Abu Dhabi work trip
For anyone interested, I just got back from 3 days in Abu Dhabi with work, and thought I would post a little about my experiences.
I had very little time for birding for a few reasons:
- I was working(!)
- The sun sets very quickly, so even "after work", there was only about an hour to get out and about before it was dark
- It was too damn hot (41-43C daytime, even around 40C at 6pm)
- I didn't really have transport
Nevertheless, I managed to get out a couple of early mornings and late afternoons around my hotel (the Hilton on "the Corniche" down near the royal palace). The hotel had its own private beach, with some small garden areas, and there were a few shady parks nearby. Around the hotel, Collared Dove, Laughing Dove, White-eared Bulbul, Common Myna and House Sparrow were abundant, and with a bit of extra effort, it was quite easy to find Purple Sunbird (once the kind people of Birdforum had helped with identifying the eclipse plumage!). On occasions, I also found one or two Red-wattled Lapwing and Hoopoe on well-watered roundabouts, and noticed small groups of House Crow moving around the area. On one afternoon, there were also a large group of hirundines that looked a lot like Crag Martin to me, but I'm not at all familiar with the other possibilities.
The Beach Club also offered some interesting birds, even if there were not a lot of them! Early morning, as the first visitor, was the best time to go. Along the water line, I found Common and Green Sandpiper, along with a single Sanderling and the occasional Great White Egret. On the first morning, there were also a number of White-cheeked Tern circling over the bay. In the evening, there was less to see, but I noticed a short-staying Whimbrel at a quiet end of the beach on one occasion, and also a Grey Heron heading (presumably) to roost each evening. A short walk from the Beach, in the grounds of another hotel (right by the palace), there were always small family groups of Grey Francolin to be found.
Finally, my last afternoon, I managed to finish early, and headed out to Umm al Emerat park (near Mashrif Palace, not at Mashrif Palace as I had understood from the UAE birding website, which was helpfully confirmed to me by armed palace guards...). Although this park is well-developed and was busy with families, I still picked up three lifers! In the more shady gardens, Graceful Prinia were easy to find, and there were also some small groups of Indian Silverbill near to the "Shady" Palm House. But the highlight was being able to watch a large flock (25-30) Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters swooping about over the park for 15 minutes. It was also another good place to get good views of Purple Sunbird, and the Laughing Doves and Mynah were very confiding throughout the park, and along with the White-eared variety, there were a few Red-vented Bulbul.
So, it turns out my Great Egret was in fact a Western Reef Heron! Which is another nice lifer for the trip!
Hi. Your Crag Martins would have been Pale Crag.
As a continuation of this thread, I was back in UAE again a few weeks back with work, and planned my time and travel rather more carefully to see if I could get to some better birding locations. To be honest, I had the same issues as last time, so still had limited opportunities, but I still managed two lifers!
Most of the time was again spent in Abu Dhabi, but instead of staying downtown, I stayed at a hotel looking out over the Eastern Mangroves, so immediately had easier access to wildlife. Although the mangrove area is not that big (and sadly, getting smaller), I still took the chance to hire a kayak a couple of times to head into the swamps and waterways. And being directly across from a wild area meant that the hotel itself and the promenade outside had some interesting birds.
White-eared bulbul and common myna were common and noisy all around the hotel grounds, with Hoopoe also calling regularly, although not seen quite so frequently. My first morning was good for waders along the rocky shoreline and muddy beaches opposite, with a few Whimbrel, Common Redshank, Turnstone and Ringed Plover. I also added my first lifer of the trip with food views of a Terek Sandpiper. Views from higher up on my hotel balcony(!) also revealed regular passing Reef Heron and a few gulls (Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed[?]) and terns (Caspian Tern).
My first (early morning) kayak out into the mangroves was relatively short (only an hour, so couldn't get too far in), but I still managed to catch a good number of waders - lots more Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank and Grey Plover, as well as Black-winged Stilt and my second lifer, Striated Heron.
Towards the end of my visit, I made a second kayaking visit to the Mangroves, taking a longer trip from mid-afternoon until sunset. Fewer waders around at that time of day, but a couple of nice raptors spotted - firstly a large eagle (Booted eagle?) high over the swamps and off over the hotels, and then a much closer Marsh Harrier flushed by a passing jet-skier >:-(
A Black-necked grebe and a small group of Egyptian Goose on the water were also found down the narrower channels, along with Sanderling and yet more Whimbrel. A very confiding Great Grey Shrike let me get quite close, but the absolute highlight was paddling around a small clearing in the trees while surrounded by a couple of dozen warbling Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, swooping to catch insects then perching on overhanging branches. I also failed to identify a couple of small birds seen at a beach where you could pull up your kayak, one looking somewhat like a small, slim Sedge Warbler.
The end of my trip involved a drive down to Dubai - a day trip. After my meetings had finished, I headed to a recommended, nearby park (Safa Park), and spent an hour walking around a mixture of lawns, woodland and gardens. Among the Common Myna there were a good few Pied Myna, and there were also plenty of Ring-necked parakeets and Indian Roller. The wooded areas held a few Grey Francolin and Purple Sunbirds, while a few small groups of Indian Silverbill and Graceful Prinia were found in the well-watered gardens.
As the sun set, I headed back north to Abu Dhabi for my flight home, stopping en route at a beach near the Jumeirah Palace hotel, and although there were few seabirds, I did find a Crested Lark on the beach!
Overall, 40 species seen, which was a good few more than my visit the previous year, and the hotel choice opposite the mangroves clearly helped!
Thanks for the details for Abu Dhabi. I have a long port day there in April and would have time for some birding around visit to the mosque. I am not keen on a kayak visit, but is there any land access to the mangrove area? It sounds like Umm al Emerat or some shoreline is the alternate. I will be in Dubai for 2 full days prior. Do you think for mangrove, I would be better off visiting Ras al Kur Sanctuary? Thanks for any recommendations.
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