Having planned a trip to Thailand to catch up with Spoon-billed Sandpiper before it gets to late Stephan found tickets with a one-day stopover in Dubai at a very reasonable price. UAE have some very good birds that are rarely found at other places. Crab Plover, Plain Leaf Warbler, Hume’s/Red-tailed/Variable Wheatears, Socotra Cormorant and Persian Shearwaters were the main targets.We contacted Mr. Tommy "Ambitious" Petersen about the possibility to guide us for a single day. Tommy runs the great site www.uaebirding.com. Fortunate for us Tommy had the day off from his work as a pilot with Emirates. We arrived in Dubai at 2300 on the 29th of November. A room was booked at the nearby Holiday Inn in order for us to get a few hours of sleep. We tried to walk to the hotel and even though we could see it from outside the airport we ended up taking a shuttle bus. It took 10 minutes to drive to a hotel that is about 300 meters from the airport!
We got picked up by Tommy at 0550 at our hotel and we quickly left Dubai heading north with the sight of the Dubai Skyline including the impressive Burj Kahlifa. At Umm al-Qaiwain Breakwater we ticked the first of our target species Socotra Cormorant. Other good birds included Pallas Gull (3). At nearby Khor al-Beida Stephan got his Crab Plover (35) offering quite good views alongside loads of other waders while the drier areas had Desert Warbler and Daurian Shirke.
|30/11 Crab Plover at Khor al-Beida. A total of at least 35 birds was seen at this site only 30 km from the Dubai City Centre. Notice the Orientalis Curlew in the background.|
|30/11 Asian Desert Warbler at Khor al-Beida. This little beauty followed a Desert Wheatear.|
Wamm farms are located in the northeast corner of the UAE. It is one of the prime locations for rarities in the country. We found Red-tailed Wheatear (2), Variable Wheatear, Pin-tailed Snipe (2) and Masked Wagtail. A supporting cast of Long-billed Pipit (6), Richards Pipit (4), Tawny Pipit (6), Blyth’s Pipit (1), Citrine Wagtail, Eastern Black Redstart, Duarian Shrike and Steppe Grey Shrike. A wintering White-throated Kingfisher (4th record for the UAE) made Tommy very happy as it made a short appearance (see Tommy's account).
|30/11 Masked White Wagtail at Wamm Farms. A regular wintering site for this species/subspecies.|
|30/11 Variable Wheatear at Wamm Farms. Only one bird seen here. A scarce winter visitor to the UAE.|
|30/11 Redtailed Wheatear Wamm Farms. 2-3 birds seen here.|
Masafi Wadi is a regular wintering site for Plain Leaf Warbler, a species that can be very tricky to connect with outside the UAE and Oman. We found one bird but more birds can be found if one spends more time there.
|30/11 Desert Lesser Whitethroat in Masafi Wadi. Seen at many localtions. All birds giving a chattering call.|
|30/11 Stephan with his head in the bushes documenting Plain Leaf Warbler.|
|30/11 Plain Leaf Warbler in Masafi Wadi. We walked the wadi until we found one bird and then turned around.|
Fujairah Port Beach situated just north of Fujairah is a good place to sea watch. We quickly found a Persian Shearwater our main target here. A big flock of Socotra Cormorants was foraging quite close to the beach offering good scope views. As with many of the other localities more time could easily have been spend here. Good numbers of terns and gull passed continuously throughout our stay.
|30/11 Persian Shearwater at Fujairah Port Beach. At least 20 birds were seen in 30 minutes.|
|30/11 Socotra Cormorant at Fujairah Port Beach. A big flock of at least 150 birds was foraging in the area. Notice the Bridled Tern flying right in the middle of the image.|
|30/11 Green Bee-eater. Commonly seen|
Khor Kalba is an area of mangroves in the southeastern corner of the UAE right on the border with Oman. It is the only place in the world to see Arabian collared Kingfisher which is quite easy a high tide when they come out to forage. 10 minutes at the bridge to the area gave good views of at least three Green Turtles. Other good birds in the area were Sooty Gull (3), Steppe Grey Shrike and Daurian Shrike.
|30/11 Arabian Collared Kingfisher Khor Kalba. The only site for this subspecies of Collared Kingfisher. We saw 3-4 birds out of a total population of 40 birds!|
|30/11 Steppe Grey Shrike at Khor Kalba. Two birds seen during the day.|
Our tour of the UAE ended in Dubai International Airport at 1900. We connected with most of our target birds during a very busy day. A more relaxed visit to see Hypocolius and other good birds is definitely something for the future!! If you only have a restricted amount of time don't hesitate to contact Tommy!!