Last week I was birding under the desert sun of the UAE with the local SOC club on a trip arranged by Tony & Gerda Scott (SOC Ayrshire Touring) and bird leader Angus Hogg. We searched sandy deserts and gravel plains for larks and wheatears, khors (tidal creeks) on the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman for waders, herons and seabirds, mangroves for White-collared Kingfisher and Greater Spotted Eagle, and oases and artificially 'greened' parks for migrants warblers and shrikes. The country has many other important habitats that we just glimpsed as we passed through including the acacia savannahs, the Hajar Mountains and the sabkha (salt flats).
The highlights for me were Socotra Cormorant, Western Reef Egret, Indian Pond Heron, Greater Spotted Eagle, Crab Plover, Red-wattled Lapwing, White-tailed Lapwing, Lesser Sand Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Sooty Gull, Saunder's Tern, White-cheeked Tern, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, White-collared Kingfisher, Pharaoh Eagle Owl, Little Green Bee-eater, Indian Roller, Black-crowned Finch-Lark, Pale Crag Martin, Olive-backed Pipit, Hooded Wheatear, Hume's Wheatear, Variable Wheatear, Sykes's Warbler, Persian Wheatear, Plain Leaf Warbler, Arabian Babbler, Purple Sunbird, and Isabelline Shrike.
While the rapid urbanisation and reclamation of land and sea has created several important artificial habitats for birds, many areas of mangroves and coastal habitats are being reduced or fragmented. Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary in Dubai however is a gem of place with birdlife in abundance despite being engulfed by the city. It kind of makes the London Wetland Centre look a bit tame.
A full trip report will be available on Tuesday 25th.