Bulletin 30 - November 1986: The Birds of Das Island, UAE 9.11.85 to 2.11.86

The Birds of Das Island, UAE 9.11.85 to 2.11.86

by Len Reaney

Das Island is a small, rocky salt plug of some two square miles situated 165 kms north west of Abu Dhabi town and 135 kms east of Doha, in the Arabian Gulf. Das is heavily industrialised and very little of the original landscape or ground cover remains. However, amenity trees and small gardens are scattered around the island, particularly in the vicinity of living quarters and recreation buildings. The island is heavily populated at all times and man's influence is felt continually even in relatively isolated corners. Das is not on a well - defined bird migration route but being a well lit island with gas flares it attracts good numbers of wayward and broad front migrants including, it appears, disoriented vagrants. There is a large winter population of gulls and terns with nearby breeding seabird populations creating interest in summer.

The vast majority of the following records are the author's own over a one year period interrupted by five one - month leave periods, and supplemented by just a few other reliable observations. The status and abundance of individual species are not necessarily proved.

The list is arranged in the same order as that in The Birds of Britain and Europe with North Africa and the Middle East, by Heinzel, Fitter and Parslow, published by Collins. This order was originally devised by A. Wetmore and is also followed in other standard works.

Bird Observations
Red - billed Tropicbird Scarce; small flocks max. 6, Jan., Feb. Breeds nearby islands but present breeding status on Zirku unknown.
Cormorant Scarce winter visitor; 2 birds Dec. - Feb.
Socotra Cormorant Common. Small flocks throughout winter; Passage of c. 1000 1st. Feb. & c. 15,000 9th. Feb. c. 70 throughout summer, possibly breeding offshore flare platforms.
Grey Heron Scarce winter visitor; fairly common Aug. - Oct. passage; max. 9 on 8th Sept.
Purple Heron Scarce migrant Mar. - May, Aug., Sept; flock of 16 on 4th. Sept.
Reef Heron Scarce winter visitor with some on passage Jun. - Sept. Mainly dark phase.
Night Heron Scarce migrant; flock of 9 on 18th. Sept.
Greater Flamingo Rare; 3 juveniles 30th. Oct.
Osprey Resident; max. 3. Attempted breeding but failed; one theory is sterilisation from prolonged roosting on Telecomms. masts.
Black Kite Single bird 10th. Jan.
Sparrowhawk Single female 10th. Sept.
(Goshawk) (large accipiter 2Sth. Apr. suspected as being female of this species).
Buzzard Scarce migrant; max. 4 23rd. - 25th. Sept.
Booted Eagle Single pale phase 4th. Sept.
Spotted Eagle Rare winter visitor; one record 28th. Oct.
(Steppe Eagle) (medium - sized eagle early Dec. suspected as being this species on call).
Pallid Harrier Single female 4th. Sept.
Peregrine Scarce; single birds 9 - 12th. Nov., 4th. May.
Hobby Scarce migrant; 3 on 14th. Sept., one on 20th. Sept. Surprisingly not on UAE 1980 list (ENHG).
Lesser Kestrel Single male 4th. Sept.
Kestrel Scarce; single birds in Apr., Sept., Nov.
Quail Scarce migrant; 2 records 12th. Apr., 19th. Sept.
Spotted Crake Rare migrant; 1 record 20th. Sept.
Moorhen Rare; dead juvenile on beach 18th. Sept.
Coot Rare; exhausted juvenile washed up 21st. Nov.
Crab Plover Rare; 2 juveniles 19th. Sept.
Oystercatcher Scarce; Aug., Sept. 12 on ~3th. Sept.
Ringed Plover Scarce winter visitor; scarce migrant Aug. - Oct.
Kentish plover Common winter visitor; scarce migrant Aug. - Oct.
Greater Sandplover Fairly common winter visitor; scarce on passage Aug. - Oct.
Lesser Sandplover Fairly common Aug., Sept. passage, max. 17; scarce winter.
Lesser Golden Plover Vagrant; single record 28th. Oct.
Grey Plover Scarce; singles Nov., Dec. & Aug. - Sept. passage.
Turnstone Scarce winter visitor; common on passage Aug. - Oct.
Curlew Sandpiper Scarce migrant; 3 records Aug.
Dunlin One only, 10th. Nov.
Little Stint Scarce; 6 records Aug., Sept.
Sanderling Scarce; 5 records Apr., Aug., Oct.
Terek Sandpiper Scarce; 2 records Aug., Sept.
Redshank Scarce, Aug., max. 5.
Greenshank Scarce; 2 records Aug., Sept.
Common Sandpiper Common winter visitor and migrant esp. Aug.
Green Sandpiper Scarce; Aug., Sept. Max. 5 on 24th. Aug.
Ruff Scarce; 2 records Aug., Sept.
Curlew Scarce; 3 records July & Sept.
Whimbrel Scarce migrant, Aug., Sept. passage.
Bar - tailed Godwit Scarce; 5 records Aug., Sept.
Stone Curlew Scarce migrant; 3 records in Mar., Apr. & Oct. Previously reported wintering in large numbers.
Collared pratincole Scarce migrant; 3 records Aug., Sept.
Cream - coloured Courser Rare; single juvenile 6 - 7th. Sept.
Skua sp. (Arctic?) 1 record, 2nd. Nov.
Slender - billed Gull Scarce; small numbers, max. 3, in Feb., Apr., May, Aug., Sept.
Sooty Gull Common resident; up to 100 present though fewer Sept. - Nov.
Great Black - headed Gull Fairly common winter visitor Jan. - Mar. and max. 12 on passage early Mar.
Black - headed Gull Common winter visitor; numbers increasing Nov. /Dec. to +400 Jan. Gone by end Apr.
Herring Gull Common winter visitor; returns from mid - Aug., leaves by end Apr. +1000 in Dec., Jan.
Lesser Black - backed Gull Scarce winter visitor; max. 3. Not to be confused with dark backed Herring Gull heuglini.
Swift Tern Common resident; c. 150 in winter but fewer in summer, esp. Aug. - Oct.
Lesser Crested Tern Common, mainly Apr. - Jul. ; small numbers at other times; missing Oct. - Dec.
Sandwich Tern Common winter visitor; c. 150 late Oct. - Feb. Small numbers on passage Aug., Sept.
Common Tern Scarce migrant; up to 10 in Aug., Sept.
White - cheeked Tern Common, breeding summer visitor; numbers building up from May to +500 in Aug. Gone by end Sept. Little Tern sp. - Rare; 1 record 3 - 4th. Sept.
Bridled Tern Summer visitor; common just offshore but none seen on the island.
Collared Dove 2 records, Apr., Aug.
Turtle Dove Common migrant Apr., early May, late Aug., Sept. ; max. 30. 2 also 7th. July.
Rufous Turtle Dove Vagrant; single bird 24th. Oct. First known UAE record.
Palm Dove Scarce; singles in Oct., Dec.
Cuckoo Rare migrant; single bird 14 - 15th. Sept.
Short - eared Owl Rare winter visitor; single, 30th. Oct.
Nightjar Scarce migrant; 5 records, all females, Apr., Sept., Oct.
Swift Rare migrant; one on 26th. Apr.
Pallid Swift Rare; single record 25th. Aug.
Bee-eater Fairly common migrant Apr., Sept.
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Scarce migrant Apr., early May, Oct.
Roller Scarce migrant; Apr., Aug., Sept.
Ring-necked Parakeet Individuals or small numbers most of year; flock of 23 on 1Ith. Apr.
Hoopoe Common migrant; regular Jan. - Apr. and Aug. - Nov.
Wryneck Scarce migrant, Apr.
Black-crowned Finch-Lark Two records only, Apr. /May and Sept.
Hoopoe Lark One only, 8 - 10th. Aug.
Short-toed Lark Scarce; small numbers on passage Feb. - Apr., Sept. /act.
Lesser Short - toed Lark Scarce; small numbers of passage birds Nov., Feb., Apr. /May. Flock of 10 in Nov.
Desert Lark One only, 2nd. May.
Upcher's Warbler Scarce migrant; Apr., Aug., Sept
Whitethroat Common migrant; late Apr. /early May, late Aug. - Oct.
Lesser Whitethroat Common migrant; Apr., Sept., Oct. One bird wintered 24th. Nov. - 14th. Feb. (minula? )
Garden Warbler Scarce migrant; 6 records Apr., early May.
Barred Warbler Scarce migrant; Apr., early May, Sept.
Blackcap Fairly common migrant; mainly Apr;max. 7.
Menetries Warbler Scarce migrant; Feb. - Apr., Sept.
Desert Warbler Fairly common winter visitor; smallnumbers passage birds Sept. - Nov.
WiIlow Warbler Common migrant esp. Apr., early May, Sept., Oct.
Chiffchaff Common winter visitor; passage birds in Oct., Nov., Feb.
Wood Warbler Vagrant? One bird 9 - 15th. Sept.; second bird 11 - 14th. Sept. First known UAE record.
Yellow - browed Warbler Scarce; One wintered 2nd. Dec. - 4th. Mar. Passage birds on 7 - 9th. Feb., 24th. Apr., 8th. Sept., 28 - 29th. Oct. First known UAE records
Spotted Flycatcher Common migrant; Apr., Sept. Also a late one on 29th. Oct.
Pied Flycatcher Vagrant; one male 6th. Apr. (not a semi - collared). First known UAE record.
Red-breasted Flycatcher Scarce migrant; 3 records Oct., Nov.
Stonechat Fairly common winter visitor; passage birds in Feb.
Whinchat Scarce migrant; Apr., early May, Aug., Sept.
Blue Rock Thrush Scarce on passage; Feb., Sept.
Rock Thrush Scarce migrant; Apr., Sept.
Wheatear Fairly common migrant Feb. - early May, Sept
Desert Wheatear Fairly common winter visitor; smallnumbers on passage Aug. - Nov.
Isabelline Wheatear Common on passage Feb. - Apr., Aug. - Nov.
Red-tailed Wheatear Scarce; Sept. - Dec. ; max. 5 in Nov.
Pied Wheatear Common migrant Feb. - Apr., Sept. ~Nov.
Black Redstart Scarce; one wintered Dec., Jan. ; singlepassage birds in Feb., Apr., Oct., Nov.
Redstart Common migrant Apr., early May.
Robin Scarce winter visitor. One wintered; 2 others on Nov. passage.
Bluethroat Scarce; Oct., Nov. Max. 4 on 26th. Oct.
White - throated Robin Rare migrant; one on Ist. May.
Rufous Bushchat Scarce; passage birds in Apr., May, Aug., Sept.
Song Thrush Scarce winter visitor Nov. - Feb. Max. 4.
Mistle Thrush Rare winter visitor; single 22 - 24th. Nov.
House Bunting Single male 26th. Jan. - lst. Feb.
Black - headed Bunting Fairly common migrant; Apr., Aug, Sept. Mainly Aug. with max. of 7.
Ortolan Fairly common migrant; Apr., early May, Sept., Oct.
Cinereous Bunting Rare migrant; single female 8 - 18th. Apr. First known UAE record.
Little Bunting Vagrant; single male 28th. Oct. First known UAE record.
Rustic Bunting Vagrant; single winter female 9 - 15th Dec. First known UAE record.
Brambling Rare winter visitor; 2 birds 22 - 24th. Nov.
Siskin Rare winter visitor; 2 males 8th. Dec., prob. arrived 6th. Dec.
Common Rosefinch Scarce migrant; late Aug., Sept. Max. of 5 on 21st. Sept.
Tree Sparrow Rare; 2 separate(?) birds 8th. & 23rd. Sept. First known UAE record.
House Sparrow Scarce; small numbers Sept., Nov., Dec.; single in May.
Yellow-throated Sparrow Apparently fairly common; Apr., Sept. ; max. 12 in Apr. Also recorded Jun., Aug.
Pale Rock Sparrow Scarce; one in Mar., 2 in Apr.
Starling Scarce; Nov., Dec. ; max. 7.
Rose-coloured Starling Fairly common migrant; Apr., July, Aug., Sept. Mainly autumn; max. 12 in Aug.
Golden Oriole Scarce migrant; early May, Aug., Sept. Max. 4 in Sept.

Other Das Island records of species not seen personally but likely to occur and probably reliably identified by others are as follows:

Bird Observations
Great White Egret winter records.
Little Egret winter records.
Squacco Heron 1973.
Glossy Ibis Mar. 1977
White Stork A large flock of several hundred was reported over-flying the island from the north west on 13th. Sept. 1984. The same day several hundred white storks (estimates vary from 700 to 3000) landed at Abu Dhabi new airport, and remained in decreasing numbers until mid-Jan. the following year. (RW)
Teal singles, Apr. 1975
Houbara Bustard two in Nov. 1974. one late Jun. 1982. (RW)
Little Ringed Plover .
Phalarope sp (Red-necked?)
Wood Sandpiper Mar. 1978. (IF)
Caspian Tern Mar. 1978. (IF)
Barn Owl Sept. 1985. (RW) Nov. 1985.
Scops Owl Dead, May 1975.
Little Owl one winter record.
Indian Roller Jan. 1977.
Kingfisher several records; sometimes present for a few days in the harbour or around the salt water intakes. (RW)
Bartailed Desert Lark Mar. 1978; perhaps confused with Desert Lark. (IF)
Bimaculated Lark Mar. 1978. (IF)
Graceful Warbler singles in winter
(Semi?) Collared Flycatcher Feb. 1977, Mar. 1978. (IF)
Black-eared Wheatear Mar. 1978. (IF)

(IF -Ian Fraser)
(RW -Rob Western)


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