Bulletin 42 - November 1990: Bird Notes from Offshore
Bird Notes from Offshore
by Adrian Chapman
I have visited many offshore sites since my arrival in the UAE and have never
been disappointed with the birds to be found. However, the visit of Moira and
David Robinson and myself to Dalma and nearby islands from 30/04/90 to 04/05/90
was probably the most rewarding yet. Once again, we are indebted to Mr. Ghazzan
al Gussain for providing transport and accommodation for this opportunity for
which we record our gratitude.
The principle features to be recorded were our visits to nearby Yasat Island,
Umm Ambar Island and Umm al Hatab Island to examine the seabird breeding
colonies and quite obvious visible bird migration passage throughout our stay on
Dalma Island. The latter phenomena resulted in some species disappearing from
day to day and other species arriving to take their place. The weather was fine
throughout the period; the wind from the north (Shimal) was variable, increasing
on the 4th May to about Beaufort force 6. The effects of these winds on the
migrating birds was also easy to see, with quite exhausted birds sheltering in
almost bit of cover available. It is such experiences as this that makes one
realize just how fantastic a feat is undertaken by small migrating birds
annually and how perilous these often very long journeys can be. Following is a
systematic list of birds noted during our stay in the western region.
Three seen Dalma Island, loafing on rocks at the northern tip.
Seen in small flocks around Dalma, Yasat, Umm Ambar and Umm al Hatab Islands and
also at sea around the area. There is evidence of a large breeding colony -
perhaps 750 by 500 m in area on the northeast side of the northern-most island
of the Yasat group. Approximately 500 birds were present just offshore from this
Western Reef Heron
At least two seen regularly around Dalma Island coast. At least three pairs seen
around Yasat Island on 01/05/90. Both color morphs present.
One on rocks at northern tip of Dalma Island 30/04/90 and 03/05/90 and one on
Yasat on 01/05/90.
A ring-tailed harrier of heavier build, broader wings and more ponderous flight
than Pallid Harrier seen at same time showing large white rump patch, considered
t o be this species. Seen on Yasat northernmost island on 01/05/90.
A well-marked female seen quartering over the nesting colony of Saunders Little
Terns - more or less alternately with the previous bird (0261) on Yasat
northernmost island on 01/05/90.
At least six individuals seen around Dalma Island throughout the period. Cliff
top nest site not used this year. Two birds and two nests found on Yasat Island
01/05/90. One of these nests looks as though it was occupied this last breeding
One male seen hunting over the cultivated area on the western side of Dalma
One male seen stooping on passerines at the sewage dump in the hills of Dalma
Island, later found perched in the barren rock hills 03/05/90.
We were very pleased to record up to three birds have returned to Dalma Island,
seen throughout our visit. We hope to return later to confirm breeding of this
rare summer visitor.
Two adults and one juvenile located in the cultivations on the western side of
Dalma Island 03/05/90. The young bird was about three quarters grown and could
fly. Our opinion is that the breeding must have taken place on Dalma Island
itself, as it is unlikely that the young bird was sufficiently accomplished at
flying to make even the shortest sea crossing to the island. To say the least
this observation was a significant and unexpected treat.
Breeding residents on Dalma Island and Yasat Islands. Several adults and one
flightless chick seen on both islands.
Two birds in mixed winter/breeding plumage on beach at south end of Dalma Island
One on Yasat Island 01/05/90.
Two on Yasat Island 01/05/90 and one on Dalma Island 03/05/90.
One on beach south end of Dalma Island 02/05/90.
Two on beach south end of Dalma Island 02/05/90.
One on Yasat 01/05/90.
Two on 02/05/90 and three on 03/05/90 on Dalma Island. Single birds seen during
sea passage to and from Dalma 30/04/90 and 04/05/90.
Up to 2000 birds loafing on beaches off Dalma Island most days. Also commonly
seen at sea during crossings and resting on sand bar south of Muhemmel Island.
Seen in large numbers during sea crossings and at rest on beaches off Dalma
Island. Breeding colonies were forming on all Yasat Islands. Two eggs in scrape
found on the middle Yasat Island. From these observations the main breeding
activity would be May/June.
Seen in large numbers during sea crossings, generally scarcer near to Dalma
Island. Large numbers collecting at Yasat Island and breeding colonies forming.
Like the previous species, it would appear the main breeding activity would take
Saunders Little Tern
Seen in small numbers during all sea crossings. Breeding colony on the central
stony plain of Yasat northern island, and also breeding on the southern spit of
Dalma Island. One young chick found.
Two birds perched in rock crevices in the hills on Dalma Island 03/05/90
considered to be this species rather than domestic pigeons.
One seen in cultivated area of Dalma Island 30/04/90 and 03/05/90.
Solitary bird regularly found perched in an acacia bush beside the sewage dump
on Dalma Island.
Common breeding resident on Dalma Island. Nest with two almost fully-fledged
About 25 circling about the rocky outcrop of Umm Ambar Island 01/05/90 further
sightings include two on Dalma Island 02/05/90 and another four 03/05/90.
Black-crowned Finch Larch
Assumed a breeding resident on Dalma Island. Up to 50 birds seen in the general
area of cultivation on the western side of the Island.
Seen 30/04/90, 02/05/90 and 03/05/90 on Dalma Island in several places. Numerous
in the western cultivated area and singing from perches atop bushes and in
soaring flight. Probably a breeding resident.
None on Dalma Island 30/04/90. Three seen flying northwards during sea crossing
between Dalma and Yasat Island and three or four seen at Yasat Island 01/05/90.
About 20 on Dalma Island 02/05/90, about 100 Dalma Island 03/05/90, about 30
Dalma Island 04/05/90 and "hundreds" seen during drive from Jebel
Dhanna to Abu Dhabi 04/05/90.
Single bird seen at sewage dump on Dalma Island 01/04/90.
Single bird seen in garden on Dalma Island 03/05/90.
Single bird seen in garden on Dalma 30/04/90 and 03/05/90.
Two seen at sewage dump on Dalma Island 01/05/90.
One female seen 30/04/90 at sewage dump on Dalma Island.
Five 30/04/90, five 01/05/90, about 20 02/05/90, about 30 30/05/90 all seen at
sewage dump on Dalma Island.
Three seen at sewage dump on Dalma 01/05/90.
Two seen Dalma Island 30/04/90, the only wheatears observed.
One female seen at sewage dump on Dalma Island 02/05/90 and 03/05/90.
About 20 seen in cultivated area western side Dalma Island 03/05/90. All birds
seen were silent, but showed none of the finer detail associated with Marsh
Warbler (1250 Acrocephalus palustris).
Five seen 30/04/90 and one 03/05/90 at the sewage dump on Dalma Island.
With dark alula and long, dark, never still tail. Once recognized, never
forgotten. About 20 seen 30/04/90, three 01/05/90, none 02/05/90 and one
03/05/90 on Dalma Island.
Three 02/05/90 and one 03/05/90 on Dalma Island. We spent two hours trying to
photograph this latter bird. We obtained photos of acacia thorns, but precious
little of the bird, such was its expertise in maximizing the use of the limited
About 20 30/04/90, about 10 01/05/90, eight 02/05/90 and about 30 03/05/90. Seen
in many locations on Dalma Island but extremely tired and secretive, generally
inside scrub or acacia bushes.
One 30/04/90 on Dalma Island. Very late record.
About 40 30/04/90, about the same on 01/05/90, two 02/05/90 and about 75
03/05/90 on Dalma Island.
One 30/04/90, about 10 01/05/90, about 20 02/05/90 and about 100 03/05/90 on
Two females 01/05/90 in garden on Dalma Island, never seen again.
Two 30/04/90, two 01/05/90, two 02/05/90 and one 03/05/90, usually seen at the
sewage dump on Dalma Island.
About 25 30/04/90, five 01/05/90, three 02/05/90 and four 03/04/90 seen in many
locations but finally only at the sewage dump on Dalma Island.
Lamentably, insufficient attention was paid to a beautiful "redback"
male which had white patches at the base of the primaries and white rump. Head
pattern details were not recorded, but at least one of the Red-backed Shrikes
(Lanius collurio) recorded 30/04/90 may very well have been this species. All
"redbacks" subsequently seen did not display the above mentioned
plumage characteristics. Dalma Island.
Lesser Gray Shrike
Three 30/04/90 and one 01/05/90 on Dalma Island.
One male 01/05/90 at the sewage dump on Dalma Island.
Pale Rock Sparrow
A "sparrow" seen perched on a tree in the low cost housing complex,
Dalma Island 01/05/90. Plae supercillim, no chestnut patch on wing coverts and
no yellow throat patch seen. At first thought to be a female house sparrow but
when it flew it had a tinkling, trilling type call. Considered to be this
A closely packed, ever moving bunch of six perched in the top of a bare tree in
cultivations on Dalma Island 03/05/90.
We consider close views of 56 species of unusual or rare birds to be an
excellent five days birding. From the numbers of birds recorded it is obvious
that very active northerly migration was taking place throughout our stay