Bulletin 40 - March 1990: Bird Recorder's Report for 1989

Bird Recorder's Report for 1989

1989 was another year of significant and interesting progress. We were fortunate to have several new and returning members with a great deal of skill to contribute to the Group. Consequently, coverage was good throughout the year, not only of our established sites, but also areas such as Bu Hasa and Asab. The weakest regular coverage was still offshore, with only occasional records coming in from Das Island. However, visits made to Dalma, Sir Bani Yas, Qarnein and Sinaiya contributed a great deal to our knowledge of the species on the UAE's offshore islands.

An event of great importance during the year was the transfer of the ENHG records for 1988-1985 and the Dubai NHG records on to our computer. The 1989 records are currently being entered, but there is still a lot of work to be done with these and the 1986-88 records before we are completely up to date. Many thanks to those people who were instrumental in what has already been done. We would be most grateful for any offers of help with the work that still needs to be done.

Due to the increased number of observers, a Rarities Committee was formed to consider the descriptions of very unusual or new species. Consequently, we were able to update our list at the end of the year, and nine new species were added. They were:

  • Masked Booby Sula dactylatra
  • Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii
  • Merlin Falco columbarius
  • Egyptian Nightjar Caprimulgus aegyptius
  • White-throated Bee Eater Merops albicollis
  • Thrush Nightingale Luscinia luscinia
  • Hume's Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia althaea
  • Bay-backed Shrike Lanius vittatus
  • Trumpeter Finch Rhodopechys githagineus
  • Two other species, Forest Wagtail Dendromanthus indicus and Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus were still under consideration, as they were late sightings and descriptions were not received until mid-December. Rock Bunting Emberiza cia has been deleted from the list, as the observer withdrew his record. Highlights of the year follow, on a monthly basis.

    In January, the main source of excitement was the flock of around 20 Cattle Egrets that came and stayed until March and a second sighting for Abu Dhabi of a Redwing. Cattle Egrets were also seen at Bu Hasa, as well as a Brambling, a very rare visitor.

    February combined winter visitors and early spring migrants, with six species of heron and egret recorded on the reserve, and two Masked Shrikes seen throughout the month in the Mushrif Palace Gardens. Rose-colored Starlings and Mynahs were the main source of interest in Abu Dhabi, with the appearance of two new species of Mynah, Jungle and Pied, along with the usual Bank and Common Mynahs.

    March was dominated by concern for Bateen Wood, but fortunately the site was still flourishing at the end of the year. This month brought many migrants to all areas. Unusual wheatears such as Mourning and Finsch's were recorded, and Rock Thrushes were seen much more frequently than in past years. Some of the most unusual sightings came from the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, where Red-rumped Swallows, Lanner Falcon, Black-eared Wheatear and several species of heron were recorded. Another March feature was the ENHG trip to Ras al Khaimah, giving good numbers of waders, terns and gulls.

    Trips were very much a feature of April, with the important visit to Qarnein to produce a report on aspects of natural history to be found on the island. A second trip was made to Fujairah later in the month, producing a species list of around 70. The visit, however, will probably be most remembered for the controversy over the Indian Pond/Squacco Herons that were seen at the Kalba Pools. April in Bu Hasa and Asab saw a tremendous fall of warblers, the most notable being a Grasshopper Warbler.

    Many saw the last of the spring migration, with the arrival of species such as the Golden Oriole. It also brought the discovery of a pair of Egyptian Geese with eight young at the Reserve (Eastern Lagoon). Unfortunately, none of the goslings survived, but it prompted us to restore Egyptian Goose to our species list. They are certainly kept on offshore islands, but obviously also breed in the wild here.

    In a more active than usual June, there were several highlights including 15 Broad-billed Sandpipers and a Black Kite seen on a trip down the Musaffah Channel. Perhaps the most interesting news of the month was the report of European and Blue-cheeked Bee Eaters seen with young at Fujairah and Ras al Khaimah, suggesting possible breeding. We may be able to prove this in 1990.

    Late July and August brought a flock of 20 European Bee Eaters and a Black-headed Bunting to Abu Dhabi, but little else out of the ordinary. The outstanding birds of the month were found at Al Wathba, a Merlin and an Egyptian Nightjar, both new for our list. Also in August there were two bird-watching trips to Sir Bani Yas, the second of these producing an impressive list of species, including Collared Pratincole and Icterine and Upcher's Warblers.

    Nightjars created a lot of interest in October, with more recorded than in previous years. Two Egyptian Nightjars were seen while the Unwini race of the Common Nightjar was reported on two occasions. Two of our new birds, Thrush Nightingale and Trumpeter Finch, were October records. There were also many sightings of birds of prey, perhaps the most interesting being 10 Sooty Falcons on Dalma Island.

    The second-half of November produced new birds for many of the 'old-timers' here. It was certainly a month for rare species, with White-throated Bee Eater, Ring Ouzel, Brambling, Little Bunting, a possible Forest Wagtail and 26 Hypocorism being seen in different parts of the Emirates. A Houbara Bustard also stayed on Das Island for over three weeks.

    December too had its share of unusual species, including Bay-backed Shrike, Glossy Ibis, Olive-backed Pipit and a possible Dusky Warbler. The arrival in December of a flock of eight Cattle Egrets to the same spot as in January brought the year's bird-watching round in a full circle.

    Many thanks to all the bird watchers for their contributions in the field and administrative help in 1989. We look forward to another good year in 1990.

    Jenny Hollingworth.


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