Wednesday, 20 November 2019

UAE 19 - Day 13

Today's highlight was undoubtedly achieving great views of both Sandgrouse! I'd searched extensively for these birds, so VERY satisfying to finally find them.

Pin-tailed (introduced)
Wonderful birds!!!

I spent the afternoon searching for Sociable Lapwing (Plover) at Al Saad Farms west of Al Ain. Tried hard but no luck. Had a possible PIN-TAILED SNIPE though. One for the dark Winter nights!

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

UAE 19 - Day 12

Great day today. No time for details BUT I found this...

Bimaculated Lark
Rather chuffed!

I also added...


Another excellent and fortunate day.

UAE 128
Trip 97

UAE 19 - Day 11

Today was spent to the North of Dubai in the Umm Al Quwain area, about an hour from Rob's house.

Top birds today were (UAE ticks in red)...

Terek Sandpiper


Little Green Bee-eater

Isabelline Shrike

Great Grey Shrike

Always a balance...between Birding, socializing and blogging! I don't always get it right BUT I'm happy with how it goes these days...I think! Three days until the "weekend" here then we leave Rob and Laura and head North-east to Fujairah for our hotel for four nights to finish off our holiday. I still have birds to try for before we leave, I just have to decide when and where?

UAE 126
Trip 93

Sunday, 17 November 2019

UAE 19 - Day 10

A wonderful afternoon was had at Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain today. 8 Egyptian Vultures gave me an unbelievable fly-past at low level. One of the best Birding experiences I've had...EVER!

Here's the one that landed...

I can't do justice in the time I have available. I don't want to be anymore anti-social than I already am!

I later looked for Sociable Plover at Al Saad (no, not me!) Farms. No luck today BUT I will return to try for this rare bird.

UAE 19 - Day 9 update

A purple patch Saturday morning at Al Qudra. Rob and Laura are moving house, so we had a few hours free and boy did it pay off...


Saturday, 16 November 2019

UAE 19 - Day 8/9

I joined Robert for his golf lesson yesterday morning...

Not a bad backdrop!

Afternoon out with Rob at a local theme park yesterday. A bit of fun for the boys! More fun in the evening with a few beers at an Irish pub for my birthday treat...21x3!

I pick our car up this evening which will give us more time and scope for our second week here.

Update: A purple patch Saturday morning at Al Qudra. Rob and Laura are moving house, so we had a few hours free and boy did it pay off...


Friday, 15 November 2019

UAE 19 - Day 7

Slow start today after the morning commute...

Around 11 we headed South again to Al Qudra. I wanted to reach a few more sites from eBird. Having the Jeep certainly helped. We drove the tracks to the South Cycle area...

Targets here were Cream-coloured Couser, Greater Hoopoe Lark and Lappet-faced Vulture. None seen but a very relaxing hour was spent in total solitude. Definitely "away from it all". We see some amazing things on our travels. Today we came across this environmental centre which looked like something off Star Trek..

There was a large solar-powered electrical power station also. No problem with raw material here!

I'd looked yet again for Arabian Babbler at the Bike Cafe without success so I decided to try another series of lakes known as Duck Lakes.

Now then, as us Birders know only to well, you can search and search for target birds to no avail. It can be frustrating at times but it's always a challenge I want to take on. As well as birds you know are out there, you hope you may come across something more " unexpected ". Today was such a day.

As we approached the first lake I noticed a bird in the top of a distant bush that looked " good". It was obviously a Bee-eater but it didn't look that "little ". I reached for my bins and there it was...a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater.

As you know, when planning a trip you always dream of stumbling across a scarce/rare migrant. I'd just done so. Happy days. There are a few records every Autumn but the window was closing. Looking at eBird my record is at the latter end of the window

Too brief for my camera, unfortunately and I couldn't re-locate it in the next hour before dusk...

A tremendous end to our first week. Friday and Saturday is the weekend here, so time will be spent with Robert and Laura with limited or no Birding. I pick my hire car up on Saturday evening which will give more time for Birding next week, when they return to work.

Stay tuned.

Trip 71
UAE 120

Thursday, 14 November 2019

UAE 19 - DAY 6

The morning didn't go to plan as after I dropped Rob off at work, I tried a couple of City Centre Parks. I guess you can imagine trying to navigate central Dubai!

The first park Al Mamsar was having a women and children only day! The second at Safa Park had a phone parking system! Maybe I should have researched more...but I'm not that smart....or bothered!

So, back to the house to pick Louise up and out into the Bab al Sham desert to look for a particular favourite of mine. I'd seen a couple last year in a specific area so I thought I'd try the same place again. there's a LOT of Desert!

It took a while BUT I eventually found one in the relatively "cool" 33C (I was in the Jeep)...

Greater Hoopoe Lark (70)
A cool the heat.

We had the last hour back at Expo Lake watching the sun go down. Very few people about and a perfect end to the day.

UAE 19 - Day 5

Tuesday 12th

D63! That's the name of the road out of the City towards the area known as Al Qudra. It's a 40 minute drive from Robert's place.

There's a series of lakes, creating an Oasis which is a magnet to birds. There are some introduced Wildfowl to confuse matters somewhat but there's also plenty of wild birds to look for.


Cream-coloured Courser


Still, had a nice relaxing time and saw some great birds...

Black-tailed Godwit...

Glossy Ibis...

Added...UAE ticks in bold

Ferruginous Duck...

Cattle Egret...

Marsh Harrier c20
Pallid Harrier - male
Spotted Redshank
Isabelline Shrike...

Trip total 69
UAE 119

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

UAE 19 - Day 4

Settled in now, so time for a twitch!

A WHITE-CROWNED WHEATEAR had been found way up in the Northern Mountains at Al Jaroof Village...

Robert's Jeep Sahara came in handy, as the last few miles were on a dirt road. We had directions from Tommy Pederson, a resident of the UAE and a keen Birder who runs the UAE Birding website.

We arrived around noon. The directions were excellent (which is always a good start) so I sorted out a spot for Louise to read and I began searching. He had mentioned a wall that looked like a dam and I spotted one that looked "good". I gave it 30 minutes but nothing was seen...

There was more than one area like this. I had co-ordinates but I'd unsurprisingly lost my signal here.

I then tried the obvious hill with the radio mast...

Unfortunately there were two chaps having a discussion right by the mast! However as I scanned there it was, just below them!!! Amazing really...

Proof indeed
It was only there for a few seconds but I was rather chuffed to grab an image of any sort, especially when I didn't see it again in the subsequent FOUR hours. Apparently this was only the 14th record for the Country with many of those being "untwitchable". In fact this was the first "twitchable" bird for TWENTY years! Lucky me. Combine this with the MOURNING WHEATEAR I found at Jabel Hafit on my last visit, the UAE has been kind to me. I also saw 4 Pale Crag Martins and an Indian Roller...

Oscar Campbell, another resident birder based in Abu Dhabi had also been kind enough to provide me with some information. I'd already had one failed attempt to find Hamrinayah Fields, a key site in the North of the Emirates. Second time lucky as I arrived at the turf farm around 3.30pm. Water in the desert = birds. The first bird I saw was this smart chap on the fence...

Little Green Bee-eater

A better view than I managed in the whole trip last year!
I spent a wonderful hour scanning the assortment of waders present including a Caspian Plover...
New species for the trip (UAE ticks in bold)
Greater Sand Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Pacific Golden Plover
Curlew Sandpiper
Temminck's Stint
Little Stint
Citrine Wagtail
Tawny Pipit
Red-throated Pipit
Water Pipit
Indian Silverbill
Trip Total 61
UAE ticks 12

Sunday, 10 November 2019

UAE 19 - Day 3

Had a run up the Coast today to try a new spot, namely Hamraniyah Fields. A Caspian Plover was seen there yesterday. No luck but we had a couple of hours there, getting a feel for the area. Great views of Indian Rollers, Little Green Bee-eaters and Red-wattled Lapwings.

Maybe a trip for a MEGA tomorrow?

Off to watch the Footy with Robert...

Saturday, 9 November 2019

UAE 19 - DAY 1/2

After a late arrival we took it easy on our first day (Friday) with a trip to Ra's Al Khor slap bang in the middle of Dubai. An amazing place with plenty of Birdlife including the wonderful Greater Flamingo...

Nice to get early and excellent views of a Striated Heron...

Juvenile Night Heron...

Also nice to see (Greater Spotted) Eagles (4) over a major City...

Have to go for now.

35 species seen including a couple of UAE ticks...Teal and Curlew Sandpiper.

Quiet day Saturday...

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

UAE - Time for a change of scene

My jaunts to Cornwall over the last couple of weeks plus other commitments i.e. work has meant holiday planning hasn't been completed. No matter, I've done enough to have a good idea of my basic plan. I'll check eBird tomorrow for the latest rarities as they will be the focus of my initial jaunts.

My final comments on the contentious birds of the Autumn...

It seems I'm in good company regarding doubting birds yet still travelling to see them! We're a funny lot us twitchers...


I'll be writing a diary of my trip to hopefully provide some interest for you, especially if you're thinking of visiting the area.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Puzzling Pipit?

Yes...I bit!

I made the journey to Sennen, Cornwall yesterday morning for this controversial bird. Yet another!!!


Understandable ID confirmation and provenance issues, as always, rear their heads with such birds. So why did I go if I have doubts? I went for the experience. I still enjoy the challenge and let's face it, I don't get many opportunities these days!

The weather was horrendous on the journey down with gale force winds, lashing rain and significant surface water on the M5. I made it though. On reaching Penzance I paid a visit to Tesco for some provisions, hoping the weather would didn't!

I made my way up to the site at Sennen arriving around 2pm. It then stopped raining. I parked and got my stuff together. There had been one early morning report but nothing since? I could see the group of Birders over the wall and they did appear to be "focussed". I negotiated the wall...eventually...

...and joined the group. Sure enough the bird was showing to around 20 yards!! No pic I'm afraid as I deliberately left it in the car due to the weather...and the grotty bird!

The massive field
I watched it for around 15 minutes then returned to exercise Bud before the next downpour...which duly arrived.

VERY lucky with my timing.

I stayed overnight in a very reasonable B&B and cruised back today. So there you go. I've seen it. An insurance/obligation/hypocritical...possible tick! Hypocritical because I've turned down birds I don't rate in the past, as you may remember? Trouble is, most things seem to get the thumbs up these days and I don't want to get relegated lol!  As already stated, I guess there's no cure for the thrill of the chase...even though this time it was less than thrilling. It will be interesting to see what's decided regarding this particular occurrence. No European records and poor condition can't help its case I feel? Time will tell.

The bottom line knows BUT a decision will have to be made and I will adhere to it purely for listing purposes. If that confirms my be it!


UAE planning all but complete now. I'll be doing a diary, if you care to follow?

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Where was I?

Sting in the tail of the Autumn fun with a juvenile STELLER'S EIDER turning up on Westray, Orkney yesterday. Intermittent reports from different locations are confusing matters somewhat but it was reported at dusk again this evening at its original location...Loch of Swartmill...although it was flushed by some kids in a boat and flew towards Papa Westray!? All the very best to those who have travelled and are maybe going to do so. I won't be one of them.

Personal circumstances and a forthcoming trip nest week to see my son in the UAE (more later on that one) means an attempt is impossible. I'm rather keen, as you know but I can say no...and I have done. Maybe it will winter there, so I can make the trip in December? There have been long-stayers in the past. There's optimism for you!!

Back to reality.

Yesterday I had a wonderful time at my beloved NDC. I figured the Derwent may have burst its banks after the recent rain and on arrival, I was pleased to see that it had ...

Taken from Bubwith looking NW
I NEVER get tired of the views here.

A Stonechat was a nice surprise just after I'd taken this picture...

Onto Duff...

There's worse views!
I set my stall out and watched. I was delighted to see some Whooper Swans were in residence which was quite surprising considering the flood was relatively "new". Water was still flowing on to the Carrs and I was hoping it wouldn't get too deep as this isn't beneficial to many species feeding. Decent  numbers of waders were present... hour vigil but I reckoned on at least 45 birds

Ruff 25
Lapwing 1500
Golden Plover 85
Curlew 5
Dunlin 10
Snipe 1

Different groups of Whoopers came and went during my 5 hour vigil but I reckoned on at least 45 birds present. They are truly wonderful birds. They called regularly throughout my stay...Magic!

It's always nice to see something "different". Today was such a day. After scanning back and forward many times from the Geoff Smith Hide ...out of nowhere...

Great White Egret
Distant (as most things are here) but satisfying to FIND. It later transpires that there had been three in the Valley for a while (thanks Haydn)...but I didn't know that. Ignorance is bliss!

...and then there were two!

They must have been working the ditch. After watching them for around half an hour (and putting the news out) the local farmers tractor flushed them and they flew North...

Far more records theses days but still a fine sight, especially here! To be honest it's nice to remember when they were much scarcer/rarer. You appreciate the sighting more!

The Whoopers stayed in there usual area...

...there calls were easily audible.

Mid-afternoon I was rewarded with a fly-by as a group made their way onto Bubwith Ings...

A fine sight indeed
...then another group...

Great stuff!

Obviously I'm biased BUT I love the fact that these magnificent birds have been returning to NDC/LDV since time immemorial and I've had the privilege to watch them for 33 years!

I'm back over tomorrow to meet Haydn on Skippy to try again for my York Area Raven. No doubt I'll be popping in to NDC again...

NDC Year 75

Friday, 25 October 2019


A quiet morning with no sign of any Whooper Swans... unfortunately! Grim weather was forecast but around 11 I got a message from Haydn informing me he'd seen a couple of Ravens on his patch (Skipwith Common).

As this would be a York Area tick for yours truly I decided to make the trip. I arrived around 1 and spent an hour with him but no luck. Pleased for him though, especially when he told me he'd had a couple of Whooper Swans over. TWO Patch ticks!!! He admitted that if I hadn't been coming over he'd have left sooner and missed them. So I like to think I contributed... in a way!? both actually, as I'd sent him the report on the Ravens being seen last Tuesday.

After he'd returned to work I pulled into the car park at NDC but the rain was now torrential and the visibility was poor, so I headed home to beat the rush hour traffic in Hull.

Haydn's BOC pic
I'll have another crack next week... on a fine day!

Thursday, 24 October 2019


A strange one this...

News broke after some photos posted on-line suggested that a juvenile LESSER KESTREL had been seen at Fraisthorpe near Bridlington. The photos were excellent close-ups and over time they gathered much support from experienced Birders that it did in fact show thus species.

I was snookered (again) yesterday having a work day but some negotiating aka begging meant I had a small window of opportunity early afternoon. After no confirmation early morning a positive message was posted around 11.30 so I set off up the Coast.

I found the site easily as it was in (amazingly) the same area as the previous LITTLE BUSTARD record! Many familiar faces were present and "the bird" was fortunately showing well if distantly.

The rest of the day involved much debate on site and on-line as to what had actually been seen!

Which bird... which species... which expert?

Who knows... I don't! Let's see what comes out in the wash...

Monday, 21 October 2019


Various sightings from St Mary's had been posted since early October but "intermittent and VERY elusive" seemed to be the predictable scenario. Add to this the track record for longevity of this species and my chances of connecting remained slim, I felt. Ironic that one long-staying BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO (North Uist, May 2016) has meant that most twitchers have this species on their list, including me, while some of us are still chasing the more frequently occurring YB! Oh and by the way, it's a lovely placid looking thing and one of my favourite species I enjoy watching in Texas.

A brief summary of earlier movements...

I drove through the night early Monday to Hentervene Holiday Park near Bude after an encouraging update late Sunday. After some initial confusion pre-dawn I found the site and parked up...

I think this is what you call an encouraging sign! I made a £10 donation to the Cornwall Air Ambulance. I have a link!
I had a good walk around the thankfully small site trying to figure out which tree the photo was taken in...

Around 9am I bumped into the manager. Nice chap who put me in the picture and led me to the area were it had been seen up until 11 yesterday. He said he'd seen and photographed an "unusual bird". After sharing the sighting with friends the scenario developed but not fast enough to allow a Sunday twitch. It was a lovely secluded spot but despite giving it till noon and covering the area thoroughly, I couldn't locate it...

News that the Scilly bird was still present didn't help matters!! You may remember my past track record? I was the only Birder present. Home James.

... I did consider an attempt but the combination of having my "friend" and working next day made this impossible.

Fast forward to Tuesday...

After the morning run, I was just leaving the Docs when the message came through that the Scilly YBC was still present! Of course, I wasn't at home and didn't trust the phone (an age thing) so I made my way back home, rather hastily, and reached for the laptop. Flights available early Wednesday...BUT...the website had frozen!!! Always relaxing twitching? By the time it was active again the flights had gone and I was looking at a 12.30 departure. Oh dear, I said! I took it anyway. Also, the late return had gone on Thursday, so now I only had till 2pm. My window had shrunk somewhat, just to add to the excitement?

I sorted the kennels, accommodation and shift change out before doing the afternoon run. Returning home around 4.30 I had a moment of inspiration and decided to have another look at the Skybus website for a cancellation...Wednesday available flight! No messing this time, I rang direct and grabbed the seat. I also managed to get a return flight on Thursday at 5.30. My window had just got bigger! The significance of this will eventually become apparent. After dropping Bud off I returned home to pack my gear. After having a meal with Louise I headed South West....again!

I parked up around 7.30am at Lands End airport (after grabbing a couple of hours kip) and made my way into the terminal. After making a forlorn enquiry regarding an even earlier cancellation (don't ask, don't get) I took a seat and waited for my flight. Positive news...
Scilly YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO still St Mary's at Dump Clump

I'd arranged a taxi to pick me up and I was soon walking towards the said "clump". It was now 10.10 but as I reached the DC it  became clear that the bird wasn't showing, in fact a birder with a radio told me it had been reported by Shooters Pool at Lower Moors! I set off again (with all my clobber). When I reached SP I was met with the same glum scenario. All my initial enthusiasm was starting to draining away...slightly. It didn't help when a couple of chaps informed me they'd been trying to see it for the past WEEK!!!

I walked out into the open from SP towards the Lower Moors hides and joined a small group of hopefuls on the boardwalk. The group included Sam Viles and Kro Malik. On the plus side the weather was excellent, sunny with little wind. It was now 11.15. Then an encouraging shout..."I've got it"!!! Sure enough there it was ,after all these years..."my"...

After much fumbling I managed a pic!
I reckon the bird was around 40 yards away and constantly moving through the vegetation. I guess you can imagine how I felt!!! The bird was present on and off for around 5 minutes before disappearing in the direction of SP. As far as I'm aware this was the last reliable sighting of the bird on the day and it hasn't been seen subsequently. Now you see the significance of my good fortune regarding the flights! I'm trying not to think about not getting the time changes and arriving at 1pm!!!!!!

After sharing the euphoria with the Birders present I made my way down to the quay for the 1pm boat to St Martin's. The second part of the twitch was about to commence, if in a far more relaxed fashion. On arriving the group disembarked and subsequently disappeared at a good pace. I still had all my clobber (I was beginning to think I'd brought an anvil with me!) and I've lost a yard or two over the years! My main focus had been the YBC as I'd seen the second target once before on St Agnes in October 2008....but that's another story!

Fortunately I managed to figure out the area concerned and started the yomp to the other end of the island (still carrying...). I was rather tired (aka knackered) on arrival, so I picked a spot near the Bakery and waited. The ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK had been seen at numerous locations in the area but didn't hang around at any of them. A challenge! After a few shouts and half-hearted attempts to get to where the bird had been seen I remained determined to "sit it out". The return boat was at 4.30 and mercifully it was from the higher quay, just across from the adjacent cricket pitch. However there was a significant descent to said cricket pitch apparently. I then bumped into the Harringtons. After a chat we swapped numbers and said we'd let each other know if we got lucky. They headed for the cricket pitch while other Birders were still at the quarry.

Around 3.45 a group of Birders passed in a bit of a hurry. News of a sighting by the cricket pitch. Despite the aforesaid slope, for some reason this time, I decided to join them. Another piece of luck/good decision. I just managed to get on the bird before it flew off yet again. The Harringtons had rung me but I was halfway down the hill at the time. Thanks anyway!

Things were going well you might say! I made the mercifully short walk to the Quay and enjoyed a wonderful journey back to St Mary's in the late afternoon sunshine still glowing from my success...

On returning to St Mary's I was going to call it a day and check in...but no...I headed up onto the west side of Peninnis Head to try for the BLUE ROCK THRUSH which would be a Scilly tick. Well, got to make the most of the available daylight and fine weather. I gave it till dusk before retiring defeated to the mighty Atlantic pub for the celebratory fish and chips plus pint (or three) of Tribute.

Celebratory Atlantic meal...

I then needed to charge my phone to see where I was staying for the night. Other things had taken priority. A VERY good nights sleep was had followed by an excellent breakfast.

So, what to do on Thursday? I decided to have a walk up Peninnis Head...

Fine scenery

...and sit and wait for the BLUE ROCK THRUSH...hopefully? I wasn't as lucky today achieving one brief fly-by sighting thanks to another Birder. Good enough to get my Scilly tick. A BIG bonus was a lovely Wryneck which showed well briefly by the lighthouse...

I bumped into John Mahon and Luke Harman who I'd met at the RBG yesterday. We had a good chat about this and that before moving on. I said I'd give John a mention as he was complimentary about my Blog lol!

I left Peninnis around 1pm (I had given it 5 hours) and headed for Hugh Town for some lunch. I received a phone call from an unknown number. I don't normally answer but for some reason I did. It was Skybus asking if I wouldn't mind leaving earlier as the weather forecast was poor. Yet more luck. Bottom line was I flew off at 4.30 instead of 5.30 which allowed me to get home earlier. Nice.

Future thoughts...

While I was having my celebratory meal I came to a decision. Time for us to return and resume our October holiday. It's an unbeatable experience for me. Yes, I might miss something elsewhere BUT I'll see many more "good birds" in a small area while enjoying fantastic scenery and good company. I might even FIND something!! Hope Louise agrees!?

To finish...after being in the wrong place on a number of occasions I had finally connected with my most wanted at my favourite location.

Personal Twitching Utopia had been achieved.