Bulletin 25 - March 1985: Recorders' Reports

Recorders' Reports

Recorders Reports for 1984 The following is a synopsis of Recorders' Reports for 1984, some of which were presented at the AGM on 21st January 1985.

Archaeology (Dave Rowlands)

During the first half of the year artefacts in the workroom were classified and marked for identification and display purposes. A series of surveys of an early Islamic copper mine at As-Safarfir near Hatta were carried out in July and August, and a full report published in the November Bulletin. Early in September members from Abu Dhabi joined the Al Ain Group for a tour of the third millenium BC site at Hili, which was led by Dr Walid Al-Tikriti, Archaeological Adviser to the Department of Antiquities at Al Ain Museum. At about this time Rob Western handed over his archaeology hat to Dave Rowlands. Trips to old Shihuh settlements north of Dibba, and the Hellenistic and Persian site at Ad-Door were carried out in December.

Geology (Liz Aston)

The main task of the section involved cataloging the large number of rocks and fossils that have accumulated over the years in the workroom. Maureen Yould has joined as an enthusiastic assistant. On 10th December the Dubai Ecological Group visited the workroom and a short lecture on the geology of the UAE was arranged. The Dubai Group meets weekly and has a collection of rocks and fossils. The Recorder was also contacted by a team making a film on Sir Bani Yas Island for HH Sheikh Zayed. The team was so impressed by the rocks there that they asked for assistance in identification. A small selection of representative specimens were collected and a display will be mounted in the workroom in the spring of 1985.

Reptiles (Bish Brown)

Not the best of years for observations, though several new species were recorded. One was a two-foot pencil-thin grey snake seen at Hatta and Al Ain in wadis with water. One was preserved and photographed but still awaits positive identification. Several vipers were recorded and two, one from Jumeirah and one from Hatta, were preserved. These are believed to be the Saw-scaled viper (Cerastes cerastes) and Echis carinatus respectively. One live specimen of the Desert Monitor (Varanus griceus) was seen near Shwayb; the only previous record by the group was a dead specimen a few kilometres further north. Spiny-tailed Agamids (Uromastyx microlepis) remain active just off Abu Dhabi Island. Another large lizard, up to 14 ins long, Lacerta jayakari, was observed at Hatta, Al Ain, in the Wadi Khabb Shamsi and on the east coast. Several turtles were seen and recorded in Bulletin 24. A photograph in the Khaleej Times of 19/12/84 was of a Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea).

Birds (Jenny Hollingworth)

Many records continued to be made and collated throughout the year, and a list will be published in due course. The variety of birds present at certain times of the year is amazingly constant, but there are always the unexpected migrants to add to the excitement. 1984 was of course the year of the White Stork. The arrival on 13th September of large flocks from the northwest (variously estimated at between 700 and 3000 birds) attracted national press coverage. Individuals were still present at the new Abu Dhabi Airport in January 1985. Records of other birds were received on a regular basis from the offshore islands of Das and Qarneyn. In Abu Dhabi itself most records come from the old sewage farm. Rare sightings included Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes, Little Green Heron, Moorhen, Arabian Waxbill, Cuckoo and finally Mute Swan, which was not previously on the Emirates listings. Three of these swans were seen and photographed at the sewage farm in December.

Bees and Wasps - Hymenoptera (Ian Hamer)

As in previous years the main effort was in the collecting, pinning and labelling as many species as possible. 1984 saw a sharp decline in the numbers caught in the UAE and once prolific areas were barren, perhaps because of the very dry 83/84 winter. During the year there were reports of at least twelve colonies of the small honey bee Apis florea in Abu Dhabi town, of which seven were examined by the Recorder. Four of these were removed and saved from extermination. For the future it is intended to try to collect as many different species from as many varied locations as possible and thereby form a sound basis for the continued study of this very interesting branch of entomology in the UAE.

Butterflies and Moths (Bish Brown)

These creatures rely mostly on flowers for food so when flowers are plentiful so are butterflies and moths. With its dry spring, 1984 was not as productive as the two previous years. Small blue and white butterflies were reasonably common in suitable habitats such as wadis, plantations and areas of Calotropis procera trees. Plain Tigers and Swallowtails were common in plantations. One Leopard butterfly was seen on a trip to the Liwa. Hawk moths, particularly Death's Head and the occasional Hummingbird, were recorded. There are many other species around but it is a specialist task to catch and identify them.

Sea Shells (Bish Brown)

Sea shells were collected at any opportunity. A large collection of Conus shells were found dead on one east coast beach and are still being sorted. Towards the end of the year shells were collected from the islands of Murrawah, Fiyya and Bayem al Sherbi.

Plants (Rob Western)

1984 was a year of consolidation. After several years of collecting, pressing and identifying, an attempt to write a guidebook was begun. Recordings continued but at a reduced level. The dry winter meant a poor showing for annuals and some of the perennial species decided on a hibernatory year. A few recordings are worth highlighting. The desert hyacinth has now been identified in at least two forms, Cistanche phelypaea with all-yellow petals, and C. tubulosa with violet-tinged yellow petals. In the Ruus al Jibal the small tree Amygdalis arabicus was a first record for the Group. A new recording of the nightshade family, Hyosycamus insanus, was made in January west of Hafit, and Hochstetteria schimperi was recorded for the first time in April, near Hatta. During July and August several trips were made to oases east and north of Buraimi, and a number of exotics and natural species recorded for the first time. It was gratifying at the end of the year to see species of the legume Crotalaria on Abu Dhabi Island again.

Marine Life (Roger Brown)

Several workshops were held in the early part of 1984 to record, photograph and preserve specimens kept in the workroom. Two talks were given to the Group, one by the Recorder on general identification and habits of fish in local waters. Derek and Brenda Gibbins presented a slide show on the fish of the Red Sea.

Mammals (Dave Rowlands)

As usual recordings in this field were notoriously few, but included sightings of jerboas in the Liwa, red foxes around Khor Fakkan and. Hatta, hares, dugongs off Abu Dhabi and odd whales. Two Mountain Gazelles were sighted by Ian Hamer at Kitnah. A large whale, reported to be some 65 feet long, was washed up dead at Jebel Dhanna in April, after having been sighted at sea being attacked by sharks. This is believed to be a Sei Whale. What remained of the skeleton was taken to Al Ain where it is intended that it should be reconstructed and put on display.

Cetaceans - Dolphins and Whales (Ian Hamer)

Following the visit of Dr Horace Dobbs in April an Abu Dhabi branch of International Dolphin Watch (IDW) was set up as a subsection of the ENHG to study local sea mammals in general and one particular school of Humpback Dolphins (Sousa chinensis). Since then many recording forms have been received confirming a large population of Humpback Dolphins around Abu Dhabi, Bahrani and as far away as Al Hayl. These seem to school in groups of up to six. Bottlenose Dolphins were recorded from the mouth of the Bateen Channel, from just off the Abu Dhabi breakwater and around the offshore oilfields. Other offshore sightings included Finless Porpoises, several unidentified whales and the Jebel Dhanna carcase (see above - Mammals). One major sighting was a group of dugongs in the same location in the Futaisi lagoon over a period of several months.


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