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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

UAE - January 2023 (1 Viewer)

Tuesday 31st January:

Last day of the trip today but as my flight was not until the very small hours of tomorrow morning it was essentially a full day with a bit of a late start to sort the bag out.

I was at Kalba Harbour before Khor Kalba had opened so had a scan from the car park and a quick look over the adjacent scrubby area. Once the gatehouse opened I tried to pay but was just waved in (is there a charge?) and wandered on to the bridge; a couple of Oystercatchers were on a gravelly island and scanning along the edge of the trees on the landward shore an Arabian Collared Kingfisher * (endemic subspecies kalbaensis) was sitting on a branch over the water. The visitor centre looked interesting but I only had a quick look as I was keen to get to the hides. The first one is in the manicured grounds and looks across to the mangroves: a good selection of the usual herons/egrets and waders on the exposed mud-bank in front with the trip additions of a frenzied flock of feeding Dunlin and a single Squacco Heron hunting in slow-motion through the mangrove roots. The whole site is set up for educational visits and a school party had gone down the path so I had a quick look around the facilities; I must say I was not convinced by the aviaries - it was a shame to see the captive birds. As a bit of time had passed I crossed the bridge to the mangrove boardwalk seeing more waders but it was quiet in the trees and from the two hides there were only a few of the waders seen previously. I did a couple of circuits of the hides and boardwalk but with no further action until crossing back over the bridge I had another good view of a perched and then foraging Collared Kingfisher. Crossing the bridge back to the car park a Common Kingfisher flashed underneath and down the channel. At the harbour I found a few each of Greater and Lesser Crested Terns side by side on a sandbank with a selection of gulls, including a couple of Sooty Gulls *.

Leaving the east coast I headed inland and tried to find a way in to Warsan Lakes but failed miserably despite circumnavigating the site a number of times. As I wasn't too far away I tried the Mangrove Hide at R'as al-Khor again but it seems as though the closure is semi-permanent so paid another visit to the Flamingo Hide - it seemed to be the national bring your family to the hide day so I didn't stay long but the selection of birds was similar to my previous visit. Where was I going to go to use up my time? It was a bit hot to consider the walk out to Khor al Beida again so I drove north and set up at my dune-top viewpoint overlooking Al Jazirah Khor. I spent the afternoon scanning the site - pretty much similar numbers and species as at the start of the week both in terms of the waders/herons/seabirds out on the mudflats and the near constant activity in the coastal scrub. The only additions being another Arabian Babbler and a final trip list addition when a Sparrowhawk flew through low creating momentary havoc. A nice relaxing way to finish the trip.

As dusk set in I headed off south again. I had hours before the flight but to avoid an extra day's hire charge had to return the car by 22:30. I thought I had left plenty of time but the evening traffic around Dubai airport was at almost complete grid-lock and I made it with not too much to spare! So a bit of time to wait for the check-in to open, which gave time for a re-pack, and then once done and through security plenty of time to eat before the return flight. Flying in to Zurich on the way out I noticed a nice looking wooded hillside within walking distance of the terminal and knowing I had a long lay-over on the way back I checked it out on Google maps and it looked very doable. On landing at Zurich it was raining and 2 degrees so I thought better of it and sat out the time in the terminal before the short flight back to Heathrow, where the procedures went painlessly (despite the Border Force strike) and my pre-booked taxi was waiting for me.

A great trip to a region I had not really considered before with some stunning landscapes and nice birds - 113 species total with 33 life ticks.

Thanks for reading and for all the nice comments.
A great report Pete and serious food for thought! I like those odds - 33 Lifers (would be even more for me) out of 113 species! Many thanks for taking the time to write it up for us.

No worries, Chris, I'm happy to think someone will get something out of it. The chance for new birds in a relatively compact and 'easy' country was one of the reasons I went for it as a destination. It was a good trip and I find doing a report is a great aide memoire at the time and something to look back on in the future.
Thanks for another great report Pete.

I had a nice visit to Zurich airport on a work trip a few years ago, and upset my counterpart in their sustainability team by telling him I'd seen more birds on the tour he gave me of the airport than on the whole of the train ride to Geneva the next day!

The same guy also made me laugh when asked where I could find a cheap and cheerful restaurant. He replied, completely deadpan. "No. This is Switzerland. They are not cheap, and they are not cheerful."

Did you do any research into finding Hypocolius at all? That would be something I would be keen to see at this time of year if I was in the Gulf. Maybe it's like finding Waxwing in the UK? They could be anywhere and you've got to be in the right place at the right time?

When the idea of the trip first came up at the end of last year Hypocolius was one of my main potential targets. But it became clear that this was increasingly unlikely.

Below is what the uaebirding website has to say - the information is a bit out of date, as you can see, even the updates. I came to believe Lulu Island is the only potential place now and I didn't visit as I couldn't find details on how to get there.


An erratic and nomadic winter visitor in variable numbers. Can be found in any plantation in the country, with the formerly good (and very accessible) site of Ghantoot possibly still having birds, at least erratically. Since 2008 one farm on Sila'a Peninsula has proved a reliable wintering site, at least from late November until January (position 24.070195 , 51.774336).
The birds have also regularly wintered on the rarely-visited Dalma Island (in the forest near the hospital and big mosque). The difficult to access Lulu Island off Abu Dhabi has also proved a very reliable wintering site, but you will need your own boat to reach there.

A new roosting site was discovered in November 2012; the mangrove patch immediately to the east of Yas Island--Yas Links Golf Course (position 24.485080 , 54.589927).

F - Lulu Island

Unlike all the above sites, this one requires some effort to get to. However, this may prove very worthwhile indeed, as, also unlike all the above sites, Lulu Island has had Hypocolius wintering annually (since 2009 at least). These are present reliably from mid (sometimes early) November to late March, peaking in February – March when over 100 may occur. Views are often superb, especially early morning when the perch openly and can be scoped at leisure.

In general, the best area to look for Hypocolius is highlighted in red in the map above although, over many visits, groups have been seen at various parts of the island, particularly those marked in blue. Exact details, including how to get to Lulu Island, are presented at this link.

Although technically you are not allowed to walk in the island interior, being on the beach is generally ok, and nobody should bother you if stay on it. So you could walk along the beach up to the red area and then just cut in a little to check the best area – it is only a very short distance from the beach. Make sure you know the call – playing it back will not help but you nearly always hear the birds before you see them – there are freely available recordings, some of which came from Lulu Island, at this link.

Ghantoot used to be good for Grey Hypocolius in the plantation pictured below during late afternoons between November and mid April. This is no longer the case, as the plantation is no longer being watered."

I see from ebird that 25 were seen on Lulu Island on 4th February - perhaps I should have tried harder to get out there...
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I had a six hour layover at Abu Dhabi the other day and got on the bus to town. I would have got off at Mangrove National Park but there was no bus stop and no way to access the park so far as I could see. So I walked along the Corniche thinking of the Hypocolius on Lulu Island, but there were no boats to be seen, so I doubt if there's ever much chance to get over there. So quite difficult to use a long layover productively. Next time I'll try Yas Links, which is very close to the airport. I note that access is limited, but If need be I'll play my first ever game of golf, while in reality looking for Hypocolius.
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