Lots has been happening recently for ENHG members. Bird watching and
Archaeology field trips were both extremely popular and very successful. A big
thank to Simon and Allestree for organising these events. With the fantastic
weather at the moment, it is hoped that more of our members will get into the
field. Your committee is working hard to try and establish an ENHG website. This
is a mammoth task, one that we sincerely hope you will contribute to. If you
have a particular expertise in one particular area, for instance shells or
botany, then please contact us, as we are always looking for people to
contribute articles etc. Also, we are hoping to get an unparalled selection of
photographs of the natural history & culture of the UAE. Ideally we want to
cover all areas of the country and all the different sub-groups which come under
the broad umbrella of natural history. All photographs will be fully
acknowledged and returned after scanning. So please lets see your best shots of
the natural history of the UAE. Prints and slides both equally welcome!
We are having a country fair in March, with lots of naturally history themes,
lots of games, quizzes (not so serious) and fun things to do. We have considered
a lot of ideas for this family day out but more would be considered. Tell us
what you would like to do and the committee will do its best to accommodate you.
Please note that due to a national holiday on 1st January there will be no
indoor meeting on this date. All paid up members receive Focus every month,
either by post or by e-mail. Post is a very slow way of delivering our
newsletter and we would like to encourage all our members to if possible set up
an e-mail address to assist us in our service to you, the members. This should
be a proper emirates.net or similar account, not hotmail or yahoo, which cannot
take large attachments.
If this is not possible for you, you can view the ENHG newsletter on line by
going to this url in any cyber café.
However, it might take you several minutes to download, depending on the
speed of your computer.
Hope to see you all at our next meeting.
Steve James, Chairman of ENHG.
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Like to help the ENHG?
If you have a bit of spare time on your hands, we need your help! We are
currently looking for a librarian to organize our ENHG Library and publicize
what we have available for members to use. If you feel you could help, then
please contact Arlene on 050-6411939.
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All members are politely reminded that subscriptions are now due for renewal.
Please see Hazim, the subscription secretary, at the next meeting.
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Award Nominations invited
Nominations are invited from paid-up Group members for the two annual awards
made by the Group:
Sheikh Mubarak bin Mohammed Award for Natural History.
This Award was introduced with the sponsorship of our patron, HE Sheikh
Nahayan bin Mubarak, and is the country's premier natural history award.
It is intended to acknowledge the contributions made by an individual,
primarily through original research and publication, to the scientific study of
the archaeology, history and natural history of the UAE.
The Award comprises an inscribed silver dhow and a cash sum.
The Bish Brown Award
This Award was created to commemorate one of the Group's founders, J.N.B.
'Bish' Brown, who laid the foundations of much of the scientific recording of
the country's wildlife. The Award itself, a silver falcon, was donated by former
Vice Chairman Dr. Terry Adams and his wife and former Group Secretary Caroline
Adams, and is held for a year by each recipient.
It is intended to acknowledge contributions made by an individual in terms of
promoting study and conservation of the UAE's environment, wildlife, history and
heritage, whether through formal study, encouragement of educational awareness
or other means, and can, therefore, be given to amateurs as well as
Nominations for both Awards can be made by members of any of the UAE's three
natural history groups, in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain. Nominees, however, need
not be members of any of the Groups, although serving officers of the Abu Dhabi
ENHG (Chairman, Vice Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary) are not eligible.
The choosing of the winners will be made by the Committee of the Abu Dhabi
ENHG at its January 2002 meeting. Sheikh Nahayan will present the awards to the
winners early in 2002.
Nominations should be sent by post to The Chairman, ENHG, PO Box 45553, Abu
Dhabi, or by email, by 15th December
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Mid-Shaban and moon calendars
The full moon this week has some significance for many of our Muslim
colleagues as the full moon notes the middle of the month of Shaban. For one
discussion of this event, you could visit the site below:
There are many other sites which provide background information on this
If you are interested in the moon's cycle, there are several computer
programs you can download which keep you informed of the moon's cycle. You can
use these programs, for example, to see when there will be a full moon to
illuminate your desert picnic or a lack of moonlight for some star gazing.
You can also get this information at http://www.googol.com/moon/ which has
information about our moon and features links to many other interesting sites.
Finally, if you would like a moon calendar which shows the phases of the moon
for each day of the year, I recommend pollymoon's calendars. Visit
http://www.pollymoon.com . You can order calendars which Polly ships airmail.
The calendar also lists the dates for the annual meteor showers -- 11 events are
listed -- which can make a desert barbecue an unforgettable event.
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Early Birds catch their Worms!
Birding SIG Field Trip 05/10/2001
Friday 05/10/2001, the Birding SIG held their second field trip of the new
We joined a field trip to Al Wathba Camel Racetrack, near Abu Dhabi Island,
organised by the Abu Dhabi chapter of the ENHG, and lead by well-known local
birder and author, Simon Aspinall.
The autumn migration is its peak during early October, and we expected to see
a wide variety of bird species at the racetrack, including large numbers of
migrants and significant numbers of birds of prey. Meeting in the Prisunic car
park at 0545, we set off for Al Wathba at 0600 and arrived at the racetrack at
approximately 0730. We parked near the grandstand and pulled out our
"bins" in order to spot our first species of the day, the Early Rising
Abu Dhabi Birder. We quickly spotted a flock of this semi-resident creature,
near to a herd of browsing 4x4s - a much favoured parasite species, in the
cultivated fields in the centre of the racetrack.
Taking great care to safely negotiate camels racing hard for home at the end
of a mornings training and the equally fast moving vehicles of the supporters
accompanying them, we navigated our way across the racetrack and entered the
Parking our vehicles a safe distance down wind of the flock of Birders, we
cautiously approached them on foot. However, the ever-alert leader of the flock
quickly observed us. Proving to be both sociable and gregarious, the flock of
approximately 25 birders opened ranks to greet us.
So began a wonderful mornings birding at Al Wathba Camel Racetrack in the
company of the ever welcoming, knowledgeable and enthusiastic birders of Abu
Our expectations of a memorable mornings birding were quickly confirmed. The
air was full of birdsong and birds of all kinds, including swallows, larks, and
harriers, were swooping and wheeling across the sky.
We first walked along a track running through the middle of the fields,
stopping several times to scan the adjacent fields with binoculars and
telescopes. Then, after moving our vehicles to a more suitable parking place, we
made a circuit over the fields, walking in line abreast so as to cover the
greatest area possible.
As we walked over the fields, swallows swooped between us gobbling up
grasshoppers and other insects we disturbed, as we stepped through the grass.
Francolin flew out, virtually from under our feet, as we approached the taller
clumps of grass where they had been hiding. We even started a hare running, much
to the surprise and delight of us all.
The birds we saw during the morning included:
- Pacific Golden Plover
- Blue cheeked Bee-eater
- Sand Martin
- Yellow Wagtail
- Crested Lark
- Black crowned finch Lark
- Short toed Larks
- Hoopoe Lark
- Black Tern
- Whiskered Tern
- White winged black Tern
- Purple Heron
- White Stork
- Desert Wheatear
- Isabelline Wheatear
- European Roller
- Marsh Harrier
- Montague Harrier
- Grey Francolin
- Isabelline Shrike
- Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse
At 1200 we decided to call it a day, made our farewells of the new friends we
had made and returned to Al Ain, arriving at Prisunic at about 1315.
Many thanks to Simon Aspinall and to the Abu Dhabi chapter of the ENHG for an
absolutely unforgettable mornings birding.
Thank you also to our intrepid group of enthusiastic and good humoured,
novice and experienced birders, who pulled themselves out of bed at an ungodly
early hour on Friday morning. They all arrived punctually for the start of our
trip, which allowed us to depart on time for the hour plus drive from Al Ain to
The records gathered from the field trip were forwarded to the Twitchers'
Guide for the United Arab Emirates, and appeared in the issue for the week
ending 5th October 2001.
The Guide, a weekly news feature of bird sightings in the UAE and
neighbouring areas of Oman, is edited by Simon Aspinall and Peter Hellyer.
Records of sightings can be submitted to Simon or Peter by:
Snail mail: P.O.Box 45553, Abu Dhabi, UAE
You can also send your reports by email here.
We encourage all our members to share and contribute their sightings with the
Guide, whether collected individually or on an ENHG field trip.
The next Birding SIG field trip will be held in a couple of weeks time -
watch out for forthcoming details.
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ENHG visit to Umm Al Qaiwain museum, and the Ad Dour / Tell Abraq
archaeological sites 18-19th October 2001
This was a very popular trip, with a party of around thirty people in eleven
vehicles. One pair even drove all the way from Muscat. We were on our way to
camp amidst an ancient burial ground! What strange creatures we are!
At this point I have to point out that, although I find it interesting, and
it fuels my imagination, I am no expert in archaeology. Please forgive any
inaccuracies, and refer to the references for the expert details. The 8am start,
and the drive to Umm Al Qaiwain were all pretty painless. On arrival our efforts
were rewarded with a warm welcome from the museum director and her staff. Cups
of tea and coffee, dates, and petit fours were all on our refreshment menu.
The museum itself is housed in the old fort, which has been carefully
refurbished. The contents are a mixture of archaeological artefacts, and
fabulous jewellery. There are also impressive reconstructions of typical rooms,
and displays showing aspects of the original inhabitants' lifestyle. This museum
is very well cared for, and the staff very friendly. It is well worth a visit.
The entrance fee is 4Dh per person.
After saying our goodbyes we made for the shade of the palm trees on the
well-manicured lawns along Umm Al Qaiwain's Corniche. Here we had our lunch.
Large numbers of Socotra Cormorants had gathered just offshore. While we
watched, they all flew off in a long undulating chain consisting of hundreds, if
not thousands of birds. It really was a fascinating sight. Flitting amongst the
palm trees were an Indian Roller, and a Little Green Bee-Eater. On the shoreline
were some plovers and sandpipers, and in the shallows were a number of
stingrays. Fortunately nobody stood on one of those!
Soon it was time to leave, and we made our way to the Ad Dour archaeological
site, where we set up camp. I was beginning to wonder why we were camping amidst
a site used as a dump by demolition contractors, when I realised that the piles
of rubble were far older, and much more interesting than the usual piles of
concrete, and plaster, that one finds dumped in the desert. This material was
quarried from the local sedimentary reef rock found along this coast, and had
been used to construct the various building and tombs surrounding us. The area
is vast. I was truly amazed at the scale of the site.
It seemed that every other stone was in fact a shard of pottery. There was
even a fair collection just outside the entrance to my tent. There was plenty of
variation amongst the fragments. Some grey-black, some brick red, others glazed
blue and green. Some pieces were thick and heavy, others thin and delicate. The
shallow curvature of some pieces suggested very large vessels.
The area is roughly 4km long by 1km wide, and was inhabited from 200 BC to
sometime in the 3rd century AD. It seems that the town had once functioned as a
port, but once the khor, which led up to it, became silted up, the settlement
ended. The site is now some distance from the sea. There are a great number of
tombs, a remarkably intact temple, a large house, and a fort with watchtowers.
It seemed strange to me that we could wander around the site freely. Normally, I
would have expected such a place to have controlled-access.
As the heat of the day faded, we strolled around the site. Allestree, Molly
and Keith provided the commentary. In between Allestree giving us details of the
site's layout and background, Molly and Keith introduced us to the various
insects and plant-life. Like they say 'It's easy to look, but seeing is the hard
part'. On this occasion we certainly saw a great deal. I really enjoyed this
informal style of tour, and judging by the interest shown, so did the others.
The warm orange glow of the setting sun lit the scene perfectly. I began to
wonder what the former inhabitants would have made of us, and what we have made
of their world. The BBQ was a relaxed social affair, giving us all a chance to
make new friends, and discuss our interests. The late-night stalwarts tackled
politics, and put the world to rights, as usual. As I curled up to sleep in my
tent, I remember thinking that we were camped amongst the ruined buildings, and
tombs of an ancient people about whose life we could only guess by piecing
together the clues they had left behind. I hoped the place wasn't too haunted!
I shouldn't have been concerned because I slept like a log, and was
pleasantly surprised that the temperature during the night was so comfortable.
After a leisurely breakfast we broke camp and set about getting the saloon cars
through the soft sandy bits, and back onto the road. In between pushing, digging
and towing, we had another chance to socialise, and I was even treated to some
excellent physiotherapy on my aching back!
Once back on the road we made the short trip to the Tell Abraq site. The day
was heating up, and it was beginning to feel rather warm as we wandered around
the main ruins. My attention was momentarily distracted by the Marsh Harrier,
which was quartering the lake nearby, much to the annoyance of the Red-Wattled
Plovers on the little island in the middle.
Once again, Allestree did an excellent job of explaining the significance of
the site, and gave me an excellent opportunity to snatch some
sermon-on-the-mount photos! This site is much older, dating back to the 3rd
millennium BC. It was excavated in 1973 but all work stopped in 1991 due to
administrative problems. Again we were totally free to wander about the area.
There is a tomb, in which 20 skeletons were discovered, foundations of defence
towers, and evidence of barasti housing. Some of the artefacts found here were
from far and wide, suggesting a trading history, and it's thought that one of
the commodities on sale was local copper from the mines in the Hajar mountains.
Another fascinating site, and well worth a visit. I wonder what secrets it still
has to tell.
The heat took its toll, and we eventually had to retreat to the shade of the
palm trees on the Corniche, for lunch. The shade and the sea breeze made it much
more comfortable, but the long drive back to Abu Dhabi, beckoned, and we were
soon on our way back home. Thanks to Allestree and Pam for their hard work, and
to everyone for making it an enjoyable weekend.
Roy L Richards
Hellyer P: Hidden Riches, Union National Bank, 1998
Potts D J: Ancient Magan, Trident Press, 2000
Darke D: Discovery Guide to the UAE, Immel Publishing Ltd, 1998
Tribulus, ENHG, Various articles, 1991 to present
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Twitch It Guide!
This short article is a brief round up of the most important ornithological
activity from October. It is based upon Simon Aspinall and Peter Hellyer's
Twitchers Guide, which may be found on the Internet, or received by e-mail.
The month started in fine style with a Purple Heron, Caspian Plover and a
nice male Namaqua Dove at Al Wathba Fodder Fields. The next day a Red-necked
Phalarope was spinning on a small pond at the Health & Fitness Club in Abu
On 4th October around the Intercontinental and Hilton Hotels were, a
Nightingale, the first Chiffchaff of autumn, 3 Desert Lesser Whitethroats and 6
Menetries' Warblers. A Kingfisher was on Western Lagoon and 2 Wrynecks in Bateen
Airbase Park. Later on in the evening a nocturnal drive around Al Wathba Fodder
Fields produced 15 Egyptian Nightjars, finally dispelling their "rare"
An ENHG foray to the Fodder Fields produced a rare (here) Black Tern on 5th
October. Pin-tailed Sandgrouse was also seen, along with 5 White Storks, both
Montagu's and Pallid Harriers, Stone Curlew, White-tailed Plover, 56 Pacific
Golden Plovers, Collared Pratincole, 2 Whiskered and 5 White-winged Black Terns.
A wide variety of shrikes and wheatears were also seen, as well as a Stonechat
and 6 Rose-coloured Starlings. On the same day a Quail, Wryneck, Masked Shrike
and 2 Tree Pipits were in Mushrif Palace Gardens.
On 8th an unwini race of European Nightjar, European Roller and Isabelline
Shrike were all in Mushrif Palace Gardens. The next day 2 Crab Plovers were on
Sammailiyah Island, just off Abu Dhabi.
On 11th, Hoopoe, Barred Warbler, 4 Whitethroats and 10 Olivaceous Warblers
were all recorded in and around Mushrif Palace Gardens. However, the highlight
was a Black-shouldered Kite which floated over just before sunset. This was a
first record both for the island and Abu Dhabi Emirate. Fortunately this bird
was seen throughout the rest of the month at a variety of locations in the city,
enabling most resident birders to get to grips with it. A nocturnal visit to Al
Wathba produced Stone Curlew, Short-eared Owl and both European and Egyptian
The following morning at Al Wathba 4 Montagu's and a Pallid Harrier provided
fine views, as did three species of snipe! One each of Jack, Pintail and Common
Snipe. A Pin-tailed Sandgrouse was still flying around and a female Namaqua Dove
was flying around. Will it ever meet up with the male? 275 Short-toed Larks,
Whinchat (rare in autumn) and a good variety of wheatears, pipits and shrikes
were seen. The highlight was a Little Swift passing over Abu Dhabi Racecourse
for three very fortunate observers.
2 Masked Shrikes and a Red-breasted Flycatcher were good finds on 14th in
Mushrif Palace Gardens and an immature Honey Buzzard was noted nearby.
Cattle Egrets were slowly building up throughout the month and 19 were at the
Health & Fitness Club on 16th. 2 Green Sandpipers, Steppe Grey Shrike,
Ortolan Bunting and a Richard's Pipit were also seen. The next day a Wood
Warbler was found in Mushrif Palace Gardens, which stayed a couple of days. A
rare mid-week outing to Al Wathba Fodder Fields produced Spotted Eagle, 2 Quail,
4 Collared Pratincoles, 9 Tawny Pipits and a Steppe Grey Shrike.
On 18th a visit to Al Wathba Lake found 9 Black-necked Grebes, Shelduck, 11
Pintail and a massive 625 Shoveler. Waders were well represented with 3
Black-tailed Godwits and 3 Spotted Redshank (both very uncommon in Abu Dhabi
Emirate), 1,260 Little Stints, 4 Temminck's Stint and 96 Marsh Sandpipers coming
to wash in freshwater in the late afternoon. This is a very significant number
for the UAE. Out in the middle of the lake, riding the waves (it was windy that
day) were 29 diminutive Red-necked Phalaropes. The same day 4 Wrynecks, 5
Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Masked Shrikes and a Blackcap were on Abu Dhabi Island.
The regular Friday morning bash to Al Wathba produced male Namaqua Dove, 16
Lesser Kestrels, Oriental Skylark, 4 Blyth's Pipits, 7 Richard's Pipits and 2
Steppe Grey Shrikes. Stone Curlew, Pintail Snipe, 6 Egyptian and one European
Nightjars were all located after dark! While on the same evening a full summer
plumage Black-headed Bunting was at the Health & Fitness Club and stayed for
most of the week.
An immature Corncrake at point blank range was a suprising find at the Health
& Fitness Club on 21st, with another at Al Wathba the next day! Luckily the
former bird hung around for several days, allowing several birders to catch up
On 22nd at Al Wathba juvenile Namaqua Dove and 2 Blyth's Pipits were the
highlights. However 2 Cream-coloured Coursers hawking very high with
Blue-cheeked Beeaters was a very unusual site. Abu Dhabi Island was covered in
the evening and Honey Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, and Wryneck were found. Incredibly a
Goldfinch was found in Mushrif Palace Gardens on 24th, which though elusive,
hung around until the month end. This is about the sixth record for the UAE and
a good find for the lone observer who heard it 'tinkling' above his head! 38
Cattle Egrets were roosting at the Eastern Lagoon, as was the Black-shouldered
The next day Al Wathba Fodder Fields produced 10 White Storks, a juvenile
male Hen Harrier, Pintail Snipe, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and at least 4 Egyptian
A Bluethroat was a nice find on 27th at the Equestrian Club, but even better
was a lost Thrush Nightingale in the middle of the city on 30th.
October, as ever proved to be thrilling and unpredictable with great birding
throughout the month. Why don't you come out and join us?
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Steve James (Chairman)
Mobile: 050 +6118846
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)
Ph: 02- 6775717
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Corporate Sponsors of the ENHG 2001
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.
- ABN Amro Bank
- Al Fahim Group
- Al Nasser Holdings
- Al Sayegh Richards Butler
Banque Nationale de Paris
- Bin Hamoodah
- British Council
- British Petroleum
- Mobil Abu Dhabi
- Mohammed Bin Masood & Sons
- National Bank of Abu Dhabi
- Omeir Travel Agency
- Ready Mix Abu Dhabi Ltd
- Simmons & Simmons
- Union National Bank
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