Monday, 30 December 2019

2019 - Review

Not another review, I hear you cry!


You may have noticed I keep my own Blog List. They obviously vary in content and direction. That's the way it should be. So, I've been thinking over the Christmas break...dangerous I know. Quality family time is paramount for me, hence the lack of posts...and Birding! All visiting and socialising is now done (we don't do New Year's Eve) so it's now time to look back on the Year.

German Shepherds...what a surprise! My sons though. Mia and Mylo.

Spiderman was always my favourite!
As I come to the end of my tenth year of blogging I'm happy to continue to provide something of interest...hopefully. If you've followed my ramblings for any length of time you've no doubt got a pretty good idea of my position on many aspects of our hobby by now! I've seen a LOT of change over 30 plus years but  won't dwell on that as I'm trying to be cheerful here. How thin can you split a Yellow Wagtail!!!

I see my Blog as a mixture of casual comment, diary type entries and (hopefully) some sharing of information. It doesn't have to follow any particular path...does it? Hopefully it's not too self-centred! I like to think I include the reader?

Lists ARE important to most of us...BUT they're not the "be all and end all". If I go, I go full steam...but as you know, I have "let birds go"...and I'm glad to do so. I've also admitted some hypocrisy and poor ID!

The main thing is to ENJOY what you do...and I certainly do that...although dipping does sting!

My trips to my beloved Texas and the UAE were very enjoyable, in very different ways. The latter benefitted greatly from increased familiarity. I have no regrets (well maybe one) from my unsuccessful adventure to Papa Westray. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and challenge also knowing I may get another chance?

I don't usually do this...BUT I guess it's quite important to me!

List additions...

Holmpton 167
Barnacle Goose
Caspian Gull my garden for 2 days!

Duff 157
Wood Sandpiper

Yorkshire 391
Little Crake
Pacific Swift
Red-billed Chough
Baikal Teal?

Britain 520
Tengmalm's Owl
Brown Booby
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Pacific Swift
Hermit Thrush
Eastern Yellow Wagtail
Paddyfield Pipit?

My bird of the year?
After much deliberation I choose...and I didn't even get in the car!!!

2020...bring it ON!

Monday, 23 December 2019

Autumn 19 - Review

BROWN BOOBY - Kynance Cove, Cornwall 3/9
Red-billed Chough (Yorks tick) - Victoria Cave, North Yorkshire 7/9
Little Crake - (Yorks tick) Blacktoft Sands, North Yorkshire 17/9
YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO - Lower Moors, St Mary's, IOS 16/10
ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK - (2nd record) Cricket Pitch Area, St Martin's, IOS 16/10
BLUE ROCK THRUSH - (Scilly tick) Penninis Head, St Mary's, IOS 17/10
HERMIT THRUSH - Kitty Down, St Mary's, IOS 29/10
Surf Scoter - (Scilly tick) Porthloo Bay, St Mary's, IOS 29/10
Red-billed Chough - (Scilly tick) Old Town Bay, St Mary's, IOS 29/10

Throw in my trip to Dubai and my botched attempt at the STELLER'S EIDER and it's been quite an Autumn. No wonder I'm knackered! To "grip back" YBC and HT was EXTREMELY SWEET!!! I have no regrets whatsoever regrading my trip to Orkney. I loved the challenge of my solo adventure to the Northern Isles. My strategy was sound. I just had bad luck with the weather and my limited duck ID! However, I feel the story isn't over. As you say Steve Smith..."the fat lady hasn't sung yet"?

A quick acknowledgement regarding my Wife and car (definitely in that order) lol! I know I harp on about this but Louise's tolerence is FULLY appreciated and the old V70 is an extremely comfortable...beast!

So, have a great Christmas (I do like it) and a bird-filled New Year...

Friday, 20 December 2019


It seems we can no longer count STEPPE GREY SHRIKE. Dutifully removed from my British List...520

Thursday, 19 December 2019


Three hours sat in the Geoff Smith Hide from 10 till 1. 36 species recorded. The most noteworthy bird was an adult Mediterranean Gull (D.79) which was seen briefly within the first 5 minutes! As I sorted my camera out, I took another look through my scope...of course, it wasn't there! I fired a few shots off "blind" through the gloom...and got lucky. It wasn't seen again.

I'll have to check my records on the old faithful but I reckon I can count on one hand the number of sightings I've had here, so obviously pleased with this occurrence.  The other spectacle that remains in the memory is the regular movement of c500 Lapwings over the site throughout my stay. Wonderful!

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

UAE - Trip List - November 2019

I feel it's time to conclude my report now, so below is my list from November 19. I enjoyed the Birding more this time mainly due to being more familiar with the Country. The driving was "interesting", especially the first week when I took...and picked Robert up, from work in...shall we say "busy" Dubai traffic!!! The balance between Birding, Blogging and Socializing is always a precarious one but everyone is still talking to far as I know! Once again I can't thank this lady enough...

I love building a list (you've probably noticed that) and with the help of eBird and Google Maps I wasted far less time accessing Sites on this visit. The help given by Tommy Pederson and Oscar Campbell was invaluable and I would like to thank you again here. As stated (almost certainly too many times before) I prefer gradual increases in new birds rather than a flood which I find overwhelming. The UAE has just such a bird list, some familiar, some less so.

I still have some ID challenges to conquer (it's not just on Orkney that I struggle). Duos that spring to mind are...

Indian Pond Heron/ Squacco Heron
Great Egret/Intermediate Egret
Long-billed Pipit/Tawny Pipit

I AM improving though, with Tommy and Oscar's help! All species below are Cat A, B or C on the UAE List, although there are some grey areas with introduced birds around the Al Qudra area.

My sightings (UAE ticks in bold)

Egyptian Goose
Ferruginous Duck
Grey Francolin
Little Grebe
Greater Flamingo
Greater Cormorant
SOCOTRA CORMORANT - seen well at Khor Kalba Harbour.
Grey Heron
Great Egret
Little Egret
Western Reef Heron
Cattle Egret
Squacco Heron
Striated Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Glossy Ibis
Egyptian Vulture - 8 seen at Jebel Hafit including a fly-by of 6 in a line, over my head at a car park!
Greater-Spotted Eagle - Hard to miss at RAK
Bonelli's Eagle - my mis-identified Short-toed Snake Eagle! It was brief and very high as we drove into Fujairah. Thanks for the UAE tick Oscar!
Marsh Harrier
Pallid Harrier - Beautiful male flew over the car on the D63 on the way to Al Qudra
Black-winged Stilt
Grey Plover
Red-wattled Lapwing
SOCIABLE LAPWING - birds found at Hamrinayah Fields and Wamm Farms. 2 top moments after thinking I was going to miss out.
WHITE-TAILED LAPWING - 2 at Al Wathba Wetlands, another couple found at Expo Lakes
Lesser Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
CASPIAN PLOVER - a single seen at Hamrinayah Fields
Kentish Plover
Ringed Plover
Black-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Curlew Sandpiper
Temminck's Stint
Little Stint
Jack Snipe
Terek Sandpiper - An impressive TEN birds seen well at Khor Al Beida
Common Sandpiper
Green Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Marsh Sandpiper
Spotted Redshank
CREAM COLOURED COURSER - finally connected with great views of a single bird running around at Al Qudra with the Sandgrouse.
Slender-billed Gull
Black-headed Gull
SOOTY GULL - max count of 42 at Khor Kalba Harbour
PALLAS'S GULL - close views at RAK
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Steppe and Heuglin's)
Gull-billed Tern
Common Tern
WHITE-CHEEKED TERN - 3 scoped at Khor Kalba Harbour
Sandwich Tern
Lesser-crested Tern
Greater-crested Tern - 6 see n at Khor Kalba Harbour
SAUNDER'S/LITTLE TERN - One bird came into roost at Expo Lakes! Also seen at Khor Kalba harbour and Umm Al Quwain.
PIN-TAILED SANDGROUSE- introduced BUT very smart. Al Qudra.
CHESNUT-BELLIED SANDGROUSE - many skittish and elusive groups at Al Qudra.
Rock Pigeon
Collared Dove
Laughing Dove
NAMAQUA DOVE - Chuffed to finally find a single bird at Expo Lakes after many attempts.
Pallid Swift
Little Green Bee-eater
BLUE-CHEEKED BEE-EATER - lucky to find a late migrant at Love Lakes, Al Qudra.
Indian Roller
Rose-ringed Parakeet
Isabelline Shrike (Daurian)
Great Grey Shrike (Arabian)
House Crow
Brown-necked Raven
Common Myna
Bank Myna - my only sighting was of 2 birds at Hamrinayah Fields.
Greater Hoopoe Lark - pleased to find a single of this enigmatic species in the Bab Al Sham Desert.
Desert Lark - A flock of at least 40 birds at the entrance to Masafi Wadi.
Short-toed Lark
BIMACULATED LARK - arguably my best find and view of the trip. A single right by the car for 10 minutes at Al Qudra. Magic!!!
Crested Lark
Pale Crag Martin
White-spectacled Bulbul
White-eared Bulbul
PLAIN LEAF WARBLER - my best view of the smallest Phyllosc at Masafi Wadi.
Graceful Prinia
Bluethroat - One appeared put of nowhere along the track at Khor Al Beida. Yet another memorable moment!
Black Redstart
WHITE-CROWNED BLACK WHEATEAR - Nice to add this MEGA at Al Jaroof Village. 14th record for the UAE
Hume's Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Desert Wheatear
Purple Sunbird
Tawny Pipit - seen well at Wamm Farms
Water Pipit
Red-throated Pipit
Citrine Wagtail - 2 seen at Hamrinayah Fields
White Wagtail
Western Yellow Wagtail
MASKED WAGTAIL- seen well at Wamm Farms
Grey Wagtail - a single bird at Wadi Helo, Fujairah.
Striolated Bunting - Jebel Hafit
House Sparrow
Indian Silverbill

Misses/Not tried for (Lifers in capitals) - aka Next Year's Targets!

Tufted Duck
Eared Grebe
Persian Shearwater
LAPPET-FACED VULTURE - looked a long time at Al Qudra but nothing appeared.
Black Kite
Long-legged Buzzard
Pacific Golden Plover
Great Knot
PIN-TAILED SNIPE - studied many possible/probables
Caspian Tern
White-winged Tern
Whiskered Tern
LICHTENSTEIN'S SANDGROUSE - I didn't specifically target this very elusive species. Maybe next time?
Little Owl
Rose-coloured Starling
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler
CLAMOUROUS REED WARBLER - should have seen.
ARABIAN BABBLER - I looked hard for this bird but couldn't find one.
Blue Rock Thrush
Song Thrush
Siberian Stonechat
Richard's Pipit

Not seen this year

Sand Partridge
Crab Plover - tides didn't permit views on my visits
Oriental Honey Buzzard
Short-toed Snake Eagle
Bridled Tern
Pallid Scops Owl
Pharoah Eagle Owl
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark
Scrub Warbler
Asian Desert Warbler
Red-tailed Wheatear

Give or take a late adjustment I managed 128 species this trip which takes my UAE List to 145...I think!

Final thoughts
So, my second trip to the UAE, an area I would never have considered to be a possible Birding destination. However, with a bit of  foresight one can cobble together a more than decent Birding experience. Heat will always be a problem for yours truly  and "winter" is still pushing 30C. Still, it beats what Blighty has to offer and I'm VERY fortunate to have the opportunity to travel. The future is promised to no-one but all things being well, I hope to return to see Robert in January 2021. Fortunately, he's decided to come back for Christmas which is a big bonus. I hope you found something of interest in this report and maybe you'll consider a visit in the future? All posts can be found under Labels...UAE 19. There are some great birds out there...

Roll on Texas...April 11th...

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

UAE Review (5) - North West

Sites visited

Hamrinayah Fields
I visited this area three times, trying to get more familiar with the area, as many others come to that. In such an arid environment you are obviously looking for mini-oasis which will attract birds. The main habitat that fits the bill is turf farms. These sprinkler fed areas can provide some great Birding.

Little Green Bee-eater

Caspian Plover

Sociable Lapwing
Bank Myna
Citrine Wagtail

Umm Al Quwain - Khor Al Beida
I didn't connect with the star bird here this visit, namely CRAB PLOVER. As I'd seen this superb bird well last year, I didn't coincide my visit with the optimum tide time. I still saw some "good stuff" here though. My best encounter was with this Isabelline (Daurian) Shrike...

This bird sat motionless,, appearing to just be enjoying the sunshine. Another was seen later...

Another Shrike sp (Southern Grey)...kept its distance...

I also had great...if brief views of Bluethroat UAE tick...

My only Osprey of the trip was seen here...into a blazing sun...

...a good time to post a few Greater Flamingo pics. A thankfully common bird here...

Sunday, 15 December 2019

UAE Review (4) - North East

I don't want to drag this on too long but I think it's worth while giving a flavour of the other area we spent time in. We based ourselves in Fujairah at the superb Royal M Hotel.  5 star half board for £45pp. Very nice! Many thanks to Robert and Laura for putting us up for two weeks and lending us their Jeep.

Fujairah Sites
Fujairah Port Beach and Corniche
Khor Kalba Harbour
Khor Kalba Bridge
Khor Kalba Artificial Inlet
Wadi Ham Dam

Al Haray WWT Fujairah
Wadi Hayl
Wadi Helo
OK...trying hard not to repeat what was already posted in my diary. The above sites were all visited, some on more than one occasion. The tidal surge that had hit the coastline recently made navigating the Kalba area...interesting! Major road works were in place rebuilding the seawall and adjacent road system.

I can show a girl a good time!!!
My hide...

It was needed
The view
Kalba harbour turned out to be my favourite spot. Not least because of this special bird...

Sooty Gull
I admit I did overegg my time with this species but I admit to being captivated by it...

My maximum count in the Kalba Harbour area was 42 birds
It is a cracker though...for a Gull!

Socotra Cormorants were also present in small numbers.

A decent selection of Gulls and Terns including Lesser and Greater Crested...

I did have a couple of tries for the ARABIAN COLLARED KINGFISHER from the bridge but I couldn't find it...

However, I did see "our" Kingfisher...

MAJOR find last year (any excuse to post my pic again lol!)

I also bumped into Musa, the guard on the bridge who I'd met 12 months earlier. Nice to see him again...

Other Major Sites visited in the NE

Wamm Farms

Really pleased to actually access this site after last year's failure. I spent an enjoyable 4 hours here on the November 26th. The big moment was obviously finding a SOCIABLE LAPWING...

Top moment!
I took plenty of puzzling Pipit pics but as I write, I don't have a confirmed LONG-BILLED PIPIT. Plenty of Tawny images though. More to learn.

First light...

Shortly after...


This site provided me with my only quality view of Graceful Prinia...

I'll be back!

Another top Birding site is Masafi Wadi...

I spent some time here last year. My main target here was  PLAIN LEAF WARBLER and I'm glad to report I saw one ...well. No pic...maybe next time? No luck with Scrub Warbler this trip. Hume's Wheatear is always apparent here...
Last word has to be here...

UAE 19 Review (3)

Ras Al Khor

This superb reserve is slap-bang in the middle of Dubai. It's not everyone's cup of tea for a relaxing get-away-from-it-all experience BUT I did find it a positive experience...surprisingly!

There are three hides but Mangrove is by far the best. Music and air-conditioning to boot! Great for close views of Herons, Egrets, Spoonbills and Ibis...

Another trying to be an Indian Pond Heron (which I still can't nail)...

An interesting lack of buff on this bird (maybe the light?)


Now then...4 Egret possibilities!

Western Reef Heron...



...and...a slight possibility of Intermediate. Taking advice from local experts at the moment!

So two more ID challenges for me...three if you include LONG-BILLED PIPIT/Tawny Pipit. More on that later in a Wamm Farm post.

On ebird I AM sure of is this beast...PALLAS'S GULL (I prefer GREAT BLACK-HEADED)...more dramatic!

The bird was only thirty yards away by the pumping station...brilliant!!! My UAE contacts Tommy (Pederson) and Oscar (Campbell) both informed me this is an early date for the species, which was the icing on the cake!

Loving the new ID challenges that another part of the world offers. Not too many...just enough to make it a meaningful extension to my totals. The light and heat (yes, still warm for a Northern European) are a challenge but on the positive side I feel like I've got a new pair of bins!!

Definitely a site to return too...

Nice backdrop!