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Natural UAE

Birds found in UAE's Mountains and Wadis

The mountains form an easterly backbone to the Emirates and contain a web of wadis (river beds), some wet throughout the year, and a scattering of villages and small towns. The area around the mountain village of Masafi has a number of sites worth visiting, particularly on the road to Dibba, where one passes through a range of pale foothills and on to Tayibah plain. Probably the most interesting bird for visitors is the Hume's wheatear, a mountain resident and easily identified by its contrasting black-and-white plumage. Most of the mountains are best visited by four-wheel drive vehicle as walking can be quite hard going.

These dark 'ophiolitic' mountains support residentsand partridge Ammoperdix heyii, desert lark Ammomanes deserti and pale crag martin Hirundo obsoleta , while Indian roller Coracias benghalensis and little green bee-eater Merops orientalis are found in the shaded, more cultivated wadis. The key birds for birdwatching visitors occur in winter and include species such as eastern pied & red-tailed wheatear, desert lesser whitethroat and plain leaf warbler.

Jebel Hafit, near Al Ain, reaches 1,500 metres, towering above the surrounding plain. A drive up the superbly-engineered highway to the top of Jebel Hafit should provide a few good views of Hume's wheatear and possibly a glimpse of the more elusive hooded wheatear Oenanthe monacha . Most of the indigenous species inhabiting the mountains rarely stray far from this habitat so it is worth spending a day or two ../searching some of the Acacia plains and the more promising looking wadis. Yellow-vented bulbul and pale crag martin are easy to find, but scrub warbler Scotocerca inquieta and house bunting Emberiza striolata (subspecies striolata ) need more determined work. Arabian babbler favours more cover, sometimes in short supply in this overgrazed land. Lichtenstein's sandgrouse Pterocles lichtensteinii can be encountered anywhere in the mountains but is more reliably seen (or at least heard) shortly after dusk at a favoured water hole.

Of the migrants, red-tailed wheatear and desert lesser whitethroat are the most common. Less common, plain leaf warbler can usually be located by its insistent, though quiet "tch, tch, tch...." call. A few pairs of Bonelli's eagles Hieraaetus fasciatus and barbary falcons Falco pelegrinoides nest on the higher crags, while the mountains are also favoured by migrant short-toed eagles Circaetus gallicus and long-legged buzzards Buteo rufinus . The most interesting raptor in the area is the lappet-faced vulture. This negevensis dark-race can be a real prize if encountered, usually soaring high like a giant flying carpet, north and east of Al Ain.

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