Saturday, 3 March 2012

Fluctuating fortunes!

It is now March, and migrants are flooding in. But before I can to grips with all these new arrivals, there is some old business to be completed. While I was away, two absolute mega-rarities were found: Black-naped Oriole & Ashy Drongo. The former species is a new record for the UAE!

Friday, saw myself, Robin & Hazim driving north at dawn, first to scabland & then on to Safa Park. The small pool unfortunately, held no Red-crested Pochards this morning. We arrived at Safa Park & it was packed with people, already. We scoured the wood for the oriole, but with no success. So we walked across to try for the Hume's leaf-warbler. I briefly saw it & also heard it, but the others dipped. Mark, then joined us & we saw it briefly, to everyone's satisfaction. It was time to move on.

A quick inspection of the Dubai Pivot Fields produced a Pale Martin, Turkestan Shrike & the calcarata race of Citrine Wagtail (another first for the UAE)!

The day heated up & a stop in the desert produced nothing of interest. Ain al Faydah appeared on the surface to be very quiet indeed. Two adult Crested Honey Buzzards were flushed from thier mid-day slumber and then Robin pulled the bird out of his hat! Slight movement turned into cold hard certainty & we all obtained great views of the Ashy Drongo fly-catching. Nice one Robin!

Ashy Drongo.
Arabian Partridge has been introduced into this area,
 & seems to be thriving.
A quick look over Zakker Pools produced the 4 Greater Whitefronted Geese, but nothing new. We returned home happy, with a nice day out.

4 species added (227 total) 500 kms travelled.

Saturday dawned, with Carol talking to Graham of ticker fame. I was in bed, but before Carol could finish the sentence containing Greater Stone Plover, I was on my feet, running around in circles! Clothes, bins & scope & I was gone, only just remembering to open the garage doors! Twenty five minutes later, I was smiling, looking at the bird standing quite close. A first for the UAE in the bag!
Graham & Mark had arrived at dawn, played a tape & it materialised out of the fog! Congratulations boys!

The heroes- Mr & Mr Smug!
Oscar (who never twitches of course) arrived, as did Mr Lulu and eventually Simon. Mr Lulu decided on a last minute sprint, which was quite entertaining, if not graceful!

Greater Stone Plover- honest!

My digi-scoping effort!

The best I could do!

The Happy Gang, this is their best side!

A fine male, Pied Wheatear, was a year tick. A big thank you to Mr & Mr Smug!

2 species added (229 total): 60kms travelled.

A Saturday afternoon jaunt to the Emirates Palace Hotel, with Andrew and Oscar, was slightly marred, by the rising storm: strong winds & blowing dust, didn't help the birding. However, I spotted 2 Buff-bellied Pipits among the Water Pipit crowd; strangely, both in full winter plumage, where as all the Water Pipits were coming strongly into summer plumage. Perhaps, this is indicative, of the varying distance these birds have to migrate?
A Hume's Leaf-warbler called and we eventually obtained fleeting views, among the strongly swaying trees. A nice male Caspian Stonechat provided great views, despite the increasingly bad weather. The best of the rest, was a fine Steppe Grey Shrike.
With ever increasing darkening skies, I high-tailed it home.

0 species added (229 total): 80kms travelled.

A Tuesday afternoon walk around Abu Dhabi Island, with Oscar & Robin was very productive. Combined total of migrants for MPG's; Racecourse & the Officier's Club was quite impressive in both species & numbers:
1 Gr. White-fronted Goose; 1 Crested Honey Buzzard; 9 Daurian Shrike; 3 Steppe Grey Shrike; 1 Masked Shrike; 5 Woodchat Shrike; 1 Red-rumped Swallow; 1 Common House Martin; 1 samamiscus Common Redstart; 3 Eastern Black Redstart; 2 Caspian Stonechat + 1 female variegatus/armenicus; 9 Northern Wheatear; 16 Pied Wheatear; 1 Eastern Black-eared Wheatear; 11 Isabelline Wheatear; 1 Song Thrush; 8 Tawny Pipit & 4 Water Pipit (new year birds,in bold).

4 species added (233 total): 75 kms travelled.

The British Embassy has issued its high risk of terrorism threat here in Abu Dhabi. The next level of notification is evacuation. But have no fear good people. In their wisdom, the authorities have ordered a fleet of ships to be on standby (just in case). The good news is that they will be captained by Italian Captains, who in the true tradition of Italian naval tradition, have none of this women & children first nonsense! This is very good news for us birders, as we can just push the women & children into the sea, if necessary. Thereby, having the opportunity of increasing our lists in the future.

A view across a small part of Al Wathba Lake.

Wednesday afternoon saw me birding around Al Wathba Lake. The flock of Greater Flamingoes was as impressive as ever; c1,600 birds and around seventy active nests. 7 Marsh Harriers, a Pallid Harrier and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk cruised over head, causing a bit of anxiety in the flamingo flocks, who honked their disapproval, everytime a bird of prey circled overhead. The Eurasian Golden Plover was still on its favourite bit of sand, in the middle of the lake. A cracking full summer plumage Rose-coloured Starling flew by and that was about it! Not one hirundine came in to roost - nothing!

0 species added (233 total): 70 kms travelled.

On Thursday evening Carol & I drove up to Dubai to attend Simon's 40th birthday bash. A very nice time was had by all. Good to meet his Mum & Dad, see the video his brother made (he!he!he!) and well done to Grace for organising things so well.
Friday morning was shopping hell in the mall. I sat with other men, outside of the ladies fitting room (how inappropriate is that? Because those expensive things they all try on, never really fit, do they)? These men all had various things in common, sad, defeated eyes, looking at nothing in particular, until a lady appears & approaches them. Briefly their eyes shine and they nod and smile, in the vain hope that she will pick one and then escape becomes a possibility. However, they normally go back in to this void, before re-emerging again about 20 minutes later and the same scenario unfolds. One strange aspect of this ritual, is that all the men clutch handbags, mine was a very nice dove grey colour. You don't see this too often in life, at least not in the cirlces I mix in! A more pleasant aspect was meeting Nora for lunch. Great to see her again & on good form too! Khalifa called with the news of a Cinereous Bunting, so a detour to the Saadiyat Island Beach Golf Course was made.
4 Grey Wagtails were seen
Plenty of White Wagtails were on their way north.

A fine male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush.
Isabelline Wheatears were numerous.

Some beautiful male
 Northern Wheatears were seen

Tawny Pipits were numerous.

No bunting, but a good variety & number of migrants. Nothing rare, or uncommon but both Pale Rockfinch & Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush were new for my year list.

2 species added (235 total): 350kms travelled over two days.

It is Saturday and it is The Road to Hell, which means Sila of course. I have teamed up with Mark & Oscar, which is great, because this means I am not driving! We arrive at our destination just after dawn and it is cold! It is always cold at Sila!
I walk around the large plantation, the others drive. We meet & explore the two small garden areas. Migrants are quite prolific, nothing rare, but lots of variety. The marsh area was slighly quieter but still prolific and the park was nothing short of manic!

Over 125+ Hoopoes; 20+ Steppe Grey Shrikes; 25 + Turkestan Shrikes; 4 Daurian; 15+ Woodchat & a Masked Shrike. Pied & Isabelline Wheatears were common, with a few Desert Wheatears. A highlight were at least 6 Caspian Stonechats + a further four others of siberian origin.
Hoopoes were everywhere!
Turkestan Shrikes had arrived in large numbers.

A confiding Isabelline Wheatear. 
The highlight of birding the park was a superb Grasshopper Warbler.

You don't often get views like this!

Bird of the day.

A quick stop at the various locations in Mirfa were equally productive, lots of migrants, wheatears & shrikes with a Common Quail & 4 Pale Rockfinch being the highlights.

A big thanks to Mark, who did all the driving! Sometimes, it is just so nice to sit back and be driven around!
3species added (238 total): 750kms travelled.

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