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A Report from


Peter Hellyer

Twitcher´s Guide Nov. 26-Dec. 3, 1997

(Written for Emirates News and appears here with the permission of Bren McCartney of the Berkshire Birds Web Page, see links)

Bateen Gardens and the adjacent area in Abu Dhabi have held, from 26 November onwards, 1-2 Honey Buzzards, 2 Sparrowhawks, 1-2 black redstarts, Bluethroat and a song thrush, with a very late Rufous Bushchat present into the beginning of December. A barred warbler at Mushrif Palace Gardens on 26th was equally late. A wryneck and a masked shrike were in the Tourist Club area of town on 28th, while an ENHG outing to Sadiyat island on the same day found desert warblers and desert wheatears, 2 ospreys and 15 flamingos. A dusk count of the rose-ringed parakeet roost at Bateen palace, also on 28th, came up with 426 individuals, but probably missed some coming in the back door route. Two honey buzzards (one adult, one juvenile) came up overhead to distract the counter. Three peregrines and 2 marsh harriers were cavorting over Manhal nursery, in the centre of Abu Dhabi on 1st. The former presumably falconers' escaped birds.

Khalidiya on the 3rd still had red-breasted flycatcher, displaying well, with black redstart, hoopoe, Isabelline shrike, song thrush, 4 or 5 Olivaceous warblers and heaps of 'peeping' chiffchaffs, while a Rosefinch was lurking, also on the 3rd.

Attention switched to the Eastern Lagoon from the 26th onwards, with the discovery of the, presumably, same female lesser pied kingfisher as tenanted the mangroves last winter. It is found most reliably near to dusk close by the cattle egret roost, itself now boasting 84 individuals. Marsh harrier, osprey, great white egret, 2000 and more common mynahs, 163 bank mynahs and around 20-30 common starlings at the communal night-time gathering of sturnids. Ten Whimbrel, a handful of flamingos and, as usual, a gang of soporific spoonbills added to the variety here.

Al Ghar hasn't been looked at thoroughly in a while, but waterfowl numbers are known to be increasing. Three hundred plus flamingos, 23 Pochard, 150 odd Shoveler, 6 Shelduck, gull-billed tern, 7 white-tailed plovers and 2 black-tailed godwits were noted from 27-30th. Mafraq water treatment works produced a Saunders' little tern and 10 slender-billed gulls.

Abdul Hakim has adopted the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club as his local patch and found the entire complement of the capital's cattle egrets feeding on the now grass golf course in the middle of the racing circuit on 27th, along with 70 curlew sandpipers, an Egyptian goose, 11 swallows, 4 Garganey, 2 Clamorous Reed Warblers and a multitude of water pipits, red-throated pipits, white wagtails and citrine wagtails.

Khor Dubai and its purpose-built lagoons continue to be a real boon to the birds, with 23 black-necked grebes, 2 Shelduck, 910 flamingos, 2 spotted eagles and 2,000 black-headed gulls now in for the winter, ten days later than on the East Coast and in Abu Dhabi. The Emirates Golf Course has an Indian pond heron, white-tailed plover, marsh sandpiper, pintail snipe (only one seen lately), kingfisher and 2 Hypocolius, or at least did have on 27th. Fifty plus Hypocolius were counted at Ghantoot on 29th.

On 2nd December Khor Al Beidah, in Umm Al Qaiwain, produced a lanner, 2 spotted eagles, 360 crab plovers, 40 lesser short-toed larks and 3 short-toed larks, while at Ramtha lagoons the same day, a single Greylag goose, 12 gadwall, 25 Shoveler, 20 teal, booted eagle, white-tailed plover, 2 marsh sandpipers, 4 Temminck's stints and 3 citrine wagtails was a fair haul for UAE Bird Recorder, Colin Richardson, and, returning to the country after several years absence, birding supremo Adrian Chapman.

Just when it looked like pied kingfisher was going to take Bird of the Week title, Abdul Hakim came romping home to win by several lengths with the country's second ever record of Calandra lark at the Equestrian Club on the UAE's 26th National Day, 2nd December. Congratulations on an excellent piece of identification. The ensuing twitch brought out a crowd of two who watched in horror at sunset as the bird departed southwards like a scud. Also present were a dozen or so spankingly-plumaged citrine wagtails, 150+ white wagtails, c10 red-throated pipits, hordes of water pipits, 3 whiskered terns, 3+ skylarks and 2 corn buntings. Fortunately, for one additional twitcher at least, the Calandra lark was back again the next day, 3rd December, when Corn Bunting numbers had risen to 4.

Some more good news is that recording was resumed on Das Island again. Arrivals were noted daily, with larks especially now on the move. Skylarks, crested larks and lesser short-toed larks were all recorded, with a possible small skylark from 25-27th. Stonechat, song thrush, 2 Richard's pipits (on 30th), 2 red-breasted flycatchers (on 25th) and 2 Common Rosefinches (on 28th) were standard fare for the island.

Another late wryneck was found along with a single very tardy blue-cheeked bee-eater on 27th, with a whitethroat on 30th and yellow wagtail on 2nd, complete laggards. A white-winged black tern taken into care on 30th subsequently expired, and while a new rose-ringed parakeet called in on 27th, to join another potential colonist, house crow, two of which are now resident, a single Indian roller is likely to stay that way. The first meadow pipit of the season came in on the 30th and a great black headed gull passed by on 2nd. A red-billed tropicbird twosome, first seen back on 26th, will hopefully breed successfully during the winter, their preferred season here in the Gulf.

Included for good measure is news from just over the border in Oman at the Sun Farms fields, Sohar, which are presently home for an American Long-billed Dowitcher and an intermediate egret of Asian origin - East meets West.

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