Trip Report: United Arab Emirates, April 3-18, 1998
Gerd Rotzoll, Hannover, Germany;
This is a short trip report of a first-time visit by Kristian Franz, myself, and
my son Robert to the UAE. Kristian was also accompanied by his wife and
daughter. We had booked a package tour that included the flight from
Frankfurt to Sharjah and accommodation at the Lou Lou a Beach Hotel in
Sharjah. From this base we started our daily trips with a car rented from
Avis who have a desk in the hotel.
To prepare for the trip we used the following two books:
- The birds of the United Arab Emirates by Colin Richardson
- Birds of the Middle East and North Africa by Hollom, Porter,
Christensen and Willis
We also read various trip reports available on the internet and the weekly
newsletter (by email) Twitchers' Guide, issued by Peter Hellyer of the
Emirates News. Up-to-date road maps are hard to find since new roads are
being built almost continuously. This means that some guesswork is needed
sometimes to find the right way. Traffic jams are common in the Dubai area,
but outside the big cities the traffic is normal. Be prepared for some wild
overtaking by the local drivers and for the tiresome speed humps!
The weather was sunny and very hot almost all the time reaching the 40°C
mark on several days. This had the effect that migration of passerines was
very slow, such that some species were not easy to find, and some were absent
altogether. Also, resident passerines had mostly stopped singing and were
- Ramtha tip (Sharjah)
- Umm al Quwain
- Safa Park
- Al Jazirah
- Khor al Beidah
- Al Jazeerah Khor
- Digdagga area
- Mushrif Park
- Khor Dubai
- Emirates Golf Course (EGC)
- Wadi Masafi
- Khor Fakkan
- Khor Kalba
- Quarn Nazwa
- Mamzah Park (Dubai)
- Al Wathba camel race track
- Khalidiya spit (Abu Dhabi)
- Wadi Bih
Since we hadn't been birding in the UAE before, we tried to see most of the
local specialties. The following notes are therefore written from a
first-time visitor's viewpoint, i.e. they contain only Middle East specialties
and species otherwise rare in Central Europe. A full species list is given
at the end.
Notes on selected species
- Socotra Cormorant
Only seen from the jetty at the northern tip of Umm al Quwain: about 50
flying by on 4.4. and about 1000 in a dense raft on 14.4.
- Little Bittern
2 at Ramtha tip on 15.4.
- Night Heron
1 at Ramtha tip on 4.4. and 1 in Safa Park on 5. and 15.4.
- Striated Heron
Singles on EGC (7.4.), at Khor Kalba (8.4.) and at the northern jetty of Umm
al Quwain (14.4.)
- Indian Pond Heron
An immature heron (2nd calendar year) on EGC on 7.4. was identified as this
species after consulting Colin Richardson. 1 ad. at Khor Kalba on 8.4.
- Cattle Egret
1 at Ramtha tip on 13. and 16.4.
- Western Reef Heron
Regularly encountered at Khor al Beidah with up to 20 (6.4.). Elsewhere
seen at Khor Dubai, Khor Kalba, Ramtha tip and Umm al Quwain.
- Purple Heron
Only seen once: 8 flying over at Khor Kalba on 8.4.
- Glossy Ibis
1 at Khor Kalba on 8.4.
Regularly seen at Ramtha tip with up to 20 (4.4.). Elsewhere 6 at Khor
Kalba on 17.4.
- Greater Flamingo
Large numbers both at Ramtha tip (200 on 15.4.) and Khor Dubai (400 on
7.4.). A few (up to 8) also at a shallow pond beside the EGC (12./15.4.)
- Ruddy Shelduck
4 at Ramtha tip on 15.4.
- Honey Buzzard
1 over Mushrif Park on 7.4.
- Crested Honey Buzzard
A real highlight of the trip: 2 birds (1 ad. male + 1 immature) circled low
over the highway between Sharjah and Dhaid on 17.4. and gave excellent views!
- Egyptian Vulture
1 subad. over Khor Kalba on 17.4.
- Spotted Eagle
The only sighting was of 2 over Mushrif Park on 9.4.
- Bonelli's Eagle
1 ad. + 1 immat. in Wadi Bih on 14.4.
- Grey Francolin
Small numbers seen at Safa Park, Al Jazirah, Mushrif Park, Quarn Nazwa and
- Black-winged Stilt
The best places for this species were Ramtha tip with up to 20 (4./13.4.)
and the pond beside EGC.
- Crab Plover
Despite several visits to Khor al Beidah, this species almost eluded us.
The solution was to be there well before high tide and scan the lagoon from
the top of a dune. 24 birds were thus located quite far out on 13.4. which
left the area about 1.5 h before high tide.
- Lesser Sand Plover
Good numbers (>100) at Khor al Beidah (6./9.4.) and Khor Dubai (7.4.)
- Greater Sand Plover
Surprisingly scarce. Only single birds seen at Khor al Beidah on 6./9./13.4.
- Pacific Golden Plover
The best place for this species was Ramtha tip, where a flock of up to 40
was regularly seen (9.-16.4.). Elsewhere 2 at Khor Dubai on 7.4.
- Red-wattled Lapwing
Several territorial birds, some already with chicks, were encountered,
among other places, at Ramtha tip, Umm al Quwain, EGC and below the Wadi
- White-tailed Plover
4 at Ramtha tip on 15.4.
- Great Knot
At least 11 birds were seen among the Bar-tailed Godwits at Khor al Beidah
on 6.4., but not on subsequent visits.
- Broad-billed Sandpiper
Only at Khor Dubai with about 20 on 7.4.
- Pintail Snipe
1 bird was flushed from a small puddle beside the fence of the EGC on 12.4.
- Marsh Sandpiper
1 on 4.4. and 2 on 15.4. at Ramtha tip
- Terek Sandpiper
Highest numbers at Khor al Beidah with 20+ on 9.4. Elsewhere smaller
numbers at Khor Dubai, Khor Kalba, Ramtha tip and the pond beside the EGC.
- Sooty Gull
Common (>100) on the east coast in the harbour of Khor Fakkan and along the
beach of Kalba (8./17.4.). Singles also at the coast of Umm al Quwain and
- Great Black-headed Gull
At Khor al Beidah 2 on 6.4. and 1 on 13.4., all 2nd calendar year birds.
- Little Gull
A first summer bird found at the shallow pond beside the EGC from 11.4. to
at least 15.4. was only the 5th record for the Emirates.
- Slender-billed Gull
Largest count of 70 at Khor Dubai on 7.4., smaller numbers at Ramtha tip,
EGC and on the east coast beach near Kalba.
- Siberian Gull
Both forms (heuglini and taimyrensis) were present in good numbers along
the beach near Kalba (8./17.4). At least 1 ad. was at Khor al Beidah on
6.4., with some immatures which could also have been this species.
- Gull-billed Tern
10 were at Khor Dubai (7.4.) and smaller numbers at Khor al Beidah and Al
- Caspian Tern
20 at Khor Dubai on 7.4. and 1 at Khor al Beidah on 9.4. were the only
- Swift Tern
10 were seen far out from the northern tip of Umm al Quwain on 4.4. The
best place was the harbour of Khor Fakkan, where many roosted on a sort of
pipeline together with other terns on 8.4. One was also seen at Khor Kalba
- Lesser Crested Tern
Good numbers (>10) at the gulf coast at Khor al Beidah, Al Jazeerah Khor
and Umm al Quwain. Also at the east coast on the beaches near Kalba.
- White-cheeked Tern
25 flew past the northern jetty of Umm al Quwain on 4.4. and 2 again on
14.4. Many roosted on the beach near Kalba in a mixed tern flock on 8.4.
- Saunders' Little Tern
The largest count was 50 at Khor al Beidah on 6.4. Smaller numbers were
also seen at Umm al Quwain, Khor Dubai, Ramtha tip and at the east coast
- Whiskered Tern
Ramtha tip was the only place where we saw this species with a maximum of
15 on 4.4.
- White-winged Black Tern
4 at Ramtha tip on 15.4. was the only sighting.
- Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse
Our visit to Al Wathba camel race track on 12.4. did not produce the
expected sandgrouse since the area was too dry. The small puddle outside
the EGC, however, proved to be a reliable place during the morning hours: 4
on 11.4. and 30 on 15.4.
- Namaqua Dove
A splendid male was on Al Wathba camel race track among numerous Palm Doves
on 12.4. (only about the 15th record for the UAE).
- Ring-necked Parakeet
Seen in many places with suitable vegetation. Most common in Safa, Mushrif
and Mamzah Park.
- Alexandrine Parakeet
7 in Safa Park on 15.4.
- Striated Scops Owl
1 seen beside the swimming pool in Mushrif Park at dusk on 13.4.
- Eagle Owl
1 or 2 ad. + 2 juv. on the hills at Quarn Nazwa on 16.4. Not of the form
desertorum, but apparently ascalaphus.
- White-collared Kingfisher
Our first visit to Khor Kalba at low tide on 8.4. produced about 5 birds,
seen very well. A more fleeting visit at high tide later in contrast
produced no sighting at all.
- Little Green Bee-eater
Small numbers of the local race muscatensis were seen in many places, for
example: Ramtha tip, Khor al Beidah, EGC, Quarn Nazwa, Mushrif Park.
- Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
About 10+ hunting around Khor Kalba on 8.4. and 4+ over Al Wathba camel
race track on 12.4.
- European Bee-eater
The highest count were 10 in Safa Park on 5.4. Several were also seen or
heard near Diddagga (6./14.4.), in Wadi Masafi (8.4.) and Wadi Bih (14.4.)
- European Roller
1 bird only seen in Wadi Bih on 14.4.
- Indian Roller
Many seen in the Digdagga area (6./14.4.). Singles also in Sharjah, Mushrif
and Safa Park.
Safa Park proved to be the best place for this species with up to 15
(5./10./15.4.). Also seen in Mushrif Park (7.4.) and near Digdagga (6./14.4.)
- Black-crowned Finch Lark
The best places for this lark were the dunes at Khor al Beidah and Khor
Kalba. Smaller numbers also at Quarn Nazwa and Al Wathba.
- Desert Lark
3 in Wadi Masafi on 8.4. and several in Wadi Bih on 14.4.
- Hoopoe Lark
Several were found in the dunes at Khor al Beidah on every visit. Also at
Al Wathba on 12.4.
- Short-toed Lark
At Khor al Beidah, 3 on 9.4. and 2 on 13.4. 5 at Al Wathba on 12.4.
- Pale Crag Martin
Only one sighting of 2 birds in Khor Fakkan on 8.4.
- Blyth's Pipit
In very hot weather on 12.4., we flushed 3-5 birds from grassy areas on Al
Wathba, that were subsequently also seen on the ground.
- Long-billed Pipit
2-4 birds were seen in Wadi Masafi on 8.4.
- Red-throated Pipit
3 in Mamzah Park on 11.4. and 3+ on Al Wathba on 12.4. were the only
- Forest Wagtail
Thanks to Simon Aspinall, who gave us perfect directions to the bird, we
successfully twitched this long-staying bird at Khalidiyah spit (Abu Dhabi) on 12.4.
- White-cheeked Bulbul
Found at several places. Common in Mushrif Park, for example.
- Yellow-vented Bulbul
Several birds were noted near Digdagga on 6.4. and in Wadi Masafi on 8.4.
- Red-vented Bulbul
The first birds with juv. were seen right at the hotel (4.4.). Elsewhere at
Safa Park, Al Jazirah and common in Mushrif Park.
- Grey Hypocolius
1 male and 1 female were found in a garden right beside the palace at Al
Jazirah on 5.4.
- Rufous Bush Robin
1 seen in the same garden on 5.4.
- White-throated Robin
A female was seen at Khalidiyah spit on 12.4.
- Isabelline Wheatear
About 5 birds seen at Al Wathba on 12.4.
- Pied Wheatear
About 5 at Khor al Beidah on 9.4. and 1 at Al Wathba on 12.4.
- Hume's Wheatear
Only two sightings of 2 birds each in the Wadi Bih area on 6. and 14.4.
- Rock Thrush
Single males were seen at Khor al Beidah (9.4.), EGC (10.4.), Al Wathba
(12.4.) and a male + a female at Quarn Nazwa (10.4.)
- Graceful Warbler
Common in gardens and parks, i.e. Safa, Mushrif Park etc.
- Clamorous Reed Warbler
About 10 singing at Khor Kalba on 8.4., and 1 at Khor al Beidah on 9.4.
- Olivaceous Warbler
1 at Mushrif Park on 7. and 13.4., 2-3 at Safa Park on 10.4. and several at
Khalidiyah spit on 12.4.
- Booted Warbler
3 singing birds at Khor Kalba on 8.4.
- Upcher's Warbler
Singles in Wadi Bih area on 6.4. and Wadi Masafi on 8.4., 3+ in acacia
steppe west of Hatta on 16.4. and 2 again in Wadi Masafi on 17.4.
- Arabian Babbler
Several birds were encountered near Digdagga (6.4.), in Mushrif Park
(7.4.), Wadi Masafi (8.4.) and west of Hatta (16.4.).
- Purple Sunbird
Rather common both in parks (Safa, Mushrif) as well as in wadis (Masafi).
- Isabelline Shrike
Mostly single birds were seen at EGC (7.4.), Wadi Masafi (8.4.), Khor al
Beidah (9.4.) and Al Wathba (12.4.), with 2 in Mamzah Park on 11.4. Both
the phoenicuroides as well as the isabellinus race were seen.
- Woodchat Shrike
1 or 2 in Wadi Masafi on 8.4.
- Masked Shrike
2 at Mamzah Park on 11.4.
- Brown-necked Raven
Seen at Umm al Quwain (4.4.), Wadi Bih (6.4.) and near Dhaid (17.4.)
- Pied Mynah
Up to 4 at Safa Park (5.4.), and 2 at Ramtha tip (15.4.)
- Common Mynah
Very common indeed! Found almost everywhere in towns, parks etc.
- Bank Mynah
Many in the Digdagga area on 6.4. and in Mamzah Park on 11.4.
- Yellow-throated Sparrow
Only two sightings: a pair near Digdagga on 6.4. and a male in Mushrif Park
- Indian Silverbill
The first birds were seen directly from the hotel room. Quite common in
habitats ranging from parks to wadis.
- House Bunting
1 singing male in Wadi Bih on 14.4.
Full Species Trip List
- Little Grebe -- Tachybaptus ruficollis
- Black-necked Grebe -- Podiceps nigricollis
- Socotra Cormorant -- Phalacrocorax nigrogularis
- Little Bittern -- Ixobrychus minutus
- Night Heron -- Nycticorax nycticorax
- Striated Heron -- Butorides striatus
- Indian Pond Heron -- Ardeola grayii
- Cattle Egret -- Bubulcus ibis
- Western Reef Heron -- Egretta gularis
- Little Egret -- Egretta garzetta
- Grey Heron -- Ardea cinerea
- Purple Heron -- Ardea purpurea
- Glossy Ibis -- Plegadis falcinellus
- Spoonbill -- Platalea leucorodia
- Greater Flamingo -- Phoenicopterus ruber
- Ruddy Shelduck -- Tadorna ferruginea
- Wigeon -- Anas penelope
- Teal -- Anas crecca
- Mallard -- Anas platyrhynchos
- Garganey -- Anas querquedula
- Shoveler -- Anas clypeata
- Pochard -- Aythya ferina
- Honey Buzzard -- Pernis apivorus
- Crested Honey Buzzard -- Pernis ptilorhynchus
- Egyptian Vulture -- Neophron percnopterus
- Marsh Harrier -- Circus aeruginosus
- Hen Harrier -- Circus cyaneus
- Spotted Eagle -- Aquila clanga
- Bonelli's Eagle -- Hieraaetus fasciatus
- Osprey -- Pandion haliaetus
- Kestrel -- Falco tinnunculus
- Grey Francolin -- Francolinus pondicerianus
- Moorhen -- Gallinula chloropus
- Oystercatcher -- Haematopus ostralegus
- Black-winged Stilt -- Himantopus himantopus
- Crab Plover -- Dromas ardeola
- Little Ringed Plover -- Charadrius dubius
- Ringed Plover -- Charadrius hiaticula
- Kentish Plover -- Charadrius alexandrinus
- Lesser Sand Plover --Charadrius mongolus
- Greater Sand Plover --Charadrius leschenaultii
- Pacific Golden Plover -- Pluvialis fulva
- Grey Plover -- Pluvialis squatarola
- Red-wattled Lapwing -- Hoplopterus indicus
- White-tailed Plover -- Chettusia leucura
- Great Knot -- Calidris tenuirostris
- Sanderling -- Calidris alba
- Little Stint -- Calidris minuta
- Temminck's Stint -- Calidris temminckii
- Curlew Sandpiper -- Calidris ferruginea
- Dunlin -- Calidris alpina
- Broad-billed Sandpiper -- Limicola falcinellus
- Ruff -- Philomachus pugnax
- Common Snipe -- Gallinago gallinago
- Pintail Snipe -- Gallinago stenura
- Black-tailed Godwit -- Limosa limosa
- Bar-tailed Godwit -- Limosa lapponica
- Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus
- Curlew -- Numenius arquata
- Spotted Redshank -- Tringa erythropus
- Redshank -- Tringa totanus
- Marsh Sandpiper -- Tringa stagnatilis
- Greenshank -- Tringa nebularia
- Green Sandpiper -- Tringa ochropus
- Wood Sandpiper --Tringa glareola
- Terek Sandpiper -- Xenus cinereus
- Common Sandpiper -- Actitis hypoleucos
- Turnstone -- Arenaria interpres
- Sooty Gull -- Larus hemprichii
- Great Black-headed Gull -- Larus ichthyaetus
- Black-headed Gull -- Larus ridibundus
- Little Gull -- Larus minutus
- Slender-billed Gull -- Larus genei
- Siberian Gull -- Larus heuglini
- Gull-billed Tern -- Gelochelidon nilotica
- Caspian Tern -- Sterna caspia
- Swift Tern -- Sterna bergii
- Lesser Crested Tern -- Sterna bengalensis
- Common Tern -- Sterna hirundo
- White-cheeked Tern -- Sterna repressa
- Saunders' Little Tern -- Sterna saundersi
- Whiskered Tern -- Chlidonias hybridus
- White-winged Black Tern -- Chlidonias leucopterus
- Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse -- Pterocles exustus
- Rock Dove - Columbia livia
- Collared Dove -- Streptopelia decaocto
- Turtle Dove -- Streptopelia turtur
- Palm Dove -- Streptopelia senegalensis
- Namaqua Dove -- Oena capensis
- Ring-necked Parakeet -- Psittacula krameri
- Alexandrine Parakeet -- Psittacula eupatria
- Striated Scops Owl -- Otus brucei
- Eagle Owl -- Bubo bubo
- Little Owl -- Athene noctua
- Pallid Swift -- Apus pallidus
- White-collared Kingfisher -- Halcyon chloris
- Little Green Bee-eater -- Merops orientalis
- Blue-cheeked Bee-eater -- Merops superciliosus
- European Bee-eater -- Merops apiaster
- European Roller -- Coracias garrulus
- Indian Roller -- Coracias benghalensis
- Hoopoe -- Upupa epops
- Black-crowned Finch Lark -- Eremopterix nigriceps
- Desert Lark -- Ammomanes deserti
- Hoopoe Lark -- Alaemon alaudipes
- Short-toed Lark -- Calandrella brachydactyla
- Crested Lark -- Galerida cristata
- Sand Martin -- Riparia riparia
- Pale Crag Martin -- Ptyonoprogne fuligula
- Barn Swallow -- Hirundo rustica
- Blyth's Pipit -- Anthus godlewskii
- Long-billed Pipit -- Anthus similis
- Tree Pipit -- Anthus trivialis
- Red-throated Pipit -- Anthus cervinus
- Forest Wagtail -- Dendronanthus indicus
- Yellow Wagtail -- Motacilla flava
- White Wagtail -- Motacilla alba
- White-cheeked Bulbul -- Pycnonotus leucogenys
- Yellow-vented Bulbul -- Pycnonotus xanthopygos
- Red-vented Bulbul -- Pycnonotus cafer
- Grey Hypocolius -- Hypocolius ampelinus
- Rufous Bush Robin -- Cercotrichas galactotes
- Nightingale -- Luscinia megarhynchos
- White-throated Robin -- Irania gutturalis
- Redstart -- Phoenicurus phoenicurus
- Isabelline Wheatear -- Oenanthe isabellina
- Northern Wheatear -- Oenanthe oenanthe
- Pied Wheatear -- Oenanthe pleschanka
- Hume's Wheatear -- Oenanthe alboniger
- Rock Thrush -- Monticola saxatilis
- Graceful Warbler -- Prinia gracilis
- Reed Warbler -- Acrocephalus scirpaceus
- Clamorous Reed Warbler -- Acrocephalus stentoreus
- Olivaceous Warbler -- Hippolais pallida
- Booted Warbler -- Hippolais caligata
- Upcher's Warbler -- Hippolais languida
- Chiffchaff -- Phylloscopus collybita
- Willow Warbler -- Phylloscopus trochilus
- Arabian Babbler -- Turdoides squamiceps
- Purple Sunbird -- Nectarinia asiatica
- Isabelline Shrike -- Lanius isabellinus
- Great Grey Shrike -- Lanius excubitor
- Woodchat Shrike -- Lanius senator
- Masked Shrike -- Lanius nubicus
- House Crow -- Corvus splendens
- Brown-necked Raven -- Corvus ruficollis
- Pied Mynah -- Sturnus contra
- Common Mynah -- Acridotheres tristis
- Bank Mynah -- Acridotheres ginginianus
- House Sparrow -- Passer domesticus
- Yellow-throated Sparrow -- Petronia xanthocollis
- Indian Silverbill -- Enodice malabarica
- House Bunting -- Emberiza striolata
If there are any questions, don't hesitate to contact me at
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by Urs Geiser; firstname.lastname@example.org;
July 19, 1998; updated May 29, 2000