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From Oslo to Ghantut and back - for a bird!

posted on 12/03/2005: 1046 views

Visitors come from around the world to the Emirates for all kinds of reasons, to do business, to visit friends and family, to shop, or just to have a holiday. Norwegian Bruce Hansen, though, has probably set a new record for UAE tourism - he flew down here last week, all the way from Oslo, just to see a rare bird at Ghantut's 'Golden Tulip' Hotel, rushed around to see a few more, and then flew all the way back again.

The bird was a Dusky Thrush, a member of the thrush family that breeds in the middle of Siberia in the summer, and migrates south for the winter. It is very rare in Arabia, however, and has only been recorded once before in the UAE, in Dubai's Safa Park a few years ago. At the end of February, a party of four visiting birdwatchers, also Norwegians, found the UAE's second Dusky Thrush in the gardens of the Golden Tulip Hotel.

The news quickly spread around the UAE's own resident birdwatchers, who rushed to Ghantut to see it, and the bird was also seen by two other groups of visiting birdwatchers. For Bruce Hansen, the temptation of a quick trip was too much to resist. He had seen the species before, in the middle of Siberia. But his main passion for birds covers an area known as the Western Palaearctic, which extends roughly from the Ural Mountains in Central Russia southwards to Iran and most of Arabia, then westwards to include all of Europe and North Africa.

Dusky Thrushes are very rare in the Western Palaearctic, and the bird at Ghantut offered Bruce a chance to add the species to his Western Palaearctic bird list, now nearly 570 strong. His journey took him on a two hour flight from the Norwegian capital of Oslo to Amsterdam, (nearly missing his plane because of heavy snow), then a wait of two hours, then another six hour flight to Dubai, where a local friend, a pilot with Emirates Airlines, and also a keen birdwatcher, was waiting to rush him off to Ghantut.

The Dusky Thrush, fortunately, was still there. Bruce thinks that over 16 hours of flying and four hours of waiting at airports was all worthwhile. As for the fact that he lost his luggage on the way? "Well, no worries - I keep all the essentials for birding in my hand luggage," he told the Emirates News Agency, WAM.

Bruce has now gone back to Norway, a little poorer after the cost of the flights, and a little jet-lagged, but happy with his Dusky Thrush, and with three other rare birds he managed to see on his trip. And the Dusky Thrush? Well, it was still at Ghantut on Wednesday, although it, too, should be heading northwards soon, back to Siberia. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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