9 to 17 March 1996

9 March 1996

Every birding trip to a new country starts in the hotel grounds at day-break and this was no exception. Here I picked up two new bulbuls, White-eared and Red-vented, both of which were striking, the latter particularly so. A small party of six Silverbills were also lifers as they swung on seed heads of a clump of exotic grass. A flock of about 100 Ruff flew over as we went to breakfast.


Our first stop was at the Emirates Golf Course where we saw Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse coming in to drink at a small pool outside the grounds. This area was to become a vast lake later in the holiday as the heaviest rains for years began the next day. Red-wattled Plover was another lifer, to be seen all over the country.


A walk around the golf course gave us views of Indian Roller, Rose-coloured Starling and Lesser Whitethroat. A Pintail Snipe flushed and gave fleeting views. Down to Khor Dubai where a much longed for lifer, Broad-billed Sandpiper, proved disappointing. Roosting among sandplovers and in a dull non-breeding plumage, these birds did not stand out. It was an exciting site, however, with highlights including Gull-billed Tern, Great Black-headed Gull, Te rek Sandpiper, a fly-past of the first of many Hoopoe Larks to be seen on the trip.


  • Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
    Grey Francolin Francolinus pondicerianus
    Pintail Snipe Gallinago stenura
    Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus
    Ruff Philomachus pugnax
    Lesser Sandplover haradrius mongolus
    Red-wattled Plover Vanellus indicus
    Heuglin's Gull Larus heuglini
    Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles exustus
    Ringed-necked Parakeet Psittacula krameri
    Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis
    Isabelline (Red-tailed) Shrike Lanius isabellinus
    Rosy Starling Sturnus roseus
    Common Myna Acridotheries tristis
    Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina
    White-eared Bulbul Pycnonotus leucotis
    Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer
    Graceful (Prinia) Warbler Prinia gracilis
    Indian Silverbill Lonchura malabarica


10 March 1996

We headed inland and, turning off the main road to Al Ain at one of several stops, we watched a soggy Hoopoe Lark, always a thrilling sight. This species was to become the trip bird for me as they displayed and sang in a number of places. This individual was in the chorus line, perhaps even a warm-up artist.

Red-tailed, Desert and Hume's Wheatears were picked up at the entrance to "Fossil Valley" along with Ménétries's, Desert and Orphean Warblers, Bonelli's Eagle, Blue Rock Thrush, and Sand Partridge. At the top of the valley, a place called the Hanging Gardens, we had good views of Pale Leaf Warblers and Barbary Falcon. I at last got good views of Purple Sunbird. Pallid, Montague's and Marsh Ha rriers, Black-eared Kite (the eastern form of Black kite) several pipits and Bimaculated Lark followed at a camel race track outside Al Ain


  • Black-eared Kite Milvus lineatus
  • Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus
  • Montague's Harrier Circus pyarus
  • Bonelli's Eagle Hieraeetus fasciatus
  • Barbary Falcon Falco pelegrinoides
  • Sand Partridge Ammoperdix heyi
  • Swift Apus apus
  • Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis
  • Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius
  • Hume's Wheatear Oenanthe alboniger
  • Red-tailed Wheatear Oenanthe xanthoprymna
  • Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti
  • African Rock (Pale Crag) Martin Hirundo fuligula
  • Plain Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus neglectus
  • Desert Warbler Sylvia nana
  • Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis
  • Ménétries's Warbler Sylvia mystacea
  • Black-crowned Finch Lark Eremopterix nigriceps
  • Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti
  • Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactila
  • Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
  • Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris
  • Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta
  • Purple Sunbird Nectarinia asiatica
  • Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra


11 March 1996

The smudge marks in my field note book tell the tale, not of tears, but torrential rain, a common feature of deserts. We popped up to the top of Jebel Hafit where, in lulls between the storms, we had Hume's Wheatear (Hooded could not be found) Rock Thrush, Brown-necked Raven and Egyptian Vultures. The gullies were great torrents with boulders tumbling down them and the land below was a sheet of water.

This made a visit to the Al Ain sewage ponds interesting as we picked up several waders including Wood Sandpiper and Black-winged Stilt. Yellow-vented Bulbul and Little Green Bee-eater were also seen. In the afternoon another local valley provided good views of Little Owl, Lesser Kestrel, Arabian Babbler and Stone Curlew.


  • Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus
  • Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni
  • Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
  • Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus
  • Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
  • Little Owl Athene noctua
  • Rock Thrush Montecola saxatlis
  • Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos
  • Arabian Babbler Turdoides squamiceps


12 March 1996

A flat plain between the Al Ain - Dubai road and Al Ain Mahdah road provided the best views of Hoopoe Lark and Black-crowned Finch-lark. Both species were singing and provided great views, particularly the Hoopoe Larks which could be heard at a considerable distance. Someone in our party said they are also called the Kamakaze lark for the technique of flying up into the air and descending beak first, wings folded like a gannet, to below the two-foot high vegetation before pulling out. I think some must have ended buried in the desert to a depth of several inches after the technique failed.

Desert Warblers were behaving to type chasing Desert Wheatears, and a lone Hoopoe reminded us how the lark got its name.

In Fujairah we checked into the hotel and I immediately got Sooty Gull on my bed list. A mile down the road towards Khor Kalba we investigated the constituents of a gull and tern roost picking up White-cheeked Tern, Greater and Lesser Crested Terns, Saunder's Little Tern, Slender-billed and Yellow legged Gulls. White-collared Kingfishers showed well at Khor Kalba.


  • Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
  • Sooty Gull Larus hemprichii
  • Crested (Swift) Tern Sterna bergii
  • Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis
  • Common Tern Sterna hirundo
  • White-cheeked Tern Sterna repressa
  • Saunder's Little Tern Sterna saundersi
  • White-collared Kingfisher Halcyon (Todihramphus) chloris
  • House Martin Delichon urbica
  • Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava flavissima


13 March 1996

Picking up where we finished the night before revealed Heuglin's Gull (or race, take your pick), Sandwich Tern and Arctic Skua to add to the rest. Khor Kalba gave up its Indian Pond Herons (one in breeding plumage) easily with all birds well down the bank showing well (we had no Squacco Herons). So too did the White-collared Kingfishers and a Greater Sandplover. In the far distance Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters put in a brief appearance tempting us into a chase. We never caught up with them but in one of the many huge but shallow pools (man does it rain out there) we had Temminck's Stint, Citrine Wagtail, Little Ringed Plover and Wood Sandpiper. Back at Khor Kalba we spent an hour surrounded by Booted Warblers (ssp Sykes, H.c. rama) and a lone Olivaceous which was very close in appearance. In the foothills near Wahlah we picked up a most obliging Upcher's Warbler, about 70 Pale Rock Sparrows a nd the humbug-headed House Bunting (ssp E.s. striolata)

  • Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
  • Cattle Egret Ardeola ibis
  • Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii
  • Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
  • Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga
  • Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii
  • Greater Sandplover Charadrius leschenaulti
  • Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus
  • Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus
  • Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentorius
  • Booted Warbler Hippolais caligata
  • Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida
  • Üpcher's Warbler Hippolais languida
  • Pale Rock Sparrow Petronia brachydachyla
  • Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
  • House Bunting Emberiza striolata


14 March 1996

A seawatch into the Gulf of Oman produced a Socotra Cormorant which proved how different some birds can be to their illustrations. A long-winged bird with swan-like neck, its feet trailed behind like those of a diver in flight.

Once at the agricultural region of Hamraniyah we found Green Sandpiper and Grey Wagtail, many Quail and saw our first Sparrowhawk as it chased a passerine through a hedge.

Woodchat Shrike showed well at a lunch stop site and in fields later in the day we picked up all the harriers (including a female Hen - only the second confirmed record for the UAE), Steppe Buzzard and Spotted Eagle. Red-rumped Swallows, Rose-coloured Starling and Bank Mynas were plentiful and a few Spanish Sparrows were found in with abundant House Sparrows.


  • Socotra Cormorant Phalancrocorax nigrogularis
  • Hen (Northern) Harrier Circus cyaneus
  • Buzzard Buteo buteo
  • Quail Coturnix coturnix
  • Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
  • Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator
  • Bank Myna Acridotheries ginginianus
  • Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica
  • Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis



15 March 1996

To Khor Al Beidah where the Great Dip occurred - no Crab Plovers....... No worries to me but some people were a little disappointed. Great Knot were showing well, some with those brilliant rufous epaulets, Terek Sandpipers were abundant along with many other shorebirds, Northern Wheatear and more Hoopoe Larks, again displaying.

Closer to Dubai we picked up Whiskered Tern and on a sewage pit next to a camel track Pied Wheatear, White-tailed Plover, Garganey, Spotted Redshank and Marsh Sandpiper.


  • Garganey Anas querquedula
  • Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
  • Spotted Redshank Tringa erthropus
  • Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
  • Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris
  • White-tailed Plover Vanellus leucurus
  • Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
  • Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
  • Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka


16 March 1996

After a long drive to Abu Dhabi, picking up Avocet at Al Ghar lake, we searched woodland overlooking the Al Wathba camel track for Hypocolius, with great success. They were not easy which was a relief. Birds you have to work for are always more rewarding. Rufous Bush Chat was also found in the grove.

On the track itself we found Small Skylark, Red-throated and Tawny Pipits, Quail, Sand Martin and young Barn Swallows which had fledged in the UAE just after Christmas.

Our last stop was at the Zabeel fish ponds where Pied Starling joined all the others, one Green-backed Heron and several Black-crowned Night Herons joined the list.


  • Striated (Green-backed) Heron Butorides striatus
  • Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
  • Avocet Recurvirostra avocetta
  • Asian Pied Starling Sturnus contra
  • Rufous Bush Robin Cercotrichas galactoides
  • Sand Martin Riparia riparia
  • Grey Hypocolius Hypocolius ampelinus
  • Small (Oriental) Skylark Alauda gulgula
  • Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus


17 March 1996

Our return to Khor Al Beidah for another futile attempt at Crab Plover produced Black-eared Wheatear for the list but further superb views of the assorted waders.

In the late afternoon we went out to Qarn Nazwa where the red-bellied race of Black Redstart (ssp P.o. phoenicuroides) showed wonderfully well along with several migrant Rock Thrushes, Red-tailed Wheatears and Üpcher's Warbler.

The day ended with superb views of two Desert Eagle Owls and later in Mushrif Park we saw two Striated Scops Owls.


  • Striated Scops Owl Otus brucei
  • Desert Eagle Owl Bubo bubo
  • Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica


If anyone wants further information then you can contact me at my email address now or later.

Tim Earl