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A Report from

Sinai Peninsula 5th May – 10th May 2009,

Steve Baines

After a couple of stressful months for my wife Claire, following the passing away of her father, I decided to take her away for a stress relieving ‘fly and flop’ break somewhere hot.

Egypt and more precisely the Red Sea sounded ideal so I booked a last minute deal, for a week to Nabq Bay, Sharm El Sheikh. This was never going to be about me and birding though Claire was quite happy for me to shoot off and do some birding whilst out there.

With no real time to bone up on what and where to go and see I contacted some fellow birders who had recently birded the area through the Bird forum web site  

Phil Abbot, Chris A and Doozer, who’s fledgling web site is a great starting point and, with help from future contributors visiting the area, should become an invaluable asset to anyone new to Sharm El Sheikh. These guys took time out to answer all my questions asked of them. Thanks for your great help guys.

Most birders stay at Naama Bay which affords easy access to the areas prime birding site Sharm pools (a pseudonym for Sharm sewage works!).

I’d already booked to stay a few kilometres north in Nabq Bay prior to this knowledge but it really didn’t matter, as taxi’s were readily available to anywhere around the Sharm area and are reasonable priced after a bit of haggling. The pools were only a 15 minute drive away, so no problem.

I stayed at the Jaz Mirabel Park which was an excellent 4* all inclusive hotel which provided a perfect base for Claire to relax and me to get out and about.

I booked through Portland holidays I have used them for numerous holidays and they have always given first class service.

We flew out of Gatwick at 13:45 so arrived early evening. This meant it gave us a last full day at the resort, leaving for Sharm airport at 22:15.

If you intend to take excursions away from the Sharm resort area during your stay, then a visa needs to be purchased. These cost £15 and should be bought on arrival at Sharm airport. I bought one as I intended to visit St Katherine’s Monastery sometime during the week.

Day 1. 5th May 09

As previously mentioned this was my wife’s holiday so I restricted my birding to just a couple of hours a day, mostly crack of dawn, being back before breakfast had finished, but some late afternoons too. As first light was about 05:45 this suited us both well.

Chris A had advised me to bird the beach area early before the tourist hordes hit the area. A good ploy as Sooty and White-eyed Gulls were picked up easily. Both species being very approachable. Also seen was a very smart looking adult summer Baltic Gull.


White-eyed Gull, Resort beach        Caspian Tern & White-eyed Gulls, Resort beach

White-eyed Gulls were present around the resort area in large numbers with single figures of Sooty Gull. Caspian Terns patrolled the beach whilst waders included summer plumaged Grey Plover and Ringed Plover. Western Reef-Heron were also quite numerous. Laughing Doves were particularly abundant.

Laughing Dove, hotel gardens

From the beach I headed to a part built golf course that Phil Abbot had told me about,

via a fairly large pool by the hotels taxi rank, a by product of the current building work going on throughout the Nabq area.

There is a lot of building work going on throughout Sharm but perversely this is good news for migrants passing through, and subsequently for birders, as more hotels means more gardens and water sources for the migrants to drop in to. This pool was situated by the local taxi rank opposite the Jaz Mirabel hotel. Spur-winged Plover were common, and had obviously bred, with chicks being present. Lots of White-eyed Gulls were also present here.  

A 20 minute walk found me at the golf course. Hirundines were much in evidence. A Barbary Falcon flew over along with a few Kestrels but nothing in the way of Larks or Pipits were about. It later transpired that I hadn’t visited the most productive area out on the edge of the desert as shown on a ‘google earth’ map that I had previously downloaded and taken with me.. I decided that I would try again on a future morning.

On the way back to the hotel I tried to make contact with a taxi driver that Chris A had recommended. Unfortunately Mohammed, the driver, was away on holiday but his replacement, Hany, knew what sites Mohammed had taken Chris to and agreed to take me out to Sharm Pools tomorrow. I subsequently used Hany to any sites requiring a taxi, throughout the week.

Day 2. 6th May 09

First light had me heading to Sharm Pools. Depending on how you view things this site could be known as hirundine heaven or quad bike hell! Quad bikes hammer around the adjacent desert all day but doesn’t really inhibit the quality of birding, it’s just a bit of a distraction sometimes!


Sharm pools

At this time of year migration is down to just a trickle but still good nonetheless. European Bee-eaters were numerous and various waders were present. Squacco Heron were by far the most numerous birds along with Spur-winged Plovers and White Stork.

Spotted Sandgrouse flew in to drink early morning, their distinctive calls alerting me to their presence.

In the desert, before the pools, is a small rubbish dump area. Brown-necked Ravens were present along with a couple of Cattle Egret feeding around some camels.

Passerines at the pools included Wagtails, Red-throated and Tawny Pipit and Isabelline Wheatear.  A male Montague’s Harrier quartered over the dunes.

I didn’t check the plantation area but with warbler migration all but finished I don’t think I missed anything.

In the afternoon I walked back to the part built golf course at Nabq to check out the parts I’d overlooked the previous day.

I’ll digress at this point to mention that the Egyptian people are some of the most friendly I’ve come across and that civility goes a long way. I mention this because at the main entrance of the golf course is a security post. I asked the guards if I could have access to the course. They apologised but said it wasn’t allowed. I resigned myself to birding from the perimeter fence. The guards were interested in looking through my ‘scope and ‘bins so I duly obliged.

After they, and a few grounds men, had had a go I went on my way. I was just getting to grips with a small flock of Short-toed Larks when one of the guards came after me and explained that they had spoken to the construction manager and he had given me permission to go where ever I liked on the course. I had planned to walk the course along the partly built paths but they insisted that I could wander across the newly planted greens “no problem, go where you like Mr Steve” What great people.

Anyway, birds seen included Marsh Harrier, Northern Wheatear, European Bee-eater, the Short-toed Larks and a Hooded Wheatear, seen between the course and the desert.

Once this place is complete it will definitely become a magnet for migrants in the Nabq area and save a trip to the Golf Movenpick course in Naama Bay.   

Day 3. 7th May 09

This morning I took a trip out to Nabq National Park. Only ten minutes from the hotel but a bit further, by taxi, to get to the renowned mangrove area.   Once again I should image that during peak migration this place is alive with birds. Today I saw various waders, Sooty Gull, Caspian Tern, European Bee-eater and a single Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. No larks seen going in or coming back though!

Sooty Gull, Nabq National Park

After being dropped off back at the taxi rank I checked out the taxi rank pool again. Appearances are definitely deceptive at this site. The place is a bit of a dumping ground for rubbish generated from all the building works but it is a really productive site. I’m not sure how long it will last, before it is built on itself, but in the mean time it is definitely worth adding to the other birding sites in the area. Today there were 6 Slender-billed Gulls, 50+ White-eyed Gulls, Grey Plover, Squacco Heron,

Spur-winged Plover, Little Stint, a cracking Broad-billed Sandpiper, Kentish and Ringed Plover, Red- throated Pipit and Wagtails.

At this site be prepared for security guards to descend on you as soon as you put up your ‘scope or look through your ‘bins. Just explain to them that you are bird watching, let them look through your ‘scope and they’ll be happy to let you carry on.


Taxi rank pool                                                     Appearances can be deceptive!

After lunch a walk around the hotel gardens produced Spotted Flycatcher and European Bee-eaters. Red-throated Pipit, Blue-headed Wagtail and a Citrine Wagtail were on the well watered lawns. Two Common Sandpipers around the hotel swimming pool was unusual!

Anyone for tennis? European Bee-eater, Hotel beach

In the late afternoon I took another quick trip out to Sharm pools. A few new birds were present including Common and Little Tern, a Booted Eagle, a male Levant Sparrowhawk on the ground, affording great ‘scope views, Marsh Harrier and a Juv long-legged Buzzard being mobbed by Brown-necked Ravens. Additional passerine migrants included a Grey-headed Wagtail, Tawny Pipit and Northern Wheatear.

Red-throated Pipit, Sharm pools

Day 4. 8th May 09  

This was a full days excursion on a Red Sea cruise around the peninsula and into the Gulf of Suez. Excellent snorkelling and some good birds seen.

At Ras Mohammed, where we sailed from, White-eyed and Sooty Gulls were present along with Western Reef-Heron. Further out to sea and two unidentified white Terns were seen. Into the Gulf of Suez and a nice Brown Booby glided around the boat. Star bird however was a Bridled Tern passing close to the boat.

Along the coastline other birds of note were the ubiquitous European Bee-eaters, Osprey and 5 House Crows.  

Day 5. 9th May 09  

The only day that I put aside for a full mornings birding away from the resort. This was a trip to St Katherine’s Monastery in search of Sinai Rosefinch. An early start is essential to arrive before the hordes of tourists that visit this famous site. Up at silly o’clock in the morning and, on the road by 4:15 am, for the long 3 hour drive through the desert to the Sinai mountains.

On arrival we stopped off at the small town of St Katherine’s to get some juice. Bar-tailed Lark was easily found around flat waste ground along the main road in town.  

Into the mountains and at the monastery the first bird seen was, surprise, surprise, European Bee-eater! Small numbers of Tristram’s Starling were flying around the vicinity of the monastery gardens and camel pens, always heard before seen. Desert Larks were common along the tracks and the target bird Sinai Rosefinch was easily found just off the tracks around where the Bedouins camels fed. Male Sinai Rosefinch were seen more than female. Pale Crag Martins hawked low over the boulders and tracks too.

White-crowned Wheatears were seen around the tracks and at the monastery car park.

After ten minutes of arriving I had ticked off five of the wanted species! The only bird to elude me was Scrub Warbler but I was more than happy to head back to Nabq well in time for lunch.

The trip is certainly worth the effort and is a must if you wish to connect with Sinai Rosefinch and Tristram’s Starling. Don’t forget to take your passport with you as there are a couple of police and military checkpoints en route and ensure you have a visa!


Male Sinai Rosefinch & me, St Katherine’s Monastery

Day 6. 10th May 09    

I started the day with a brief visit to the taxi rank pool before breakfast. Still lots of good stuff around from the other day but two very neat looking adult summer White-cheeked Terns were present today.

In the late afternoon I headed back to Sharm pools for a Lichenstein’s Sandgrouse stakeout. Notorious for coming in to drink right at last light I gave the pools a miss and used the last couple of hours of daylight birding around the settling pond, where the Sandgrouse are said to drink, and desert area between the pools and the main road.

The desert area was very productive with three species of Wheatear seen. Northern, Isabelline and a nice female Desert Wheatear. I was able to make good comparisons between all three, more importantly taking note of their distinctive tail patterns.

White Stork, Sharm pools

This evening raptors were very much to the fore with a superb sub adult Eastern Imperial Eagle flying low over the pools. An impressive looking bird but very tatty with quite a bit of tail and primary feathers wear.

A juv long-legged Buzzard, presumably the bird from the other day, was seen on the ground giving great ‘scope views. In the last hour of daylight 5 individual Honey-Buzzards floated in to roost in the plantation. Superb views as they cruised in over my head.

At the end of the day the Lichenstien’s Sandgrouse never showed but the Eastern Imperial Eagle and Desert Wheatear made up for the dip. If visiting Sharm pools in the evening bring strong insect repellent. The mossies come out in clouds!

Settling pond, Sharm pools

This was to be my last day of birding as the next day was spent ‘panic tanning’ around the swimming pool. The weather was turning very hot so it was the right time to be heading home.

For a ‘fly and flop’ weeks break Sharm El Shiekh was the perfect location. Even out of the peak migration period the birding was excellent and desert birding was a great experience.

I am looking to return again next April to top up my species list with the many migrants that pass through the area along with local birds that I missed like Hoopoe Lark and the Sandgrouse..

If I can help with any question from other birders who are thinking of visiting the area please feel free to contact me

Below is my trip list

Brown Booby

Red Sea cruise

Grey Heron

Sharm pools, Nabq golf course

Cattle Egret

2 at rubbish dump, 2 on resort roundabout!

Little Egret

Sharm pools

Western Reef-Heron

Fairly common around coast

Squacco Heron

Very common Sharm Pools

White Stork

Very common Sharm pools


Seen occasionally around the coast

(Eastern) Imperial Eagle

Individual at Sharm pools

Booted Eagle

Individual at Sharm pools

Black Kite

2 over Nabq

Eurasian Marsh Harrier

Sharm pools & Nabq golf course

Montague’s Harrier

Male, Sharm pools

Common Buzzard

Surprisingly only one, over Nabq

Long-legged Buzzard

Juv, Sharm pools

European Honey-Buzzard

Sharm pools plantation

Levant Sparrowhawk

Males Hotel garden & Sharm pools

Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Single over Hotel

Eurasian Kestrel


Barbary Falcon

Single, Nabq Golf course

Spur-winged Plover


Grey Plover

Nabq Nat Park, taxi rank pool, beach

Ringed Plover

Nabq Nat Park, taxi rank pool, beach

Kentish Plover

Nabq Nat Park, taxi rank pool

Eurasian Curlew

Nabq Nat Park


Sharm pools

Green Sandpiper

Sharm pools

Wood Sandpiper

Taxi rank pool

Common Sandpiper

Hotel swimming pool! Sharm pools, taxi rank pool

Little Stint

Sharm pools, taxi rank pool

Broad-billed Sandpiper

taxi rank pool

White-eyed Gull

Abundant around the resort

Sooty Gull

Nabq beach, Ras Mohammod

Baltic Gull

Single individual hotel beach

Slender-billed Gull

taxi rank pool

Caspian Tern

Common along coast

Common Tern

Sharm Pools

White-cheeked Tern

taxi rank pool

Bridled Tern

Red Sea cruise

Little Tern

Sharm pools

Spotted Sandgrouse

Sharm pools

Eurasian Collared Dove


Laughing Dove


Common Swift

Sharm pools

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

Nabq Nat Park

European Bee-eater


Spotted Flycatcher

Hotel gardens

Bar-tailed Lark

Waste ground around St Katherine’s town

Desert Lark

St Katherine’s Monastery

(Greater) Short-toed Lark

Nabq golf course

Sand Martin

Sharm pools

Pale Crag Martin

St Katherine’s Monastery

Barn Swallow


Red-rumped Swallow

Sharm pools

House Martin

Sharm pools

Blue-headed Wagtail

Hotel gardens, Sharm pools

Yellow Wagtail

Hotel gardens, Sharm pools

Grey-headed Wagtail

Sharm pools

Citrine Wagtail

Hotel gardens


Sharm pools

Tawny Pipit

Sharm pools

Red-throated Pipit


White-crowned Wheatear

St Katherine’s Monastery

Hooded Wheatear

Nabq Golf course desert area

Northern Wheatear


Desert Wheatear

Female, Sharm settling pond desert area

Isabelline Wheatear

Sharm pools desert area

House Crow

Ras Mohammed

Brown-necked Raven

Ras Mohammed, Sharm pools

Tristram’s Starling

St Katherine’s Monastery

Sinai Rosefinch

St Katherine’s Monastery

House Sparrow

Common around hotel, Sharm pools


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