United Arab Emirates Trip Report

3 - 18 April 1998

This is a short trip report of a first-time visit by Kristian Franz, me and my son Robert to the UAE. Kristian was also accompanied by his wife and daughter. We had booked a package tour that included the flight from Frankfurt to Sharjah and accommodation at the Lou Lou a` Beach Hotel in Sharjah. From this base we started our daily trips with a car rented from Avis who have a desk in the hotel.

To prepare for the trip we used the following two books:
The birds of the United Arab Emirates by Colin Richardson
Birds of the Middle East and North Africa by Hollom, Porter, Christensen and Willis

We also read various trip reports available on the internet and the weekly newsletter (by email) Twitchers' Guide, issued by Peter Hellyer of the Emirates News. Up-to-date road maps are hard to find since new roads are being built almost continuously. This means that some guesswork is needed sometimes to find the right way. Traffic jams are common in the Dubai area but outside the big cities the traffic is normal. Be prepared for some wild overtaking by the local drivers and for the tiresome speed humps!

The weather was sunny and VERY hot almost all the time reaching the 40°C mark on several days. This had the effect that migration of passerines was very slow so that some species were not easy to find and some were absent altogether. Also, resident passerines had mostly stopped singing and were rather secretive.

Areas visited
- Ramtha tip (Sharjah)
- Umm al Quwain
- Safa Park
- Al Jazirah
- Khor al Beidah
- Al Jazeerah Khor
- Digdagga area
- Mushrif Park
- Khor Dubai
- Emirates Golf Course (EGC)
- Wadi Masafi
- Khor Fakkan
- Khor Kalba
- Quarn Nazwa
- Mamzah Park (Dubai)
- Al Wathba camel race track
- Khalidiya spit (Abu Dhabi)
- Wadi Bih

Since we hadn't been birding in the UAE before, we tried to see most of the local specialties. The following notes are therefore written from a first time visitor's viewpoint, i.e. they contain only Middle East specialties and species otherwise rare in Central Europe. A full species list is given at the end.

Notes on selected species

Socotra Cormorant
Only seen from the mole at the northern tip of Umm al Quwain: about 50 flying by on 4.4. and about 1000 in a dense raft on 14.4.

Little Bittern
2 at Ramtha tip on 15.4.

Night Heron
1 at Ramtha tip on 4.4. and 1 in Safa Park on 5. and 15.4.

Striated Heron
Singles on EGC (7.4.), at Khor Kalba (8.4.) and at the northern mole of Umm al Quwain (14.4.)

Indian Pond Heron
An immature heron (2nd calendar year) on EGC on 7.4. was identified as this species after consulting Colin Richardson. 1 ad. at Khor Kalba on 8.4.

Cattle Egret
1 at Ramtha tip on 13. and 16.4.

Western Reef Heron
Regularly encountered at Khor al Beidah with up to 20 (6.4.). Elsewhere seen at Khor Dubai, Khor Kalba, Ramtha tip and Umm al Quwain.

Purple Heron
Only seen once: 8 flying over at Khor Kalba on 8.4.

Glossy Ibis
1 at Khor Kalba on 8.4.

Regularly seen at Ramtha tip with up to 20 (4.4.). Elsewhere 6 at Khor Kalba on 17.4.

Greater Flamingo
Large numbers both at Ramtha tip (200 on 15.4.) and Khor Dubai (400 on 7.4.). A few (up to 8) also at a shallow pond beside the EGC (12./15.4.)

Ruddy Shelduck
4 at Ramtha tip on 15.4.

Honey Buzzard
1 over Mushrif Park on 7.4.

Crested Honey Buzzard
A real highlight of the trip: 2 birds (1 ad. male + 1 immature) circled low over the highway between Sharjah and Dhaid on 17.4. and gave excellent views!

Egyptian Vulture
1 subad. over Khor Kalba on 17.4.

Spotted Eagle
The only sighting was of 2 over Mushrif Park on 9.4.

Bonelli's Eagle
1 ad. + 1 immat. in Wadi Bih on 14.4.

Grey Francolin
Small numbers seen at Safa Park, Al Jazirah, Mushrif Park, Quarn Nazwa and Ramtha tip.

Black-winged Stilt
The best places for this species were Ramtha tip with up to 20 (4./13.4.) and the pond beside EGC.

Crab Plover
Despite several visits to Khor al Beidah, this species almost eluded us. The solution was to be there well before high tide and scan the lagoon from the top of a dune. 24 birds were thus located quite far out on 13.4. which left the area about 1,5 h before high tide.

Lesser Sand Plover
Good numbers (>100) at Khor al Beidah (6./9.4.) and Khor Dubai (7.4.)

Greater Sand Plover
Surprisingly scarce. Only single birds seen at Khor al Beidah on 6./9./13.4.

Pacific Golden Plover
The best place for this species was Ramtha tip, where a flock of up to 40 was regularly seen (9.-16.4.). Elsewhere 2 at Khor Dubai on 7.4.

Red-wattled Lapwing
Several territorial birds, some already with chicks, were encountered, among other places, at Ramtha tip, Umm al Quwain, EGC and below the Wadi Bih dam.

White-tailed Plover
4 at Ramtha tip on 15.4.

Great Knot
At least 11 birds were seen among the Bar-tailed Godwits at Khor al Beidah on 6.4., but not on subsequent visits.

Broad-billed Sandpiper
Only at Khor Dubai with about 20 on 7.4.

Pintail Snipe
1 bird was flushed from a small puddle beside the fence of the EGC on 12.4.

Marsh Sandpiper
1 on 4.4. and 2 on 15.4. at Ramtha tip

Terek Sandpiper
Highest numbers at Khor al Beidah with 20+ on 9.4. Elsewhere smaller numbers at Khor Dubai, Khor Kalba, Ramtha tip and the pond beside the EGC.

Sooty Gull
Common (>100) on the east coast in the harbour of Khor Fakkan and along the beach of Kalba (8./17.4.). Singles also at the coast of Umm al Quwain and Sharjah.

Great Black-headed Gull
At Khor al Beidah 2 on 6.4. and 1 on 13.4., all 2nd calendar year birds.

Little Gull
A first summer bird found at the shallow pond beside the EGC from 11.4. to at least 15.4. was only the 5th record for the Emirates.

Slender-billed Gull
Largest count of 70 at Khor Dubai on 7.4., smaller numbers at Ramtha tip, EGC and on the east coast beach near Kalba.

Siberian Gull
Both forms (heuglini and taimyrensis) were present in good numbers along the beach near Kalba (8./17.4). At least 1 ad. was at Khor al Beidah on 6.4., with some immatures which could also have been this species.

Gull-billed Tern
10 were at Khor Dubai (7.4.) and smaller numbers at Khor al Beidah and Al Jazeerah Khor.

Caspian Tern
20 at Khor Dubai on 7.4. and 1 at Khor al Beidah on 9.4. were the only sightings.

Swift Tern
10 were seen far out from the northern tip of Umm al Quwain on 4.4. The best place was the harbour of Khor Fakkan, where many roosted on a sort of pipeline together with other terns on 8.4. One was also seen at Khor Kalba on 17.4.

Lesser Crested Tern
Good numbers (>10) at the gulf coast at Khor al Beidah, Al Jazeerah Khor and Umm al Quwain. Also at the east coast on the beaches near Kalba.

White-cheeked Tern
25 flew past the northern mole of Umm al Quwain on 4.4. and 2 again on 14.4. Many roosted on the beach near Kalba in a mixed tern flock on 8.4.

Saunders' Little Tern
The largest count was 50 at Khor al Beidah on 6.4. Smaller numbers were also seen at Umm al Quwain, Khor Dubai, Ramtha tip and at the east coast near Kalba

Whiskered Tern
Ramtha tip was the only place where we saw this species with a maximum of 15 on 4.4.

White-winged Black Tern
4 at Ramtha tip on 15.4. was the only sighting.

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse
Our visit to Al Wathba camel race track on 12.4. did not produce the expected sandgrouses since the area was too dry. The small puddle outside the EGC, however, proved to be a reliable place during the morning hours: 4 on 11.4. and 30 on 15.4.

Namaqua Dove
A splendid male was on Al Wathba camel race track among numerous Palm Doves on 12.4. (only about the 15th record for the UAE).

Ring-necked Parakeet
Seen in many places with suitable vegetation. Most common in Safa, Mushrif and Mamzah Park.

Alexandrine Parakeet
7 in Safa Park on 15.4.

Striated Scops Owl
1 seen beside the swimming pool in Mushrif Park at dusk on 13.4.

Eagle Owl
1 or 2 ad. + 2 juv. on the hills at Quarn Nazwa on 16.4. Not of the form desertorum, but apparently ascalaphus.

White-collared Kingfisher
Our first visit to Khor Kalba at low tide on 8.4. produced about 5 birds, seen very well. A more fleeting visit at high tide later in contrast produced no sighting at all.

Little Green Bee-eater
Small numbers of the local race muscatensis were seen in many places, for example: Ramtha tip, Khor al Beidah, EGC, Quarn Nazwa, Mushrif Park.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
About 10+ hunting around Khor Kalba on 8.4. and 4+ over Al Wathba camel race track on 12.4.

European Bee-eater
The highest count were 10 in Safa Park on 5.4. Several were also seen or heard near Diddagga (6./14.4.), in Wadi Masafi (8.4.) and Wadi Bih (14.4.)

European Roller
1 bird only seen in Wadi Bih on 14.4.

Indian Roller
Many seen in the Digdagga area (6./14.4.). Singles also in Sharjah, Mushrif and Safa Park.

Safa Park proved to be the best place for this species with up to 15 (5./10./15.4.). Also seen in Mushrif Park (7.4.) and near Digdagga (6./14.4.)

Black-crowned Finch Lark
The best places for this lark were the dunes at Khor al Beidah and Khor Kalba. Smaller numbers also at Quarn Nazwa and Al Wathba.

Desert Lark
3 in Wadi Masafi on 8.4. and several in Wadi Bih on 14.4.

Hoopoe Lark
Several were found in the dunes at Khor al Beidah on every visit. Also at Al Wathba on 12.4.

Short-toed Lark
At Khor al Beidah, 3 on 9.4. and 2 on 13.4. 5 at Al Wathba on 12.4.

Pale Crag Martin
Only one sighting of 2 birds in Khor Fakkan on 8.4.

Blyth's Pipit
In very hot weather on 12.4., we flushed 3-5 birds from grassy areas on Al Wathba, that were subsequently also seen on the ground.

Long-billed Pipit
2-4 birds were seen in Wadi Masafi on 8.4.

Red-throated Pipit
3 in Mamzah Park on 11.4. and 3+ on Al Wathba on 12.4. were the only sightings.

Forest Wagtail
Thanks to Simon Aspinall, who gave us perfect directions to the bird, we successfully twitched this longstayer at Khalidiyah spit (Abu Dhabi) on 12.4.

White-cheeked Bulbul
Found at several places. Common in Mushrif Park, for example.

Yellow-vented Bulbul
Several birds were noted near Digdagga on 6.4. and in Wadi Masafi on 8.4.

Red-vented Bulbul
The first birds with juv. were seen right at the hotel (4.4.). Elsewhere at Safa Park, Al Jazirah and common in Mushrif Park.

Grey Hypocolius
1 male and 1 female were found in a garden right beside the palace at Al Jazirah on 5.4.

Rufous Bush Robin
1 seen in the same garden on 5.4.

White-throated Robin
A female was seen at Khalidiyah spit on 12.4.

Isabelline Wheatear
About 5 birds seen at Al Wathba on 12.4.

Pied Wheatear
About 5 at Khor al Beidah on 9.4. and 1 at Al Wathba on 12.4.

Hume's Wheatear
Only two sightings of 2 birds each in the Wadi Bih area on 6. and 14.4.

Rock Thrush
Single males were seen at Khor al Beidah (9.4.), EGC (10.4.), Al Wathba (12.4.) and a male + a female at Quarn Nazwa (10.4.)

Graceful Warbler
Common in gardens and parks, i.e. Safa, Mushrif Park etc.

Clamorous Reed Warbler
About 10 singing at Khor Kalba on 8.4., and 1 at Khor al Beidah on 9.4.

Olivaceous Warbler
1 at Mushrif Park on 7. and 13.4., 2-3 at Safa Park on 10.4. and several at Khalidiyah spit on 12.4.

Booted Warbler
3 singing birds at Khor Kalba on 8.4.

Upcher's Warbler
Singles in Wadi Bih area on 6.4. and Wadi Masafi on 8.4., 3+ in acacia steppe west of Hatta on 16.4. and 2 again in Wadi Masafi on 17.4.

Arabian Babbler
Several birds were encountered near Digdagga (6.4.), in Mushrif Park (7.4.), Wadi Masafi (8.4.) and west of Hatta (16.4.).

Purple Sunbird
Rather common both in parks (Safa, Mushrif) as well as in wadis (Masafi).

Isabelline Shrike
Mostly single birds were seen at EGC (7.4.), Wadi Masafi (8.4.), Khor al Beidah (9.4.) and Al Wathba (12.4.), with 2 in Mamzah Park on 11.4. Both the phoenicuroides as well as the isabellinus race was seen.

Woodchat Shrike
1 or 2 in Wadi Masafi on 8.4.

Masked Shrike
2 at Mamzah Park on 11.4.

Brown-necked Raven
Seen at Umm al Quwain (4.4.), Wadi Bih (6.4.) and near Dhaid (17.4.)

Pied Mynah
Up to 4 at Safa Park (5.4.), and 2 at Ramtha tip (15.4.)

Common Mynah
Very common indeed! Found almost everywhere in towns, parks etc.

Bank Mynah
Many in the Digdagga area on 6.4. and in Mamzah Park on 11.4.

Yellow-throated Sparrow
Only two sightings: a pair near Digdagga on 6.4. and a male in Mushrif Park on 7.4.

Indian Silverbill
The first birds were seen directly from the hotel room. Quite common in habitats ranging from parks to wadis.

House Bunting
1 singing male in Wadi Bih on 14.4.

Full species triplist
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus
Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Striated Heron Butorides striatus
Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Western Reef Heron Egretta gularis
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Glossy Ibis Plegadus falcinellus
Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
Wigeon Anas penelope
Teal Anas crecca
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Gargeney Anas querquedula
Shoveler Anas clypeata
Pochard Aythya ferina
Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus
Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga
Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Grey Francolin Francolinus pondicerianus
Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Crab Plover Dromas ardeola
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus
Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Red-wattled Lapwing Hoplopterus indicus
White-tailed Plover Chettusia leucura
Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris
Sanderling Calidris alba
Little Stint Calidris minuta
Temminck's Stint Calidris teminckii
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferrugina
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Pintail Snipe Gallinago stenura
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Curlew Numenius arquata
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Redshank Tringa totanus
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Sooty Gull Larus hemprichii
Great Black-headed Gull Larus ichthyaetus
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
Little Gull Larus minutus
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei
Sibirian Gull Larus heuglini
Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica
Caspian Tern Sterna caspia
Swift Tern Sterna bergii
Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
White-cheeked Tern Sterna repressa
Saunders' Little Tern Sterna saundersi
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
White-winged Black Tern Chlidonias leucopterus
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles exustus
Rock Dove Columbia liva
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Turtle Dove Streptopelia tutur
Palm Dove Streptopelia senegalensis
Namaqua Dove Oena capensis
Ring-necked Parakeet Psittacula krameri
Alexandrine Parakeet Psittacula eupatria
triated Scops Owl Otus brucei
Eagle Owl Bubo bubo
Little Owl Athene noctua
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
White-collared Kingfisher Halcyon chloris
Little Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops superciliosus
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster
European Roller Coracias garrulus
Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis
Hoopoe Upupa epops
Black-crowned Finch Lark Eremopterix nigriceps
Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti
Hoopoe Lark Alaemon alaudipes
Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Sand Martin Riparia riparia
Pale Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewski
Long-billed Pipit Anthus similis
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
Forest Wagtail Dendroanthus indicus
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
White-cheeked Bulbul Pycnonotus leucogenys
Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos
Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer
Grey Hypocolius Hypocolius ampelinus
Rufous Bush Robin Cercotrichas galactotes
Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
White-throated Robin Irania gutturalis
Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka
Hume's Wheatear Oenanthe alboniger
Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis
Graceful Warbler Prinia gracilis
Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus
Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida
Booted Warbler Hippolais caligata
Upcher's Warbler Hippolais languida
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Arabian Babbler Turdoides squamiceps
Purple Sunbird Nectarinia asiatica
Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus
Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator
Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus
House Crow Corvus splendens
Brown-necked Raven Corvus ruficollis
Pied Mynah Sturnus contra
Common Mynah Acridotheres tristis
Bank Mynah Acridotheres ginginianus
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Yellow-throated Sparrow Petronia xanthocollis
Indian Silverbill Enodice malabarica
House Bunting Emberiza striolata

Gerd Rotzoll

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