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.

Great Cormorant
Phalacrocorax carbo
Three seen Dalma Island, loafing on rocks at the northern tip.

Socotra Cormorant
Phalacrocorax nigrogularis
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 site.

Western Reef Heron
Egretta gularis
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.

Gray Heron
Arnea cinerea
One on rocks at northern tip of Dalma Island 30/04/90 and 03/05/90 and one on Yasat on 01/05/90.

Hen Harrier
Circus cyanus
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.

Pallid Harrier
Circus macrourus
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.

Pandion haliaetus
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 season.

Falco tinnunculus
One male seen hunting over the cultivated area on the western side of Dalma Island 03/05/90.

Falco subbuteo
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.

Sooty Falcon
Falcon concolor
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.

Cream-colored Courser
Cursorius cursor
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.

Kentish Plover
Charadrius alexandrinus
Breeding residents on Dalma Island and Yasat Islands. Several adults and one flightless chick seen on both islands.

Little Stint
Calidris minuta
Two birds in mixed winter/breeding plumage on beach at south end of Dalma Island 02/05/90.

Numenius phaeopus
One on Yasat Island 01/05/90.

Numenius arquata
Two on Yasat Island 01/05/90 and one on Dalma Island 03/05/90.

Tringa totanus
One on beach south end of Dalma Island 02/05/90.

Terek Sandpiper
Xenus cinereous
Two on beach south end of Dalma Island 02/05/90.

Arenaria interpres
One on Yasat 01/05/90.

Slender-billed Gull
Larus genei
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.

Lesser-Crested Tern
Sterna benghalensis
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.

White-cheeked Tern
Sterna repressa
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.

Bridled Tern
Sterna anaethetus
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 place May/June.

Saunders Little Tern
Sterna saundersi
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.

Rock Dove
Columba livea
Two birds perched in rock crevices in the hills on Dalma Island 03/05/90 considered to be this species rather than domestic pigeons.

Collard Dove
Streptopelia decaocto
One seen in cultivated area of Dalma Island 30/04/90 and 03/05/90.

Turtle Dove
Streptopelia turtur
Solitary bird regularly found perched in an acacia bush beside the sewage dump on Dalma Island.

Palm Dove
Streptopelia senegalensis
Common breeding resident on Dalma Island. Nest with two almost fully-fledged chicks found.

Pallid Swift
Apus pallidus
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
Eremopterix nigriceps
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.

Crested Lark
Galerida cristata
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.

Hirundo rustica
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.

Tree Pipit
Anthus trivialis
Single bird seen at sewage dump on Dalma Island 01/04/90.

White-cheeked Bulbul
Pycnonotus leucogenys
Single bird seen in garden on Dalma Island 03/05/90.

Red-vented Bulbul
Pycnonotus cafer
Single bird seen in garden on Dalma 30/04/90 and 03/05/90.

Rufous Bushchat
Cercotrichas galactotes
Two seen at sewage dump on Dalma Island 01/05/90.

Black Redstart
Phoenicurus ochruros
One female seen 30/04/90 at sewage dump on Dalma Island.

Phoenicurus Phoenicurus
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.

Saxicola rubetra
Three seen at sewage dump on Dalma 01/05/90.

Isabelline Wheatear
Oenanthe isabelliana
Two seen Dalma Island 30/04/90, the only wheatears observed.

Rock Thrush
Monticola saxatilis
One female seen at sewage dump on Dalma Island 02/05/90 and 03/05/90.

Reed Warbler
Acrocephalus scirpaceus
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).

Olivaceous Warbler
Hippolais pallida
Five seen 30/04/90 and one 03/05/90 at the sewage dump on Dalma Island.

Upcher's Warbler
Hippolais languida
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.

Barred Warbler
Sylvia nisoria
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 cover.

Sylvia communis
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.

Phylloscopus collybita
One 30/04/90 on Dalma Island. Very late record.

Willow Warbler
Phylloscopus trochylus
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.

Spotted Flycatcher
Muscicapa striata
One 30/04/90, about 10 01/05/90, about 20 02/05/90 and about 100 03/05/90 on Dalma Island.

Golden Oriole
Oriolus oriolus
Two females 01/05/90 in garden on Dalma Island, never seen again.

Isabelline Shrike
Lanius isabellinus
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.

Red-cheeked Shrike
Lanius collurio
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.

Bay-backed Shrike
Lanius vittatus
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
Lanius minor
Three 30/04/90 and one 01/05/90 on Dalma Island.

Masked Shrike
Lanius nubicus
One male 01/05/90 at the sewage dump on Dalma Island.

Pale Rock Sparrow
Petronia brachydactyla
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 species.

Indian Silverbill
Euodice malabarica
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 offshore.


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