Sunday, 16 November 2014

A day out around Al Ain.

Jebel Hafeet - an isolated mountain
 amid the red desert sands.

Arabian Partridge - don't get too excited, 
not tickable at this location!

It is 16th November & the weather is perfect, so a quick dash to Al Ain was in order. Up at 5 am & arrived at The Green Mubazzarah at dawn. Also walked down the back wadi. Not many migrants, but Arabian Partridges from nearly every hill! These birds were introduced a few years ago & are settling in very nicely!

Little Green Bee-eater
White-eared Bulbul - twenty years ago this species
 was not found in this locality. 
A wintering Black Redstart.

 The summit of Jebel Hafeet looking north east.
 Oman is in the distance. 

 Hume's Wheatear.
 This individual has been around here 
for at least three years. 
 A more normal bird.

 Male Hooded Wheatear.
 One of the most sought after but hard to see
 of our resident birds.
Always driven off by the more aggressive
 Hume's Wheatear.

Drove up the mountain & first call was around the hotel grounds. I lucked in with both Hume's & Hooded Wheatears, both giving excellent views. But not much else. 

Egyptian Vultures using the communications tower.
 They are fantastic birds when in the air!

 Immature bird. Jebel Hafeet acts as a kind of nursery.
 Good numbers are seen here, but they don't breed.

Desert Lark.
Striolated Bunting.

Then walked the summit circuit & made stops at regular intervals on the way down. Spent some time photographing Egyptian Vultures & Desert Lark.

 Into the desert.

 A bit of a surprise amid the dunes!
Zakkar Pools.

European Marsh Harrier.
 A haven for waterbirds.
Great Black-headed Gull - taken at 200 x
 digital zoom!

Called in at Zakkar Pools in mid-afternoon. Lots of waterfowl & waders but nothing special. 
A quick drive home & then out on the town again! 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Barbara in the UAE!

Barbara on the UAE/Oman border.

Barbara arrived in the UAE on the evening of 7th November. I picked her up from Dubai Airport & we drove down to my house in Abu Dhabi. I mention this fact because something quite remarkable happened! This is the sixth continent we have met on in just under a year!
 The list is: South America; Antarctica; Europe; North America; Africa & Asia! Some kind of record?
She was only here for three days, so we had a lot to pack in! And we did!

Barbara, in her more normal habitat!
Rowing across a lake in Vermont!

The next day we visited the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. I must confess, even though I had passed the place many times, I had not ventured inside. I was surprisingly impressed. It really was beautiful.

The Grand Mosque.

Barbara, dressed appropriately for the visit!

 Pretty impressive stuff!
The largest hand made oriental carpet in the world!


 Evening light.

Barbara is really into architecture & so I think she enjoyed her afternoon visit immensely. But it was now time to meet up with friends for an evening at The Club

The Gang, in the snug.
Photo courtesy of Barbara. 

View from the top of the Folly.
Photograph courtesy of Barbara.

We arrived a little late, but had time to run up to the top of the Folly to see the view. 

 Some nice dunes along this road.
 Barbara wanted to see these! 
Why Barbara? Why?
Breakfast at the fodder fields.
The next morning we were up early & off driving down to the edge of the Empty Quarter. We drove through various types of desert scenery, before having breakfast at the Al Quaa fodder fields. It was nice & shaded here & a very pleasant stop. 

 Sijya Fort.

We then drove north along the Omani border & stopped at Sijya Fort. We spent sometime here. 

Looking into Oman.

We made a quick dash to the top of Jebel Hafeet, then it was time for the drive home & an evening meal with Clare & Ahmed. 

Looking back at Abu Dhabi City.

Monday was Barbara's last day! We did a drive to Yas Island & then a little shopping in the city. 

Looking from the Emirates Palace Hotel towards 
the new buildings in the evening light.
 Inside the Emirates Palace Hotel!
 Our venue for afternoon tea!
It must be something I said!

Then it was time for afternoon tea at the seven star Emirates Palace Hotel!

 Looking from the marina.
 Emirates Palace Hotel in the background.

Dusk settles over Abu Dhabi.

And then it was over! Barbara's lightening visit was at an end. She returned to a wintry Boston, thinking that maybe she had dream't the whole thing!

I thought it would be cool, if I asked Barbara to write her impressions of her visit to Abu Dhabi. This is what she wrote:

A magical trip to Abu Dhabi started with a bold fuschia sunset over Iran & Iraq.
Met Steve in Dubai, then drove to AD to his palatial home (by New England standards, anyway)! This is our 6th continent together in just under one year!

Evening light at The Grand Mosque.

Enjoyed a late evening snack by the pool, then up late the next day to visit my goal: the Grand Mosque. What a treat it was! Absolutely incredible scale – partly gaudy and garrish in decoration, yet purely classic in form. I could have spent even longer than 2 hours there.
Morning glories!

 (What is their big fascination with morning glories?)

Off to The Club to meet Steve's friends - a great bunch, interesting discussions -, but first to the top of the Folly for an evening view of AD. Loved the interplay of Islamic patterns on the modern form.

Henderson's Folly.

 The gang - enjoying drinks.

The meal at The Vista.

On the outdoor balcony restaurant, Steve surprised me with the most thoughtful gesture – a cake with inscription, presented by the full contingent of waitstaff – seen here. In a rare moment, I was speechless, and could only stammer my thanks.

I still can't believe she was speechless! 
(That's me talking)!

 The obligatory camel photo!
Looks a bit like Colin to me!

Next day up early. We were going to the desert! Along the truck route, then south into nothingness. Impressions: all shades of desert: pebbly and white, red and more refined nearer the Omani border; camels!!; water spigots for workers – in the middle of nowhere! (Here accompanied by morning glories).

Water spigot - with wild morning glories!

Al Qua'a Fodder Fields.
 Yes, I snuck in a little birding!

A peaceful hour spent at the fodder fields of Al Qua'a; quiet, gentle breeze, birds chirping. Very relaxing, induced dozing.

 Omani desert scene.

 Barbara at the fort.

The Omani side of Jebel Hafeet.

Arrived at the Omani border. I MUST go there soon! Pure natural environment: no power lines, fences, or development. Just red desert, dunes and sparse brush
Along Oman border to Siyat Fort, then a quick jaunt up Jebel Hafeet for an expansive view looking south into Oman.

View from Jebel Hafeet in late afternoon.

Home in a yellow hazy sunset, then off to an Italian restaurant for a lovely dinner with Clare and Ahmed.
The perfect egg!

Monday, my final day on this whirlwind trip, started with a perfectly-cooked soft-boiled egg by Steve.

Abu Dhabi Marina - looking towards the city.

Then off to town - Yas Island, Marina Mall, the Abu Dhabi Sailing & Yacht Club (Steve knows me well!), and tea at the Emirates Palace Hotel, topped off with an evening with the gang at The Club.

The gang in the snug!

A walk on the grounds of the hotel at sunset was a highlight of the trip. The gentle breeze & temperature were reminiscent of a summer evening in Marblehead, golden light bathed the new glass towers framed by the trees of the garden and marina; in the other direction, the administrative palace sillouetted against the setting sun. And for a special treat - I walked on grass!

Evening light, from the Emirates Palace Hotel.

A wonderful, but short, trip to a region and culture that was new to me, but that I hope to visit again! So many more impressions to share!