Monday, 30 January 2012

Up and running in Abu Dhabi

Well, better late than never. Finally I can respond to Simon and can say that, yes, I have seen some birds. 89 species so far in fact, putting me on 50% of my target of 177. So it seems a very even race at this point. Most of January was spent knocking off most of the expected wintering species, and cleaning up on – or at least trying to –  a few scarcities that I knew had been about in November – December and hoped were still lurking somewhere. For the record, some highlights are summarised below.

After a spectacular start – my very first UAE bird of 2012 was the Oriental Honey-Buzzard that flew straight over the balcony at dawn on my first morning back – I have racked up most the expected wintering herons and waders during a couple of counts; these included Terek Sandpiper falling without difficulty, although Crab-Plover remains at large. Other than that, there is unlikely to be much progress with shorebirds until September arrives. Lesser Crested Tern was an early bonus (no problem in spring and summer mind you) and Pallas’s Gull was predictable but pleasant nonetheless, not least the one that lolloped past the balcony one afternoon. A couple of visits to Emirate’s Palace yielded the Buff-bellied Pipit that appeared in December, now with a friend, and the bird of the year so far, my first AD Blyth’s Pipit that gave very instructive and close views both times.

Corn Bunting, Coot and Greater White-front were also handy additions, all ones I found in late autumn but far from annual on the island. Coot is a mega in fact! Despite pinning them down last month and searching hard this on, there was a less satisfactory result (at least so far) for Masked Shrike, Bluethroat (not overly concerned; have a fair chance of both in due course), European Stonechat (more worrying) and Shelduck (probably no chance now; this is even rarer than Coot here).

Highlight of the month, inevitably, was my first visit of the 2012 campaign to Lulu Island, just 500 yards from the main Corniche but a world apart in terms of birding; it is probably better than everywhere else on the island combined on a good day. Thus in 4 hours I went from 81 species to 89; these were mostly predictable such as Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and Tawny Pipit but I also scored five Black-necked Grebes – another local mega I had found here in autumn and pleased to find they had stuck about – and an early Menetries’s Warbler. Year-listing is a funny game and it meant that I was much more thrilled with the lone Yellow-throated Sparrow I found (barely annual on AD any more, and only my second winter record in 6 years) than the dozen Hypocolius at 15m for 10 minutes – exactly where I had left them in early December. I wonder which one Simon would have preferred…

So that’s it so far.
More regular – and less wordy – updates to come. Inshallah.


Total so far - 89 (50%)
Last addition – Yellow-throated Sparrow (29 January[a1] )


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