Thursday, 19 January 2012

Looking for LEO's.

I spent yesterday (17th) at the Coral Reefs of the Gulf Conference organised by New York University here in Abu Dhabi. And very good it was to. A quick look around the marina, at the Intercontinental Hotel, produced my 190th species for the year: Striated Heron.

1 species added (total 190) 70 kms travelled.

It is now Wednesday 18th and I am now battling death, on the road from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. This is the daily commuter dash, between the two cities. Since 2008 economic crash, many people who live in Dubai, actually now work in Abu Dhabi. The consequence of this, is what we see before my eyes just now. Total chaos! The reason I am doing this dash myself, is that I am meeting Simon and we are searching for LEO’s.

A LEO, but not the one we are looking for!

No, not those LEO’s, I mean that is stupid isn’t it? Searching for Lions in the UAE! Unfortunately, it is not a stupid, as it sounds. A couple of years ago now, I was walking across the desert next to Al Wathba Lake. Dusk was falling, when I heard the unmistakable contact call of a Lion! Now, hearing a Lion on the telly, or even in a zoo, is one thing. But on foot, in soft sand, all alone in the desert, is quite another thing entirely! I quickened my step and looked over my shoulder! It called again! This time I could pin-point where the sound was eminating from. It was the nursery, that grows all kinds of plants for the municipality in AD. It was of course, in a cage. It is still there today, two years later and nearly every visit, as dusk gathers, it starts to call, but no animal ever answers.

I survive the drive and enter Mushrif Park, in Dubai. I am always surprised, at the amount of natural trees here. Among the planted ones, are some of the oldest Ghaf trees in the country. It is also the largest area of natural forest left. Once again, I vow to return to do this area justice, but I never seem to find the time to come and bird here, which is a bit of a shame. I meet up with Simon, we hatch a plan, to try and spot our LEO's which are of course Long-eared Owls!

A patch of Ghaf woodland in Mushrif Park.

Simon & Khalifa.

What I didn't know, was that Simon had already seen the Long-eared Owl. He was turning up tonight, just to help me find the exact spot. Thanks.

Khalifa, Neil & Mike arrived. I wandered off and found a couple of Arabian Babblers & then bumped into Martin Williams from Scarborough, Yorkshire. He has been living in Hong Kong longer than I have been in the UAE!

The Owleters! From left to right:
 Khalifa; Simon; Neil and Mike.

As dusk approached, we trudged through the soft sand, Simon, in some very nice black working shoes! Not so nice this morning though, eh?

Simon, wearing his owling shoes!

We waited quite a while, then Khalifa whispered he had just seen a large bird, gliding through the trees on our left. I walked across the path to get a better angle & saw the Long-eared Owl, perched on the side of a tree. But, it immediately took off, gliding directly away from us. Despite our combined efforts, we didn't relocate it.

Khalifa & I then went in search of Pallid Scops Owl, and after a short search, I picked one up in the torch beam. We took some shots, which were not very good.

Pallid Scops Owl, being difficult!

We tried for Barn Owl, but no joy. So we headed off into the night. I arrived home at 9.45 pm.

3 species added (total 193), 350 kms travelled.

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