UAE TRIP REPORT
Georges Van Wassenhove
Nico De Regge
Larger versions of the photographs are available by clicking over the picture.
A long day travelling to Dubai. Arrival at 23.00hrs local time. Going through customs, collecting lugage and rental car took three hours. We had booked the Youth Hostel in advance but upon arrival (in the middle of the night) no one could help us to a room. So we decided to sleep a few hours in the car.
We wake up at the Dubai Corniche for our first birding day. Crested Lark, Laughing Dove, Common Mynah, House Crow and Ring-necked Parakeet seem to be common.
After driving around for some time we finally get to Khor Dubai. The flat sandy area at the north-west holds 6 Desert Warbler (fairly easy to spot. On later visits none were found again. Late migrants?), 1 Spotted Eagle, 1 Steppe Buzzard, 1 Hoopoe Lark, 1 Pied Wheatear, 4 Chestnut- bellied Sandgrouse.
It is low tide at the khor: 2 Terek Sandpiper, 2 Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Lesser Sand Plover, Slender-billed Gull, 1 Osprey, 10 Sacred Ibis, 5 Spoonbill, Great White Egret, 1 Yellow-billed Stork (escape), 20 Teal, 10 Shelduck, 4 Black-winged Stilt, 4 Avocet.
Later in the outscirts of Dubai a Black Francolin (introduced game bird) with clearly visible black outer tail feathers crosses the road.
Day trip to Qarn Nazwa.
First stop at Al Habab roundabout: White-cheeked and Red-vented Bulbul.
A walk in the red sand dunes surrounding Qarn Nazwa: rather deserted (birdwise) with Hoopoe Lark singing, 5 elusive Black-crowned Finch Lark. The rocky outcrop itself is more worth a climb: 2 Hooded Wheatear, 2 Blue Rock Thrush, 1 Upcher’s Warbler, 1 Isabelline Shrike, 1 Desert Eagle Owl suddenly flying off its nest containing two downy chicks.
It is around noon when we continue for Hatta. Close to the roundabout for Dhaid we take a walk in some agricultural fields: 1 Orphean Warbler, 2 Hoopoe, 15 Black-crowned Finch Lark, 2 Pied Wheatear, Gracefull Warbler.
Later in the afternoon we return and take the old road from Al Habab towards Dubai. This road is not in use and so it is well suted for some ‘car birding’ in the hottest hours: 7 Black-crowned Finch Lark, 2 Pied Wheatear, 3 Desert Wheatear, Isabelline Wheatear, 1 Rock Thrush, 1 Hoopoe, 1 Black Francolin.
We drive through Sharjah and Ajman (not easy) to Umm al Quwain and spend most of the day birding in the labyrint of Khor al Beidah and Dreamland Beach.
At the sandy beach north of Dreamland we watch some fisherman bringing in their catch attracting 1 Great Black Headed Gull amidst Sooty and Pontic Gulls. Above sea, Lesser Crested, Saunders’s, Sandwich and Caspian Terns are feeding.
At the first lagoon we meet 3ad + 5juv Crab Plovers. Not the worst to start with. Driving the many sand tracks and checking most waders takes almost all day: Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Grey Plover, Kentish Plover, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Redshank, Lesser Sand Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Common Sandpiper, Terek Sandpiper, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Crab Plover (groups of 8, 3, 30, 12), Little Stint, Red-wattled Lapwing. Other birds include Great White Egret, Osprey, Western Reef Heron, White Wagtail (personata race). The dunes hold Hoopoe Lark, Short-toed Lark, Lesser Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, Lesser Kestrel, 6 Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Desert Wheatear, Isabelline Wheatear.
Late afternoon we visit the most northerly beach in the city of Umm al Quwain (close to the breakwater): 2 Bridled Tern, Isabelline Wheatear.
Returned to the Dubai Youth Hostel at dusk.
Day trip to the Hatta area.
On the Dubai – Hatta road, we turn off right towards Mahdah and stop about 2km further to bird the gravel plain and foothills left of the road: 8 Desert Lark, 4 Arabian Babbler, 1 Hooded or Red tailed Wheatear, 1 Menetries’s Warbler, 1 Eastern Pied Wheatear.
About 10km further along this road, there is a beautiful wadi on the left side (heavy hike): Gracefull Warbler, Crag Martin, 1 House Bunting, 3 Eastern Pied Wheatear. The only available water is a 1m² pond. Dragonflies: Anax parthenope, Tritemis arteriosa.
Later on we visit Hatta. Everything has dryed out, so little is to be seen: 1 Whitethroat (icterops race), 4 Indian Roller, 3 Brown-necked Raven, 4 Crag Martin.
Driving back to Dubai, we arrive at Mushrif Park before dusk: this is the place to look for Striated Scops Owl but apart from one small owl flying away and one calling as a Little Owl, we do not see anything worth noting.
After staying some days in Dubai, we now move on to Fujeirah.
First we try to go into the mountains around Siji, but all tracks seem to lead to cement factories. Birds seen from the car: 4 Little Green Bee-eater, Indian Roller, 1 Pied Wheatear, 1 Hoopoe, 2 Crag Martin, 4 Desert Lark, Pallid Swift. A few kilometers south of Masafi we pick out a wadi by chance for a hike and return to the car only 6 hours later: 1ad + 2juv Steppe Eagle feeding on a dead goat is the highlight. At a small water run off from a bedu camp we catch some Dragonflies: Tritemis arteriosa, Orthetrum chrysostigma, Ischnura spec., Arabicnemis.
Just before dusk we reach Khor Kalba and immediately get 2 White-collared Kingfisher in view. That’s a give away. Other birds: 1 Marsh Sandpiper, 2 Clamorous Reed Warbler.
We move in to the Fujeirah Youth Hostel (rather ‘basic’) for a few nights.
Short visit to Khor Kalba: 5 Indian Pond Heron, 1 Osprey, 2 Greenshank, 1 Kingfisher, 2 Booted Warbler (rama race), Little Egret, 1 Striated Heron, 1 White-collared Kingfisher.
After this we visit another wadi near Masafi for a short walk: a pair of Scrub Warbler, 1 presumable Red-tailed Wheatear.
Afternoon visit to the agricultural area of Dibba (dairy farm and others). Easy birding from the car in the hottest hours: Tawny Pipit, 1 Richard’s Pipit, Isabelline Wheatear, 2 Pied Wheatear, House Martin, 2 Pallid Harrier, 40 Pale Rock Sparrow, Little Egret, Red-wattled Lapwing, Indian Roller, 1 Woodchat Shrike, 5 Little Ringed Plover, 1 Peregrine / Barbary Falcon, Crag Martin, Indian Silverbill, 1 Ruff, 13 Lesser Kestrel, 4 Catlle Egret. Light is fading when we leave for Fujeirah.
In the morning we take the track up wadi Khasab, but after a few kilometers we have to leave the low clearance vehicle behind and proceed on foot. A nice hike: 8 Chukar, 2 Hume’s Wheatear, 1 Long-billed Pipit, 10 Rock Thrush, 4 Desert Lark, 1 House Bunting, 4 Blue Rock Thrush.
We return by noon and visit the beach and pools near Dibba: Dunlin, Little Stint, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Common Sandpiper, Armenian Gull, Siberian Gull, 1 Arctic Skua.
The afternoon is again spent at Dibba Dairy farm: Grey Francolin, Rock Thrush, Red rumped Swallow, Isabelline Shrike (phoenicuroides race), Short-toed Lark, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail (feldegg race and others), Red-throated Pipit, Water Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Sparrowhawk, European Bee eater, Green Bee-eater.
Yet another wadi in the vicinity of Masafi, and again a nice climb: 1 Rock Thrush, 1 Rufous Bush Chat, Desert Lark, Brown-necked Raven, 1 small Owl spec., 4 House Bunting, 1 Eastern Pied Wheatear.
Afternoon seawatch from a pier near Khor Kalba: Crested and Lesser Crested Tern, Whimbrel, 2 Asiatic Golden Plover, 7 Skua (at least 1 Arctic), 1 possible South Polar Skua, 2 Persian Shearwater, 10 White Cheeked Tern, 1 Black-necked Grebe swimming at sea.
Final visit to Khor Kalba. We now check the entire creek: 1 Cormorant, Grey Heron, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, 11 Little Egret, 12 Indian Pond Heron, 20 White-collared Kingfisher, 7 singing Clamorous Reed Warbler, 1 Kingfisher, 2 Striated Heron, 2 Marsh Sandpiper, 15 Whimbrel, 1 Red-rumped Swallow.
We now leave the Batinah coast and plan to stay in Ras al Kaimah. Near Ras al Kaimah we visit the fields of Digdagga: 5 European Bee-eater, Indian Roller,
Pallid Swift, Little Green Bee-eater, Sand Martin, 1 Spotted Eagle, 1 Short-toed Eagle.
After that we enter some fields in the Hamranyia area: 21 European Bee-eater, 34 Bank Mynah feeding on rotten tomatoes, Indian Roller, 160 Pale Rock Sparrow, Insabelline Wheatear, 8 Black-crowned Finch Lark, Grey Francolin.
The Ras al Kaimah Youth Hostel is being redecorated, so we are forced to leave for Dubai.
The famous ‘Jebel Ali Golf Course’ is on today’s menu.
The sandgrouse pools at the back have changed a bit due to building activities. 5 Chestnut- bellied Sandgrouse fly overhead and land on a fenced off area.
At the Golf Course we are asked to park the car and walk around along the outside fence. We set off for a long and tiring walk: 8 Hoopoe, 11 Common Sandpiper, Indian Roller, 21 Chestnut- bellied Sandgrouse, 3 Black-winged Stilt, 1 Whimbrel, 3 Isabelline Shrike, 6 Ruff, Red-wattled Lapwing, Western Reef Heron, 16 Pale Rock Sparrow, 3 Wigeon, 1 Little Egret, 3 Garganey, Grey Francolin, 1 Redstart. The marsh area at the back of the Golf Course: 1 Moorhen with young, 1 Pintail Snipe, 1 Lesser Sand Plover, 10 Shoveler, 3 Flamingo, 2 Garganey, 1 Cormorant, 6 Asiatic Golden Plover, 1 Greenshank, 2 Grey Heron.
Late afternoon is spent in the famous hotel garden of Gantut. About 40 Hypocolius go back and forth through the plantation and are difficult to watch. Other birds: 1 Pallid Harrier, 1 Sparrowhawk spec.
Daytrip to Al Ain
We first take the road up Jebel Hafit: 1 Egyptian Vulture, 6 Sand Partridge, 3 Desert Lark, 3 Crag Martin, 5 Hume’s Wheatear, 3 Hooded Wheatear.
The reeds around Ain al Faydah have almost completely dryed out: 3 Little Green Bee-eater, Grey Francolin, 1 Isabelline Shrike, 21 Pale Rock Sparrow. 1 dragonfly (Artemia sabina) caught.
The pumping station is reached through a hole in the fence: 10 Little Grebe (of which 1 breeding), 1 Little Ringed Plover, 1 Isabelline Shrike, 4 Mallard, 20 Black-winged Stilt (a nest containing one egg), 1 Garganey, 4 Snipe, 1 Pintail Snipe, 4 Wood Sandpiper, 1 Egyptian Goose.
The Camel Track is ideal for birding from the car (still enjoyable in the midday sun):4 Bank Mynah, 4 Isabelline Shrike (one of the isabellinus race), Tawny Pipit, 4 Isabelline Wheatear, 6 Northern Wheatear, Short-toed Lark, 1 Corn Bunting, 1 Marsh Harrier, 1 Desert Wheatear, 2 Pallid Harrier, 1 Cream-coloured Courser, 1 Long-legged Buzzard, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse. Late afternoon we return for Dubai.
A visit to Ramtha tip at Sharjah. The hidden pools are full of rubbish but still hold many birds: 11 Black-winged Stilt, 3 Common Sandpiper, 9 Red-wattled Lapwing, 11 Garganey, 2 singing Reed Warbler (fuscus race), Gracefull Warbler, Chiffchaff, Little Green Bee-eater, 2 Little Egret, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Bluethroat, 1 Greenshank, 3 Little Ringed Plover, Grey Heron, Grey Francolin.
The ‘lagoon’ holds 70 Little Stint, 1 Little Ringed Plover, 5 Ringed Plover, 18 Flamingo, 1 Little Egret, 1 Western Reef Heron. Not really a nice birding spot.
We try to visit the Za’abeel ponds in Dubai. The first pond has 30 weaver nests and a skulking Striated Heron. We do not get any further as a police patrol shows up and forces us to leave. Nice place however.
Seawatching at Jumeira beach: 17 Sandwich Tern, 2 Lesser Crested Tern, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Sooty Gull.
A visit to Khor Dubai: 20 Great White Egret, 2 Osprey, 2 Caspian Tern, 1 Gull-billed Tern, 5 Terek Sandpiper, 1 Spoonbill, 1 Crab Plover.
Second day trip to Al Ain area.
First we pay a visit to the Hanging Gardens (Oman). The well has completely dryed up and only two very small ponds remain (dragonfly Ceriagrion glabrum caught): 1 Egyptian Vulture (with screeming young in rock crevice), 1 House Bunting, 1 Scrub Warbler, 13 Desert Lark, 1 Crag Martin.
Fossil Valley is visited next. This place bears the tracks of many Friday visitors. Almost birdless area, but a few fossils found make up.
Afternoon visit to the Camel Track. Not much has changed in these few days: 4 Isabelline Shrike (mostly phoenicuroides race but again 1 isabellinus), 3 Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (seen from closeby on the ground, nice birds), 1 Black-eared Wheatear (white throated morph), 2 Pallid Harrier, 1 Montagu’s Harrier, 1 Corn Bunting, 1 Pied Wheatear, 7 Isabelline Wheatear, 12 Short- toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, 2 Richard’s Pipit, 2 Pallid Swift, 1 Indian Roller. On the way back to Dubai: twice Sparrowhawk spec.
Second visit to Khor al Beidah. Southernmost part: 15 Terek Sandpiper, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 25 Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Kentish Plover, Dunlin,a few groups Lesser Sand Plover (some getting in full summer plumage by now), 25 Redshank, 2 Turnstone, 1 Whimbrel, 30 Oystercatcher, 1 Greenshank, 14 Flamingo, 1 Gull-billed Tern, 1 Brown-necked Raven (strange place?), 19 Crab Plover.
Northern part onto Dreamland: 23 Gull billed Tern, 46 Terek Sandpiper, 4 Whimbrel, 18 Greenshank, 30 Western Reef Heron, 1 Crab Plover, 34 Little Stint, some large groups Bar- tailed Godwit, Tawny Pipit, 1 Turnstone, many Lesser Sand Plover, 2 Broad billed Sandpiper, 1 Clamorouos Reed Warbler, 42 Black-tailed Godwit, 60 Curlew Sandpiper, .
Beach north of Umm al Quwain city: 2 Saunders’s Tern, 1 Sanderling, 1 Greater Sand Plover (summer plumage), 1 Arctic / Pomarine Skua (resting on the beach). Seawatching from the breakwater: 4 ad + 5 juv Socotra Cormorant resting and flying closeby, Crested and Lesser Crested Tern sitting next to one another on the light poles, providing good comparison, 1 Striated Heron.
Last birding day.
Dubai’s Safa Park opens at 08.00hrs: 8 Hoopoe, 1 Rufous Bush Chat, 1 House Crow, 3 Grey Francolin, 3 Gracefull Warbler, 3 Common Sandpiper, 1 Isabelline Shrike, 1 Red Avadavat (escape), 7 Red-vented Bulbul, 7 Indian Roller.
Qarn Nazwa seems deserted. Even the owls nest is empty.
The Al Habab fields should hold a last good bird, hopefully. And they do: 1 Pallid Harrier, 4 Little Green Bee-eater, 1 Isabelline Shrike, and … a juv Bonelli’s Eagle. A good bird to end the trip with.
Nico De Regge
Instituut voor Natuurbehoud