Thursday 30 April 2015

Abu Dhabi at the end of the trip

Late Saturday afternoon, Andrew Bailey took me briefly to two local spots in Abu Dhabi to finish off my weekend trip.

One was the walkway across from the eastern Mangroves. There were birds to be added to my new UAE list here. One of these was a seemingly tame whimbrel standing just below us on the walkway.

whimbrel 1

However Andrew pointed out that because the concrete bunding was so steep the birds at the water's edge often can't see you so the bird might not have been particularly tame.

whimbrel 2

Most of the birding action though was not on the walkway but on the far side of the water channel in the mangroves. Ruddy turnstone and grey plover were late adds to the list.

ruddy turnstone

I also managed much better views of Egyptian goose as a pair landed opposite us. Strangely it was the only place I observed a western reef heron. A Caspian tern flew down the channel making the tenth type of tern observed on the trip.

male common redstart

Just before the visit to the eastern mangroves we spent a while in Mushrif Palace Gardens. This is essentially a very large cluster of high trees with some but not an ideal amount of ground cover too. 

The tranquility of the place was almost immediately disturbed by the loud squawks of Alexandrine parakeet. However when peace was restored, we found some good birds. We counted five common redstart scattered around the woods.

female common redstart

The only blackcap of the trip was a male seen drinking water under a bush.

Rufous bush robin

One of the last birds seen in Mushrif Palace Gardens was a rufous bush robin. Ironically it was one of the first birds seen at Wamm farms at the beginning of the weekend trip. I am not sure we saw it in between.

I am extremely grateful for Andrew as host. He certainly knows his area and his birds. I intend to visit UAE again. 

There is one more blog to come on the UAE trip mostly concerning terns but I still don't know when it will be published as some of the terns are still not fully identified.

However I have got some quite exciting blogs from Salalah lined up.

Below is the full list of  93 species seen over the weekend in UAE with the first location seen.

Species Location
Egyptian Goose Zakher Lake
Eurasian Wigeon Zakher Lake
Grey Francolin Sharjah University City
Sand Partridge Wadi Tarabat
Little Grebe Zakher Lake
Greater Flamingo Zakher Lake
Great Cormorant Dibba port
Socotra Cormorant Fujairah Port Beach
Grey Heron Khor Kalba (Alqurm Protected Area)
Great Egret Zakher Lake
Western Reef-Heron Eastern Mangrove Lagoon NP
Cattle Egret Wamm Farms
Squacco Heron Zakher Lake
Striated Heron Khor Kalba (Alqurm Protected Area)
Glossy Ibis Fujairah water ditch
Osprey Wamm Farms
Egyptian Vulture Wadi Tarabat
Common Moorhen Fujairah water ditch
Eurasian Coot Zakher Lake
Black-winged Stilt Zakher Lake
Grey Plover Eastern Mangrove Lagoon NP
Red-wattled Lapwing Wamm Farms
Kentish Plover Zakher Lake
Common Ringed Plover Zakher Lake
Common Sandpiper Zakher Lake
Green Sandpiper Wamm Farms
Spotted Redshank Zakher Lake
Common Greenshank Eastern Mangrove Lagoon NP
Whimbrel Eastern Mangrove Lagoon NP
Ruddy Turnstone Eastern Mangrove Lagoon NP
Sanderling Fujairah Port Beach
Little Stint Zakher Lake
Common Snipe Wamm Farms
Slender-billed Gull Fujairah Port Beach
Sooty Gull Fujairah Port Beach
Caspian Gull Dibba port
Saunders's Tern Fujairah Port Beach
Caspian Tern Eastern Mangrove Lagoon NP
Whiskered Tern Fujairah Port Beach
Roseate Tern Fujairah Port Beach
Common Tern Fujairah Port Beach
White-cheeked Tern Fujairah Port Beach
Great Crested Tern Dibba port
Sandwich Tern Fujairah Port Beach
Lesser Crested Tern Dibba port
Rock Dove Wamm Farms
European Turtle-Dove Wamm Farms
Eurasian Collared-Dove Wamm Farms
Laughing Dove Wamm Farms
Common Swift Wamm Farms
Pallid Swift Wamm Farms
Little Green Bee-eater Kalba Bird of Prey Centre
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Wamm Farms
European Bee-eater Kalba Bird of Prey Centre
European Roller Wamm Farms
Indian Roller Wamm Farms
Eurasian Hoopoe Wamm Farms
Lesser Kestrel Wamm Farms
Common Kestrel Wamm Farms
Alexandrine Parakeet Mushrif Palace Gardens
Ring-necked Parakeet Sharjah University City
Turkestan Shrike Wamm Farms
Daurian Shrike Wamm Farms
House Crow Wamm Farms
Desert Lark Wadi Tarabat
Crested Lark Wamm Farms
Sand Martin Wamm Farms
Pale Crag Martin Wamm Farms
Barn Swallow Wamm Farms
Red-vented Bulbul Sharjah University City
White-spectacled Bulbul Kalba Bird of Prey Centre
White-eared Bulbul Wamm Farms
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler Wamm Farms
Upcher's Warbler Wamm Farms
Clamorous Reed-Warbler Zakher Lake
Graceful Prinia Wamm Farms
Blackcap Mushrif Palace Gardens
Spotted Flycatcher Kalba Bird of Prey Centre
Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin Wamm Farms
Redstart Jebel Hafit
Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush Jebel Hafit
Whinchat Wamm Farms
Hume's Wheatear Wadi Tarabat
Northern Wheatear Wamm Farms
Bank Myna Wamm Farms
Common Myna Wamm Farms
Asian Pied Starling Sharjah University City
Superb Starling Sharjah University City
Purple Sunbird Wamm Farms
Striolated Bunting Wadi Tarabat
Trumpeter Finch Wadi Tarabat
House Sparrow Wamm Farms
Indian Silverbill Sharjah University City

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Around Al Ain, UAE

Andrew Bailey had organised a second busy day on Saturday. Most of it was in the Al Ain area so that meant leaving the house around 5 am. 

The first stop was Zakher lake and it was still relatively cool. Indeed it turned out to be the only cool birding of the day.

clamorous reed warbler

Immediately on parking the car and getting out, we saw and heard a group of clamorous reed warbler in the nearest set of reeds.

There were two other clusters of them eslewhere as we walked round.

Black-winged stilt were no surprise. 

black-winged stilt

The most numerous wader was probably little stint though.

little stint

In the water we observed little grebe, common moorhen and a single coot.

little grebe

On a small island were little tern.

little tern

On the same island were also Kentish plover and ringed plover.

ringed plover (with Kentish plover at back)

We didn't have time to walk all the way round the lake but we could see two flamingo and a great white egret at the far side.

Egyptian goose

Much closer but directly into the sun was a solitary Egyptian goose. Interestingly although it is regular in Al Ain and near-by places such as at Zakher lake, it is classified as a vagrant with just three records in Oman. The border is not far and I suspect that any water bodies near Al Buraimi on the Oman side must surely host them from time to time.

After Zakher lake, we headed next to Wadi Tarabat. 

Hume's wheatear

Although we had glimpsed a couple of Hume's wheatear on wires on our return journey the day before, this was the first place to observe them properly. We saw three.

desert lark

Two pale brown species were seen in the wadi. These were desert lark and trumpeter finch. The latter was shy as usual and I failed to obtain a picture.

Upcher's warbler 1

The low acacia bushes in wadis like this as excellent habitat for passage Upcher's warbler.

Upcher's warbler 2

We observed two. One gave very good views.

Upcher's warbler 3

Their tail action, where they pump it and part rotate it, is quite distinctive. Indeed it is unmistakable. This is one bird where behaviour is better than plumage and structure for quick identification.

striolated bunting

A fairly common bird in the wadi, it would seem, is striolated bunting.

Egyptian vulture

Flying high above was my first Egyptian vulture of the trip.


The next major stop after Wadi Tarabat was Green Mubazzarah. This is a resort which is heavily watered to create lawns and other vegetated areas within a natural wadi. It must be a magnet for many birds. In our case we saw five rufous tailed rock thrush and several hoopoe. Other birds included white-eared bulbul and another Upcher's warbler. Another Egyptian vulture was seen overhead.

Time spent outside the car was limited as it was getting very hot just like the day before.

To partly escape the heat we climbed Jebel Hafeet and up to the Mercure hotel gardens. This hotel is almost at the peak. 

We calculated it was 6 degrees C cooler there but it was still very warm.

European bee-eater

A flock of European bee-eater passed over but one bird stopped to rest. It looked exhausted.

Hume's wheatear

Hume's wheatear were present in the garden but especially on the lamp posts. Apparently hooded wheatear can be seen there too at times but we were unlucky.

Rufous-tailed rock thrush

Yet another rufous tailed rock thrush was observed and a common redstart was also seen on the edge of the hotel complex. More Egyptian vulture were also present on the mountain.

It was now heading towards the hottest time of the day and so the best time to travel back in an air conditioned car.

We travelled back towards Abu Dhabi for a meal and then some late birding. By this stage I had over 80 species on my new formed UAE list.

I will write about the birding in Abu Dhabi next and show my complete weekend list.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

Friday afternoon in UAE

After leaving Wamm farm we headed to the coast at Dibba Port and then south to Fujairah Beach. In an incident at the beach we saw fishermen delivering fish to shore and up to 8 species of tern trying to take part of the catch. I am waiting on better identifications until I post about this. Meanwhile this post is about what happened after.

We moved on south down the coast to the Khor Kalba area. Unfortunately we drew a blank on both the collared kingfisher in the khor and yellow-throated sparrow directly inland from there.

It was not surprising we failed on the collared kingfisher because the protected area is out of bounds and viewing is from afar. You would have to very lucky for the kingfisher to be seen.

The lack of yellow-throated sparrow was a little bit more disappointing. Nevertheless the birding inland from the khor hled some fascination.

European bee-eater

One interesting feature was the number of bee-eaters seen. There were a couple of waves of European bee-eater. These were the first I had seen this spring since they aren't common in Dhofar, Oman and I have struggled to see any there.

five European bee-eater

There were also a lesser number of blue-cheeked bee-eater making there way through.

Blue-cheeked bee-eater

Both migrant species out numbered the resident little green bee-eater. According the maps in the main regional guide some may stay to breed in the area. 

little green bee-eater

Andrew Bailey and I looked very hard for the sparrow but house sparrow were the only type we could find.

house sparrow

In our search we came across two Upcher's warbler, rufous bush robin and spotted flycatcher. All are on passage.

spotted flycatcher

By midday it was scorchingly hot and we had to give up the search. We chose the early afternoon when it was hotest to travel back west in this case towards Sharjah first.

white-eared bulbul

We did make brief stops on the way at places the yellow-throated sparrow has been seen in the past or could potentially be present but again we had no success. The white-eared bulbul above was seen at one of these stops. When we got back in the car the outside temperature read as 43C.

By the time we reached Sharjah, temperatures had started to fall. We spent our time there in the gardens of the American University and near-by. Sadly the pallid scops owl which often roosts in one particular place was not around. This was the third miss of the day.

Nevertheless, I was not disheartened. It was my first birding vist to UAE and everything was new. 

I was amazed by how many exotic bird species from both Africa and India could be seen in the gardens.

red vented bulbul

Red-vented bulbul was one of the least exotic. I have seen it in both Riyadh and Muscat before even though it is an Asian native.

Common myna were everywhere.

pied myna

However pied myna (also known as Asian pied starling) was a surprise.

grey francolin

I finally caught up with grey francolin which I have yet to see in Oman because it is in the north and the large majority of my birding has been in Dhofar.

superb starling

Returning to the theme of exotic birds, almost the last bird of the day was superb starling. This East African native was seen near the gatehouse leaving university city.

This sighting just added to the impression of strangeness in these highly manicured and watered areas of which UAE has many.

The next day Andrew Bailey took me to some sites around Al Ain. I will blog about these next.

Monday 27 April 2015

Wamm farms, UAE

I was hosted by Andrew Bailey in UAE over last weekend. He lives in Abu Dhabi but our first stop was Wamm Farms in the north east of the country.

This meant just over a hour's sleep on Thursday night because of the late schedule of my plane from Salalah and the early start to arrive at Wamm Farms before 7 am.

When we arrived the place was covered in mist and it was like a steaming sauna. Furthermore the day just got hotter and hotter.

However the endurance was worth it.

One of our first observations was a very large group of lesser kestrel. We could hardly miss them.

Many were still roosting either on a sprinkler head or short bushes near-by. I counted 26 in one field. We estimate there were around 45 in total being careful not to double count as our movements tended to move them on.

male lesser kestrel

This was the largest flock of this species that either of us has ever seen.

female lesser kestrel

There were at least two common kestrel in the fields too.

Indian roller on the ground

Another early bird was Indian roller. Indeed we saw at least eight during the morning.

Indian roller on sprinkler head

In places Wamm farm is right on the border with Oman. On the border fence was sitting one Indian roller. As I walked towards it, it flew into Oman at least 20 metres.  So that is how species 272 was added to my Oman list while I was out of country birding in UAE!

rufous bush robin

Although one of the very first birds we saw was a rufous bush robin it was only one of two at the whole farm.

white cheeked bulbul

I was a little surprised that the dominant bulbul was white-cheeked bulbul rather than white spectacled bulbul. The latter bird prefers more arid and natural areas but it seemed strange to see the former bird so far out of an urban environment.

purple sunbird

On the same Sodom's apple plant as the first white-cheeked bulbul was a purple sunbird. 


Once we started walking inside the fields rather than around the edges we started to pick up some more species. A single male whinchat was one of them. However an important feature of the fields were the large number of common swift plying for insects over-head. This was exactly the same situation I had encountered over the large pivot field at Jarziz farm in Salalah, Oman the week before.

cattle egret

We headed towards where a farmer had started cutting a field. We could see birds following the tractor in its wake. 

Cattle egret were returning from there to a large tree near-by. We counted 12 on the tree at one time.

There were European roller to be seen. Unlike the Indian roller, these are passage birds.

European roller

In the cut strips there were plenty of myna. Many were common myna but at least 12 were bank myna.

bank myna with common myna

Bank myna is a result, a long time ago, of escapes. There is a population in Riyadh which I have seen and some in northern Oman which I haven't yet although I am sure some of the ones seen at Wamm farm must fly over the border fence from time to time.

bank myna

Having looked in the area of cut fodder we changed direction, detoured to a drier area first (where we saw a robust but ultimately unidentfied pipit) and then walked past the main cattle enclosures heading towards the gate.

cattle egret

This brought us closer to the group of cattle egret.

red-wattled lapwing

It was also noisy as a pair of red-wattled lapwing decided to try to scare us out of the area. There are red-wattled lapwing dotted all over the farm and they no doubt breed there.

A line of very tall trees there was a disappointment.

After leaving through the gate we crossed over the road into the goat farm.

Many of the birds were similar though the common swift were joined by a small number of pallid swift and a larger number of barn swallow and sand martin.

house crow

House crow are everyway at the farms though more frequent near the buildings.

northern wheatear

One different bird at the goat farm was a late northern wheatear.

blue-cheeked wheatear

As we got into the car ready to finally move on a flock of blue-cheeked bee-eater arrived and some perched on the fences near us.

This had been a hot, very humid and sweaty early morning. I am glad we chose to start out so very early.

On leaving I had 34 species on my brand new UAE list.

Andrew took us next to the Fujariah coast near-by where we spent several hours before heading back to Abu Dhabi via Sharjah. I will blog about that too.