UAE TRIP REPORT
11 to 17 February 1995
The trip was mostly for learning more about certain difficult and interesting species, but Heikki, who had never been to the UAE before, managed to see 27 new species despite having been to Egypt and Israel. Heikki brought with him his camcorder (Canon EX-1 Hi and 300/2.8 lens plus 2x converter) and got about 4 hours of tape. This meant that we spent a lot of time trying to make it possible for him to film, which meant less time for ordinary birdwaching. A 50-minute film was the result, which I haven't seen yet. Since camcording can be done from much farther away than photographing it becomes possible to document birds that would be out of reach by camera. We hope to learn more about some of those birds from watching the tape.
For the first time our trip was during Ramadan, which in practice meant that the shops were closed during the day, so all food and drink had to be bought on the previous evening. We ended up buying Club Sandwiches for breakfast and pizza for lunch, both of which tasted fine as cold. The people at our favourite Club Sandwich bar were slightly bemused at our orders of 9 Club Sandwiches plus pizza on most evenings (we ate six Clubs in the evening for dinner). Getting alcohol was also more difficult than usual, but one could get beer at the hotel bar. One wasn't suppose to show oneself eating, drinking, smoking or chewing gum in public. I sometimes had trouble remembering.
The weather was fine, with only a few clouds on some days. I estimate the temperature between 20 and 30C. It wasn't really too warm at any time as there was mostly a pretty strong wind blowing. The mornings were rather chilly. Dawn was at 6.40 and dusk at 19.00.
Our car was a four-door Nissan Sunny Automatic from Europcar, for which the superdrive price was 945 Dh = FIM 1230 = $250 (normal price 1100 Dh) including everything. We got it at the airport when we arrived at 3.20 am, so that we could start birding at dawn. Our package tour (FIM 2995) included rooms at hotel Palm Beach in Dubai, but we stayed two nights elsewhere to reduce driving. Not because of petrol cost though, as it cost only 3.9 Dh/gallon, but to leave more time for sleep. At Al Ain we stayed at the Ain Al Faydah Resthouse which cost 220 Dh for a room for three and at Kalba at the Marine Motel which cost 150 Dh for a room for three. The first was very good, nice and big. The Marine Motel looked like it had been built in a hurry and wasn't exactly what it looked like behind the fasade, but quite ok for one night. We drove altogether 1708 km.
A lot of places and roads had changed, but there still weren't any good maps, so we took the wrong turn many times. They are building so fast it is almost incredible. When we were there the first time in 1990, there were only a few 'palaces', now they were being built everywhere. Check the telephone book at the hotel for maps of the towns.
We didn't want an automatic car, because we figured it would be more difficult when we got stuck. But they didn't have any manuals available. We got stuck three times and found that the automatic wasn't as bad as we had feared, but once it took us half an hour to dig the car out. Good thing I had two big men with me, otherwise it would have been rather difficult to get loose. There's so much sand in the country that not getting stuck at all is rather difficult as one wants to get as close to the sites as possible. The humps were a great nuisance, as they have them on main roads as well. And they are high. Sometimes the bottom of the car wasn't high enough even though we went superslow. Failing to see them in time (in the dark for instance) and going over at 10-20 km/hour wasn't much fun.
We missed a few species which had been reported present recently, beucause I'd forgotten to ask for exact directions (Oriental Skylark, Blyth's Pipit, Calandra Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Ruddy Shelduck). Camel Tracks are huge (the track at Al Ain was 8km) and a small bird isn't all that easy to locate there. We dipped on Eastern Pied Wheatear at Qarn Nazwa for the fourth time. It had been seen a few days earlier, but despite two thorough searches we couldn't find any trace of the bird. I'm sure that bird migrates according to when we leave or arrive in Dubai.
We talked to Colin Richardson on most nights to learn about other records. The best was the second Goldfinch for the UAE, at Dibba.
- 11 February 1995, Ramtha Tip, Khor Al Beidah, Umm Al Quwain
- 12 February 1995 Qarn Nazwa, Al Ain Zoo, Al Ain Compost Plant, Jebel Hafeet
- 13 February 1995 Al Ain Camel Track, Al Wathba Camel Track (Abu Dhabi)
- 14 February 1995 Hamraniya, Rams, Jazeerat Khor, Mushrif Park
- 15 February 1995 Emirates Golf Course, Qarn Nazwa, Khor Dubai, Zabeel Water Treatment Plant
- 16 February 1995 Masafi, Dibba, Kalba, Khor Kalba
- 17 February 1995 Khor Kalba, Kalba, Ramtha Tip, Khor Dubai, Zabeel Water Treatment Plant
List of more interesting observations
We had 159 wild species and 7 more or less escaped.
- Socotra Cormorant P. nigrogularis 100 at Umm Al Quwain, 2 at Rams
- Green Heron B. striatus 2 at Zabeel WTP
- Indian Pond Heron, A. grayii 2 at Khor Kalba + 2 Ardeola sp.
- Glossy Ibis P. falcinellus 3 at Ramtha Tip
- Greater Flamingo P. ruber 420 at Khor Dubai
- Gadwall A. strepera 2 at the Golf Course, 30 at Ramtha Tip
- Ferrugineous Duck A. nyroca Male at Ramtha Tip 17 Feb.
- Egyptian Vulture N. percnopterus 50 at Al Ain Zoo
- Short-toed Eagle C. gallicus 1 at Emirates Golf Course
- Pallid Harrier C. macrourus First-winter at Al Ain Cameltrack, first-winter at Al Wathba and one probably this species at Hamraniya
- Montagu's Harrier C. pygargus Two females and a first-winter at Hamraniya
- Long-legged Buzzard B. rufinus 1 at Al Ain Camel Track
- Spotted Eagle A. clanga Altogether 17 (2 - one of which was a fulvescens) at Ramtha Tip, 2 at Al Ain, 5 at Khor Dubai and 8 at Rams. Most were first-winters.
- Steppe Eagle A. nipalensis Sub-adult and first-winter at Al Ain, adult at Rams.
- Booted Eagle H. pennatus Middle-phase at Al Wathba
- Lanner F. biarmicus First-winter without jesses at Emirates Golf Course. As Lanners are not popular with falconeers it was probably wild.
- Peregrine F. peregrinus Adult with jesses at Khor Dubai
- Crab Plover D. ardeola About 200 at Khor al Beidah
- Lesser Sand Plover C. mongolus About 800 estimated
- Greater Sand Plover C. leschenaultii About 350 estimated
- Red-wattled Lapwing H. indicus 63 Ramtha Tip, Dibba, Hamraniya, Al Ain. This species sure has spread.
- Great Knot C. tenuirostris 5 at Khor Al Beidah
- Pintail Snipe G. stenura 5 at Emirates Golf Course
- Terek Sandpiper X. cinereus About 70
- Red-necked Phalarope P. lobatus 2 at the Golf Course
- Pomarine Skua S. pomarinus 1 at Kalba
- Sooty Gull L. hemprichii 1 in northern Oman, 6 at Kalba
- Great Black-headed Gull L. ichtyaetus 160 of which most at Jazeerat and Rams
- Swift Tern S. bergii 3 on the east coast
- Lesser Crested Tern S. bengalensis About 35
- White-cheeked Tern S. repressa 7 at Kalba
- Saunder's Little Tern S. saundersi 9
- Whiskered Tern S. hybridus 74
- White-winged Tern S. leucopterus 2
- Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse P. exustus 320 at Al Ain Cameltrack between 8.30 and 9.30
- Striated Scops Owl O. brucei Male feeding female at Mushrif Park
- Swift A. apus 8 at Al Ain Cameltrack
- Alpine Swift A. melba An individual with a rather dark throat at Al Ain Compost Plant.
- White-collared Kingfisher H. chloris Just two at Khor Kalba
- Pied Kingfisher C. rudis One present at Zabeel WTP since a few weeks earlier.
- Black-crowned Finch Lark E. nigriceps 23
- Hoopoe Lark A. alaudipes 1 at Al Wathba
- Bimaculated Lark M. bimaculata 30 at Al Ain Cameltrack
- Red-rumped Swallow H. daurica 1 at Al Wathba
- Tawny Pipit A. campestris 71
- Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus 7
- Water Pipit A. spinoletta 40
- Citrine Wagtail M. citreola 3
- Pied Wheatear O. pleschanka 3
- Red-tailed Wheatear O. xanthoprymna 10
- Rock Thrush M. saxatilis 3
- Scrub Warbler S. inquieta 4 at Masafi
- Clamorous Reed Warbler A. stentoreus 3 at Khor Kalba
- Booted Warbler H. caligata rama 5 singing at Khor Kalba
- Ménétries's Warbler S. mystacea 7
- Orphean Warbler S. hortensis 2
- Desert Lesser Whitethroat S. minula 2 at Masafi
- Plain Leaf Warbler P. neglectus 2 at Masafi
- Isabelline Shrike L. isabellinus 11
- Rose-coloured Starling S. roseus 10 at Al Ain Cameltrack
- House Bunting E. striolata 2 near Masafi
For more info, contact Annika Forsten by email now
Heikki Assinen, Annika Forsten and Tapani Numminen