Bulletin 31 - March 1987: Recorders’ Reports

Recorders’ Reports


By Jenny Hollingsworth

Since the monthly articles in the Newsletters have covered the main sightings both on and offshore in 1986 in some detail, I do not plan to repeat that information here. Suffice it to say that 1986 has been another very good and active year. We have had records covering every month and all our regular observation sites. Several new species have been added to our list including Pied Kingfisher, Pied Flycatcher, Wood, Yellow-browed, Savi’s and Icterine Warblers, Little and Rustic Buntings and Tree Sparrow.

The Eastern Lagoon (Sewage Farm of previous years) has hung on although it has changed drastically during the year. It has once again produced the majority of our onshore recordings. Other promising areas in Abu Dhabi have been the Hunting Lodge at Muqta Bridge, the Ladies Beach, Bateen Airfield, the Mushrif ‘Wood’ and stretch of mangroves along the Mussafah Road.

There have been several bird watching trips to other areas during the year that have added to our species number. Suweihan and the plantations along the Al Ain-Abu Dhabi Road have been visited several times. Expeditions further afield to the Northern Emirates, Fujairah, Hatta and in December to Dubai were all very rewarding.

Contacts have been made and information exchanged with the Oman Natural History Group and the Dubai NHG as well as our regular contacts with interested parties in the UK.

The greatest achievement in this section this year has been the updating of our 1977-85 recordings on a computerized list. This massive volume contains all the sightings records of our members since the ENHG began its ornithological section. This list is the very worthwhile and unique result of countless hours of work by many people, most of whom have long departed Abu Dhabi. The one copy is being kept in the ENHG workroom at the Old Fort but we are hoping to get more copies to send to interested groups in the near future. I should like to thank all those who have contributed records and time to this project. We shall of course continue with our records and add to this existing information year by year.

Marine Mammals

By Ian Hamer

This year turned out to be generally disappointing in the recording of the whales, dolphins and dugongs of the UAE waters. Due to circumstances beyond our control we have been unable to continue the small group of Humpback Dolphins off Abu Dhabi Island. This study was begun in 1984 following the visit of Horace Dobbs and it was hoped eventually to prepare a meaningful paper on the behavior of this group. However, it appears hopeful that the study will recommence in 1987.

We have received sighting forms from helicopter pilots of unidentified dolphins, whales, dugongs and turtles. Although sightings without positive species identification are of limited scientific interest, they do provide some insight into the fauna present in the Gulf and would be of use in monitoring the effect of any future pollution. Likewise, we have received a number of dolphin sightings from boat owners around Abu Dhabi, again generally unidentified.

A study of dugongs in the Arabian Gulf was undertaken by MEPA in Saudi Arabia and the waters of the UAE were included in the survey. We have yet to hear the results, but it is intended that the relevant sections of the final report will eventually be published in the Bulletin. Unfortunately, no sightings of dugong have been reported by local boat owners over the past 12 months.

For the future it is hoped that we shall continue to receive a large number of sighting forms from those who have been fortunate enough to make contact with these very interesting mammals.


By Rob Western

Despite much press hype over archaeological finds in Fujairah and Ras al Khaimah this past year, there were insufficient entries in the ENHG Photographic Competition to warrant prizes in this category, and certainly interest in the Group seems to have waned since the days when members used to bring in their own artifacts to meetings and set up a mini-museum. Perhaps the collection now housed in the Old Fort will stimulate more interest. Bulletin 38 (March) included a brief summary of recent archaeological news, and Nick Saines contributed an interesting article on the history of the Buraimi Oasis in the following issue. Bulletin 30 contained an Arabic article on Gulf archaeology in general.

Interest should be further revived by the proposed visit to the new museum at Ras al Khaimah. In the past the 3rd millennium sites at Hili and Umm an Nar have been in the limelight, but it now seems as if there will be a shift of emphasis to the northern Emirates.

Bees and Wasps

By Ian Hamer

The recording of the Hymenoptera Aculeata has again been extremely successful over the past year. Virtually all the specimens taken have been reliably identified by entomologists at the British Museum (Natural History).

Several extremely interesting specimens have been taken. At least two genera of wasps have been taken which are new to the Arabian Peninsula. It is also considered that some of the captures may also be new to science but this has yet to be confirmed.

However, the total number of individuals taken is lower than the ‘boom’ years of the early 1980’s, probably due to the lack of substantial winter rain. Several areas that were once prime collecting sites now yield very modest returns. It is hoped that the recent rains portend the beginning of a very wet winter with the resultant proliferation of flora and insect life.

Many diverse collecting sites have been visited, from isolated wadis in the Hajjar Mountains to oases in the Liwa and the more domesticated areas around Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

Reports of Apis florae F. (the small Asiatic honey bee) in Abu Dhabi are still being received and I have removed several colonies thus saving the bees from the wanton destruction of the pest-control companies.

I remain in contact with scientists in the USA concerning bee diseases and bee-mite infestations. However, I have yet to locate a diseased (as opposed to poisoned) colony of A. florae in the UAE.

I am also pleased to report that I have been fortunate to make contact with a Dutch entomologist specializing in the Diptera (flies) and it is hoped that this will lead to the ENHG’s fly collection being reliably identified.

Giles Roche kindly forwarded a comprehensive list of Sphecid Wasps taken by him during his tenure in the UAE and this was embodied, together with details of my own captures, in an article in the November Bulletin. The July issue contained a list of bees taken by myself since I began collecting in 1981. It is planned that further articles will appear, expanding previous listings and providing information on other super-families.

As for the coming year, it is hoped to visit as many different collecting sites as possible and to continue to forward as much material as possible to the BM(UK) for identification. In this respect, any offers to act as a courier would be gratefully accepted.


By Carol Brook

Few recordings of land mammals were made during the year. While verbal reports of dugongs in the Sadiyat Channel are noted, undoubtedly many more species have been observed in the Emirates over this period. One of the rarer species, an Arabian Tahr, was sighted near the top of Jebel Hafit on 3oth March. A type of wild goat, unique to this part of the world, it is becoming increasingly scarce and therefore the sighting is all the more remarkable.

In the same month, near a village off the Bahayas-Filli Road, a wildcat Felis silvestris tristramii was seen on rocky terrain. It paused to look back at a distance of 20 feet before climbing out of sight, notably adept at cover the rough ground at speed. Also in March a large hare was briefly seen one afternoon in the Shweib area.

In September, during a visit to an old fort situated in an oasis in wadi terrain not far from Mahdah, an unidentified species of bat was encountered. Several were flying in the vicinity and one was hanging from the ceiling inside.

Two separate sightings of the common Arabian fox were recorded, both in the Jebel Huwayyah area. The first was in February and the second in December. In the latter case, disturbed while the observer was hill climbing, a large adult fox was seen at about 50 meters as it left a small scree slope to cross the valley, where it was seen by a separate group of climbers over a period of 3 to 4 minutes. Stopping several times, it soon became more and more difficult to distinguish from its surroundings. Having crossed the valley, it climbed the opposite ridge out of sight.


By Don MacLean

On two occasions this year talks on geological subjects were given to the Group. At an early point Jose Matos explained the finer points of the study of fossils, and then in June Nick Saines spoke to the Hatta Fort meeting on the geology of the Al Ain district. Late in the year a housekeeping job was undertaken as the Group’s geological specimens were removed to the Old Fort.

During the coming year we hope to run a field trip and also to acquire a few more good-looking rock exhibits. Donations, labeled as to locality, would be welcome.


By Rob Western

This past year has again been a period of consolidation. As international interest in the vegetation of the Arabian Peninsula increases, so countries like the UAE, which hitherto have received little focus, are now receiving more attention. The influence on UAE vegetation patterns from surrounding regions will be set into perspective in a talk to be given to the Group next January 5th.

A major recording and collecting trip to the east coast and northern Emirates last February furthered our knowledge of the plant communities in these areas. New recordings included Scrophularia arguta, Ceterach officiniarum, Zoegea purpurea and Misopates oronticum from the hills above Wadi Khabb, behind Dibba, while a plantation at Lulayah, near Khor Fakkan, yielded Aristolochia bracteata, Dianthus cyri and Solanum coagulans. An attempt was also made by Group members to survey some of the introduced shrubs and trees in the country. An excellent article on this subject by Jean-Claude Melone was published in Bulletin 29. Other 1986 Bulletin articles of botanical interest were on desert gourds (March) and figs (November).

During the year a draft manuscript describing in details some 250-plus illustrated species of UAE plants was completed. This is presently in Dubai where there is sponsored interest in the book and hopefully it will appear in print in English and Arabic later in 1987. In conjunction with this work the Recorder visited the Herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh three times, and further UAE specimens were deposited there for professional study purposes. The Recorder has also continued to correspond with several botanists of international repute who have taken an interest in Arabia. In addition, several specimens were received from Marijcke Jongbloed of the Dubai Group for identification and comment.

The Group’s own herbarium is now housed in the Old Fort and more will be added in due course. For budding enthusiasts here tonight, perhaps the most important thing to look out for is the spring annuals phenomenon. This is one area of recording in the Emirates that needs more systematic work in the future.


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