Thursday 12 April 2018

Trip to United Arab Emirates 2018

1st April 2018
I landed in the early hours of the morning, in Dubai International Airport. When I got to my grandparents' house just outside Dubai, I slept for a few hours, and got up at around 7 AM to do some garden birding. My photos seemed to have improved since last year's visit!

Laughing Dove

A Red-vented Bulbul at the top of a tree (the majority of the birds come to this tree throughout the day: I will refer to it as 'the Tree')

Not my best shot of the species, but here are my first Arabian Green Bee-eaters!

A distant Rose-ringed Parakeet

Laughing Dove perched on the windowsill

 A Common Myna calling from the Tree 

House Sparrows practising their dance routine

Two Green Bee-eaters on a metal frame outside the house

The same pair: are they mating?

In the afternoon, I visited a relatively-new nature reserve on the Sharjah-Ajman border, called Wasit Wetland Centre, or Al Wasit for short. It consisted of a few aviaries, and obviously, a giant wetland. It was so huge that visitors had to go on a golf cart safari around the reserve! One disappointment of the safari was that we didn't visit all the hides, as only very few visitors were allowed on site at any one time, but I managed to get a few shots, and not just of birds...

Two Sand Gazelles resting by the roadside

Close-up shot of a Sand Gazelle

Black-winged Stilt

A blurry Kentish Plover

Distant Greater Flamingos

Red-wattled Lapwing

A flock of White-eared Bulbuls

Probably the highlight of the visit to Al Wasit- a Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse running away from me (it didn't even see me)!

White-eared Bulbul

A pair of curious Sand Gazelles

Black-winged Stilt in an open-air enclosure

Red-wattled Lapwing in the same enclosure

2nd April 2018
Visited some friends in Dubai for the whole day. They were very keen to visit the nearby Ras Al Khor Nature Reserve (which I had been to once before), so we visited the two hides just before they closed.

Red-wattled Lapwing

Little Egret

The very few Greater Flamingos at the Lagoon Hide

My second sighting of a Great Egret in the UAE

A digiscope shot of a lifer: a Great White Pelican! 

Western Reef Heron (I had to correct the Lagoon Hide's guard, who thought it was a Grey Heron)

This Little Egret flew right next to the hide!


Great Egret with Black-winged Stilt

Curlew at the Flamingo Hide: there were no Flamingos!

A terrible shot of Gull-billed Terns

White-eared Bulbul on a tree facing the mudflats

The Dubai skyline and Ras Al Khor in the sunset

Not just birds: a Common House Gecko in a residential area outside the reserve

3rd & 4th April 2018
Over the next couple of days, I mainly garden birdwatched, but saw many birds while visiting family too.

The  Green Bee-eater Pair

 A blurry pic of one of the pair

White-eared Bulbuls, seen while visiting family

Laughing Dove with something in its mouth

Red-vented Bulbul

Indian Silverbill at the bird bath

A fluffy-looking Common Myna, Dubai Mall

Common Myna, Dubai Mall

5th April 2018
After seeing my first Hume's Whitethroat in the garden, I went back to Ras Al Khor to see the Flamingos being fed. This time, the Flamingo Hide was packed with tourists, so it was very hard to find somewhere to see the birds!

The Flamingos, as if they expect to be fed

Walking up to the feeding station

A close-up shot of one of the many Flamingos

A lone Curlew, missing out on the fun

A fight breaks out

Another lifer- a Graceful Prinia

My best shot of one of the Green Bee-eater pair

9th April 2018
After three very busy days with hardly any time for birding, I managed to capture the evening antics of the resident Indian Silverbills in the Tree.

 Indian Silverbill with a new hairstyle, given by the wind

Waiting for the rest of the flock

A blurry shot of a Silverbill preening

10th April 2018
The last day of the trip. I visited a nearby reserve in Ajman called Al Zorah, as well as the adjacent Al Zorah Golf Course. 

A disk I found on the shore

Got great views of Crested Larks on the golf course

A pair of White-eared Bulbuls on the perimeter fence
Black Headed Gulls

Mixed flock of gulls and terns

Greater Flamingo, Oystercatcher, Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Little Stint, Curlew, Pacific Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Spoonbill, Baltic Gull, Water Rail, Caspian Gull and Great Egret all on the same lake (those are all the species I have identified so far)!

After getting many life ticks from Al Zorah, I headed back to my grandparents' house for some garden birding. Suddenly, I saw a tiny, iridescent bird at the top of the Tree. I knew it could only be a bird I had been wanting to photograph for over three years, and when I zoomed in, it flew away. For about half an hour, I tried to track it by its distinct call, until I found two of them fighting in a bush next to the Tree. It paused for a second, and I finally got a rewarding shot. It was a Purple Sunbird!

Purple Sunbird, after half an hour of tracking 

Overall, this year's trip was amazing, getting many more life ticks and visiting more sites. Next time, I hope to visit a reserve in Umm-al-Quwain called Khor-al-Beidah, an important site for migratory waders. I also hope to see my two target species: Crab-plover and Hypocolius!