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.

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