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

Monday, July 25, 2011

South Africa bound

Tomrrow morning I depart Pittsburgh International Airport. After a full-day layover in Dubai (birding included) I will return to Cape Town, South Africa. The rest of the year will entail numerous trips throughout Southern Africa so keep checking back for updates.

On top of that, I'm the new eBird reviewer, hotspot editor and filter creater for South Africa and will be busy getting South Africa eBird-efficient. Not familiar with eBird? Check out (

If you find yourself in Cape Town, feel free to contact me and I will show you around.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Montana: Part 2

    After the floods ceased and roads dried up, the field season ended quite successfully; we were able to complete our 166 transect goal. It will be interesting to see the outcome for the season. Since my last post back on the June 25th, I covered a lot of miles around Montana surveying the Crow Indian Reservation south of Billings, Powder River near Broadus, Yellowstone River near Hysham, the remote region around CM Russell NWR and the Lewis & Clark National Forest south of Lewistown. In all I only accumulated 10 more state birds but quality made up for that. Not only did I finally pick up Burrowing Owl and Mountain Plover in the northeast, I also saw the only Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in the state at Bear Canyon, Black-billed Cuckoos south of Broadus and the localized Cassin’s Kingbird in the Custer National Forest. I fell well short of my goal of 250 species with 218, however, I spent far less time in the mountains than expected which would explain a lot of easy misses such as Sharp-shinned Hawk, Dusky Grouse, Olive-sided Flycatcher and Pygmy Nuthatch to name a few. Looks like I have an excuse to return and that just might happen next summer as I might be guiding a Glacier/Grasslands/Yellowstone tour.
To wrap up the season, here’s my summer in numbers:

Miles driven: ~10,000
State Birds: 218
Flat Tires: 2
Water crossings: 3
Counties visited: 37 out of 56
Life birds: 3 (Baird’s Sparrow, Sprague’s Pipit and Gray Partridge)
Species of warblers: 18 (Bests: N. Parula, Mourning and Canada)

And a few photos from the field...

Baird's Sparrow

Montana had some of the most amazing cloud formations...not to mention sunrise/sunsets

The reason you do not drive on roads with water rushing over.

Fun times in the Snowy Mountains