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Focus February 2002

Editorial

It has been a hectic time recently for the ENHG in Abu Dhabi. David Bellamy came on a week long visit: he was a keynote speaker in an Environmental Conference in Dubai. He then visited Al Wathba Lake here in Abu Dhabi Emirate and was brought up to date on the progress at this potentially amazing wetland protected area. A good variety of birds and plants were seen and it is hoped to gain access for members over the Inter-Emirates Weekend. Watch this space!

As members already know, it is the turn of Abu Dhabi to host the Inter-Emirates Weekend and this year we are basing ourselves at the nicely situated Mafraq Hotel, just outside the city. Please see separate article in this newsletter, details on the excursions will be available at the next indoor meeting.

The annual general meeting of the group will be on 2nd April. Now is the time to be nominated for the committee and put your ideas forward for the advancement of the group. Hope that you can make this important date.

Steve James, Chairman of ENHG.

Editor's note:

This letter was written to the Chairman of the Al Ain Natural History Group. Although we are not a fund raising organisation individual members may like to contribute. I can confirm that the Born Free Foundation and the Game Reserve in South Africa are of the highest order and worthy of your support.

"Dear Mr Holmes,

I was given your email by a Rachael Eddins a member of your group, I hope you don't mind me contacting you.

I am a school teacher in Abu Dhabi who read about the plight of this poor lioness, now in Dubai zoo. After hours of emailing every animal charity, to try and find her a home, I eventually got a response from The Born Free Foundation. After months of work we have found her a new home in Shamwari reserve in South Africa. Our only task now is to raise the money to get her there. We need all the help we can get! The paper work is just about finished and she can go in March if we have sufficient funds. If your group could help us raise money in any way, or if you know of anyone in Al Ain that would be interested in helping us, please could you let me know.

For more details, please see www.britvet.com

Thank you for any help you can give, this one year old lioness deserves a new and better life she can have one with our help!

With thanks

Jane Sanderson"

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AGM on Tuesday 2nd April

Besides the speaker at the Group meeting on Tuesday 2nd April, that meeting will also be the Group's Annual General Meeting.

The AGM will precede the talk.

Paid-up Group members are invited to nominate people to serve on the Committee for the next year, and also to put forward resolutions for discussion. The majority of the current Committee members are prepared to stand again, but new blood is always welcome!

Nominations for the Committee should include the name of a proposer and seconder, while resolutions for discussion should also have a proposer and seconder.

Please send any nominations or resolutions to the Chairman, Steve James, or to any other committee member prior to the meeting itself.

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Inter Emirates Weekend 2002

This years Inter-Emirates Weekend is on 11th/12th April at the Mafraq Hotel near Abu Dhabi. This is a very convenient location for all, being just over an hours drive from Dubai and Al Ain and a thirty minute drive for Abu Dhabi members. It is also convenient for our excursions (more details to follow shortly).

Accommodation details:

  • Single Occupancy: 150 dhs per room per night
  • Double Occupancy: 200 dhs per room per night
  • Triple Occupancy: 250 dhs per room per night

These prices are subject to 16% service charge and inclusive of buffet breakfast.

Up to 2 children below 12 years old and sharing parents room will be accommodated free of charge, with a nominal charge for breakfast of 15 dhs + service charge.

BBQ Dinner is 55 dhs + service charge.

Lunch Boxes for Friday can be arranged at 40 dhs net.

Please ring 02-5822666 and ask for reservations. Inform them of your requirements about accommodation, dinner and packed lunch. Make sure you state Emirates Natural History Group when you are booking, if you forget the rates will be higher! Please then contact me by e-mail: stephen.james@zu.ac.ae stating your contact details and how many is in your party. I can then follow up with excursion choices and further information etc.

I would urge all Abu Dhabi members to stay at the Hotel, past experience has shown that if you stay in your own home you miss out on a lot of the informal activity and chat. After all, one of the nicest things about the weekend is to meet new faces and exchange information.

However, if this is not possible the dinner on Thursday may be booked through the Hotel. Just make sure they know it is dinner only! Thursday and Fridays programme will be circulated in the next few days. Hope you can join us for what should be a great weekend!

Steve James (Chairman of ENHG).

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Inter-Emirates Excursions

All the following excursions are confirmed. Wherever possible members should book their excursions in advance by e-mailing Steve James at: stephen.james@zu.ac.ae

We have tried to stagger timings on Thursday for people's different arrival times; all times are the times leaving the Mafraq Hotel.

Here is a little more information to help you decide.

Al Wathba Lake Birdwatching / Spotlighting on Fodder Fields: 2.30pm, Thursday.

If this is a popular trip, it may be possible to have a second departure at 3.30pm with a different leader.

PLEASE NOTE: to gain access to Al Wathba Lake Protected Area it is essential to include your name as written on your passport; your passport number & nationality to be received by Steve at least 10 days prior to the trip.

Al Wathba is an excellent spot for waders and wildfowl, as well as for Greater Flamingoes. A good variety of migrant waders should be present & the leader (s) will conduct a mini workshop on their identification. Participants should bring binoculars and if possible telescopes. However the leader (s) will have a telescope to share with members.

Later in the afternoon we will drive the short distance to the fodder fields, as it gets dark, spotlighting should reveal either Egyptian or European Nightjars and a few waders which feed on the fields at night. It is also possible to see Gerboa and Red Fox, but neither is guaranteed. Back in time for dinner.

For those who arrive too late to take part on this trip, it will be repeated on Friday afternoon. When booking, please state which day you would like to participate.

No charge.

Boat Trip off Raha Beach area into the channels & mangroves of eastern Abu Dhabi Island: 3.30pm, Thursday.

Limited to 15 people. Cruising down the channels a good selection of seabirds & waders will be seen. Possibility of Green Turtle and Indo-Pacific Humpbacked Dolphin sightings. There maybe photographic opportunities. Leader will work closely with all participants to ensure individual attention.

Cost 20 dhs.

Desert Ecology & Mammal Catching Trip: 3.30pm, Thursday & 8.30pm Friday.

Focus is on desert ecology: mammals, birds, reptiles & plants. Good photographic opportunities here. On the Thursday trip we will be taught how to set small mammal traps, these do not hurt the animal & all animals caught are promptly released. Cheeseman's Gerbil is a strong possibility on this trip.

Fridays trip will be a longer affair exploring further into the desert. Participants should have four wheeled drive vehicle. Please state which trip or both when booking.

No charge.

Astronomy: 6pm Thursday & 3.30am Friday.

Please note these are short trips from the Hotel and the Friday timing is not a typing error!!

Thursday evening trip will look at the planets showing well at this time (Venus, Mars Saturn & Jupiter). Friday's trip will look for the comet Ikeya Zhang, which should be visible after 4am. Members on this trip may of course combine with a later excursion on the Friday (if they have the energy)!

Participants should bring binoculars but the leader will have a high powered telescope to share.

No charge.

Futaisi Island: 8.30am, back by 2pm or you may stay on the island all day Friday.

Boat trip to the island and tour of island either on foot or in a van. Wide variety of birds, Sand Gazelle and Spiny tailed Lizards all easy to see. Very good photographic opportunities on this trip.

Members who decide to stay longer may use the swimming pool.

Cost is 50 dhms per person; 25 dhms for children over 12years and free for children under 12. This includes a 25 dhm voucher for food and drink at their outlet on the island.

Birdwatching at Al Wathba Fodder Fields: 8.30am, back by 2pm on Friday.

An in depth look at the varied bird life of these very productive fields. A good variety of migrants should be seen and a bird list of over 60 species is possible. Participants should have their own binoculars and the leader will have a telescope to share.

No charge.

Dhow Trip from the Intercontinental Hotel, Abu Dhabi: 8.30am, back by 2pm.

Cruising the channels west of Abu Dhabi Island. Many seabirds & waders will be seen and both Green Turtle and Indo-Pacific Hump backed Dolphins are a possibility. On one island, Mountain and rarely Sand Gazelle may be seen along with Arabian Hare. Good photographic opportunities & a very relaxing way to see the natural history of this region.

Cost 80 dhms per person.

Please address all queries and bookings to Steve James.

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Plain Tigers and a Clover Leaf :ENHG Camping Weekend 7-8 February 2002

Our group was a small one this time: only five members and a dog, in three vehicles. Vicki and Maria, Roy and Chirri, Pam and myself. We set off from Popeyes' at 8.15, and after a refuelling stop at Seih Bin Ammar, we were quickly through Al Ain and into the Wilaya of Buraimi. We stopped to examine the two types of acacia on the outskirts of Mahdah. The only tree that we saw in bloom was in a garden and obviously benefiting from the water supplied by the irrigation. Usually we can expect to find white (or buff) bloom on the Acacia tortilis, and yellow on the Acacia ehrenbergiana around this time of year. The road from Mahdah to Sharm has colonies of both in the same area, but there has been very little rain. Thence to Wadi Khudayrah via a difficult climb from the main road, requiring speed and low ratio. The wadi was flowing as usual and there was a group of young men swimming in the gorges. Sadly, the litter problem is getting worse. The wadi is awash with detritus from picnics and barbecues. When will we ever learn? We lunched by the pools, found wild oleander in bloom, and some struggling maidenhair fern. The lack of rain meant that few wadi flowers were in evidence on the wadi floor. How long can a wadi fig hold on without water?

Next towards the Madam roundabout through the mountains behind Jebel Sumayni. We visited the Wadi Suq tombs at Jebel Buhays. The tomb which attracts most interest is the Clover Leaf (no. 66) which has four separate chambers underground. The Madam Plain area was heavily populated in antiquity due to the run-off from the Hajar Mountains not far away, allowing cultivation of a variety of crops. As it was getting perilously close to tea-time we drove behind the mountain to find a camping spot in one of the branches of Wadi Faya. There were plenty of dead Sodom Apple bushes (Calotropis procera) which meant that we had ample firewood to keep us warm. We were lucky with the night sky, which offered views of the Milky Way and the moons of Jupiter. We saw few rodents and suspected that it was the influence of Chirri the dog who in his capacity of camp guard, kept them away. Chirri demonstrated his intelligence by weedling his way around each member in turn and earning himself a five-course supper!

On awakening we found that we had had numerous rodents and lizards around the camp during the night, and that Vicki had a flat tyre, so that was the first job to attend to. Soft sand makes these operations quite hazardous. However, we completed the job, breakfasted, and turned our attention to Plain Tigers. This butterfly reproduces with the aid of the Sodom Apple in this area. There were a few butterflies in evidence, but neither eggs nor caterpillars. Roy spotted at least two pairs of Palestine Sunbirds and we were happy following their antics for a while.

Next the fossils. We drove over to the mountain, found a shady place for lunch under a group of acacias, but failed to find large numbers of obvious fossils. By chance we took a different way back to the main road and found dozens of them on the east side of the mountain, together with a large group of burial sites from the fourth century BC. Leaving Jebel Buhays behind we found a way down Wadi Faya along a new tarmac road via Rashidia to the Dhaid-Sharjah highway. The new Emirates Road got us home to AD by six o'clock.

Allestree Fisher

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Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos): Second record for the UAE

Pectoral Sandpiper is a very rare vagrant to the Middle East. One has been present at Wimpey Pits, near Dubai for most of this winter; this is only the second record for the UAE. The best time to see this bird is in late afternoon, when it comes to bathe at the pits. A keen eye and a good telescope will increase your chances of success!

This species breeds in Northern Siberia, across into the New World in Alaska and Arctic Canada. The Siberian range is very extensive and yet the vast majority of these birds winter in South America, not eastern Asia. Only a small number winter in Australia and New Zealand. This probably indicates a fairly recent range expansion into the Old World and a reluctance to change ancient migration routes.

The North American birds migrate in a great circle route over the Western Atlantic Ocean. These birds are prone to be blown off course by strong westerly winds and can turn up in Western Europe as vagrants. What does it look like? Take a look at Paul Kelly's picture below! The bird is still present at the time of writing, so why not go and have a look? Even if you don't see it, you will record an excellent selection of other water birds in and around the pits.

Steve James

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Natural History of Jebel Akhdar, the Green Mountain

Description and origin on the mountains

The northern mountains stretch some 650 km from Musandam to Sur, in a range up to 140 km across. The geological origin of the rocks is complex and there are many issues still undecided by the geologists, but the basic series of events is fairly well worked out. The mountains contain four major rock groups. The deepest layer is a series of old (pre-Permian) shales and crystalline rocks. Above these, and continuing beneath the desert surface to the south and west of the mountains is a sedimentary sequence of hard limestones and dolomites that were laid down under a shallow sea in thick beds between the mid-Permian and the Cretaceous. These rocks are the main oil reservoirs under the desert. Overlying these are a diverse series of sedimentary rocks (called the Hawasina) that were mainly deposited as deep sediments below an ancient ocean called the Neo-Tethys, which lay to the north east of Arabia. Overlying these in turn is the Semail ophiolite, volcanic rocks formed as ocean crust on the floor of the Neo-Tethys between 105 and 70 m years ago. Both the Hawasina and the ophiolite were moved into their present positions by a stacking process that also occurred between 105 and 70 mya caused by plate movements. The actual mountain building period was more recent, occurring in the Oligocene between about 30 and 40 mya. At this time the Indian plate started to collide with the southern edge of Eurasia, forming the Himalayas, and Arabia was separated from Africa by the opening of the Red Sea. The Zagros mountains on the other side of the Arabian Gulf are even more recent, being formed only about 5 mya.

Jebel Akhdar, the 'green mountain' is the highest and most diverse section of the mountains. Jebel Akhdar is basically a simple box-shaped fold (anticline) pushed up to over 3000 m above sea level. Over the past 30 million years the processes of erosion have carved the mountains into their present shape. These erosional forces have removed the top of the fold and the overlying ophiolite and Hawasina rocks, so that the higher areas are the tilted beds of hard limestones. The fold can be clearly seen in the rising slabs of limestone above Samail and along the Jebel Shams road, and on the northern side of the mountains, in the slabs rising above Awabi and Rustaq. The centre of the fold has been removed by erosion which has scooped out the softer pre-Permian shales in a series of huge bowls such as the Gubrah bowl and Wadi Sahtan, and deep wadis such as Wadi Bani Auf and Wadi Bani Kharus. The erosion of the tilted limestone strata give rise to characteristic upward pointing slabs. The highest summits lie on the southern section of the decapitated fold. The variation in topography is important to the animals and plants as it provides different habitats. In particular the southern flanks of the mountains are made up of relatively gently tilted slabs, which are cut by impressive gorges such as Wadi Nakhir. The north facing side is a series of almost sheer well-shaded cliffs, falling into the central bowls and wadis.

Climate and biogeography

The mountains are high enough to generate their own climate. For example northerly winds in late winter give a build up of cumulus clouds on the mountains. These form fog which is probably used by plants such as juniper trees, to obtain extra moisture. Generally an increase in altitude results in the climate becoming cooler and wetter. Above about 2500 m there may even be occasional snow, though this melts quickly when the sun comes out. Winter frosts are common, certainly from 2000 m and upwards. However, even with the extra rain, the mountains are semi-arid, with Saiq receiving a mean annual rainfall of little over 300 mm. This is exacerbated by the lack of soil and sparse vegetation, causing much of the rain to immediately run off into the wadis, producing the familiar floods lower down.

This cooler, wetter climate acts as a refuge from the hot and very dry conditions found at lower altitudes, allowing plants and animals adapted to relatively more temperate conditions to survive. Indeed the flora and fauna have close links with those of the mountains of Iran and Baluchistan. This is very different from the Dhofar mountains, which have links are mainly with the Yemen and Horn of Africa. Woodlands of juniper (Juniperus polycarpos) together with their associated plant species such as Ephedra pachyclada, the rockrose Helianthemum lippii and Berberis baluchistanica are found in the mountains of southern Iran, as well as above about 2400 m on Jebel Akhdar. Similarly Jebel Akhdar forms the most southerly limit to the ranges of certain animals such as the false horned viper Pseudocerastes persicus which is found above about 500 m. This is a venomous species, easily recognised by the relatively short and thick body and the 'horns' above the eyes. Geckos of the genus Asaccus are restricted to parts of Iran and Iraq, and the northern Oman mountains. There are now three species of these geckos known in Jebel Akhdar including Asaccus platyrhynchus and Asaccus montanus, both of which have been recently described as new to science. Asaccus montanus is a tiny gecko found only on the higher parts of the range above about 2000 m. An avian example is the wood pigeon, the nearest populations to those in Jebel Akhdar being in the Iran and Baluchistan mountains.

Human habitation

The mountains have of course long been inhabited by people. In the northern wadis villages, such as Bilad Sayt, are found along a spring line at the base of the north facing cliffs. Water from the springs is carefully used for cultivation of many crops using terraces and the falaj system, or now sometimes galvanised pipes. At least at higher altitudes such temperate crops as grapes, roses, pomegranates, walnuts and apricots are all successfully grown.

Away from the larger springs and aflaj, people live in smaller communities of a few families or even in isolated huts, getting their water from rain filled pools in deep gorges, or in specially constructed cisterns. Recently a series of dams have been built to increase the water supply to these isolated villages. At these higher altitudes away from the large villages, people subsist by raising sheep and goats rather than growing crops. The wool is hand spun and woven into colourful rugs. Before the construction of roads transport between the communities was by foot or donkeys, and pack donkeys are still used in some parts of the mountains. A well constructed system of paths existed, and there are several flights of ancient stone steps up the mountains, though to have been built by the Persians. Sadly, many of the paths are now in a state of disrepair, but they are still the easiest way over the mountains, particularly on the steep northern side.

Human impact

As the human population is low, people have had relatively little impact on the flora and fauna; at least in comparison to other dry mountains such as those in Ethiopia and Somalia. The juniper woodlands are still intact and there has probably been little human impact on the smaller animals. The larger mammals have not fared so well. A common site in the mountains are stone wolf traps. These are no longer in use, and certainly wolves (Canis lupus) are now very rare in the mountains. The last Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) recorded in Jebel Akhdar was one between Awabi and Nakhl in 1976, and the last record of an ibex (Capra ibex) in the northern mountains was one shot near Ibri in the 1960s. There are still mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella) which range right to the summit of Jebel Shams, though these are either very rare or very shy or both. The large mammal unique to the mountains is the Arabian tahr, Hemitragus jayakari. a small type of wild goat. These have survived much better, especially since the ban on hunting and the establishment of the Wadi Serin nature reserve. Tahr seem to like precipitous mountain faces such as the northern side of Jebel Aswad, where they are looked after trained rangers. However tahr are shy and very rarely seen. Indeed, the only large mammal that one commonly sees and hears in the mountains are the feral donkeys.

The lower wadis

Water tends to flow through the lower wadi gravels throughout the year, even if no water is visible on the surface. This supports a woody vegetation of species such as Acacia tortilis, Ziziphus spina-christi and Moringa peregrina. In turn these support a range of animals. For example, at least eight species of lizards can be found in Wadi Halfayn, near Izki, at about 500 m asl. Each species has its own niche in the ecology of the valley. This valley has a range of microhabitats such as trees, gravel and stone screes and cliffs. There are three closely related diurnal geckos in the genus Pristurus, also known as the semaphore geckos from their tail waving signals. Pristurus gallagheri, endemic to the Oman mountains is strictly arboreal, particularly favouring the Moringa trees. It spends its time sitting on the trunks of the trees, darting out to eat ants and other insects if they come close. They are excellently camouflaged against the bark. P. celerrimus, another species unique to the Oman mountains lives on the large boulders and vertical rock walls at the edge of the wadi, while P. rupestris, the commonest lizard in Oman, favours the rocky ground and scree slopes. So although these three lizards are active at the same time and are about the same size, they avoid competition with each other by living in different microhabitats. The large lacertid Lacerta jayakari forages amongst the shrubs and rocks in the wadi floor. The blue tailed Lacerta cyanura prefers rock slabs and cliffs.

Night animals

At night, different animals are active, such as Asaccus gallagheri (another endemic gecko to the mountains) and Hemidactylus persicus. This species has a distribution mainly in Iran, but has a giant race in Jebel Akhdar. Brandt's hedgehog (Paraechinus hypomelas) is the mountain hedgehog of Arabia and Iran. This is a very black animal, the spines being black tipped, with contrasting white ears. It is a rather bad tempered beast, and hisses and bucks when disturbed. In contrast the Ethiopian hedgehog (Paraechinus aethiopicus) of the sandy lowlands is paler, with its spines largely being white tipped. It behaves very differently, and neither bucks nor hisses. Also active at night are the scorpions. The most common of these at lower elevations is Hottentota jayakari. Another nocturnal arachnid is the amblypygid (Phrynichus jakari), which despite its appearance is quite harmless. Its body is highly flattened for sliding into narrow cracks in the rocks. There are several species of bats, though these have been very little studied. One is the mouse-tailed bat Rhinopoma muscatellum, which lives in small groups in the numerous caves. The vipers are largely nocturnal. Two species live in the mountains: the false horned viper already mentioned and Burton's carpet viper (Echis coloratus). These two species both hiss a warning but using different means. The false horned viper puffs its body up with air and hisses as it exhales, while Echis throws its body into coils and rubs ridged scales together.

Wild flowers

In the spring time, especially if there has been good late winter rain, the mountain flowers are at their best. One of the most spectacular is the endemic primula Dionysia mira. Others are the very spiny Ebenus stellata, violet (Viola cinerea), Verbascum akhdarensis, Polygala mascatense, Dianthus crinitus, Geranium mascatense, Pseudogaillonia hymenostephana, Convolvulus ulicinius and Euryops arabicus. Amongst the flowering shrubs are Berberis baluchistanicus which is found above 2500 m, Dodonea viscosa, the honeysuckle Lonicera aucheri which can form a large shrub 3 m tall with yellow flowers, and Daphne mucronata. By late summer, there are very few flowers to be seen.

Trees

The trees on the mountain show altitudinal zonation. The wadi bottoms and lower slopes have Acacia tortilis, Ziziphus, Moringa and Maerua, but higher on the mountains, different trees occupy different altiduninal belts. Acacia gerardii replaces A. tortilis above about 1000 m. At about 1500 m the olive (Olea europaea) becomes the dominant tree in many areas. A well developed browse line may be seen on many olive trees, as the leaves are well liked by goats. On the higher parts of the Saiq plateau, Olea forms a well developed parkland with the grass Cymbopogon schoenanthus. At slightly higher altitudes the juniper zone is reached. Juniper stands growing on exposed slopes between the lower limit of juniper growth at 2000 m and 2400 m are often in very poor condition, with most of the trees dead or dying. Above 2400 m the trees are in much better shape and regenerating well in some areas. It seems that the juniper zone is moving higher on the mountain, presumably due to climatic change (becoming warmer or drier or both). At the highest altitudes, above 2700 m, juniper is the only tree species. Juniper extends to much lower altitudes (about 1400 m) on the cooler and shaded north facing cliffs. On these, a fairly dense mixed woodland develops.

On exposed ridges, junipers often have a low and broad shape. In more sheltered spots and wadis, they can form tall trees, often with a conical shape . The largest trees of all may reach about 20 m tall with trunk diameters of 3 m. These often seem to grow around the edge of flat, unwooded areas which are found in several parts of the Jebel Akhdar. The largest of these areas is near the summit of Jebel Kawr, which probably has the largest juniper trees in the northern mountains. Another more accessible area is near Shanut on the Saiq Plateau, to which there is now a new road. In these areas, the grass Cymbopogon schoenanthus often forms strange rings as the plant slowly grows outwards and dies back in the centre. This also occurs in some other arid land plants, perhaps the best known being the North American creosote bush. The age of some of these creosote bush rings is estimated to be several thousand years. The age of the Cymbopogon rings is probably much less than that, but may well be several hundred years. The high parts of the Jebel, especially in the juniper zone are very beautiful and a wonderful place to visit. At the moment they are still relatively undisturbed and unspoilt. Let us hope that they remain so.

Andrew S. Gardner

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Twitch It Guide!

This short article is a brief round up of the most important ornithological activity in January. It is based upon Simon Aspinall and Peter Hellyer's Twitcher's Guide, which may be found on the Internet or received by e-mail.

The year got off to an excellent start with the finding of a Merlin in the Bab Oilfield. These days we rarely get records from these remote locations, but every time someone goes to visit they turn up something good. More records from the oil workers please, even if we can't get to see them!

The next day at Al Wathba Fodder Fields: 120 Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse came to drink (always a fine sight). Other good birds included: an unseasonal Collared Pratincole and 8 Corn Buntings. Back at Bab was a desert dwelling Golden Eagle perched on a small outcrop.

On the 3rd there was a meeting of the Emirates Bird Record Committee at Ghantoot and a quick look in the wood found a fine male Ring Ouzel, which showed itself to half of the committee. This species is a rare visitor to the UAE and was a new bird for two of the appreciative viewers.

On 6th the wintering Red-backed Shrike reappeared at the Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi, this is the first time this species has wintered in the UAE. Both Crested and European Honey Buzzards were floating around the city at this time, affording good identification criteria for both species. Cattle Egrets were common and reached 83 at the usual roost on the Eastern Lagoon.

A complete surprise on the 10th was an adult male Hen Harrier flying leisurely over Airport Road; it was only seen because everybody was stationary because of road works (sound familiar)? Also, high overhead was a Short-toed Eagle over the Ice Skating Rink, obviously a good day for raptors!

The next day at Al Wathba a Merlin was seen, along with 2 Pallid Harriers. 14 Bimaculated Larks, 2 Oriental Skylarks and a Blyth's Pipit provided some quality. The same day two Hume's Yellow Browed Warblers were seen at Mushrif Palace Gardens together! One had been present since 2nd but to see two of this rare species is extraordinary. Both were present until the month end. The Goldfinch also started to show itself at this time and was present all month, albeit very difficult to see.

A waterbird count at Al Wathba Lake on 15th produced 77 Black-necked Grebe, 95 Shelduck, 995 Shoveler and 40 Avocet: all excellent counts. The 2 White-fronted Geese along with the lone Grey Lag Goose remained in the capital all month.

On 18th 4 Short-eared Owls and 4 Glossy Ibis were at the Al Wathba Fodder Fields, both highly unusual records. A Masked Wagtail also showed itself.

A further visit to the same site on 30th produced a Sociable Plover, which had been absent for several previous weeks. A female Hen Harrier and a nice colourful male Namaqua Dove added spice. At least six Egyptian Nightjars showed themselves on the track after dark.

Steve James

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Committee members

Steve James (Chairman)
Simon Aspinall (Deputy Chairman)
Wafa Morda (Secretary)
Hazim al Chalabi (Membership Secretary)
Peter Hellyer (editor of Tribulus)
Charles Laubach (Member at large)
Arleen Edwards (Sales)
Andrew Twyman (Sales)
Richard Perry (Member)
Arun Kumar (Treasurer)
Dick Hornby (Member at large)
Ingrid Barcelo
Allestree Fisher

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Lectures

Date Topic Presenter
5th March Solar Energy in the UAE Peter Clements
19th March Archaeology in Ras Al Khaimah Christian Velder

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Corporate Sponsors of the ENHG 2002

The following companies are supporting the ENHG's conservation efforts in the region. Each company has made a commitment, each has made a difference and the environment thanks them all. We hope you, as ENHG members will in turn support these companies whenever you can.

Al Fahim Group
Al Sayegh Richards Butler
BP Amoco
Emirates Holdings
GAMCO
Hyder Consulting Middle East Limited
Jashanmal National Company
Mohammed Bin Masaood & Sons
Nama Development Enterprises
National Bank of Abu Dhabi
Ready Mix Abu Dhabi Limited
Simmons & Simmons
Tabreed
Trowers & Hamlins
Union National Bank
WESCO

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Patron: H.E. Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahayan