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THE SHELL BIRDWATCHING GUIDE TO THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES


31/12/98

With many of our regular contributors either off on holiday or wandering about in remote desert locations, we're delighted to have reports this week from visitors!

A late wryneck was in Mushrif Palace Gardens in Abu Dhabi on 23 December.

Archaeologists ensconced on Abu Dhabi's Western island of Merawah reported 2 pairs of ospreys around the island on 24 December, though only 3 flamingos, fewer than usual for the time of year.

On the same day, 4 glossy ibis were still on Khor Ras Al Khaimah, with a good selection of water birds of Abu Dhabi's Eastern Lagoon, including 73 cattle egrets (lower numbers than this time last year), 6 great white egrets, a purple heron, 38 spoonbills and a good scattering of the usual waders, including greater and lesser sand plovers, terek sandpipers and over 100 curlew sandpipers. On Hatta Lake the same day was another purple heron, 24 little grebe, 10 little egrets, 2 Egyptian geese, unusual in mountain habitat, and 15 greenshank. The usual mountain specialities were also noted, including Hume's Wheatear and lots of Desert Lesser Whitethroats.

Also on 24 December, Al Ghar Lake provided excellent birding, with 182 black-necked grebe, a ruddy shelduck, 3 common shelduck and 6 white-tailed plovers, as well as a healthy 1500 or so greater flamingos.

4 or so grey hypocolius were on the capital's Khalidiya Spit on 25 December, along with a robin heard singing in thick fog, 3 plain leaf warblers, 3 olivaceous warblers and 3 song thrushes, while a masked shrike and 3 more song thrushes were in Mushrif Palace Gardens the same day.

On 26 December, British visitors (and regular Guide readers) Jeff Holmes and John Anderson, found around 12 Richard's pipits and 2 cream-coloured coursers at the Emirates Golf Course, while the same day, 2 spotted eagles were over Khor Dubai. A honey buzzard roosting at Zabeel came in too late to permit identification as to species.

Up in Ras Al Khaimah, a few good birds turned up during the course of the week, including an adult and a juvenile Bonelli's eagle, 26 chestnut-bellied sandgrouse, 3 stonechats, a 'Siberian' stonechat and 11 corn buntings wintering in the airport fields. A bird strike on the airport tower involved a greater sand plover.

Down in the capital, an adult crested honey buzzard and an immature honey buzzard were often together during the week, providing excellent views for comparative purposes, while 70 bank mynahs at the Abu Dhabi race course was a goodly number.

Dubai's sewage treatment plant chipped in with 6 cattle egrets disporting themselves amid several long-staying white storks.

A clutch of records collected during an archaeological survey of Abu Dhabi's Western desert between December 26-29 is worthy of note, including several probable or confirmed range extensions for breeding birds. Migrants included a pair of 'Siberian' stonechats, 2 Menetries warblers, a green sandpiper, an isabelline shrike and a brown-necked raven at Bab. On 29 December, three common mynahs at the remote well of Bida ath'

Thulab (ABBA Square TA 24) were a range extension, as were at least four moorhens and white-cheeked bulbul at Bu Hasa reedbed (TA 24). Also at Bu Hasa were a kestrel, (the species bred here in 1991 and 1995), a great grey shrike and, in the reedbed, a snipe, a citrine wagtail and a song thrush. Several desert wheatears were at Bida Al Qemzan while a pair of little owls in a dune-sheltered crag in Square TA 23 south of Bu Hasa also represented a range extension. From Quriyat, in Oman, our reporter (and Recorder) Dave Sergeant reports 6 common shelduck, 4 Indian pond herons, 100+ great black-headed gulls, a spotted eagle and a very unseasonal wryneck on 26 December.

Bird of the Week: this week's compiler is sorely tempted by the pair of little owls, in search of which he had, before this week, previously peered fruitlessly into many a desert hole, but plumps, regretfully, for Khalidiya's plain leaf warblers, proving that P. neglectus, though often neglected along the coast, can be found in the capital at the right time. Bird of the Year? Well, we haven't made up our minds yet. Suggestions from our readers gratefully received!


23/12/98

A shortage of corn buntings in their usual venues and of black redstarts this winter but all else seems to be going as planned, with small skylarks being noted by those that recognise their call and Blyth's pipits probably in every sizable fodder field in the country.

Our last report of the year from Das came in with the news that the Hume's yellow-browed warbler was still zipping about the island to 23rd at least, with the Indian roller looking like it will see in Christmas out on the isle, sharing the festivities with a seasonal robin; it not being so often that the latter two ever meet. A few great black-headed gulls, song thrushes, meadow pipits, red-throated pipits and two sparrowhawks have all settled in for the winter. A houbara which arrived on 12th put in further appearances until 20th. An overwintering whitethroat is surviving on a diet of apples. Single starlings and corn buntings were also noted.

Highlights at Al Ghar lake last weekend were 5 ferruginous ducks, ruddy shelduck, the usual gang of avocets and hordes of other waders including many marsh sandpipers and five or six white-tailed plovers.

Al Wathba fields scoured for several hours earlier in the day produced 14 Richard's pipits, 3+ Blyth's pipits, 2 adult male pallid harriers, an adult male Montagu's harrier, steppe buzzard, 7 white storks, 20+ bimaculated larks, 9 Siberian stonechats, 3 lapwings (only the second record of the autumn) and a single small or Oriental skylark, as well as innumerable LBJs (tawny, water, red-throated and meadow pipits; short-toed larks, skylarks etc).

Abu Dhabi came up trumps with 2 of 3 honey buzzards circling over the car park of Emirates News on 17th being positively identified as crested honey buzzards. The third bird drifted away obliquely but was thought to have been an Eurasian honey buzzard. On Monday two raptors sitting on a mast in Manhal (where they have being so doing since October) caused a scramble amongst the capital's birders who got there in time to prove one to be an adult male crested honey buzzard and the other a juvenile Eurasian Honey Buzzard. A second young Eurasian honey turned up a short while after. On plumage differences, there is at least 3 crested honey buzzards and 2 Eurasian honey buzzards in the capital as we write.

Viewing from the window of the Glendenning's apartment-cum-raptor-watchpoint also revealed saker, peregrine, kestrel, sparrowhawk and osprey in the neighbourhood in the space of just two hours. Up in Ras Al Khaimah 50 cattle egrets on Rams dump is noteworthy, while in the Dhayah area the pied kingfisher surfaced again (having evaded detection for several weeks), with a back up of white-tailed plover, 4 spotted eagles, 5 marsh harriers, 22+ snipe and a citrine wagtail. In the airport area were eagle owl, tufted duck and 15 corn buntings, with one or more glossy ibis still on the city khor.

The storm that ripped through the Arabian Sea/Gulf of Oman last weekend doubtless produced something on the Fujairah coast, only nobody went to look. However, our correspondent Dave Sargeant in Oman reported an unprecedented influx of little swifts, with 40 at Qurm Park, near Muscat, five at the sewage farm and a single at Sohar over 17/18th, all clearly associated with the cyclone. Also reported from Sohar were long-billed dowitcher, spur-winged plover and 30+ skylarks. Other notable records this week included purple heron and 24 spoonbills on Abu Dhabi's Eastern Lagoon and an extra late European nightjar at the Abu Dhabi Golf & Equestrian Club on 16-17th.

Bird of the Week: Gloating Twitchers' Guide co-compilers' brace of crested honey buzzards over their office car park.

A HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND A PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR TO ALL READERS OF TWITCHERS' GUIDE.


16/12/98

A diverse range of species to report this week, with everything from honey buzzard to Eversmann's redstart and hypocolius to houbara bustard.

Thick cloud is building up with regularity now, cover remaining high through the day some days and clearly a change is coming, even if there has been no rain anywhere yet. Still it is hot during the day, with light and variable winds in all points north-west round to south-east. Inland, fog is typical.

Out on Das were 3 meadow pipits, 3 great black-headed gulls and 5 red-billed tropicbirds on 13th. A whitethroat also present then was a real straggler. Also there this week were male Eversmann's redstart on 14th, houbara on 15th and Hume's yellow-browed warbler on 16th. Two cattle egrets and skylark were new in on 16th and a single stonechat, several song thrushes and tawny pipit and sparrowhawk remaining on the island are likely to overwinter.

Three honey buzzards were seen soaring with an osprey over the Manhal/Khalidiya area of the capital on the 11th and 14th, while a single honey buzzard passing over the Abu Dhabi Golf and Equestrian Club one afternoon was not identified to species (the possibility of it being a crested honey buzzard not being entirely ruled out).

The ponds at the latter venue hold a couple of garganey swimming about with a mystery duck, perhaps a hybrid teal times something or other, but we still don't know for sure.

The Eastern Lagoon produced purple heron, osprey, 23 spoonbills, 83 cattle egrets, 65 little stints, 2 European kingfishers, 25 starlings, 15 bank mynahs, 2000 common mynahs and plenty of waders on the 14th.

Al Ghar lake has its smart ruddy shelduck, 3 shelduck, 21 avocets, a number of marsh sandpipers, 4+ white-tailed plovers and numerous other waterfowl. Duck and grebe numbers continue to build up there.

The fodder fields at Al Wathba still have 4 white storks, a purple heron and 2 or more pallid harriers, but the larks and pipits have not been looked at there for a fortnight.

Seven bar-tailed desert larks, 2 cream-coloured coursers and 4 dozen Arabian Gazelles were noted inland from Ghantut last weekend by members of the Emirates Natural History Group.

Khor Dubai has its ruddy shelduck still, also coming up with a remarkable 15 shelduck on 11th. Lahbab fields held 3 Richard's pipits, a Blyth's pipit, 10 European skylarks and 5 stonechats and Safa Park, a ferruginous duck, 2 gadwall, 2 wigeon, 11 starlings and no fewer than 14 song thrushes, but no black-throated thrush this week.

A steppe buzzard was reported from Ras Al Khaimah golf course, with black redstarts and Siberian stonechats in their usual haunts up there.

Finally, a visit by Muscat based birders to the Omani enclave of the Musandam peninsula last weekend produced redwing (1st for Oman), meadow pipit and no fewer than 12 Eversmann's redstarts. This part of Oman and our own Northern Emirates, Ras Al Khaimah especially, as well as Fujairah, remain poorly watched and need more attention from visiting birders.

BIRD OF THE WEEK: Eversmann's redstart and, guest bird of the week, Oman's 1st redwing.



09/12/98

A good week for pipits, buntings and owls this week, but, disappointingly, even a whistling northerly wind overnight once early in the week failed to deliver anything special or to bring in any numbers of commoner wintering species, except on Das, of course.

Al Habab, now sign-posted Lahbab, fodder fields held 5 Richard's, 15 tawny, 35 water and a single red-throated pipit and 3 stonechats on 3rd.

At Al Wathba camel racetrack the fodder fields were given a thorough once over on 3rd, producing red-rumped swallow, 7 white storks, 18 skylarks, 10 Richard's, 2 long-billed, a couple of meadow and many water and red-throated pipits and, best of all, a yellow-breasted bunting (2nd UAE record).

Dubai's Nadd Al Shiba golf course still has 8 cream-coloured coursers, with another quartet at the Emirates Golf Club, while Safa Park sported black-throated thrush again on 5th, as well as 4 song thrushes, ferruginous duck and 7 starlings. A pair of ferruginous duck was at Ramtha, a site, we are sad to lament, is about to bite the dust.

Al Ghar continues to draw in waterfowl: 3 shelduck and a ruddy shelduck, a pair of ferruginous ducks, 22 avocets, 6 white-tailed plovers, 54 Pacific golden plovers, 16 black-tailed godwits and 34 red-necked phalaropes being found this week.

A long-eared owl, only a seventh record, was found out on Das on 6th - sadly already dead as a dodo, although freshly so. Also there were scops owl (until 1st at least), short-eared owl on 7th, 1-2 sparrowhawks daily, whitethroat on 5th and 5 song thrushes and 4 great black-headed gulls on 6th. Meadow pipit, stonechat and isabelline shrike were also mustered, although all the red-breasted flycatchers have now moved on.

Ras al Khaimah's black stork made it to Dubai last week, where it was observed overflying the city by one fortunate observer who, thinking he was hallucinating, forgot to pass on the news. Now present up in Ras al Khaimah, all in the Dhayah/Rams are, are six or more spotted eagles, a subadult imperial eagle, adult steppe eagle, long-legged buzzard and a white-tailed plover. Eastern pied wheatear and plain leaf warbler are easy enough to find inland on the plain. Two Bonelli's eagles and an arctic skua were noted in Musandam (Oman).

The Abu Dhabi Golf & Equestrian Club produced corn bunting, meadow, red-throated and Richard's pipits on the 4th, while on the 6th, an unidentified minivet was seen perched in a eucalyptus in Abu Dhabi city, yet another species to add to the growing list of free-flying exotics here.

A honey buzzard was seen drifting over the city on 7th.

Bird of the Week: Yellow-breasted bunting, making what was felt a long overdue reappearance in this neck of the woods.



03/12/98

Fog was an early morning feature this week, and with temperatures depressed it was as pleasant at it gets for birding. Even so, there was not much by way of fresh arrivals, instead it is merely suspected that some earlier ones got found. Some interesting waterfowl and other riparian species were noted.

Up in Ras al Khaimah, the first lapwing of the autumn was noted at Ram, while seen between there and Dhayah over the weekend were 8 or 9 spotted eagles, a steppe eagle and 2 Bonelli's eagles. The black stork (5th record) from last week was sighted once more, at Rams on 26th, and while trying to relocate it a reed bunting (6th record) emerged from the diminishing reed and Juncus beds. Next day's search then produced a female pied kingfisher in exactly the same place - what a remarkable trio of class rarities all in the one spot, although nobody saw them all. Also thereabouts were 23 cattle egrets, 5 crab plovers, 700 Sandwich terns, 5 swift terns, 500 slender-billed gulls and numerous great white egrets, gull-billed terns and yellow-legged gulls. Several white-cheeked bulbul were noted north as far as Dhayah - a recent range extension that has taken overly long in coming.

At the EPPCO field by Ras Al Khaimah airport were 2 Blyth's pipits, 3 Richard's pipits and a male Siberian stonechat amongst others winter visitors such as meadow and red-throated pipits. Nearby Digdaga produced one more spotted eagle.

On 30th, Khor Al Beidah produced 54 crab plovers, 500 lesser sand plovers, 48 great knot and 6 Saunders' little terns. Next day, Khor Dubai provided the first great black-headed gulls of the winter, a trio being there. Also present were 25 great white egrets, a ruddy shelduck and 5 shelducks.

The Emirates Golf Club produced 2 black kites, pallid harrier, 4 cream-coloured coursers and 3 skylarks on 25th, and, over 29th-1st, c100 Pacific golden plovers, 3 pintail snipe, 15+ common snipe, 6 coursers, a wood sandpiper and a spotted redshank. Safa Park still has two or more ferruginous ducks and plenty of song thrushes, whilst a black-throated thrush was in Al Mamzar Park, Dubai over 28-29th. At least 31 hypocolius were at their Ghantoot roost this week. Back in Abu Dhabi, Khalidiya produced robin and a late nightingale on 27th; roosting barn owl, a yellow-throated sparrow, 2 plain leaf warblers and 4 hypocolius on 29th and 4 song thrushes and 2 olive-backed pipits on 30th. The pipits are probably there from two weeks ago, but seem to be over the wall of the Ladies' Beach - if any would care to flush them back over to the boys' side, please. Regulars are, however, advised to stay away whilst security arrangements are in place for the GCC summit.

Pallid swifts are back in the capital, many flying around the ADNOC HQ on 30th. Little green bee-eaters have snuck in at the Abu Dhabi Airport Golf Course, being regularly noted by golfers for weeks, but until now not commented upon. This is as close as they have got to Abu Dhabi city to date, but where they seem set to arrive in next to no time.

Al Wathba camel racetrack held 20+ white storks all week while a kick through the fields on 27th produced purple heron, 2 quail and the following counts: 87 short-toed larks, 2 Blyth's pipits, 7 Richard's pipits, a long-billed pipit, c90 tawny pipits, 14 red-throated pipits, a tree pipit and over 200 water pipits. A single house martin, Siberian stonechat and steppe grey shrike were also noted. Across the road at Al Ghar were 3 shelduck, a ruddy shelduck, 172 black-necked grebes, 450 teal, 50+ pintail, 300 shoveler and some 5000 waders, including 16 avocets, over 500 black-winged stilts, 1000+ Kentish plovers, 25 Pacific golden plovers, a golden plover, 5 white-tailed plovers, 80 ruff and 24 red-necked phalaropes. Six whiskered terns and a white-winged black tern were also there.

Das turned in the following during the week: little green heron on 28th, 1-3 stonechats all week, 2 whitethroats on 28th and one next day when short-eared owl, scops owl and 2 meadow pipits were also noted and corn bunting and swallow on 30th. The long-staying Indian roller is also still present.

Bird of the Week: Reed Bunting, presumably of the eastern large-billed form.

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Contributors of records to Twitchers' Guide are reminded that their records should be copied to the EBRC Secretary, David Diskin (e-mail: dadiskin@emirates.net.ae) for inclusion in the national records, and to
Colin Richardson, compiler of the UAE Monthly Record, at colinr@emirates.net.ae

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For birding information on Dubai and the Northern Emirates, please contact Colin Richardson. Telephone: Dubai (9714)-3472277, Fax: 3472276. P.O.Box 50394, Dubai, UAE, e-mail: colinr@emirates.net.ae

| MONTHLY REPORT PAGE |

A REMINDER: Twitchers' Guide is designed as a weekly news feature, not as an official record of authenticated sightings, and should not be cited in any publication. All records are subject to adjudication. Contact details for visitors to the Emirates, and for submission of reports and information:

Twitchers' Guide (Simon Aspinall & Peter Hellyer) P.O. Box 45553, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Tel: (Mobile): Abu Dhabi 971-(0)-50-642-4357/642-4358. Fax: 9712-4450458.

E-mail: hellyer@emirates.net.ae / Peter@extinfo.gov.ae or Hudhud10@emirates.net.ae or
Colin Richardson at tel: Dubai (9714)-3472277, Fax: 3472276. P.O.Box 50394, Dubai, UAE, e-mail: colinr@emirates.net.ae

Reports from Oman are courtesy of the local daily e-mail hotline The Oman Birder, and are not official in any way. Again, these reports should not be cited.


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