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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Sinai in Egypt, 4-18th December 2010,
Many of the Landsverk family (11 people) went to Sharm el Sheikh on holiday December 2010. We paid for the flight ticket and booked apartments ourselves found on Internet. We stayed at Delta Sharm between Naama Bay and Sharm el Sheikh. It was a perfect place in many respects and rather close to the probably best place in Sinai to watch birds - a sewage work (several sewage dams a few km north of Delta Sharm). A former sewage work is found only a ten minutes walk from where we lived. Two of my sons – Erlen and Aleksander - and myself had hoped to get away from the others and spend a few hours some mornings to watch birds at these places.
We spent an hour or two at the closest sewage work that is now overgrown both the morning of the fifth and the seventh of Dec. It is a very small area with almost no water, but still there are different birds around. There is also a small forest here where several Steppe Buzzards and other birds were resting. We also observed a Peregrine Falcon, Tawny Pipits, several Bluethroats and Stonechats plus a few Spanish Sparrows. Most of the birds here seemed to overwinter. Dec. 13 we also saw a Booted Eagle and 3 Corn Buntings between this place and Delta Sharm.
Dec. 10 and 12 we spent 4 hours from sunrise at the Sewage Works (north)east of Sharm el Sheikh. We took a taxi up (20 Egyptian Pounds) and hitchhiked back from the main road. This place is very close to where you rent ATV’s and just a hundred meters west of where you can rent camels and horses. This is probably one of the best places in Sinai to watch birds – many species in and around the dams. We saw about 50 different species just here.
We were very much surprised to find rare species like Eastern Imperial Eagle (new for me) and Steppe Eagle, Levant Sparrowhawk, Black Stork, Black-winged Pratincole (also new), White-tailed Lapwing, several Water Pipits (new as well) and a Citrine Wagtail. We were also lucky enough to observe a single Crowned Sandgrouse flying just above our head a couple of times – the only Sandgrouse that can be found here that I hadn’t seen before. It was also quite a sight to see about 1000 White Storks here.
We had heard that the Sandgrouses were quite regular at their drinking places here at the time the sun set (around 5 p.m.) So a couple of days before we left (Dec. 16 at 4 p.m. until about 5.30 p.m.) we headed back in order to see 3 species of them, but no luck. Instead we got to see about 500 Black Kites that came in from( north)east to roost. Let me add that all the species mentioned above were here every day we visited.
Dec. 15 we took a taxi to Nabq- a nature reserve or NP less than an hour’s drive from Naama Bay – the last 10 km on a gravel road. Together with a friend I visited Israel in Jan. 1983. From south of Eilat we took the bus to Sharm el Sheikh. We were told that from north of Sharm it was only a relatively short walk to the mangroves in Nabq, where we knew the Striated Heron could be found. We walked all day in order to reach the beaches of Nabq. Later we got to know that it was a 17 km walk.
Israel had given the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt in Oct. 1982, only a couple months prior to our visit. So where there now are hundreds of hotels and buildings and lawns and gardens in Nabq, Naama Bay and other bays, there were absolutely nothing when we visited in 1983 – just a few buildings in Sharm el Sheikh. So it was a big surprise if not a shock to see all the fancy hotels and gardens and so many tourists here now. I am impressed by what they have been able to create in only 25 years!
Just outside where the visitor center is now, there was a shipwreck from the war between Israel and Egypt when I was here in 83, and it was still here – only much less intact. The Ospreys were still breeding here at the wreck – just like they did in 83.
This is a good area for many species that you connect with water. We found 6 species of Egrets and Herons, a Spoonbill, about 20 Greater Sandplovers, Sooty Gulls, Caspian Terns and a possible White-cheeked Tern plus many other species, especially waders. Just close to the beach you can find at least 3 species of Wheatear (see species list) and in the direction of the mountains we saw two Fan-tailed Ravens. In the scrub we were lucky to find Scrub Warbler.
On Friday Dec. 17 we suddenly found out - while we were at the beach – that we should take a “Jalla” bus (half a dollar) to the golf course east of Naama Bay. So we did. We had heard that it belonged to the Moevenpick hotel, so we took it for granted that it was close to the hotel. But no. We asked at the reception, and because they thought we were hotel-guests, they called the hotel’s bus-driver. He came within 3 minutes and drove us 3 alone to the golf course in a big bus without asking questions – quite a distance from the hotel. The golf course has 18 holes and it has about a dozen ponds. We almost ran from pond to pond as we were short of time. As most golf courses this one was also nice and good for birds – 33 species all together.
We were happy to find Black-crowned Night Heron, Striated Heron and Purple Heron all at the same small pond where there also were 5 Pied Kingfishers. Circling above us was a couple of Long-legged Buzzards. At another pond we found a Marsh Sandpiper together with several species of waders. And on the grass a lonely Hoopoe was observed. This detour turned out to be very profitable and is absolutely recommended.
Most days we spent at one of the eleven pools at the complex we stayed or at the beach in Naama or at the beach at Sharm. The beach at Sharm el Sheikh is best – not so crowded compared to the small beach in Naama belonging to Delta Sharm (even if most of the other beaches nearby were nearly empty, but forbidden for us). You get a free ride from Delta Sharm by a small bus to both beaches – dropping you off around 10 am. and picking you up at around 4 p.m.
The climate is nearly perfect at this time of year, ranging from 22 to 28 and we had 27 degrees in the sea (warmer than normal). Where we lived there were mostly Russians and Englishmen, and it was never crowded. Only 2 of the pools were heated, but 20 degrees in the water is okay in order to cool you down when you have been lying in the sun for a while.
The Reef Egrets seem almost tame here. At both beaches we and the tourists came very close to a specimen of this bird. At the beach at Sharm we also were lucky enough to find a Striated Heron and a Pied Kingfisher.
At the time we visited Egypt no one was allowed to swim in the sea because of a Shark attack a couple of days before we arrived that killed one German lady and hurt 5 people from Ukraine. The last time they had a shark attack was more than 20 years ago. But in Sharm we swam anyway because here the water is so shallow.
Sharm el Sheikh is a perfect holiday destination if you want to combine some lazy days in a wonderful climate at this time of year with some close by bird-watching. We never went to St Katherine’s monastery at Mt Sinai. Neither did we go to the National Park, Ras Mohammed, a nice area not full of birds, but where you may find a few more species, for instance Hoopoe Lark.
I am surprised that we saw so many more species of birds than others who have visited this area earlier, according to the reports I have read. So we are very satisfied with a total of more than 90 species in such a small area in December.