Monday, 13 February 2017

February in the UAE

Al Wathba Reserve

2nd February saw me visiting Al Wathba Reserve. It was a lovely morning but with it being morning, the sun is in the wrong place for viewing birds & it isn't open in the evenings when the light is perfect for viewing! Very frustrating!

Part of the flock of Greater Flamingoes,
seen from the hide.

Brings back memories of my roots!

I was there mingling with the Prince!

Greater Spotted Eagle

European Black headed Gulls.

This was my very first time to visit since it has become a reserve, but I know the place well after birding here for many years. In some places the habitat has deteriorated & the variety of species is less than before, but it is still a great place to go birding. I was a bit surprised by the number of visitors( being mid week), It is obviously a popular attraction.

Best birds were: 

2,300 Greater Flamingo; 167 Common Shelduck; 7 Avocet; 1 Spotted Redshank 150+ Curlew Sandpiper & a Wood Sandpiper.

Cattle Egrets

This species has become an increasingly common 
winter visitor to Abu Dhabi.

Eurasian Hoopoe

Song Thrush

White Wagtail

Graceful Prinia.

The next day I enjoyed a wander around Mushrif Palace Gardens & the nearby woods. The weather was cool & very windy, so not great for viewing.

Best birds were:

5 Song Thrush; 1 male Black throated Thrush (which gave poor views); Eastern Black Redstart & 2 Hoopoe.

Maarten, myself, Peter, Dick & Willem.
Over 130 years of ENHG membership sat here!

On the 7th I attended the ENHG meeting with Jens & Hanne Erikson speaking on the Wildlife of Oman. It was an excellent talk & great to bump into old friends again!

Abu Dhabi Racecourse.

Male Shikra

This species is becoming increasingly 
well established in the city.


On 9th I birded Mushrif Palace Gardens & Abu Dhabi Racecourse. It was quiet for migrants in he wood, but raptors were in abundance with 3 Crested Honey Buzzard; a pair of Shikra; female Sparrowhawk & 2 Common Kestrels. Four species of raptor in the city is pretty special.
 I also found a European Tree Pipit in the middle wood, which is a good winter record. Menetries Warbler, 3 Eastern Olivaceous; 8 Desert Lesser Whitethroat & around 20+ Common Chiffchaff.
The racecourse held a female Gadwall, Gull billed Tern, a Greenshank & a Steppe Grey Shrike.

The view of the city from the water as we sent off.

The intrepid explorers!

Tanya, Maarten & Alia.

Indo-Pacific Hump-backed Dolphin.

Six were around the boat, but difficult
 to photograph.

A young Hawksbill Turtle

Picked up to be taken to the
 rehabilitation centre.

This individual was covered in barnacles,
 which makes it impossible for them to dive for food
 & so they starve to death.

Grey Heron & Socotra Cormorant

Socotra Cormorant

Great Cormorants.

Greater Flamingo.

Great Black-headed Gulls.

The Arabian Gulf is an important wintering ground
 for this species.

Steppe Gulls.

Slender-billed Gulls.

Adult Slender-billed Gull, coming into
 breeding plumage.

Among the Slender-bills are a few of these.....

European Black-headed Gull

The 11th was an ENHG trip around the inshore islands off Abu Dhabi. As usual Maarten provided the transport & twelve of us enjoyed a wonderful five hours off shore, exploring the inshore channels which are inaccessible from the mainland.

Caspian Terns

This is quite an impressive number
 for AD in winter.

Lesser crested Tern

Most migrate, but smaller numbers winter here.

European Oystercatcher & Saunder's Little Terns

European Oystercatchers & Whimbrel.


Best birds were:

700+ Greater Flamingo; 600+ Greater Cormorant (an unusually high number); 10 Soctora Cormorant; 92 Great Black headed Gull; 145 Saunder's Little Tern; 40 Lesser Crested Tern; 56 Caspian Tern; 5 Osprey & Steppe Grey Shrike.

Urbanization is getting closer!

On 22nd February I drove over to the east coast & birded Wham Farm at Dibba. There was a lot less habitat than when I was last there & villas encroaching relentlessly across the plain. A bit depressing really. The goat farm is now a pale shadow of what it was like before with only a small area under cultivation.

Tawny Pipit

Best birds were:

4 Pied Wheatear; 3 Desert Wheatear; 9 Isabelline Wheatear; female Variable Wheatear (getting late for this species); 14 Eurasian Skylark; 23 Short-toed Lark; 5 Bimaculated Lark; 53 Tawny Pipit; Red throated Pipit & 2 Daurian Shrike.

I then worked the dairy farm, which was not exactly bursting with variety, but produced some rare species:

Sociable Plover

They were pretty wary.

European Golden Plover

A rare, but regular winter visitor to the UAE.

Long billed Pipit

Caspian Stonechat, notice the white going
 down the sides of the tail

Siberian Stonechat

2 Sociable Plover; European Golden Plover; 3 Ruff; Pin-tailed Snipe; 2 Common Snipe; 2 Long billed Pipit & Caspian Stonechat & 3 Siberian Stonechat.

This feral cat, shows quite a few characteristics
 of Gordon's Wild Cat.

View from Bidya.


I then drove to Bidya to meet with Jacky Judas & we enjoyed a great evening together drinking, eating & catching up on each others lives. Till the next time Jacky!

Now what is this?
Comments welcome!

Immature Sooty Gull among other species.

European Black headed Gull

Indian House Crow is now at plague proportions
 along the east coast.

The next morning a drove south along the coast calling at Fujairah Port Beach where there were a few gulls & terns along the beach & 220 Red-necked Phalaropes feeding offshore.

A mixture of gull species in the harbour.



Next stop was Kalba Harbour which held the usual species including 12 Great Black - headed Gulls.

Sykes's Warbler

Not a commonly photographed species.

This is the sole remaining location for this species
 in the UAE.

My final stop was Khor Kalba but these days one cannot enter, but I managed to find a Sykes's Warbler in the usual tree & get photos!

I then had a long drive to Al Ain as these days one cannot enter that little piece of Oman which makes the direct route impossible. I was staying with good friends of mine Huw & Marion & they made me feel very welcome.

Part of the birding group.

Walking out of the back wadi.

The next morning (24th) we all met up for a bird walk, as this was one of the events of the Inter-Emirates Weekend. We explored Green Mubazarrah & Wadi Tarabat. Both proved to be very productive. It was a shame I didn't take my camera but this was not possible with 22 people in tow & trying to show them birds! It was a very enjoyable day though.

Wadi Tarabat.

Best species were:

4 Egyptian Vulture; 3 Black throated Thrush; Song Thrush; 6 Blue Rock Thrush; Humes & Red tailed Wheatears; 3 Eastern Black Redstart; Desert Lark; Plain Leaf Warbler; Menetries Warbler; 10 Arabian Babbler & 4 Striolated Bunting.

Zakher Lake

Huw, myself & Peter.

Saturday saw many of the same group at Zakher Lake. It was a cool, overcast day & not the best conditions for viewing but we managed to see:

Great Spotted Eagle; Booted Eagle & a wide variety of water birds of which 2 Black necked Grebes & a Ferruginous Duck were the pick of the bunch.

Thanks for everything Huw & Marion, it was a really nice weekend.

Kevin (Uncle Fester)?; Angie; myself; 
Ryan & Leanne.

Sunday 26th February I met up with Kevin, Leanne, Ryan & Angie for a night at the races! Unfortunately the whole day was a wash out! It just poured & poured with rain! The roads were dangerous with many accidents, everyone was late & we couldn't sit outside to see the racing up close because of the weather. Despite this we had a pleasant evening.

It is the 28th February, the last day of the month (where has it gone)? I spent the morning in & around Mushrif Palace Gardens & the nearby woods. It was a beautiful winters morning, but very quiet for birds:

2 Hoopoe; 4 Eastern Olivaceous Warbler; 2 Menetreis Warbler; 9 Desert Lesser Whitethroat & 15 Chiffchaff.

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