Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dubai Birding

Scorching – that’s the best way to describe Dubai. My plane landed at 8am and it was already in the mid 90’s. In fact, now that I think of it, that’s the average low. After fruitlessly renting a car, I took a taxi to the Ra’s al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary in the heart of Dubai. This tidal estuary interspersed with saline lagoons offers phenomenal birding in the winter. In the summer however, it’s is mostly dry with only a few birds present. Nonetheless, I was still able to see around 40 species including a few lifers.

My first stop was the Flamingo Hide which was quite unsuccessful. The only birds present were Kentish (Snowy) Plovers, Eurasian Curlews, Eurasian Collared-Doves, Laughing Doves, Red-vented Bulbuls and Common Mynahs. Just as I was leaving, a park warden arrived to drop off several bags of feed for the birds. I opted out watching the pigeons eat and continued walking outside the fence to the Mangrove Hide.

Flamingo Hide
Walking a mile lugging two carry-on bags with temperatures in the 100’s proved quite difficult; however I picked up a few new species including my first Red-wattled Lapwings, Crested Larks and Graceful Prinias. Arriving at the hide, I was surprised to find complimentary cold water and a public scope to use – a Leica believe it or not. For the next couple hours I scanned the estuary and conversed with the guard who is from Pakistan. He showed interest in learning birds so he joined me and spent a lot of time browsing through my Birds of the Middle East field guide showing me what he has seen while sitting in the hide.
Crested Lark
Shorebirds were the main show as fall migration had just begun. Although numbers were still low, there was a fair selection present. Close to the hide were more Kentish Plovers and Red-wattled Lapwings along with Black-winged Stilts, Grey Plovers, Black-tailed Godwits, and Eurasian Curlews. Further out were larger flocks of shorebirds just out of scope range. A few of them were sand plovers though most of them were likely Curlew Sandpipers. Other birds present include Greater Flamingos, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Striated, Gray and Western Reef Herons and several Laridae including Slender-billed Gull , Caspian Gull, Gull-billed and Caspian Terns.

Dubai skyline from Mangrove Hide
By midday, it was unbearably hot, birding just wasn’t practical…therefore I went into the city to explore a bit before returning to the airport for my flight to Cape Town.
Burj Khalifa - tallest man-made structure in the world

No comments: