Trip Report
6 – 10 March 2001

Don Roberson

This is a summary of a five-day visit to the United Arab Emirates, including a very brief visit to adjacent Oman, from 6-10 March 2001. The United Arab Emirates is a popular vacation itinerary for European birders with its desert specialties and impressive migration of Asian breeders. Most will spend 1-2 weeks in the country. The UAE is just outside the borders of the “Western Palearctic” as defined by Cramp & Simmons (1977=”BWP”) but its exclusion is purely arbitrary. The 20°N line is used to define the southern boundary of that region across most of North Africa; if extended across the Arabian Peninsula all of the UAE would be included. Even using the Tropic of Cancer (nearly 24°N) would include most of the UAE. As it happens the rather random 28°N line was chosen a quarter-century ago for the Arabian Peninsula so Kuwait is covered by BWP but the UAE is not. I suspect there is a movement afoot to make revisions.

The importance of the UAE is rather different for American observers. There were four of us from California on this trip: my longtime companion (now fiancé) Rita Carratello, Dan Singer, Steve Bailey, and me. Our stop in the UAE was part of a larger trip to India. As we chose to go to India in March to maximize our chances for tigers, a stop in the UAE enroute seemed attractive since our dates coincided with the prime migration dates for Hypocolius there. I have been very interested in searching out new bird families and leaped at this chance for Hypocolius within the sphere of a wider vacation to India but we limited our time to five days.

The United Arab Emirates in 2001 was an attractive locale for visiting American birders. The UAE is perhaps the safest of all Middle Eastern countries; there is an impressive infrastructure of paved roads and modern cities, and there are recent published guides that make birding there quite easy. There is both good news and bad news in these facts. Colin Richardson & Simon Aspinall’s 1998 Birdwatching Guide is full of detailed information to reach a wide variety of sites. That’s the good news. But just a couple years later new construction, new roads, and changes in land management mean that some details are already out-of-date. That’s the bad news. Current information is crucial. For example, on our first day we set off for Al Ghar Lake near the Al Wathba camel track. The book detailed numerous birds there and gave good directions. But there was a new freeway under construction making the dirt track hard to find and when we did find it and follow it into the sand dunes, it turned out that the Al Ghar wetlands are now surrounded by a barbed wire fence and cannot be reached! [We have since learned the site is closed to the public as a bird reserve and can only be accessed via special permit.]

And another thing. Those of us driving the rental car in the UAE owned four-wheel drive vehicles back in the States. We are used to simply driving where we want to go. But small rental cars don’t work this way. During our short visit we managed to drive the car into the sand and become hopelessly stuck not once, but twice (right)! Each time we dug and dug and put debris under the tires and couldn’t get out. Each time we had to find help to pull us out. Fortunately there were Pakistani road crews working within a mile of the two spots we managed to get stuck.

The UAE is a very rich nation and the leading families of local sheiks in the seven emirates run everything. All the actual manual work is done by foreigners — the road crews were Pakistani, the porters were from Sudan, the waitresses from the Philippines, and the entertainment at one bar were young female singers from Slovokia doing Beatles tunes. There are different rules in different emirates. Some emirates ban alcohol entirely (Sharjah) but Abu Dhabi and Dubai were much more liberal and Westernized. The roads are broad and paved as nicely as the best American freeway, and new freeways are spreading throughout the country (making maps quickly obsolete). There are usually plenty of signs in English but spelling is not standardized; what I list as Jebel Hafeet below was spelt “Jebel Hafit” half the time and Khor (meaning tidal lagoon or creek) could be spelled Khawr or something else. The sheiks in their flowing robes and dishdasses drive very fast. There are major traffic jams at rush hour and wherever one is forced to drive through older parts of cities. Yet it is a thoroughly Moslem country. Local women wear chadors and there are the calls to prayer from the mosques throughout the day and night.

The UAE requires a visa obtained in advance. We obtained ours through their Washington, D.C., embassy; it requires proof of a steady job at home and return flight tickets plus the booking of a hotel in advance in the UAE (I understand that the more international hotels can arrange visas and meet one at the airport but we did not use that route). We booked hotels by FAX from the U.S., choosing to use those recommended by Richardson & Aspinall (1998): the Al Ain Palace in Abu Dhabi and the Airport Hotel in Dubai. These were still quite expensive by American standards (~$80-100/day) but were very comfortable (although not luxurious like a Hilton or Sheraton). Each had a choice of restaurants in or adjacent to them. We had also booked a rental car through Avis in advance but could not reserve a four-wheel drive or even anything between a subcompact and a Mercedes. Thus when we arrived we checked other rental car companies at the airport booths and went with Euro-Dar who gave us a bit larger compact car (a Nissan Maxima). Except for our stupidity in driving into sand dunes, it got us everywhere we wanted to go. There are no travel controls between the emirates and one often doesn’t know when you leave one and go into another. There is also an open border to a portion of Oman adjacent to the interior town of Al Ain (a very modern city which reminded me of Palm Springs in its layout and lines of palm trees along the roads) so we simply drove into Oman and on to a birding site called the “Hanging Gardens.” We were told, however, that the car insurance would not cover incidents in Oman so one must be very cautious when driving there. We had no untoward incidents.

There are two key books for birding in the UAE: the Birdwatching Guide by Richardson & Aspinall (1998) with its detailed directions and useful maps and an annotated checklist (plus nice color photos of various sites), and Richardson (1990) The Birds of the United Arab Emirates which is a more detailed status/distribution book with line drawings of all species (a good quick learning tool), a nice set of color photos of rarities, and bar graphs and maps showing status and distribution. One could get by with just the more recent book but the 1990 effort is excellent and particularly good for studying what might be about during your visit. For a field guide we used Porter et al. (1996) which was quite good. I had also brought Hollom et al. (1988) but it was of almost no value. Its plates and text are not aimed at advanced level birding and only non-European species are illustrated or discussed making it very inconvenient to American users who don’t know European birds intimately.

Our visit in early March was aimed primarily at Hypocolius but was also supposed to be within the span of landbird migration throughout the Arabian Peninsula. We did have a scattering of migrants but no fall-outs at all. Further, there had been nearly 3 years of drought in the UAE. Many ponds were dried up and interior streams weren’t running. The interior was particularly dry and bleak.

Despite these drawbacks, we had a very successful five-day visit. Much of our success can be attributed to Colin Richardson, a British architect who now leads bird tours half the time and who has lived in the UAE for 23 years. He is the top birder in the country. Through email we had arranged to meet on our second day to try for Hypocolius at Ghantoot (the photo left is of Dan, Steve, Colin & Rita in front of Jebel Ali. We saw the Hypocolius in the adjacent orchard; more details below). He had but a single afternoon to bird with us since he was leading a tour the rest of the time. [We ran into his tour later in the trip and enjoyed meeting some of them and his co-leader Dick Forsman whom I had last seen at a rarities committee meeting in Hollard back in 1992. We could have used Forsman (1999) for raptors but it was just too heavy to carry!] Colin Richardson provided us many updates, maps to new locales, and news of stakeouts — all of immense value during our trip. Colin had also suggested adjustments to our initial itinerary that had us splitting our time to be based 3 nights in Abu Dhabi and only 2 in Dubai. Colin suggested we take a day from Abu Dhabi and add it to Dubai. This was a very wise change. Colin also presented a copy of Vol. 19 of the Emirate Bird Report which had a very useful paper on the large gulls (Garner 1997) and an entertaining analysis of the lists of all local UAE birders.

As it turned out the four of us on the trip had somewhat different priorities. My priority was the Hypocolius and on our final day I chose to return to Ghantoot in hopes of better views. Rita and Dan joined me in that effort but Dan had never seen Crab Plover so we made sure we went to a high tide roost on our final day there (which meant much of the final day was spent driving but hey, petrol is very cheap in the UAE!). Steve also needed Crab Plover but was more interested in looking for additional species than in spending extra time on the Hypocolius. He chose to rent his own car on our final day, watch the Crab Plovers feed at low tide, and try for other birds elsewhere. Since we were located at the Airport Hotel next to the Dubai airport this was easy to arrange, and all of us were happy with our choices.

My personal total was 128 native species plus 4 established introductions; of these 22 were lifers for me (** on the annotated list). Another ten species were seen by others, bringing our group total (including IBs) to 142 species.

From the UAE we went on to India for almost a month. During our Indian trip we saw about half the species we had found in the UAE again. We visited Desert NP in western Rajasthan that had a lot of overlapping desert birds but, on the other hand, we found Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark there. It had been one of our bad misses in the UAE. Obviously, most of the waterfowl and waders were the same. I saw six of my UAE lifers again in India [Lesser Spotted Eagle, Temminck’s Stint, White-tailed Plover, Southern Gray Shrike, Desert Whitethroat, and Tawny Pipit]. Thus the UAE “pre-trip extension” netted about 60 species not seen in India (and added a net of 16 lifers for me; I had previously been to Israel and Iran plus several times in Africa and Europe). This extension increased each of our overall costs by $1000-$1500 but was well worth it. Quality was high, the birding sites quite lovely, and it was an easy (although moderately expensive) country to visit on one’s own.

This is a list of 142 birds found by our group in the United Arab Emirates (plus a couple hours in Oman) between 6-10 March 2001. There were four of us: Rita Carratello, Dan Singer, Steve Bailey, and me. I personally recorded 132 of these birds: 128 native species + 4 introduced populations [“I” on list]. Some 22 native species were lifers for me and are marked by “**” on the list. Those species in brackets were seen by others on the trip but not by me. Those species that I photographed on this particular trip are marked by “[ph]” — no effort was made to photograph except prized species or to take advantage of a good photographic opportunity. A number of the photos from this trip will appear on this website over time, often in family pages.

The localities cited are described on the UAE 2001 trip report.


Tachybaptus ruficollis LITTLE GREBE
25 at Wimpy Pits

Podiceps nigricollis EARED GREBE
2 off Fujaira beach & 15 at Wimpy Pits

Phalacrocorax nigrogularis SOCOTRA CORMORANT **
About 20 were seen from Fujairah beach; a number were roosting on buoys while others were swimming or flying by beyond the hordes of gulls & terns; this is a very long-necked cormorant with a distinctive jizz

Phalacrocorax carbo GREAT CORMORANT
A couple from Fujairah beach and 50+ flying up Khor Dubai at dusk

Phoenicopterus ruber GREATER FLAMINGO [ph]
50 or more were seen from the fast road by Al Ghar lakes (where we could no longer enter), another 50 at Khor al Beidah lagoon, and some 344 counted at Wimpy Pits

Egretta garzetta LITTLE EGRET
About 10 in Fujairah area plus a half-dozen at Wimpy Pits

Egretta gularis WESTERN REEF-EGRET [ph]
Ten or so were along the Fujairah shoreline (all dark morphs) plus a couple at Khor al Beidah

[Ardea cinerea GRAY HERON
Dan & Rita had the only one at Khor al Beidah; I was surprised there were no Great Egrets A. alba since I’m so used to finding them elsewhere among other herons]

[Bubulcus ibis CATTLE EGRET
Dan & Steve had 5 at Wimpy Pits]

Ardeola grayii INDIAN POND-HERON
Three in the Fujairah vicinity

Plegadis falcinellus GLOSSY IBIS
One basic-plumaged individual at the Wimpy Pits

[Alopochen aegyptiacus EGYPTIAN GOOSE
A couple of presumed escapes flew into a pond at Ghantoot; there is apparently not yet an established introduced population in the UAE so not included in the total]

A half-dozen or more at Wimpy Pits

Anas strepera GADWALL
A dozen or so at Wimpy Pits

Good numbers (~40) at Wimpy Pits

Anas platyrhynchos MALLARD
Fair numbers (~20) at Wimpy Pits

A few (~8) at Wimpy Pits

Anas querquedula GARGANEY
A nice pair at Wimpy Pits

Fair numbers (~20) at Wimpy Pits

Aythya ferina COMMON POCHARD
A lone female at Wimpy Pits

Pandion haliaetus OSPREY
One over Fujairah along the beach

One soaring over the cliffs above Hanging Gardens, Oman

Circus aeruginosus WESTERN MARSH-HARRIER
Scattered singles at Khalidiyah spit, Wimpy Pits, and Khor al Beidah

Circus macrourus PALLID HARRIER
Three harriers over Al Wathba camel track fields were this species

At least three were hunting the orchard at Al Wathba; another in Mushrif Park

Nice scope views of one at Al Wathba camel track

Aquila clanga GREATER SPOTTED EAGLE [ph]
One juv photographed in flight over Al Wathba

Aguila pomarina LESSER SPOTTED EAGLE **
One adult in heavy wing molt at Al Wathba

Falco tinnunculus EURASIAN KESTREL
Three studied at Al Wathba in hopes of Lesser Kestrel F. naumanni but no dice. Although I had studied these species ahead of time in Forsman (1999) I’d forgotten the key points; fortunately we ran into Dick Forsman in the UAE and got to discuss the problem in person!

Ammoperdix heyi SAND PARTRIDGE **
A pair was along the roadside to the new resort at base of Jebel Hafeet

Francolis pondicerianus GRAY FRANCOLIN [ph]
Several dozen heard daily throughout but many fewer seen; the interior birds are probably native but they have been introduced widely near cities

Porzana porzana SPOTTED CRAKE **
At least three were skulking in the wet brush at Wimpy Pits; after some effort I saw one walking in the mud very Sora-like

Gallinula chloropus COMMON MOORHEN
A few (~10) at Wimpy Pits

Fair numbers (~30) at Wimpy Pits

Gallinago gallinago COMMON SNIPE
At least 4 at Wimpy Pits

Limosa lapponica BAR-TAILED GODWIT
A lone bird on Fujairah beach and fair numbers (~25) at Khor al Beidah

Numenius phaeopus WHIMBREL
A couple on Fujairah beach and one at Khor al Beidah

Numenius arquata EURASIAN CURLEW
Two each on Fujairah beach and at Khor al Beidah

Tringa totanus COMMON REDSHANK [ph]
A common wader everywhere there was water (Al Ghar Lake, Fujairah, Wimpy Pits, and more than 100 at Khor al Beidah)

Tringa stagnatilis MARSH SANDPIPER
Three along the edge of Al Ghar Lake we could drive, two at Wimpy Pits

Tringa nebularia COMMON GREENSHANK [ph]
One at Fujairah, a couple at Khor al Beidah

Tringa glareola WOOD SANDPIPER
I saw but one at Wimpy Pits but others had a dozen or so there

Tringa cinerea TEREK SANDPIPER
Three at the high tide roost at Khor al Beidah

Actitis hypoleucos COMMON SANDPIPER
Various individuals scattered at water-edge in the interior plus a few at Wimpy Pits

Arenaria interpres RUDDY TURNSTONE
Good numbers (~75) at Khor al Beidah

[Calidris alba SANDERLING
Steve had some at Dreamland Beach]

Calidris minuta LITTLE STINT [ph]
The common stint on Al Ghar Lake (75+) with a few at Wimpy Pits and Khor al Beidah

Calidris temminckii TEMMINCK’S STINT ** [ph]
Two studied at close range in a side channel to Fujairah beach; more at Wimpy Pits

Calidris alpina DUNLIN
Fair numbers at Wimpy Pits

Calidris ferruginea CURLEW SANDPIPER [ph]
Good numbers (~80) at Wimpy Pits and even more (150+) at Khor al Beidah; others on Al Ghar Lake

[Limicola falcinellus BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER
Steve had a few on Dreamland Beach]

Philomachus pugnax RUFF
A few (~8) at Wimpy Pits

Dromas ardeola CRAB PLOVER [ph]
Rita, Dan & I counted 27 at the Khor al Beidah high tide roost; Steve had a dozen or so feeding at low tide on Dreamland Beach

Haematopus ostralegus EURASIAN OYSTERCATCHER [ph]
Twenty or more were in the Khor al Beidah lagoon

Himantopus himantopus BLACK-WINGED STILT
Fair numbers on Al Ghar Lake and at Wimpy Pits

Recurvirostra avosetta PIED AVOCET
Six on Al Ghar Lake

Pluvialis squatarola BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER
Singles on Fujairah beach, at Wimpy Pits, and at Khor al Beidah

We counted 23 in the alfalfa fields in the middle of Al Wathba camel track

Charadrius hiaticula COMMON RINGED PLOVER
Good numbers (~40) at Khor al Beidah; others had a few at Wimpy Pits

Charadrius dubius LITTLE RINGED PLOVER [ph]
A dozen in the Fujairah vicinity plus some at Wimpy Pits

Charadrius alexandrinus SNOWY PLOVER [ph]
Widely distributed in good numbers from Al Ghar Lake & Wimpy Pits to Khor al Beidah and Fujairah

Charadrius mongolus LESSER SAND-PLOVER
Twenty or more were in the high tide roost at Khor al Beidah, plus a few elsewhere

Charadrius leschenaultii GREATER SAND-PLOVER
At least three well into alternate plumage at Khor al Beidah. Dan & I spent some time studying them with scopes at close range and felt that at least one seemed likely the long-billed nominate race but another was decidedly shorter-billed and presumably originated from the central Asian populations

Chettusia leucurus WHITE-TAILED PLOVER ** [ph]
Six at Wimpy Pits were an unexpected treat; they are scarce migrants in the UAE but have bred in the past

Vanellus indicus RED-WATTLED LAPWING
A dozen or more at Wimpy Pits plus a few on Al Ghar Lake and at Fujairah

Larus hemprichii SOOTY GULL [ph]
Common (40+) at Fujairah breach

Larus ridibundus BLACK-HEADED GULL [ph]
Abundant (2000+) at Fujairah beach; others along the coast elsewhere and a couple on the Wimpy Pits

Good numbers (50+) at Fujairah beach

Larus heuglini SIBERIAN GULL ** [ph]
At least five on the Fujairah beach seemed clearly of this taxa but we had trouble with gulls despite having reference to Garner (1997) as there seemed to be a cline of mantle color in most flocks. Only the darkest-backed adults were considered heuglini

Larus cachinnans YELLOW-LEGGED (Pontic) GULL ** [ph]
Presumably the common large gull on Fujairah beach (75+) but see the preceding discussion

Sterna nilotica GULL-BILLED TERN [ph]
Five each at Fujairah and Khor al Beidah

Sterna caspia CASPIAN TERN
A couple in flight over Khor al Beidah lagoon

Sterna sandvicensis SANDWICH TERN [ph]
The common tern roosting in flocks on Fujairah beach (500+); others at Khor al Beidah

A scarce tern (~10) in the flocks on Fujairah beach

Sterna bengalensis LESSER CRESTED TERN [ph]
Another common species (300+) on Fujairah beach

Sterna hirundo COMMON TERN [ph]
We felt there were some basic-plumaged Common Terns among the 100+ terns foraging over Fujairah beach (many in active wing molt). We thought there were a good number of Commons but a later photo review proved this an erroneous assumption; see the following species. Only one distant photo of a flock of terns on a beach shows a probable Common with them

Sterna repressa WHITE-CHEEKED TERN ** [ph]
At least five adults among the small terns foraging over Fujairah beach were easily identified but the numerous basic-plumaged or imm terns here were confusing. We thought most were Common Tern but a review of my photos after our return by Colin Richardson, and reference to Olsen & Larsson (1995), revealed that almost all of the basic-plumaged terns I photographed were clearly White-cheeked Terns

Sterna saundersi SAUNDER’S TERN
One studied in flight at Fujairah beach

Childonias leucopterus WHITE-WINGED TERN
A lone basic-plumaged bird over the Wimpy Pits

Columba livia ROCK DOVE
Widely introduced in cities and along the coast but the pairs on Jebel Hafeet seemed likely of wild stock

Streptopelia senegaliensis LAUGHING (Palm) DOVE
Abundant everywhere

Streptopelia decaocto EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE
Abundant in gardens, orchards, parks and urban areas

Psittacula krameri ROSE-RINGED PARAKEET (I)
Introduced and seen daily in urban areas and parks

Caprimulgus aegyptius EGYPTIAN NIGHTJAR **
One spot-lighted after dark sitting on a dirt road in alfalfa fields near the Wimpy Pits. This was a known stake-out, thanks to Colin Richardson, but required obtaining permission to enter the fields

A half-dozen over Mushrif Park

Apus pallidus PALLID SWIFT **
Good numbers circling tall buildings in Abu Dhabi (where they nest) plus others around the Hilton Hotel in Fujairah and over Al Ain

Todirhamphus chloris COLLARED KINGFISHER
Four individuals of the endemic race kalbaensis were in mangroves along Kalba creek; we had crippling views at close range through scopes

Merops orientalis GREEN BEE-EATER [ph]
A few migrants seen daily from Al Wathba & Wimpy Pits to Mushrif Park and Khor al Beidah

Coracias benghalensis INDIAN ROLLER
About a dozen seen enroute to and around Fujairah

A few migrants in the orchard at Al Wathba, at Khalidiyah spit in Abu Dhabi, and at Fujairah

Corvus splendens HOUSE CROW (I)
Common (50+) around Fujairah where an introduced population is established

Corvus ruficollis BROWN-NECKED RAVEN
I saw a pair near Fujairah and Steve had one at Dreamland Beach but they were surprisingly absent from the interior — due to drought?

Lanius isabellinus ISABELLINE (Rufous-tailed) SHRIKE
At least four were on sprinkler heads at the Al Wathba camel track; another was at Ghantoot

Lanius meridionalis SOUTHERN GRAY SHRIKE **
A roadside shrike in the deserts (3 in Oman) plus a pair was nesting in the corner tree of the orchard at Ghantoot

Lanius nubicus MASKED SHRIKE ** [ph]
Two were in the rows of tamarisks near Hilton Hotel, Abu Dhabi; a fabulous little shrike that may be the coolest-looking shrike on earth

Acridotheres tristis COMMON MYNA (I)
An introduced species that is abundant in urban areas and parks throughout

Ammomanes deserti DESERT LARK
Common around Al Ain including Jebel Hafeet and in Oman

Alemon alaudipes GREATER HOOPOE LARK ** [ph]
We had 2-3 singing on territory in barren sand dunes near Al Ghar Lake while we were trying to find the way in (not knowing it was now fenced off and closed); these must be the greatest larks in the world with their outrageous wing patches, long bill, rolling flight, and beautiful thrasher-like song

Callendrella brachydactyla GREATER SHORT-TOED LARK
We studied 4 along the Al Wathba camel track

Callendrella rufescens LESSER SHORT-TOED LARK [ph]
A dozen were feeding in bare sand along the edge of the Al Wathba camel track

Galerida cristata CRESTED LARK [ph]
The very common and widespread lark; too often an “interesting” bird turned out to be another Crested Lark. Good numbers at Al Wathba camel track, Fujairah, Wimpy Pits and Ghantoor

Riparia riparia BANK SWALLOW (Sand Martin)
Small numbers over the Al Wathba camel track

Hirundo obsoleta PALE CRAG-MARTIN
Scattered birds throughout recalling Northern Rough-winged Swallows, and in about the same habitat — dry canyons, water edges, around deserted buildings

Hirundo rustica BARN SWALLOW
Small numbers of migrants over the Al Wathba camel track

[Monticola saxatilis RUFOUS-TAILED ROCK-THRUSH
Rita saw one from the car on Jebel Hafeet but by the time we got turned around it was gone.]

[Luscinia svecicus BLUETHROAT
Steve & Dan had a migrant at Wimpy Pits]

Cercotrichas galactotes RUFOUS-TAILED SCRUB-ROBIN [ph]
One migrant photo’d in the orchard at Al Wathba camel track; Rita had another at Wimpy Pits

Phoenicurus ochruros BLACK REDSTART
A widespread migrant, apparently common on good migration days. We recorded singles at Mushrif Park, Jebel Hafeet, and Ghantoot, and had 4+ on Khalidiyah spit

Phoenicurus phoenicurus COMMON REDSTART [ph]
Two males of the eastern race samamisicus, with a big white wing panel, were in the orchard at Al Wathba camel track

[Saxicola torquata COMMON STONECHAT
One of the others had one at the Al Wathba camel track]

Oenanthe monacha HOODED WHEATEAR
One male on territory near the top of Jebel Hafeet

Oenanthe alboniger HUME’S WHEATEAR **
At least 4 on various points on Jebel Hafeet, including the very top and the watered resort at the bottom, plus another in Oman

Oenanthe oenanthe NORTHERN WHEATEAR
An imm male and a female were sitting on sprinkler heads at Al Wathba camel track

Oenanthe pleschanka PIED WHEATEAR
A few widely encountered: imm male & female at Al Wathba camel track, and males at Wimpy Pits and Khor al Beidah

Oenanthe xanthoprymna RED-TAILED (Persian) WHEATEAR
Three were in the rocky jumble around Hanging Gardens, Oman

Oenanthe deserti DESERT WHEATEAR
Two at the desert edge of the alfalfa fields at Al Wathba camel track

Oenanthe isabellina ISABELLINE WHEATEAR
The common wheatear sitting on sprinkler heads at Al Wathba camel track; it was fun having wonderful views and comparisons with 3 other species there

Turdus philomelos SONG THRUSH
A half-dozen were feeding on the ground in the Ghantoor orchard but were very shy and skittish; learning the “tic” callnote was the only way to find them

Pycnonotus xanthopygos WHITE-SPECTACLED (Yellow-vented) BULBUL
The desert bulbul of the interior, a dozen or more were on Jebel Hafeet and in the Hanging Garden canyon in Oman

Pycnonotus leucogenys WHITE-CHEEKED BULBUL (I) [ph]
Common and widespread throughout. It is difficult to determine which birds might have been native (at interior oases?) since it was widely introduced along the coast. It was the dominant species in orchards at Ghantoot and the Al Wathba camel track. In India this taxa is split into two species: P. leucogenys is the Himalayan foothill bird (Himalayan Bulbul) with the desert and dry lowland bird known as White-eared Bulbul P. leucotis

Pycnonotus cafer RED-VENTED BULBUL (I)
An introduced species seen in urban areas of Abu Dhabi and Dubai

Prinia gracilis GRACEFUL PRINIA
A few daily in desert scrub: Ghantoot, Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi & Wimpy Pits

Acrocephalus stentoreus CLAMOROUS REED-WARBLER
Three were singing up at storm in the mangrove on Kalba Creek (it took some time but eventually we all had superb views); others were singing at Wimpy Pits. Shirai (1995) was useful for identification

Hippolais rama SYKES’ WARBLER **
A couple were watched singing in the mangroves on Kalba Creek. This taxa is a recent split from Booted Warbler H. caligata but that postdates Sibley & Monroe (1981) and I don’t know the reasoning for the split

Phylloscopus collybita EURASIAN CHIFFCHAFF
The common migrant warbler throughout, encountered daily in small numbers (including one in Oman). I learned to think of it as the “Blackpoll Warbler” of the Middle East in migration — except it is black-legged not pale-legged but it is a characteristic tail-twitcher and does recall fall Blackpolls a bit in its structure, behavior, and dullness. Oobviously, it isn’t green with bright white wingbars (!) but strangely enough I found this concept useful

Phylloscopus neglectus PLAIN LEAF-WARBLER
Two at Hanging Gardens in Oman were presumably late winterers. I had counted a bird seen back in July 1978 in Iran as this species, based primarily on range, but that was a very shaky tick. None of the literature really explains how to identify it, but it turns out in is dead easy for American birders. It sounds and acts just like a Ruby-crowned Kinglet! It is a tiny, short-tailed, nervous wing-flicker with a stuttering ‘jeejeet” call that is just so reminiscent of the kinglet. Not a difficult to i.d. species at all ….

One of the eastern race icterops in the orchard at Al Wathba camel track

Sylvia minula DESERT WHITETHROAT ** [ph]
A very pale whitethroat photographed in the orchard at Al Wathba camel track was believed to be this species

Sylvia nana DESERT WARBLER **
Singles of the nominate race were in very dry scrub out by Al Ghar Lake and in Oman; in flight the white outer rectrices are conspicuous as it lands

Sylvia mystacea MENETRIES’ WARBLER **
Reasonably common migrant (~7) in the orchard at Al Wathba camel track; another in Abu Dhabi

Turdoides squamiceps ARABIAN BABBLER
A small flock was amazingly elusive in Mushrif Park but we eventually got decent views of the leap-frogging party near dusk

Motacilla alba WHITE WAGTAIL
Recorded daily, sometimes in good numbers (e.g., 30 at Al Wathba camel track)

Motacilla citreola YELLOW-HOODED (Citrine) WAGTAIL
Three snazzy birds around the Wimpy Pits

Motacilla flava YELLOW WAGTAIL
I had but a single individual in Fujairah but others had more at Wimpy Pits

Anthus campestros TAWNY PIPIT **
This was the common pipit in the alfalfa fields at Al Wathba camel track

[Anthus cervinus RED-THROATED PIPIT
Steve & Dan had three late in the day at Al Wathba camel track]

[Anthus spinoletta WATER PIPIT
Steve & Dan had one at the Wimpy Pits]

Hypocolius ampelinus HYPOCOLIUS **
THE bird we’d come to see in the UAE. We spent hours in three different visits to the orchard at Ghantoot, twice with Colin Richardson. I saw one fly over on the first visit (the others glimpsed 3 more in flight) but the views were very unsatisfactory. Therefore Rita, Dan, and I returned on the morning and late afternoon of our final day and finally Dan found a perched male for long & crippling views. After watching this bird and its behaviors, I am inclined to think it is more closely related to bulbuls than to waxwings (it is traditionally placed near waxwings and sometimes considered to be in the same family Bombicilidae)

Nectarinia asiatica PURPLE SUNBIRD [ph]
Common and widespread in parks and gardens and desert oases; recorded just about everywhere including Oman

Passer domesticus HOUSE SPARROW
Abundant in urban areas

Petronia brachydactyla PALE ROCKFINCH **
One spotted by Rita and then scoped at the base of Jebel Hafeet

Lonchura malabarica WHITE-THROATED MUNIA [ph]
The “Indian Silverbill” was regular in the orchards at Ghantoot (active nest found) and Al Wathba camel track; also seen in Oman

[Emberiza striolata HOUSE BUNTING
Steve had one coming to drink at the lone remaining pool in the Hanging Gardens of Oman. I heard its “tic” call-note but never laid eyes on this potential lifer.]

Don Roberson