Thursday, 26 January 2012

Bad weather, a major dip, but still a good day out!

After relaxing yesterday, I was once more in the car by 4.30 am & hammering north to Khor al Beidah. A week ago Neil had found a Merlin in the dunes here & yesterday Simon saw it in the same place. It is highly unusual for a Merlin to hang around in the same place in winter in the UAE. This is a rare and elusive winter visitor, that’s why I was here!
I hit the rain at Shahama, and as I drove northwards, it became more intense with spectacualar lightning, making the lanscape briefly daylight. But, by some unseen magical force, as soon as I arrived at the khor, it stopped raining. I began my search and three hours later, I was still looking at every little bump in the dunes. I drew a complete blank. Disappointed, I began to check the waders arriving at high tide. The spectacular Crab Plovers were obvious, the 12 Great Knot less so. The birds were pouring in in their hundreds, but just as I settled down to enjoy the spectacle, three Pakistani labourers, drove up in their truck and proceeded to clean it using sea water! Don’t they know this is salt water? Needless to say, the waders didn’t hang around and my quest for Broad-billed Sandpiper remained unfullfilled. A nearby Brown-necked Raven croaked at me from the top of an unbuilt hotel. Three year ticks, but nothing special.

Waders roosting at high tide,
 in front of the half built hotel.

I drove south to Dubai. I arrived at Ras Al Khor, the tide was coming in. It was blowing a gale, but the raptors were up in the air seemingly enjoying themselves. Eight Great Spotted Eagles; 3 Ospreys and at least eight Marsh Harriers. In the distance was an immature Bonelli’s Eagle, spiralling ever higher.

Looking across Ras Al Khor at
 the tallest building in the world.

A large blob of brown, being harassed by four Marsh Harriers, revealed itself to be an Eastern Imperial Eagle. It eventually slunk off low, out of sight, on the main khor. My 200th bird for the year! I started to check the small waders, among the tundrae Ringed Plovers was a lone Broad-billed Sandpiper. A welcome find. As I was leaving I bumped into Mark Smiles, who told me about 4 Purple Gallinules at Al Warsen lakes. Another place to check before the day was over.
I thought the bad weather might keep the hoardes at bay in Safa Park. This is a good location for unusual migrants and I had high hopes. However, I was wrong on both counts; the people were there in force and the swaying trees appeared to be birdless. More out of desparation I phoned Mike Barth. He was home and informed me that 2 Brahimny Starlings were present in his garden. I invited myself around & minutes later saw them. Now in 2007, this had been one of my last ticks of the year, as it is a tricky species to find, for an Abu Dhabi based birder. I thanked Mike & moved on to the Dubai Pivot Fields. The wind was now ridiculous and no small passerines were on show. Closer scrutiny revealed the 2 Sociable Lapwings, now starting to attain a more adult, breeding pumage and between them a fine European Golden Plover. I flushed it to make certain of the ID, both the call and the silvery underwing were conclusive. I was particularly pleased by this bird, as it is a tricky one for anyone’s years list.

Al Warsen Lakes, with International City
 in the background.

Doubled up against the wind, I quickly walked around Al Warsen. A flock of 25+ Yellow-crowned Bishops contained a Scaly-breasted Munia. Great, to get this one out of the way. After an hour of searching, my eyes were watering in the wind and a lone Purple Gallinule decided to reveal its prescence. 10 year ticks and because of the weather, I called it a day, slightly early. It just wasn’t enjoyable being out there anymore.

10 species added (total 205) 430 kms travelled.

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