

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Re: Oman, June 2013

Post by garry » June 30th, 2013, 4:44 am

Just wanted to say thanks for the interesting post. Nice to hear from that part of the world.

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