Oman Butterfly diary 3-Charaxes varanes bertrami (Riley, 1931), Pearl Charaxes…

This is a butterfly that has eluded my camera on previous visits to Dhofar, Southern Oman, or so I thought.

The presence of this butterfly in Oman is limited to the Dhofar region. It is common in Africa, but there are no current records from Southwestern Arabia and Yemen, however, any investigation is not easily possible in Yemen.

As it stands the population in Dhofar seems to be quite isolated and the subspecies found locally is named in honour of explorer Bertram Thomas who caught the species in Dhofar, whilst preparing for his Rub Al Khali expedition in 1930. The butterfly seems to be relatively common in open parts of the scarp. Both sexes are fond of fermenting fruit, rotting crab or shrimp and patches of urine.

We had seen them, fluttering past on scarp tracks, stopped the jeep, but I chased in vain as they tauntingly settled, then flew away fast whenever I thought I had one in focus for THE shot. They are fast on the wing and often fly high. Fairly frustrating, but then sometimes an unexpected opportunity arises.

In October 2019, we decided to have a day visiting the various Ayn’s (valleys) which form at the base of the Dhofar escarpment.

Usually, there are spectacular waterfalls during the Khareef (monsoon) season and the Ayn’s are lush and emerald green, home to a variety of endemic and migratory birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and flora.

Khareef had finished a month previously but owing to some unusual weather in the region, the drying out of the environment hadn’t quite reached its usual barren state.

In one of the Ayn’s we started to climb up towards the escarpment and I spotted the Pearl fluttering from branch to branch. We noticed there were two, but only one settled on branches.

Sadly, it was torn and ragged, probably at the end of its flying season, but I managed to catch some shots.

Whilst looking through photos from 2018 from a location 20 km away, I found I had photographed this butterfly before and in much better condition. Only one photograph, but a good catch. It was fairly gratifying to stumble across the photograph, two years later!

 

Habitat Information from the “The Butterflies of Oman” by Torben and Kiki Larsen.

Oman Butterfly diary 2-Byblia ilithyia, Joker…

Oman diary, October 2019: We had decided to travel along the coast from Salalah to the Yemen border, retracing steps from previous years, but it’s a fantastic drive with many unexpected sights, so it’s always a pleasure to retrace, but that’s for another post.

One deep wadi, Wadi Sayq is the last major road construction hurdle before you get to Sarfayt, the town before the Yemen border.

Quite how this road was constructed amazes me, carved down the sides of the towering cliffs, hairpin bends, horrifying drops and, with the effects of the previous year’s cyclone and the rains just before we arrived, landslides and road cave-ins littered the route down.

The wadi is inaccessible from the coast, towering heights plummet down to the shore on either side and unless you are fully equipped and ready for some serious boulder climbing, there are few places you are able to access the wadi where the road crosses it.

But it is worth trying to find those few places. Wadi Sayq is remote, inaccessible and home to a huge variety of flora and fauna, not least the Arabian leopard, according to papers from many different biodiversity expeditions to this Wadi.

It’s where I found my first and so far, my only find of a Joker butterfly.

Byblia ilithyia is unmistakable. The underside, a honey color crisscrossed with pattern and the upperside a deep orange with black bars, it’s a strikingly, beautiful butterfly.

The distribution of ilithyia stretches from Niger/Burkina Faso to Ethiopia, Southwestern Arabia and Dhofar; it reappears in dry Southern India and Sri Lanka.

In Dhofar, this butterfly is quite common in the dense vegetation of the scarp and in the valleys of the coast

it was an unexpected sight to stumble across, but I had my camera to hand!

It didn’t stay around too long, but I took my shots… very gratifying to stumble across this beauty!

 

 

Habitat Information from the “The Butterflies of Oman” by Torben and Kiki Larsen.

 

Oman travels, October 2019…Up on the heights of Jebel Samham …

You are able to drive to a viewpoint on the edge of the reserve to gaze over the coastal plain and surrounding wadis.

On arriving we were alone in this remote place. There is a small path, with barriers to a certain point, the drop is sheer and I didn’t go to the certain point, my head for heights has gone with my youth.

The views are magnificent…

Suddenly we heard voices and were surrounded by tourists. Unexpected, and overwhelmed on this narrow path with teetering drops, we headed back to the car to be greeted by a long row of 4-wheel drives and their drivers, taking a rest.

Our invading tourists were on a tour, time to speed off and hope we didn’t bump into them again..

 

Passing through a small village, which I ( obviously) renamed One-Cow town.

We headed back down off the plateau to the coast. As we turned a corner, we screeched to a stop.

In front of me, a Dhofar Chameleon was just starting to make it’s pausing, balletic walk across a very large road.

Time to make sure it made it across. Luckily it started to run as I got out of the car, then spent a few minutes on the other side of the road contemplating this large human with a camera, Lucky me! I love to see a chameleon and also watch them change colour to match their surroundings and mood. If they start to turn black, they are stressed, this one just blended it with all the different backgrounds.

My saved-from-the road Chameleon posed perfectly for me, but then it decided it head back across the lethal road.

I had to save it, stop it somehow, so I leant in to enfold it within in my hand so I could move it away from the terror of the road corner, but it didn’t really like my saviour role.

It bit me very hard, tore into my skin, and I couldn’t get it off my hand and it started to bite my hand deeply, the OH had to prise it away, it had its teeth in deeply and ripped off a load of skin…lesson to self…Do not pick up a chameleon, however nature-kind you are…

As we were travelling remotely, had health insurance, but limited resources in that area and little availability for health care , I did a quick google on Chameleon bites when we got back to the room. Luckily a disinfectant wash seemed to be all that was required, they do not seem to carry bacteria…. Anyhow, I’m here to tell the tale, with no missing digits!

 

!…

Oman Butterfly Diary-1 Papilio demodocus, African Lime Butterfly.

In October 2019, we headed down to the Dhofar region of Oman primarily for our sea shell obsession…oops, hobby sounds better, less geeky really!

The first morning walk along the beach made me realise that it was far too hot to spend all day outside on the beaches and, as over the year, I had been become involved with a Dragonfly recording group in Cyprus and had also discovered the pleasure of photographing both dragonflies and butterflies, we decided to split each day into discovering which species of each we could find in the Ayn’s (valley), khors (inlet) and escarpments along the southern coastline of Oman.

Armed with “The Butterflies of Oman” we set off each day exploring the countryside.

I had occasionally seen a fairly large butterfly, mottled black and white with flashes of red and blue.

The book told me it was the African Lime Butterfly, Papilio demodocus, a member of the Papilonidae family.

Three members of this family are found in Oman, Papilio machaon-the Swallowtail, Papilio demoleus- the Lime Butterfly and Papilio demodocus-the African Lime butterfly.

They are amongst the largest and most beautiful butterflies in the country.

The Swallowtail and the Lime are known from the north of the country.

I have not been lucky enough to photograph the Lime butterfly in Oman. I have seen it, but, without my camera.

However, it is also found in the UAE  and I was lucky enough to photograph a resting one on a beach in Fujaraih earlier this year, in this linked post.

In Oman, the African lime is only found in Dhofar. The African lime is common in most of tropical Africa and in Southwestern Arabia, as far north as Jeddah.

It is very similar to the Lime butterfly, but they may be told apart through the broader central band and the larger orange spot in the anal angle of the hindwings of demoleus.

After a few mornings of finding lowland butterflies, we headed up the towering escarpment that broods above the coastal plain.

Randomly heading down a small track high above the coast, we gave one local lady quite a shock as she was heading out.I don’t think many Europeans have headed down the little track to her house.

Passing her, suddenly I saw my African Lime heading into nectar, in a little cranny of flowering plants amidst the rocky heights.

The African Lime spent awhile hovering and nectaring, so I could manage to chase after it with my camera..

A wonderful and lucky experience….

Butterfly of the day…

Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus) butterfly.
Taken at Ayn Athum, Salalah, Dhofar region of Oman in November 2018.
There is a waterfall, in the Khareef (monsoon) season and a park is under construction where the river begins.
It’s a place to spot birds, butterflies, dragonflies and fish.
We were there just after Cyclone Luban, the area was lush and green with plenty of wildlife to keep me busy with my lens!
It’s a lovely place to visit…

Bird of the day…

The great egret (Ardea alba), also known as the common egret, large egret, or great white egret or great white heron is a large, widely distributed egret, with four subspecies found in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and southern Europe.

On Masirah Island, Oman these elegant birds are everywhere to be seen, indeed, all along the Omani coastline.

October 2018, Travelling in Oman and surprises on the roads…

I’m back in one of my favourite places for a few weeks. There is something about Oman that draws me back time and time again, the pace of life, the people, the incredible scenery and the sheer vastness of the country never fail to excite me as I cross the border and we start the extremely long drive to the South.

Currently, I’m spending time in Dhofar.

The Dhofar Governorate is the largest of the eleven Governorates in the Sultanate of Oman in terms of area. It lies in Southern Oman, on the eastern border with Yemen. It is a rather mountainous area that covers 99,300 km (38,300 sq mi) and has a population of 249,729 as of the 2010 census.The largest city, as well as the capital of the Governorate, is Salalah. Historically the region was the chief source of frankincense in the world.

On my first trip here in 2013, the roads were poor outside of Salalah.

A major road building project has been taking place during the subsequent years to upgrade the route from Salalah towards the north of the country through the small villages and coastal communities that lie so far from major towns.

The difference this visit is quite amazing, the road is nearly finished and it is now a far smoother and faster journey, however, as with all road travel in the Middle East, the camel is a road danger.

Our drive down to Dhofar continued through the night. At god o’clock in some remote part of the central plains, we rounded a corner, luckily having just slowed down to look at a flare from a nearby oil-field (this sort of observation is a way of passing time on the 14-hour car journey) and out of the dark a pair of camels came leaping onto the road…screech, slam of brakes, disaster averted, you really don’t want to hit a camel, even in the beast of a Nissan patrol that we are driving. More caution was required for the rest of night!

No photo of the night encounter but here are some camels along the roadside near Hasik.

Down here in Dhofar, cows also roam freely…

The new road, complete with cow, looking for her herd, a bit of a traffic impediment!

Here were the rest of the herd, on the other side of the cow-proof barrier…

I was a little surprised to see a whole herd making their way down the dual-carriageway. From physical evidence left on the ground, it appeared that they had joined at the previous slip road, possibly an easier route than the surrounding terrain…

On the return journey back down the dual carriageway, we then came across a camel herd being marshalled to their destination on the wrong side of the road by the familiar Toyota pickups that every Omani farmer seems to possess…

Then entering the town of Mirbat a herd of goats on the trot through town…

Laid back and typically Omani, life goes on, even if an enormous road has just cut through the grazing grounds. I’ll just remember to look out for herds when I’m driving at night…

Thursday Doors, 19/4/18. At Shannah port, Oman…

A brief post this week as I’m on the road in Oman. I suspect this post may prove that doors, any type and anywhere are a magnet for me!

Shannah port, Oman is where you pick up the ferry for Masirah Island, Oman. There is a government service (National Ferry service) on a large car ferry that runs every few hours but there are also old style car ferries that run when they are full.

These ferries are quite old and on my very first trip, 5 years ago, I saw Greek signs on one of the ferries, which made me wonder if de-commissioned Greek inter-island ferries had been sold to the local entrepreneurs in this part of the world.

On my first trip, looking at the unmissable amount of rust and finding the faded and perished life jackets, I did wonder if I would reach the other side!

However, 5 years on and having been a regular customer on these little ferries, they are seaworthy…if anyone is familiar with the poem “Cargoes” by John Masefield, the lines ran through my head on my first trip, but muddled up to move the salt-caked smokestacks to the bluer seas of the Gulf of Oman!

You can wait several hours for them to fill, which is the downside! We had missed the last National Ferry, so headed across to one of the local ferries that was loading up with lorries. We were told it may run if enough cars and lorries turned up, this was around 5.30pm.

We hovered around, not wanting to board and be trapped by a lorry in case the ferry didn’t sail, but at 6.45 pm there were no new passengers so we made the decision to camp up in the dunes next to the port.

Local fishermen build shacks from bamboo and pieces of wood and as there was a strong wind blowing we needed to be in some shelter. Bumping through the very soft sand at the back of the beach, we came across just a perfect place for me!

Behind the door was not an ideal place for camping…

 

In case you are thinking “She seriously didn’t camp there?”… here is the evidence!

 

The view from the tent at sunrise…

 

We were on the port at 6.15am and boarded the ferry that hadn’t sailed the night before. It was full and we left within 10 minutes!

Linking with Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors, Speed bump village, Oman,15/2/18…

On the long drives across Oman from Dubai, towards the ferry to Masirah island, for a large part of the journey, the places we pass through have no name or signpost.

We now tend to refer to landmarks during the journey to mark our passing as there are few mapped names to refer to, for example, Flare roundabout, P-bush (easy to guess), Crinoid plates (ancient fossil rocks), The Mother of all Sabhkas (huge wet sand area), P-rock (for the second part of the journey, there are no trees and bushes in this area) and so on…

Flare roundabout…

 

The few small, lonely villages en route are flashed through, but there is one, now known forever to us as “speedbump village” that lines the lonely road and has four of the most lethal speedbumps known to man.

I once hit one on the initial journey, driving at night, too fast and it was an “Oh my God moment” as we crashed down on the other side. The OH was shaken awake and I crawled through the rest of the village.  Lesson learned. Omani speedbumps are not to be trifled with, especially out in this lonely place, the nearest Mitsubishi dealer is in Muscat, a mere 6 hours drive…

This hamlet consists of a few brick houses, a coffee shop, a laundry, men’s tailoring and a mosque. Oh, yes, and a shop selling food. See the picture, it’s not quite a supermarket!

I cannot imagine what the livelihood is out in this remote place, possibly date, goat or camel farming, but as always, there are doors to be photographed, even here.

They might be old, rusty and have seen better days, but the traditional metal door and decoration tradition is here, much to my pleasure.

The Coffee-shop

 

The Mosque…

 

Selling food…

 

I love the heart doors, seen in the unlikeliest of places…

 

Shame about the modern one…

 

Love this bright blue amidst the gravel plain drabness…

 

An interesting wall, but the door behind makes up for it…

 

I just managed to get both doors in, they just fit out here in the middle of no-where…

 

This door design seems to be a variation on a symbol theme, but the pink wall adds to the green and rust hues…

 

And just so you don’t think I’m completely crazy for repeating this journey time after time, the view at the ferry port…

 

 

Linking with Thursday Doors, hosted by Norn Frampton. Pop on over to see some more doors today…

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge, Weathered…

Well, for this challenge I could spend days in my photo archives of Oman creating a whole gallery of the weathered look, be it homes, people, geology, windows, doors, beached timbers, fossils and, so much more.

Oman is a weathered country.

From geology to every day living, the harsh climate of intense heat and along the coast, the pervading sea-salt in the winds leads to intense weathering.

I have so much to choose from, but for today, just a beautiful, traditional, weathered door from Mirbat, South Oman.

Weathered

 

 

Thursday Doors, 7/12/17. One shot from the road…

I’ve been on the road again, not much time to blog, too much coastline to cover and random wifi opportunities.

I’m sea-shell collecting around the Oman coastline, observing and enjoying the opportunities my camera finds.

This is one of them.

Just one door, all that is needed today, I’m off out for my birthday meal !

Linking with Thursday Doors…

Thursday Doors, 8/11/17, Small town Oman, doors and herons…

I think that most of you who read my blog, probably know now that I travel a lot in Oman and I also love what I find there. It’s a vast country and on every trip, although, often travelling over previous ground, I find something new.

We cover unthinkable distances on the round trip from Dubai to Salalah to Dubai. If you return up the coast road, a round journey of around 3,000 kms, you don’t get much time to spend poking around as there is always a ticking clock to get back to Dubai for commitments.

But, on occasions, I put my brakes on and insist on time out. Otherwise, we are just burning the same tarmac every time and not seeing “IT” …”IT” being life in the places we flash through. Seeing life, you also see doors!

In October 2017, we had a little overnight break at Al Saqla resort ( this time I’ve inserted a map so you know where I am on this post, blue line A to B, the post features that route)

We were heading to Muscat from Shannah port (A), a 6 hour trip along the coast, which is only serviced by one road through the coastal Ash Sharqiyah governorate. Heading north from Point A ( Shannah), the impenetrable dunes of the Al Wahiba sands are on the left, the Indian ocean to the right, it’s a 4 hour trip to Sur up the coast road, where the motorway to Muscat starts and the driving is easier.

The coast road takes you through towns that are far removed from the larger cities of Oman because of the vast distances. Agricultural ( basic) and fishing life ( main economy) are the lifeblood in this region. It’s run down, poor and traditional, but the life you flash past on the road through is totally fascinating to my eye.

This time I wanted to re-visit some very old doors on the coast road. I took a lovely door shot last year, so we tried to find the doors again. They are gone now, razed to the ground, but back-tracking through the town streets trying to place them, I came across a plethora of Omani doors.

I hope you enjoy my discoveries as much as I did.

The sunset from Al Saqla…

No connection with doors, but the camel upholstery on the room sofa is too interesting to leave out…

The morning view….Yeah, a good day ahead…

Heading into town it was obvious we were in the uptown area for small-town Oman…

But then we found the Gold one, possibly the Arab equivalent of the Jones’s…

Winding through the small streets of town trying to find my old doors, this is what I found, car shots of doors, narrow streets, just all fascinating to my eye…

This one is my favourite…

Heading out of town via the harbour, herons, a couple of feet away from my window, not bothered by my presence, dhows in the harbour, locals taking time out and of course, the mosque…

Time to move on, out of town, heading up the coast again, past the house surrounded by it’s own little forest, you can’t see any doors here!

 

Linking with Thursday Doors, a weekly event hosted by Norm Frampton. Pop on over, click the blue frog link and check out some world-wide doors this week…

Thursday Doors, 12/10/17. Trying for the perfect door shot, Mirbat, Oman….

In 2016, I visited and photographed doors in the old town of Mirbat, Dhofar, Oman.  An ancient fishing port, the old town is crumbling away. I featured doors from Mirbat last year here. Please feel free to visit, it’s a special place…

I’ve recently returned from another trip around the Omani coastline and once we were back in Mirbat, I made a point to re-visit the old town. Progress in some of the remoter areas doesn’t include renovation of heritage and as I’ve been doing this round route for the past 4 years, I’m recording changes for myself, maybe as a history…

I’m on the road again today so this is a brief post regarding one particular, rather gorgeous, door (in my opinion).

In the 2016 Mirbat visit, we drove around the corner to see the most spectacular door, blocked by a white mini-van and a white truck. In vain I tried to capture it, contorting myself around a lot of wheels, but had to settle for half a door.

2017 saw us winding our way around the narrow streets trying to landmark the door. After a few tense exchanges ( I feel I have better geo-location capabilities than the other half when it comes to doors!) we saw it…

As we drove around the corner the WHITE MINI-VAN was still there, one year later. Was I a bit stompy? Yes! A 1800km drive with this door in mind, fab shot…hmmm… 

So, I’m out of the car trying to exclude it. Ok, this is nice, works for me, a bit of blue sky, the door, and traditional windows…

Let’s make it better, angling and a zoom, it makes a face, on nicely weathered walls…

But… the close-up is special. In my inner heart, I want to rip this door out, strap it to the top of the car, drive it home and renovate it…It’s the “covet” door. 

But, I am a guest in this lovely country and my desire is impractical, so my photos of this door will form a special door place in my heart, but, you know if the owner popped out and said “Yup, I’ll sell”, it would be on my roof rack in a blink! Look at it, the detail, the little inner door… Oh, yes, it’s my door!

For more on Mirbat, clink on this link for some unique Omani windows…

Joining into Norm Framptom’s Thursday Door challenge, come on over, click the blue frog link at the end of Norm’s wonderful door post and check out on what we all found this week…

Weekly Photo Challenge, Windows…

Your inspiration this week is windows…..or of a landscape or piece of art that’s like a window to another world for you.

Windows of Mirbat.

A town in Southern Oman that is slowly crumbling away.

Wandering around the streets, there is a shot at every step, but it’s the windows that my lens points towards.

These little wooden, arched and shuttered Omani windows; I wonder at the lives led behind them in the days when old Mirbat was thriving.

Windows on another world…

 

Windows

Weekly Photo challenge: Layered…

In Oman, you get the chance to see how our Earth is layered and wonder how it happened all those millenniums ago… was it a swirling maelstrom of fire and upheaval? Was it a gradual happening?

Driving through the landscape you ask yourself a lot of questions…. a photo from the incredible road from Hasik to Ash Shuwaymiyyah in the Dhofar region of Southern Oman, layered with strata…

 

Layered