Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Second week of April

My first day birding since I arrived back in the UAE yesterday. Zonked out completely yesterday, but after a good nights rest, raring to go today. After work I met up with Robin (and later Oscar) for a sojurn around the MPG's and Abu Dhabi Racecourse.

Upcher's Warblers are now passing in good numbers,
 on their way to more northern breeding grounds.
It was slow going but steadily the migrants were racked up: 3 Tree Pipits; 2 Common Redstart; 3 Upcher's Warbler; Blackcap; Willow Warbler & Chiffchaff. The best was a skulking Great Reed Warbler, which was singing a sub-song from the depths of cover.
We split up, Oscar covered the racecourse first & rang! Cinereous Bunting. Nice one Oscar! This was a major relief for me, as it is a tricky year bird to see.

Eastern Cinereous Bunting

Emberiza (cineracea) semenowi

This could be a future taxonomic split
 from the western form, very soon.

21 Red-throated Pipits were also on the racecourse.

2 species added (258 species total): 80 kms travelled.

It is Thursday & it is my birthday! So, I went birding around the Emirates Palace Hotel. The only problem was the weather! A shamal blew in early morning, & as the day progressed conditions deteriated. By the time I finished work and was out & about, it really wasn't very nice at all! A lone European Bee-eater gave me some encouragement. 27 Red throated; 1 Tree Pipit; 3 Common Redstart; 2 Northern Wheatear and a Willow Warbler were all I could find. Then Oscar called! The Common Cuckoo was showing in the MPG's. I was there within 15 minutes of the call. It was flighty but easy to see. A wonderful hepatic subtelphonus race of Common Cuckoo! The first of this race, I have ever seen! What a great bird to end the day on! I am giggling into my champagne!

2 species added (260 species total): 80kms travelled.

It is Friday, and the day of my party! Loads to do before the afternoon though. Last minute shopping also Carol & the girls are busy cooking. Rowan bakes a cake for me - great, thanks love! The weather is hot & calm, very different from yesterday!
People start to arrive - one family in particular, make a bit of an entrance!

Guess who?
It is of course, Andrew, Amanda & their son James.

Once inside, while drinking my beer, I am served with a writ from this said personage! This litigation dates back to the 1st April of course! It is well worth reading here!

1 Old Bailey

 10 April 2012
Mr. Stephen James
Your Massive Villa
Mohammed Bin Zayed City
Abu Dhabi

Dear Mr. James

Claim for compensation

We act for Commander ‘Lulu’ Ward, a well known resident of Abu Dhabi, who has informed us that on Sunday 1 April 2012 you did recklessly and maliciously cause him pain, suffering and financial loss. We are instructed to pursue you, to the ends of the earth if necessary, to recover compensation for our client.

The facts are simple. At 8:31 am on 1 April 2012, you sent an e-mail to our client indicating, quite untruthfully, that you were watching a Shy Albatross on the sea off the Corniche in Abu Dhabi only some 100 meters from our client’s residence. As was perfectly foreseeable, this e-mail caused our client to suffer a severe panic attack, accompanied by heart palpitations and dizziness. At 8:36 am you sent another e-mail, indicating that the said albatross was flying in the direction of a well known beach front hotel, much frequented by our client, and you also relayed this information in a telephone call, thereby worsening our client’s panic attack and adding severe depression to his already dangerous symptoms.

As a result of your reckless actions, our client was forced to drive at some considerable speed down the Corniche in Abu Dhabi, thereby incurring substantial financial penalties. Subsequently the Abu Dhabi police have confiscated and crushed our client’s beloved Porsche motor car on the grounds that they have never seen a car driven so quickly from one end of the Corniche to the other.

Our client subsequently visited the grounds of the aforementioned hotel in a vain attempt to view your mythical albatross. As you were perfectly well aware when you sent your malicious e-mails, our client’s working hours commence at 8:30 am Sundays to Thursdays. As a result of his absence from work at a time when, unfortunately, his firm’s Global CEO wished to speak with him on an urgent matter, our client has been dismissed from his lucrative partnership in a global law firm, thereby suffering massive financial loss.

Unfortunately, as he was leaving the hotel in question (which, as you are aware, is much frequented by eastern European ladies of questionable virtue), he was spotted by his wife who, having been told perfectly truthfully only an hour previously by our client that he was going to work, came to the conclusion that he had in fact lied to her and was instead enjoying the company of one or more of the said ladies. She accordingly left him and instituted divorce proceedings along with a claim for ‘everything you own and then some you lying, cheating bastard.’

Your reckless and malicious behaviour has accordingly not only caused our client severe mental distress and physical symptoms as well as huge financial loss but has ruined his life.  He cannot now look at a pair of binoculars without beginning to tremble and start muttering about albatrosses. We are therefore instructed to commence proceedings against you for compensation for our client.

We understand that, in spite of all the pain and suffering you caused, all you were able to do when our client called you was to laugh until the tears ran down your cheeks and to lie on your back, kicking your legs in the air. We find such callous behaviour quite astonishing and, in addition to claiming compensation for our client’s losses, we intend to sue you for aggravated and punitive damages in order to ensure that this kind of cruelty will never again be inflicted on an innocent member of the birding community.

Our client has instructed us that he will discontinue these proceedings only upon receipt of either:

(a)   £15,000,000 in cleared funds in his bank account; or

(b)   a humble apology made on your knees in front of all the guests attending your birthday party on 13 April 2012, followed by your kissing our client’s feet, again in front of all such guests.

We would advise that, if our client is wearing the sandals he normally wears for birding, option (a) is likely to be far preferable.

Yours sincerely,

R. Scrougham, Senior Partner

 I was told in no uncertain terms that sucking Amanda's toes didn't constitute an apology! Oh dear!

We all had a great time & thanks to everyone who brought me a card & a present! Very nice too.

I had to cut the cake made by Rowan.
 Thanks Rowan!

Carol & me!
The James family: Rowan; Carol; me & Clare.

Dick, me & Hazim.
Ann & me.

The other Anne & me!

Oscar & me.

Werner & me!
Our impression of Dolly Parton!
I reckon it is pretty good!

Anne & Robin

Anne & Colin.

Anne & Colin with Werner getting in on the act!
Me & Hazim

Our little houseboy!
It is now Saturday and I am pottering around, tidying up, washing used glasses & cleaning up my bar. I am very happy, breakfast with Carol outside beckons! But then something happens. Neil calls to say he has the Bay backed Shrike & a nice male Black headed Bunting sat side by side on a fence! The only problem is the fence is at Fujairah National Dairy Farm! Carol rustles up some food for me to eat on the go. Two & half hours later & I am watching the Bay backed Shrike, & what a cracker it is! A big thanks to Neil for finding it & giving accurate directions, so accurate, that I very nearly ran over the bloody thing, as I pulled up in the car!

A very fine Bay-backed Shrike -
a nice one, for the year list!

It is now 3pm and it feels strange birding the FNDF in the afternoon. Plenty of migrants on offer, but nowhere near the numbers and indeed the variety, that Neil saw in the morning. I begin my stomp around the cattle farm: a female Pallid Harrier glides over; a Purple Heron is in the short grass field, trying its best to look invisible! 39 European Bee-eaters & 6 Blue-cheeked are passing over. 11 Lesser Kestrels add to the aerial fun. I flush a Blyth's Pipit. Nice, but not quite what I was hoping for! I decide to work the areas of rough grass and pockets of marsh, along the border fence. I am half way down when I flush a Savi's Warbler from right under my feet! I see it twice more, but didn't manage to get any photos. I decide to leave it be, as three birders have the next day off! How as that worked out? A European Hobby flies over my head, my first of the year.
I am on the phone to Neil, he recommends the goat farm and then slips in a little nugget of information that he forgot to tell me earlier! He had seen a male Spanish Sparrow in the morning! I look but don't find. 7 European Turtle Doves are not much consolation. The far grass field is very quiet, I decide to concentrate in the fading light on the recently cut grass. As I am checking the sparrows, I hear a Black-headed Bunting. It takes me around half a minute to find it and then discover it has a friend next to it. Still no sparrows with a funny Med accent though!
I gun it up into the mountains, the light is fading. I have one thing on my mind. Litchenstein's Sandgrouse! I take a rough track I have never been down before and it turns out to be great! The Mahtaraqah track looks brilliant, as it traverses the bottom of a wadi with lots of trees and other vegetation.  It definately warrants a more thorough exploration. A Little Owl watches me from atop of a rock and calls (more money in the bank, a differnt race). I start walking down the track, with Desert Larks & Hume's Wheatears singing around me. Then two birds shuffle and then explode at my feet. A superb male and female Litchenstein's! Six year ticks for the day. I drive home happy, with my new found friend Adele, keeping me company.

6 species added (266 species total): 550 kms travelled.

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