November as usual, was an action packed bird filled month! Migrants came through apace & at times it was difficult to keep up with them!
The 2nd saw me camping out at Wadi Bih. An owl had been heard the previous weekend which sounded suspiciously like a Tawny Owl! Of course that species doesn’t occur here, but its close cousin does! We searched in the evening, but to no avail, but it was great camping with friends in the wadi. Best birds the next morning were a European Stonechat; Bluethroat & 3 Plain Leaf Warblers.
We moved on to Khor al Beidhae for the high tide roost: 2 Great Spotted Eagles; 185 Crab Plovers & a whopping 60 Terek Sandpipers.
Rising tides push waders close in to the shore.
A typical mixed species flock.
A nice flock of Terek Sandpipers
A brief look at Ras Al Khor produced 36 Eurasian Spoonbills & 65 Black tailed Godwits, but no eagles! The Dubai Pivot Fields held 2 beautiful Sociable Plovers (an increasingly regular wintering species these days) and a Montagu’s Harrier glided over.
The next weekend on the 9th I was at Fujairah National Dairy Farm as dawn was breaking. There were plenty of migrants, but nothing really special: 4 Pacific Golden Plovers; Oriental Skylark; Steppe Grey Shrike; 4 Richard’s; 9 Long-billed & 17 Tawny Pipits were in the fields.
Steppe Grey Shrike
It was the afternoon that was to provide the excitement! A boat trip off Kalba yielded a ridiculous 145 Jouanin’s Petrels! The supporting cast wasn't bad either with 2 Masked Boobies & 2 Long-tailed Skuas. What an afternoon!
I arrived home very late from the east coast boat trip. I was tired & needed a shower & bed, but Khalifa called me & all thoughts of rest were immediately banished to the vestiges of my mind! He had found a duck at Ruwais Water Treatment Plant & from the long range photos he sent me, it looked like a Greater Scaup! So the very next day saw Rob &myself hammering it down the road & there it was! Well done Khalifa, a first for the UAE!
Yet another first for the UAE - Greater Scaup!
The weather looked good for migrants on 11th & a quick jaunt around the Emirates Palace Hotel didn't disappoint: a European Nightar gave excellent views sat on its day time roost in a palm tree; a European Robin was typically illusive, but gave away its presence by it’s persitant ticking. Other notables included a Red breasted Flycatcher and a Hume’s Leaf Warbler, which was bounding around from tree to tree, going mad! It had obviously just come in & hadn't found its home patch yet.
The next day (12th) I received a pleasant surprise in the form of a sprightly Red breasted Flycatcher sat in the tree where I park my car on Abu Dhabi Corniche! It was still around when I left work eight hours later.
On the 13th I was working at Dibbiyah, one of my top spots, because I always manage to cram some birding in during the day. I decided to cover a scrubby area around an old abandoned villa (an area I had not been to before) & immediately flushed A Desert Eagle Owl from a bush! This was a new record for me in this oilfield & I was delighted. I wandered further afield & flushed up 2 Short-eared Owls from a nice patch of natural desert habitat with cover. A great year bird here in AD, as they are always unpredictable in occurrence.
The weekend (15th) saw Oscar, Simon, Mark & I driving west to Sila – it proved to be an inspired decision! While I was watching 2 Red-breasted Flycatchers, Oscar was finding a skulking Black Bush Robin! Nice one Oscar- an absolute mega! With the help of the tape, we all eventually got good views. What an unexpected bonus for the year list!
Black Bush Robin
Sila Park held a smattering of migrants, best being 2 Barred Warblers. But the day was not over yet. We stopped at Ruwais Water Treatment Plant on the way home & late afternoon/early evening was perfect timing: a Water Rail after being heard, was also seen quite nicely –even swimming across open water! But the best was yet to come – a fantastic adult Baillon’s Crake feeding on the edge of the marsh for all to see! What a way to end a memorable day out in the far west! Brilliant stuff!
A Black-winged Kite had been found close to Abu Dhabi, so I went to the Yas Island Golf Links and it was still there, sat in its favourite tree! I got really excellent flight views as it flew on one occasion, directly over my head. Another unexpected bonus for the year list. Whow! 4 Richard’s Pipits & an Oriental Skylark were on the golf course were quite good local records.
On 17th I went to Al Wathba & despite the really degraded habitat, it was good birding: an adult Crested Honey Buzzard flew over and an extensive walk across the desert-like former fields produced a European Stone Curlew; a wonderful Short-eared Owl & a lone Bimaculated Lark. Not a bad afternoon.
Jacky Judas was in town the next day, so the 18th saw us working the manicured environment of the Emirates Palace Hotel looking for a new UAE tick for Jacky, European Robin! After a bit of effort, we collected the Robin, but in the process I saw a movement, it proved to be a fine Olive-backed Pipit! It led us a merry dance (as it did for many other would be observers over the coming days), but eventually we both got very average photos of it skulking in typical fashion under some very dense shrubbery. A nearby Red breasted Flycacher watched all this activity, but pretended not to care!
Olive - backed Pipit
A return visit to the raptor watch point at Al Wathba was very productive on 19th: with not only the Crested Honey Buzzard showing again but a fine Short-toed Eagle was soaring above the plantation. The Short-eared Owl was still present on the camel racetrack & a European Stonechat showed nicely.
I clocked 3 Crested Honey Buzzards on my way to work today (20th) gliding over 19th street in Abu Dhabi.
The weekend (21st) saw me driving north & camping out in Wadi Bih again in the forlorn hope of hearing (maybe even seeing) a Hume’s Tawny Owl!!! It wasn’t to be of course, but I did see 14 Chukar & a European Stonechat. On the way I dropped in ay Khor Al Beidah & after a brief search found an adult Red Knot consorting on the edge of a group of 33 Great Knots. I was over the moon as this species had been a bit of a bogey bird for me over the last 20 years in the UAE. However, my birding in Wadi Bih was cut short, with news of a great year bird! I raced down to Al Warsen Lakes in Dubai to twitch a Marbled Duck. After some searching (it was very elusive, keeping close to & in the reeds) I saw it! Great stuff!
On 23rd I was visiting all the well known sites around Al Ain. Nothing special there but the fodder fields at Al Dharah held 13 Namaqua Doves. A quick bash down the road to Al Qua was interesting with 2 Sociables Plovers being the stars, but 2 Lesser Kestrels & 2 Oriental Skylarks were the pick of the migrants in the fodder fields. We finished off the day with a nocturnal visit to Al Wathba producing the expected Egyptian Nighjar flying around the floodlights.
The 24th saw me at the other end of the country: walking around my beloved Fujairah National Dairy Farm: another 2 Sociable Plovers graced the short grass fields; 6 Pin-tailed Snipe were in long grass along the Omani border fence & yet another Red-breasted Flycatcher was in nearby trees.
Back around Al Ain on 26th with a fine Short-toed Eagle in Green Mubazzarah being the best record.
On 27th after work, a quick trip to the Yas Island Golf Links produced not only the expected Black-winged Kite, but 51 Grey Hypocolous roosting in the nearby mangroves. Unfortunately the views are not great, as they are flying at distance, into the setting sun before diving at the last minute into the mangroves.
A jaunt around the Emirates Palace Hotel on 29th was interesting, with a newly arrived Buff-bellied Pipit showing well. The by now regular European Robin & Hume’s Leaf Warbler were in their respective spots.
I finished off this great month with yet another trip to Wadi Bih! On the drive up, I saw 74 Brown-necked Ravens on the RAK –Sharjah highway! The mountain wadi held both European Robin, European Stonechat & I finally saw the very elusive Brown Shrike. The distinctly yukky, but good for birding, Kharran Pools held 5 Ruddy Shelduck and 2 Common Shelducks, among a plethora of waterfowl and waders.