Sunday, 30 December 2018

Stateside Memories

A quiet period...so I've finally decided to add my records to eBird. Quite a task as they go back to 2000! Many fantastic personal memories from Alaska to Texas. It's reminded me how fortunate I've been to make so many trips to the US and enjoy so many States. It would always be my No1 choice of Birding destination.

Texas is booked for the Springtime and my other choice would be a return to the spectacular sites of Alaska. Here's hoping...

Friday, 28 December 2018

Still here!

A combination of a lengthy Virus, a busy family Christmas and a couple of long shifts has meant Birding has been virtually non-existent. I did manage a Barn Owl, 3 Buzzards, c80 Curlews and c40 Fieldfares today on my Easington round.

I hope to have something to post worth reading...soon.

Monday, 24 December 2018

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE

Saturday, 22 December 2018

UAE - Summary

Still got "the lurg" but your intrepid Blogger is battling on!

Overall thoughts

The Dubai traffic didn't disappoint, being truly horrendous. Louise wouldn't drive and I couldn't blame her. This made navigation tricky to say the least. I downloaded Google Maps for the UAE onto my phone which worked pretty well (and saved fortunes on data). Even so, negotiating some of the junctions with EIGHT lanes of traffic was...interesting!!! Louise wasn't impressed with the overall standard of driving...if you get my drift!

At least 8 days of the holiday was spent with Rob and Laura mainly sightseeing and dining. This still gave me plenty of time to look for some Birds. You won't be surprised to hear I'm not a fan of Cities but I do like smart buildings and there are plenty to see in Dubai.


Burg Khalifa
The temperatures were at my upper limit but generally very pleasant, ranging from 25 - 30C with an almost constant gentle breeze, which helped. The time spent in the Mountains at Jebel Hafeet was particularly pleasant. Anyway, better than November in England (sorry).
 
The Birding trips made to different sites met with varying levels of success, from instant connections to complete failures. No matter, I'll be better informed next year...if they'll have us back. The information on the website is excellent and I had a couple of superb contacts (Tommy Pederson and Mark Smiles) who gave me some great tips during my visit.
 
Ebird as always was indispensable. Combined with Google Maps it enhanced my Birding experience immeasurably. The best example of this was how we negotiated the large City of Al Ain to Al Jimi's Oasis for the PALLID SCOPS OWL. Even Louise was impressed! I have added all my sightings to this wonderful site...like a good lad.


That will do I guess. So, what did I see? I've concluded my counts and decided I amassed a total of 100 species. As you know I'm reluctant to "over-do" the pics (still got camera issues) and stats, so I'm just listing the Lifers (personal highlights with comments and pic) I saw...or didn't (with excuses).

Lifers

Sand Partridge

Grey Francolin

Socotra Cormorant

Western Reef Heron

Striated Heron

Oriental Honey Buzzard

Great Spotted Eagle

CRAB PLOVER- a cracking bird I hope to get closer to next time


RED-WATTLED LAPWING - common but VERY smart!
 
 

SOOTY GULL - a VERY unusual and smart Gull
 
 
GREAT BLACK-HEADED GULL - finally nailed this monster...just!
 
 
Greater Crested Tern

PALLID SCOPS OWL - gotta love eBird!


PHAROAH EAGLE OWL - great name, great Owl
 
 
ARABIAN COLLARED KINGFISHER - Lucky to see this rare bird so well



Green Bee-eater

Indian Roller

House Crow

Brown-necked Raven

Common Myna

GREATER HOOPOE LARK - A large, distinctive Lark
 
 

Desert Lark

BLACK-CROWNED SPARROW LARK - Another smart Lark. Only a single bird seen.


Pale Crag Martin

White-spectacled Bulbul

White-eared Bulbul

Scrub Warbler

Graceful Prinia

Red-tailed Wheatear

Hume's Wheatear

MOURNING WHEATEAR - Always special to find a National Rarity!
 
 
 

Purple Sunbird

Striolated Bunting

Indian Silverbill

Not seen

Persian Shearwater

Indian Pond Heron - 2 concerted efforts but no luck from Khor Kalba bridge. Just out of view. eBird can sting sometimes!!!
 
 

Lappet-faced Vulture
 
Shikra

Pin-tailed Snipe

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse - considerable time spent in the right areas

Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse - not enough time to try for

Namaqua Dove

Egyptian Nightjar - not enough time to try for

Alexandrine Parakeet - couldn't find one amongst the Rose-ringed

Red-tailed Shrike

Plain Leaf Warbler - no luck at Masafi Wadi on 2 visits

Clamarous Reed Warbler - not specifically looked for

Menetries Warbler - no luck at Masafi Wadi

Arabian Babbler - thought I would have stumbled on one in suitable habitat

Variable Wheatear

I also missed White-tailed Plover (not specifically tried for but present) and the increasingly rare Sociable Plover (eBird informed me on my return that I may have scored near Jebel Hafeet!) A few Eagles were possible including LIFE Eastern Imperial and Steppe as was Great Knot at Khor al Beida. Hypocolius was present but inaccessible.

Texas April 12th...

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Lying low

A combination of a homecoming Virus and crap weather is enabling me to spend some time reviewing my sightings from the UAE.

As in life, there are highs and lows but generally I'm happy with how things panned out.

Besides I've got to leave some ticks for next year!

I hope to have my review completed this weekend...

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

UAE - Ra's Al Khor 2

It's now the 7th of December and it was a day for more quality time with my son Robert. Thankfully he was driving his new Jeep enabling me a relaxed journey into the centre of Dubai to visit the superb Ra's Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary.

Not a bad backdrop to the reserve!!!

The Mangrove hide has air-conditioning, piped music and a film show! Yet, it's remarkably relaxing and there are plenty of...birds.  This place is an oasis in a fast developing Mega City. Thankfully it's a World Heritage Site, fully protected by the Countries rulers. Dubai Creek provides the water and the birds just get on with it, oblivious to the urban landscape...I think?
A flavour of the species seen here...
Greater Flamingo
Glossy Ibis
Great Egret
Purple Heron
Red-Wattled Lapwing
Greater Spotted Eagle
Squacco Heron
Spoonbill
Western Reef Heron
Remarkably the UAE are building a new tower that will be even larger than the Burg Khalifa!! It will be situated in the Dubai Creek area and will be called simply...the Tower. Hopefully the birds won't be affected...too much.


Tuesday, 18 December 2018

UAE - Fujairah Area

Our second mini break consisted of a trip to the North East of the Emirates. Booking.com scored again providing us with another superb (and VERY reasonable) Hotel. Two nights half-board at the Royal M for £180!! Nice.

I tried a few sites along the "front" around Fujairah without seeing anything significant, then moved South to concentrate on the Khor Kalba area. We also had a drive North to Dibba which included an unsuccessful attempt to access the sensitive Wamm Farms site by the Oman border. At least I know the area now...for next time?

On the way North I spent some time quality time at Masafi Wadi.

A few highlights from Khor Kalba...

On the way down to the bridge I spotted a group of birds resting on the beach. A large Gull took flight as I parked the car. Surely not?


Oh YESSSSSS!!!


My LIFE GREAT BLACK-HEADED GULL. A truly momentous personal moment! Soooo glad I grabbed an image as it flew away.

I also counted 38 Sooty Gulls (another Lifer) in the fading light...



A striking and very laid-back species. Smart!

Quality
Onto Khor Kalba bridge and...

ARABIAN COLLARED KINGFISHER...


I'd seen the bird the day before within 5 minutes of my arrival...very fortunate!


On this second visit towards dusk I got talking to the Musa the security guard by the bridge.

Louise watching for Sea Turtles
Steph Leese had mentioned him and he was indeed a very nice chap. He mentioned that the Kingfisher could sometimes be seen from the weir.



I duly walked down there...and lo and behold the bird was perched on it!!!


The ACK is a rare and very local species, so I was chuffed to connect. We also saw some Sea Turtles...


There were at least 6 present. A lovely end to the day...


...................................................................................

I'm still fishing through a few pics but it's slow going as I've managed to acquire a Virus on my return! Tried to blast through it with a trip to NDC this morning but I feel even worse now! I did see a juvenile female Peregrine, cc Marsh Harrier, 6 Whooper Swans and 5 Ruff before the rain set in after my chip butty.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Back in the groove

First outing since returning from the UAE found me at Skeffling this morning.

First bird seen on leaving the car was a SEO...nice! A couple of miles later I'd added a cc Marsh Harrier and a Barn Owl!

I followed this visit up with a trip down Easington straight to view the 15 White-fronted Geese (P.181, S.129) plus a Taiga Bean (P.182, S.130).
.............................

Progress being made on my prep' for my UAE report. Hope to start shortly.

Thinking of my first Winter trip to Duff tomorrow...

Friday, 14 December 2018

Back home

As per usual, things got a little hectic towards the finish line...but in a good way!

Our first trip to the UAE proved interesting to say the least. Not a destination I would have chosen but seeing my son and his wife Laura was a priority. Their hospitality and generosity was heartwarming. We got the FULL sightseeing tour.

Development in Dubai is talking place at a frightening rate. A fifth of the world's cranes are here! Any habitat on spare land is disappearing FAST. Thankfully the future of the wonderful Ras Al Khor on Dubai Creek is secure. The road junctions are a challenge... to say the least. My decision to download Google maps onto my phone was a lifesaver.

eBird as always, enhanced the Birding significantly, enabling me to connect with several species that would otherwise have been very difficult, nigh impossible. PALLID SCOPS OWL and PHAROAH EAGLE OWL being two major examples.

Our two excursions to Jebel Hafeet and the Fujairah area worked out well, giving us a better understanding of the Country... and Rob and Laura some privacy! The Hotel at Jebel Hafeet was in an amazing location.

I will be doing a trip report (surprise, surprise)...











Saturday, 8 December 2018

Twit 2 Woo

Two Owl Lifers in 2 days...

Pharaoh Eagle Owl

Pallid Scops Owl
Gotta LOVE eBird!!!

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Egyptian Vultures

My best ever experience with this species today. SEVENTEEN birds seen together at the summit of Jebel Hafeet!!



The MOURNING WHEATEAR was also still present in the same spot, in fact I re-located it on the same boulder as yesterday...


Then it was gone...


It was a spectacular day with most things fitting into place. I had great views of Eastern Black Redstart...


...and Hume's Wheatear (Lifer)...


Both birds flew in and perched on the fence right next to me. My lucky day! I couldn't get close to a Striolated Bunting but I did see quite a few distantly. Fence again!


So, there you go. A brief taste of the Jebel Hafeet Mountain. Thoroughly recommended.

A debatable 74 species seen.

Trying for Pallid Scops Owl today at Al Jimi Oasis in Al Ain...if we can find the site!

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Al Ain area

Tried for Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse at Al Qudra... this morning, to no avail, before heading East to Al Ain. Negotiating the City proved to be troublesome but we eventually arrived at the Mercure Hotel mid-afternoon after a brief recce of the Green Mubazzarah (too hot)...nice views of Red-wattled Lapwing from the car though...


Louise was pleased with the view from the room on arrival...so was I!


I managed the last hour around the Hotel. Brilliant to observe 17 Egyptian Vultures around the masts. Distant but special. My best effort...


I also had my Life Desert Lark...


A superb spot above the Desert floor. Can't wait to have a good sesh tomorrow from dawn (6am). Time for T now though...

Monday, 3 December 2018

UAE - Half-time!

The sightseeing maelstrom is still in full flow! No problem. We're VERY grateful for the local knowledge of my son and Laura in this fast developing City.

I (finally) managed to access the viewpoint at Khor Al Beida and had excellent scope views of a dozen CRAB PLOVERS. Very impressive birds. I tried hard to find one that was close enough for a decent pic but it wasn't to be.

We move on to Al Ain tomorrow, which is the SE Emirate in the Mountains of Jebel Hafit. Today we visit the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. A visit to the Palace Gardens will also be in order to try for my life Oriental Honey Buzzard.

Time will tell...

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Al Qudra

A few more images...

cc Marsh Harrier
BW Stilt
Greenshank

 
...and a Lifer...Grey Francolin (common) in the shade...
 

 

Friday, 30 November 2018

UAE - First week impressions

More of an exploring mission than intensive Birding to be honest. A combination of having to drive and navigate (Louise doesn't fancy it and I can't say I blame her) and spending time with my lad has limited the opportunities. However, I am building up my knowledge of key sites....and access to them!

I've been impressed with the road system, if not some of the driving! The pace of development is incredible

Editing photos is difficult at the moment but I'll try and add a few when I can. My Ras Al Khor write-up will have to wait.

They have four days off now before we head for the Mountains of Al Ain for three days from Tuesday. Some intensive Birding can be done then. A visit to Abu Dhabi will be in order tomorrow and there are some decent sites in the area which I hope to "suss out". Might be difficult on this occasion though, as Rob wants me to go to the Warner Brothers World theme park. Yabba dabba doo...

Spoonbill, Al Qudra

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

RAKWR

Successful morning at Ras Al Khor Wetland Reserve. A superb site adjacent to downtown Dubai...

Reserve with a view!
More details tomorrow...