Monday, 2 January 2012

The First day!

OK! It is now 2012! How do I know? Well, around 20,000+ people have just completed the countdown and told me so. One of them was Chris Martin! We have to trust him, don’t we? Coldplay were really superb and as I make my way home, I hope to see my first bird of 2012, but I dip on a Black winged Stilt, seen by everyone else in the car! I am not sure if it is a good omen or not!  It was time to hit the sack and get a little sleep, before my first, of what I hope to be, many big days.
The start of 2012, not a bird insight!
I spent the last day of 2011 with the family and just relaxing, doing very little. But, every so often, I would have a private sneak at the UAE bird list. How many would I see on Day 1? How many in the month? Which 2011 rarities would still be around for me to tick?
Waiting is always the worst part, and I was getting a little nervous, but excited, to get the year kick started at the same time.  I have planned my first week:
Sunday I am off to Al Wathba Lake with Neil, then drive to Al Ain, for the compost plant and Zakker Pools. Back via the Wathba fields at night, for Egyptian Nightjar and then home.  I am deliberately going to miss out the mountain and desert birds, concentrate on trying to get the rarities which were there until recently & could still be there now.
Monday try to collect Golden-backed Weaver in AD.
Tuesday, a flying trip to the Dubai Pivot Fields & Al Warsen Lakes, mainly to try for Sociable & Northern Lapwings, but also to collect a few other goodies for the notebook, like Purple Gallinule.
Wednesday afternoon at Al Wathba Lake, staying until dusk for the hirundine roost. I haven’t heard of any Pale Martins this winter so far, but who has been looking? Might sneak a rail or a crake as well.
Thursday afternoon around AD Island, Mushrif Palace Gardens for Crested Honey Buzzard & Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, then on to the western lagoon, for Caspian Tern etc.
Friday, all day with Khalifa and the boys at Jebel Dhanna, looking for the western race Black Redstart & Mourning Wheatear. Then on to Sila for hopefully, Redwing & European Robin among others.
Saturday all day around Dubai: Pivots; Ras Al Khor; Safa & Mushrif Parks. Lots of possible here, including a few rarities, like Long eared Owl! Could see 150+ species in the week???
That’s the plan; let’s see if it works out! It could be a hard week!
My trusty mode of transport for the quest!
 Courtesy of Nick Moran.

The UAE is one of the best locations
 to see Great Spotted Eagle in winter.

Feeding by EAD keeps numbers high at the lake.

Back to Day 1, I rose at around 9am & immediately kicked off the year list with a House Sparrow! Then I was on the road to Al Wathba Lake. The weather was fantastic and great visibility, meant birds quickly started to rack up. Out of the 44 species on offer, the best were a superb Great Spotted Eagle and the spectacle of 1600 Greater Flamingos flying away from the eagle, when it tried to hunt one of them! 85 Common Shelduck and 84 Pied Avocet were also noteworthy.
Then, back on the road, driving to Al Ain. The back of the Water Treatment Plant beckoned, but despite getting a few birds, including White-tailed Lapwing, nothing really stood out from the crowd. Dave Clark called, Eurasian Bittern showing at Zakker Pools! Five rally driving minutes later I was looking down Mark Smile’s telescope at the bird. And, what a bird it was! Mark and his wife Lou, had just spent three hours trying to find it & then I stroll up! Ermm! I then proceeded to get some sought after birds, thanks to more help from Dave. 4 Greater White-fronted Geese;  17 Ferruginous Duck; 16 Black crowned Night herons; 1 Spotted Redshank but best of all a Little Bittern standing just below the Big Bittern! Thanks guys, you were both great.
Eurasian Bittern, a cracking start to the year!
Thanks for the great photo Dave.
A quick drive to Al Quos  fodder fields proved to be an excellent move: adult male Pallid & Montague’s Harriers stole the limelight. A quick stamp around produced a good variety of pipits, including Blyth’s; Richard’s, Tawny; Water, Meadow & Red throated. A Eurasian Sparrowhawk caught a White-eared Bulbul right in front of my car, as I was leaving.

Blyth's Pipit, a tricky species to identify.
Call is definitive here.
A night drive on the new road across the desert was uneventful, then I arrived at Al Wathba Camel Racetrack  and right on cue, an Egyptian Nightjar performed  under the floodlights. A fitting end to an excellent, first day.
Egyptian Nightjar at Al Wathba Camel Racetrack.
89 species and 490 kms driven.

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