Bulletin 28 - March 1986: Recorders' Reports for 1985

Recorders' Reports for 1985

Archaeology (Henry Hogger)

1985 has been a relatively quiet year on the Group's archaeological scene. David Rowlands handed over after twelve months as Recorder on his departure from Abu Dhabi in April, having helped to pack away the display of artefacts in the workroom. These now await the allocation of new premises. During his short tenure Dave was an enthusiastic organiser of field trips: his last one was to Ad-Door, the part-Hellenistic, part-Persian site near Umm al Qawain. The only other important event of the year was unfortunately a negative one, namely the destruction of the Iron Age Oarn bint Saud site in the desert north of Al Ain, reported in Newsletter No.8. Your Recorder has not visited the site since it was recovered by the Department of Antiquities in Al Ain, but it is to be hoped that progress will soon be made on the planned restoration of the .main features of the site.

There will be another change of Recorder in the new year of 1986, due as usual to migration reasons. Mark Luce transfers from the animal to the human kingdom by moving from sea shells to archaeology, in which he has a longstanding interest -- and I suspect expertise of a rather different order from the present incumbent.

Bees and Wasps ( Ian Hamer)

1985 has been a most successful year as far as the Hymenoptera Aculeata are concerned. A good deal of collecting in Abu Dhabi and the UAE as a whole has resulted in a large number of specimens being taken. These have been pinned and labelled. Contact has been made with several respected entomologists in the British Museum and in the United States and a large number of specimens caught over the last four years have been reliably identified. Articles listing the bees and wasps of the UAE are planned for publication in coming issues of the Bulletin. Several species identified to date are new to Arabia with at least one confirmed species new to science.

Nesting studies have commenced and it is hoped that we can learn more of the biology of the desert Aculeata in addition to our collecting activities. Several colonies of the small asiatic honey bee (Apis florea Fabricius) have been reported and the Recorder has taken details and removed seventeen of these, thus saving them from extermination. The data gathered as a result of our surveys of the colonies should give us a good indication of how these insects have adapted to the very harsh climatic conditions here in Abu Dhabi.

For the future it is hoped to continue with the studies and surveys .in an attempt to learn more of the bees and wasps of this area and to visit as many varied locations as possible in order to establish a full record of species in the UAE.

Birds (Jenny Hollingworth)

This has been a year of comings and goings on the part of the watchers as well as the watched. We have swelled our ranks with several new enthusiastic birdwatchers such as Jilly Burrows here, Adrian Chapman in Dubai, and most recently Len Reaney on Das, but have lost others, in particular Ian Foxall on Qarnein and Bish Brown here, there and everywhere. Bish especially has guided many onto the paths of ornithology and is a great loss to us. We look forward to his return visits to the Emirates in coming months.

Ornithologically it has been another enjoyable and satisfying year. The early months, when we still had our winter visitors, provided us with some unusual recordings as well as large numbers of waders, white wagtails and fair sized flocks of starlings and ducks. Some of the more unusual species included four Black-necked Grebes which remained on the Eastern Lagoon until early February, six Spoonbills, a Booted Eagle and a Black Kite.

The spring migration brought good numbers of our regular species such as Red-throated Pipits, Hoopoes, European Bee-eaters, Spotted Flycatchers, Turtle Doves and Shrikes and Wheatears of various kinds. We also had many sightings of Swifts this spring which we have not been seeing for the past few years in Abu Dhabi. In Dubai and the coastal regions to the north Swifts are very regular and common migrants but for some reason we are now seeing them here.

By comparison the autumn migration was very quiet. There were sightings of migrants but not as many nor in such large numbers. Swallows, Whimbrels, Herons, Lesser Golden Plovers and Bar-tailed Godwits were fairly numerous, but other species such as shrikes, Hoopoes and Bee-eaters were not seen as frequently as in previous years. Unusual species recorded in autumn in Abu Dhabi included three Coot, a Glossy Ibis, a Night jar, a Nightingale and Golden Orioles.

This year we have updated our species list for the UAE but already it needs a further updating. The Group has also involved itself in contributing to the 'Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Arabia', coordinated by Michael Jennings. Confirmed breeding species in the Eastern Lagoon area this year were Palm Dove, Kentish Plover, Reef Heron, Clamorous Reed Warbler, Graceful Warbler and Little Green Heron. We have of course records of breeding birds in other areas of the UAE but any future recordings would be most welcome. Mike Crumbie is handling our end of it and records should be given to him or to myself to pass on.

We have also cooperated with Dr. Burr who is in the process of producing a book entitled 'Waterbirds of Eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula', though we have only been able to supply him with records and not photographs.

My thanks go to all to have contributed to the bird section in 1985 in the form of records, articles or simply interest. We now have a massive volume of records going back to 1976 and hope eventually to have them all computerised; in the meantime once the workroom is restored to us they will be available for reference.

Geology (Don MacLean)

Organised activity of a geologic nature was on a low key in 1985. The collections were thoroughly reorganised and await a final decision on premises.

In April the previous recorder, Liz Aston, gave an interesting talk on the Island of Sir Bani Yas. In June, as part of the members evening, Dick Hulstrand gave us a rapid geological tour of the Emirates prior to his departure. In December the present recorder described geological aspects of excavations in downtown Abu Dhabi and a brief view of geology near the international airport.

Mammals (Jan Hamer / Carole Gosling)

Few recordings of land mammals were made during 1985. Foxes (almost certainly the Arabian Red Fox -- Vulpes vulpes arabica) were sighted in Fossil Valley, Hatta, Tarif and elsewhere. Smaller mammals, e.g. hares, gerboa etc., were verbally reported from various locations. The most important recording for Abu Dhabi Island was the two foxes sighted at Bateen Airport by Wayne Tyrrell and reported in the October Newsletter.

Marine mammals have fared somewhat better. We continue to receive reports of dolphins and whales offshore. Although these creatures are very rarely specifically identified, these reports are invaluable in assessing the status of marine life over a period of years. Isolated reports of dolphins around Abu Dhabi are also being sent in by members and non-members and this continues to show that they are firmly established in this area.

The International Dolphin Watch (IDW) was formally taken under the wing of the ENHG (AD) in April as a separate Sub-Committee and although several interested members have now left Abu Dhabi its work continues. Dave Rowlands published a list of sightings made in the preceding twelve months in the July edition of the Bulletin. The study of the specific group of Indopacific Humpback Dolphins is continuing and it is hoped that enough data will be gathered to publish a meaningful paper at the end of the study period -- in about a year's time.

Dugongs are now regularly sighted just off Abu Dhabi and a carcass was reported washed up on the Khalediya beach, though two attempts by the recorder to locate it failed.

For the future the land mammal recorder (Carole Gosling) and the marine mammal recorder (Ian Hamer) hope to receive more recording forms of sightings made by the membership as a whole.

Marine life (Roger Brown)

1985 has been a rather sluggish year marine-wise. The workroom has been out of commission for most of the time, curtailing the regular workshop sessions. Also recording forms were few and far between, with only three reports submitted. On a brighter side, however, two talks were given, one on fish and marine ecology and the other by Derek and Brenda Gibbins on marine invertebrates -- both of which were interesting and entertaining.

Prospects for 1986 look brighter with the planned opening of the new workroom shortly. It is planned to restart the fish recording work sessions as well as continue with talks on marine life.

Plants (Rob Western/Karen Howard-Kyan)

Although 1985 saw fewer specimens being collected, much work has been carried out behind the scenes to consolidate our knowledge of UAE flora.

In conjunction with the Royal Botanic Garden at Edinburgh, which now has an extensive herbarium collection of UAE specimens thanks mainly to the efforts of ENHG collectors since 1980, the major family sequences for this country have now been established for the first time. Some 60 families of indigenous vegetation have been classified, some very large (e.g. leguminosae with about 55 species so far identified) and a few monospecific (e.g. Verbenaceae with just one species present). Most of the perennials have been identified and their habitats recorded. The real work remaining is twofold, (i) to gain comprehensive knowledge of introduced species and (ii) to follow up native annuals. On both counts we make a plea for collections this spring (permission has been received for collecting town plants). Every year a few new annuals are recorded and there could be as many as 50 waiting in diverse nooks and crannies. Some of them will only be found in very localised habitats such as mountain and oasis niches, but undoubtedly some will come from the open desert; in 1985 the Umm al Qawain to Falaj al Moalla road proved a rewarding area.

All correspondence with outside bodies such as Botanical Gardens and interested parties in the Gulf has been lodged in the workroom. The modest ENHG herbarium will be properly arranged under a rational classification shortly. Hopefully, this herbarium will be added to by yourselves. The Al Ain Group has begun a separate collection but this may not survive the departure of Marijcke Jongbloed, who has done so much to foster interest in botany there.

During the year two articles pertaining to botany were published in the Bulletin. The first concerned the vegetation of the southern Ruus al Jibal, and the second was entitled 'A Botanical Reconnaissance of the Northern Emirates, February 1985'.

The ENHG can do a worthwhile job completing the vegetation jigsaw of the Gulf, now that floras of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman have already been published. It is up to you budding enthusiasts to contribute to the Group's work in this field.

Sea Shells (Mark Luce)

This year was unfortunately not as productive as previous years. The major contributing factor was the closure of our workroom for renovations. As a result the bulk of the Group's collections and reference materials were not available for study or further classification. This also meant that evening workshops could not be held.

On the brighter side, a fairly large number of specimens was collected and received from all over the Emirates, including some rather good ones from the islands. Beaches along the Western Coast were visited on a regular basis. For security reasons the beach at Khor Khuwayr in Ras al Khaimah is no longer accessible. This will be a great loss because it was always an excellent area for collecting a wide variety of shells.

All species that had been recorded in the past by the Group were computerised and it is hoped that this database can be maintained and updated on a regular basis. As for organised field trips, there was only one in October, to Jebel Ali. It is hoped that next year we shall be able to have more of these trips and also reinstate our regular monthly workshops.

(Because of the absence or non-availability of certain recorders, the following subjects were not covered at the AGM: Insects; Butterflies and Moths; Reptiles. --Ed.)


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