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Sharm el Sheikh area September 2010

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Old Saturday 2nd October 2010, 14:40   #1
Swissboy
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Sharm el Sheikh area September 2010

Here is a brief report of my trip to Sharm el Sheikh from 24 to 30 September 2010. We basically divided our activities between birding in the morning and snorkelling in the afternoon. Temperature was in the range of 37 to 41 degrees centigrade which made many birds hide during the day. And it kept us from being out all day as well.

Places visited:

- (1) Sharm Pools (waste water treatment), where we were not allowed to drive in by taxi, unlike earlier when my brother visited the place. The checkpoint guy said they no longer allowed tourists in there. Yet, there were lots of quad trips that drove around, some even including going onto the dams just to scare away all the resting White Storks. As the attached first picture shows. On the first visit, we walked in on the road a bit further south, and on the second visit I walked around the fenced-in Eucalyptus patch to the north. That walk requires about an extra 30 minutes each way, but it allows at least to get to the place.

- (2) Ras Mohammed National Park where there was some problem because the guy in charge at the gate hassled our taxi driver. No wonder he has a very low opinion of the local police. This guy simply misused his power by trying to require documents that the taxi driver does not need.

- (3) Golf course, where I was finally allowed to rent a cart for 85 LE to drive around. But it took a bit of discussing first, and the passport was needed (as always outside the hotel anyway).

- (4) Nabq Protected Area, where we were able to go a bit further than the first Bedouin village before the road became too tricky for our regular taxi vehicle.

We did all our visits by taxi, always with the same excellent driver which my brother had got to know on previous visits. His name is Mohamed Shafek, and he can be reached on his mobile phone 002 0102348897. He speaks reasonably good English, and most of all, he is a very reliable and very kind person. To be highly recommended to any birder who wants to visit the area. He is usually working for a few weeks at the time and then goes back home to Cairo for a week or so. So one might not be able to have him available. But when he is there, try to contact him. He is also quite reasonable in what he charges. As an example: driving up to the Sharm pools from our hotel and coming back a few hours later to pick us up cost 90 LE.
There are also two e-mail addresses, but he can only reply when he is in Cairo: [email protected] and [email protected]

I had Mohamed bring me to the Sharm pool area or the golf course and pick me up there at a specific time. And he was always there on time.

Birding highlights:

- There was unexpectedly intensive migration of raptors and White Storks at the Sharm pools and at Ras Mohammed NP. With amazingly different species compositions on the different days.

- Sooty Falcon was the main reason for the trip at this time of year. And we had excellent views of it right along the main road at Ras Mohammed NP at mid day. (second picture, not cropped)

- The sought after sandgrouse were finally found on the second visit to the Sharm pools. There were only Spotted Sandgrouse, and they first appeared at about 07:20 hours. An estimated total of around 50 birds was seen in flight only. If I had tried to see them at the water, I would have had to scare off the storks myself. And the sandgrouse would have been warned then way ahead. The last calls of sandgrouse were shortly before 9 AM, but the main activity was only between about 07:25 and 07:40. It was about that time when we arrived at the place on the first visit, so we must have missed the birds then by just a few minutes.

Species list:

Locations in part given by the numbers from above. Names and sequence follow the new second edition of Birds of the Middle East.


Garganey (3)
Black-necked Grebe (3)
Black Stork (1) estimate around 50
Western White Stork (1) thousands, (2) many hundreds, (3) a few
Glossy Ibis (1)
Eurasian Spoonbill (4) 2 mangroves
Black-crowned Night Heron (3)
Squacco Heron 1 coast rock from hotel garden
Striated Heron (2) 1 immat
Grey Heron various places, but mainly (4)
Little Egret (1) and (3)
Western Reef Heron (4)
Osprey (2) and (4)
Black Kite major migration (1) and (2) hundreds
Egyptian Vulture (2) about 12 resting
Short-toed Snake Eagle (1) and (2)
Western Marsh Harrier (1)
Pallid Harrier (1) and (2)
Levant Sparrowhawk (1) and (2) thousands migrate
Eurasian Sparrowhawk singles various places
Steppe Buzzard (1) and (2), some migrate with Black Kites
Lesser Spotted Eagle (1) and (2) singles mixed in
Steppe Eagle (1)
Booted Eagle (1), (2), (4) small numbers
Common Kestrel various places
Sooty Falcon (2) and most likely (4)
Spur-winged Lapwing (1) and (3)
Grey Plover (4)
Common Ringed Plover (2), (3) and (4)
Kentish Plover (4)
Greater Sand Plover (4)
Whimbrel (2)
Eurasian Curlew (2) and (4)
Common Redshank (3)
Common Greenshank (1), (3) and (4)
Green Sandpiper (1)
Wood Sandpiper (3)
Common Sandpiper (3)
Little Stint (2) and (3)
Curlew Sandpiper (2), (3) and (4)
Ruff (3)
Ruddy Turnstone (4)
White-eyed Gull mainly hotel area plus only about 1 at (4)
Sooty Gull (4) only, but the common dark gull there
Slender-billed Gull (2)
Caspian Tern (2) and (4)
Lesser Crested Tern (2) and (4)
Black Tern (1) and (3)
Spotted Sandgrouse (1)
Rock Dove/Feral Dove often, also come to drink from mountains to (1)
African Collared Dove (3) common there
Laughing Dove many places
European Roller (3) 1
Eurasian Hoopoe (1) and (3) singles
Common Kingfisher (2) mangroves; plus hotel area
European Bee-eater migration many places, mostly early part of stay
Masked Shrike (3), plus probably (2)
Red-backed Shrike (2) many immat with possible other species mixed in
Southern Grey or Lesser Grey Shrike immat (2) 1 seen from front only
House Crow Sharm old town area
Brown-necked Raven (2) and possibly Sharm
Bulbul sp, likely White-spectacled, but not certain; hotel garden
Crested Lark (3)
Greater Short-toed Lark (2) and (4)
Sand Martin (2)
Pale Crag Martin (3), (4) and hotel area
Common House Martin (1) and (3)
Red-rumped Swallow hotel area
Barn Swallow many places
warbler sp. grey appearance like Upcher's hotel area; the only warbler seen!
European Robin hotel area one call of what must likely have been this species
Whinchat (2) several resting in groups in full sun
Isabelline Wheatear (2), (3) and likely (4)
Northern Wheatear (2)
Spotted Flycatcher (2), hiding in shaded place
House Sparrow many places, but mostly only to be heared
White Wagtail hotel area 1
Yellow Wagtail (3) and hotel area feasting on caterpillar-like insects
Red-throated Pipit (3) and hotel area

In addition, there were a few unidentified immature small terns, and shrikes.

The hotel area referred to above was in the southern-most area next to the light-house.
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--PS: That's a Sooty Falcon on the avatar, photo taken near Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. My highest priority raptor at the time.
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Last edited by Swissboy : Saturday 2nd October 2010 at 21:05.
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Old Saturday 2nd October 2010, 20:41   #2
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Incredibly sad that this place has turned into what it has become. Birders warned years ago that this would happen and the Egyptian authorities don't give a damn. Little wonder that Egypt is now out of bounds for most of us.

Is it not time BIRDLIFE got involved in sorting this cruelty out?

John.
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Old Saturday 2nd October 2010, 20:48   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bubbs View Post
Incredibly sad that this place has turned into what it has become. Birders warned years ago that this would happen and the Egyptian authorities don't give a damn. Little wonder that Egypt is now out of bounds for most of us.

Is it not time BIRDLIFE got involved in sorting this cruelty out?

John.
Unfortunately, there are sufficient numbers of tourists who don't give a damn either. I made two observations of snorkellers poking around the hotel reef with a stick. And the tourism industry is growing at a sickening pace judging from all the construction activity. I had only been to Sharm once before, and that was more than 22 years ago. There were about four or five major hotels then.

I should say that all the dead storks seen on the picture seem to have died because they were very weak on arrival, and not because they had been run over. I had one individual dropping dead right in front of me during the two hours stay. And there were many that seemed to be close to dying judging from their appearance and passive behavior. One could not get up on its legs anymore, but it was out of the disturbance zone. But I can't exclude that some birds actually were run over. And the disturbance certainly drains their energy reserves further.
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--PS: That's a Sooty Falcon on the avatar, photo taken near Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. My highest priority raptor at the time.
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Last edited by Swissboy : Saturday 2nd October 2010 at 21:01.
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2010, 04:27   #4
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Thanks for the good report, Robert!
You got some nice sights.

In regards to the hassle, it got worse over the last half year. They did indeed tighten and change some rules for the protectorates.
But with enough Bakshish you will manage as a company to still do what you want (I guess) and as an individual too.

Not that the police really cares anyway.

And John, honestly I doubt that anyone gives a rats ass about Sharm el Sheikh.
For some odd reason all other places on the map in Egypt seem to be higher priority, even with 3 major protectorates going to waste down there.
It's not that nobody knows.
:(


I have to question the African collared dove though
The ones I thought were ones got 'plucked apart' and IDed as 'normal' Collared doves by the guys here :)
Got some photos? :)
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Old Sunday 3rd October 2010, 19:36   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NicoleB View Post
.....

I have to question the African collared dove though
The ones I thought were ones got 'plucked apart' and IDed as 'normal' Collared doves by the guys here :)
Got some photos? :)
No photos, but I have lots of the "normal" ones at home. So first, these drew my attention when I thought they were a bit smaller and had a more conspicuous white rim around the black neck mark. But I then checked the FG. One main differentiating feature mentioned there are the differences in the color of the "lower belly and undertail-coverts". So I checked again with my scope, and it was clearly white there. So the FG (Birds of the Middle East, 2nd edition) would have to be questioned in this respect, if the ID is not correct.
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--PS: That's a Sooty Falcon on the avatar, photo taken near Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. My highest priority raptor at the time.
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Old Monday 4th October 2010, 03:02   #6
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:)
No offense or questioning.
It's just thought the same and got all my photos IDed as Collared dove.
I tried for 10 months :)
Guess you were just luckier than me
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Old Monday 4th October 2010, 09:54   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NicoleB View Post
:)
No offense or questioning.
It's just thought the same and got all my photos IDed as Collared dove.
I tried for 10 months :)
Guess you were just luckier than me
I think it is a valuable discussion, so don't worry about "offenses". I'm not interested in maintaining a species on my list if it is clearly a wrongly identified one. So I'd rather be interested to have others look at the collared doves at the Sharm golf course. I did not ID all of them thoroughly, but I think at least the majority were all the same species. So either it's a recent colonization by this expanding species, or else the ID criteria are no good?
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--PS: That's a Sooty Falcon on the avatar, photo taken near Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. My highest priority raptor at the time.
What's your species on the avatar? I often have no clue
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Old Monday 4th October 2010, 17:25   #8
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I'm digging through my archives and see what I can find from the Golf course
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Old Monday 4th October 2010, 18:01   #9
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OK, a quick scan gave me not as much as I hoped for :(
And only one 2 shots from the Golf course with CD :/

This one comes closest to a possible ACD, I think:

http://www.nicoleb.org/photo/birdwat...-1-may.jpg.php

These are 'just' CD (I think):

http://www.nicoleb.org/photo/birdwat...may-20.jpg.php

http://www.nicoleb.org/photo/birdwat...-1-may.jpg.php

http://www.nicoleb.org/photo/birdwat...flight.jpg.php

Golf course:

http://www.nicoleb.org/photo/birdwat...d-dove.jpg.php

http://www.nicoleb.org/photo/birdwat...llared.jpg.php


And while we are at it, any takers on what these fellows are???

(2009 somewhere in Sharm)
http://www.nicoleb.org/photo/birdwat...ve-uid.jpg.php

http://www.nicoleb.org/photo/birdwat...-egret.jpg.php

http://www.nicoleb.org/photo/birdwat...dove-2.jpg.php


Sorry for uploading them to my gallery, but I am too tired to deal with the size restrictions here tonight :/
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Old Monday 4th October 2010, 19:54   #10
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I can't say anything about the ones you are asking about. But I fully agree with your ID on the first few. None of those looks like an African one. All are fully grey underneath as far as I can tell. And there is less white around the black neck mark as well.

Too bad I did not take any pictures there. In part it was because I may still have been intimidated a bit from my first encounter with the security person. He thought I was taking pictures without asking when I looked with my scope at a Common Sparrowhawk that had let go of a dove after it had caught it. And I said I had no intention to take pictures. Though it would not have mattered after I got the permission to enter the area, I just did not take out my camera. But there was also rather little time so I did not want to spend it by taking pictures that I did not see the need for then.
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--PS: That's a Sooty Falcon on the avatar, photo taken near Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. My highest priority raptor at the time.
What's your species on the avatar? I often have no clue
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Old Thursday 7th October 2010, 06:16   #11
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I always have to take the shots, since I am not good at ID-ing most right away :)

The guys at the Golf course would have been used to someone running around with a cam. I'm not gone that long :P
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Old Thursday 14th October 2010, 21:28   #12
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I did not mention reptiles in my trip report, but there were some in the hotel area. No idea what they were, except "lizard" and "gecko". I posted some photos in the reptiles sub-forum here:

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=183504

Any one here who knows the species?
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--PS: That's a Sooty Falcon on the avatar, photo taken near Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. My highest priority raptor at the time.
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Old Friday 5th November 2010, 16:25   #13
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Sharm el Sheikh area September 2010

Thanks for an interesting report.
We would love to go to Egypt for lots of reasons, not least of all the birds.
However I prefer to walk about with a camera in complete freedom.
Shame about both the problems and lack of conservation concern.
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Old Friday 5th November 2010, 17:33   #14
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.....However I prefer to walk about with a camera in complete freedom.
......

Try to do this at one of your major military installations. You might run into problems as well. There will never be the "complete freedom".

So why miss some exciting places just because of some (in the end) minor problems?
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--PS: That's a Sooty Falcon on the avatar, photo taken near Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. My highest priority raptor at the time.
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Old Friday 5th November 2010, 18:24   #15
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Sharm el Sheikh area September 2010

Sorry Robert but I would prefer to go somewhere I feel comfortable.
I was once stopped by the Greek military at Ipsilou, Lesvos and that was bad enough.
However good luck and thanks to yourself and everyone else who provide such great reports of their trips.
Best wishes
Mick




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Try to do this at one of your major military installations. You might run into problems as well. There will never be the "complete freedom".

So why miss some exciting places just because of some (in the end) minor problems?
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Old Saturday 6th November 2010, 15:00   #16
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....I was once stopped by the Greek military at Ipsilou, Lesvos and that was bad enough.
..........Mick
I know what you mean. Had problems in Hungary in 1975 (not my fault) and on Sardinia about 1990 (my fault).
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Old Wednesday 1st December 2010, 12:49   #17
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Ras Mohammed as you rightly say is a Nation Park, it is also a National Marine Park. Every time I have visit the park including diving I’ve needed a permit which can be purchased for about 5E. Can’t see being a taxi driver would exempt the diver or the occupant from requiring a permit
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Old Friday 3rd December 2010, 19:39   #18
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Ras Mohammed as you rightly say is a Nation Park, it is also a National Marine Park. Every time I have visit the park including diving Ive needed a permit which can be purchased for about 5E. Cant see being a taxi driver would exempt the diver or the occupant from requiring a permit

Not sure what you are trying to say here. Tickets had to be purchased for the taxi driver as well. But at the rate that foreigners pay, not at the rate for natives. But that was not why the taxi driver was harassed. It was me anyway who paid his ticket.
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Old Friday 3rd December 2010, 23:18   #19
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I had the same experience at Ras Mohammed, Robert. We had to pay for the taxi driver as well as ourselves.

As we approached the impressive gateway to the area and I got my camera ready to take a photo the taxi driver warned me off with a wave of his hand and the single word "Police".

They just don't like you messing about with cameras, binoculars and other stuff at their checkpoints. The armoured steel shields with the firing slots that stand next to the road at each checkpoint don't give the impression that they are just there for show.

A few days later were coming away from St Catherine's and had to stop at a checkpoint. Some birds were hopping around the barrier that I had a strong feeling were bar-tailed larks. I didn't for the life of me dare to put my bins up to check. Sod's Law meant that I never saw a bar-tailed lark on the trip.
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Old Saturday 4th December 2010, 00:21   #20
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Do NOT pay the full rate for the taxi drivers!

They get in on the 5LE tickets, you pay 25LE.

Try to pay in local currency, it's cheaper in the end and they can't cheat you as easy, since they give you the entry tickets.
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Old Saturday 4th December 2010, 09:27   #21
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I paid in Egyptian pounds but I can't recall the individual sums.

I kept the entry tickets, which have the prices on the back (in US dollars for some reason).

Nabq; myself and the taxi driver two tickets at $5.

Ras Mohammed; three tickets at $5 each.

St Katherines; Only two tickets for me and my wife at 3$ each. Maybe the driver didn't need one. I recall that this visit was cheaper than the others.


the whole set-up is thoroughly confusing. With prices set in dollars but paid for in LE you don't really know what the hell you're getting.
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Old Saturday 4th December 2010, 16:22   #22
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Quote:
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Do NOT pay the full rate for the taxi drivers!

.........
That's fine in theory, but if you want to get in instead of possibly being refused, you simply comply. It's different if you have lots of time.
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Old Thursday 9th December 2010, 13:05   #23
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The sharks in Sharm el Sheikh are obviously not restricted to the sea.
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Old Thursday 9th December 2010, 16:11   #24
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These stories from Egypt surprise me. I bird in Libya and have very little trouble with check points or police.

My only problem in 18 months has been when a visiting friend used a scope near a petrochemical works. I personally have never been stopped even though I have been through countless checkpoints.

My main problem when birding is over-friendly children who want their photos taken.

Its amazing how wrong perceptions can be.
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Old Thursday 9th December 2010, 16:19   #25
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These stories from Egypt surprise me. I bird in Libya and have very little trouble with check points or police.

My only problem in 18 months has been when a visiting friend used a scope near a petrochemical works. I personally have never been stopped even though I have been through countless checkpoints.

My main problem when birding is over-friendly children who want their photos taken.

Its amazing how wrong perceptions can be.
I've watched birds in Israel for more years than I care to remember and I have had no problems at all, yet Egypt was a problem every single day. The sole reason why I won't go back to Egypt is the constant police harrasment which is completely over the top.

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