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WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary

United Arab Emirates

Sunday 21 January to Sunday 28 January 2018
with Nick Moran as leader

Price: $2,600

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Crab-plover Photo: Paul Holt

Situated at the southeastern corner of the Arabian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates is a key migration crossroads, and the country’s varied landscape of mountains, deserts, and coastal mudflats supports over 400 bird species, of which 330 are migrants from central Asia and Siberia. A midwinter trip to this safe, accessible Middle Eastern country offers a fine selection of birds that includes iconic species such as Crab-plover and Pallas’s Gull alongside other species whose ranges make them very difficult to connect with elsewhere, such as Plain Leaf Warbler and Variable Wheatear. Sun, sand, and serious winter birding—the United Arab Emirates has it all.

Day 1: The tour begins this evening in Dubai. Night in Dubai.

Day 2: We’ll begin by exploring the desert an hour from Dubai, targeting specialist desert species such as Cream-colored Courser, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, and Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark. After lunch we’ll check a favored wintering area for Crested Honey Buzzard before heading into the desert to look for Pharaoh Eagle-Owl. Night in Dubai.    

Day 3: Driving north from Dubai, we’ll look for birds at Khor al Beida, a huge tidal bay on the Persian Gulf. Close views of Crab-plover are our goal but Great Knot should be mixed in with the roosting waders too, and nearby we’ll get the chance to test our ID skills on assorted gulls, possibly including the Rolls-Royce of big gulls—Pallas’s Gull. Toward the end of the day we’ll switch coasts, driving two hours to the east coast. Night in Dibba.    

Day 4: Situated at the foot of an inhospitable mountain range, the agricultural fields near Dibba provide an oasis for a wide variety of birds such as Variable Wheatear, Richard’s, Tawny, and Long-billed Pipits, Indian Roller, Daurian Shrike, and many more. Over the years this site has surely added more species to the UAE bird list than anywhere else in the country, and we’ll spend much of the day here. We’ll also visit a rocky wadi 30 minutes from Dibba to search for Streaked Scrub Warbler. Night in Dibba.  

Day 5: Birding our way south from Dibba, we’ll check various harbors and beaches for waders, gulls, and terns. Socotra Cormorant and Sooty Gull are regular in this area, and depending on tide times, we may scan Khor Kalba to look for the endemic kalbaensis race of Collared Kingfisher. From Kalba we’ll travel through impressive mountain and desert scenery to the city of Al Ain, where we’ll visit an oasis to look for Pallid Scops Owl. In the afternoon we’ll make a stop outside the city at an artificial wetland that holds egrets, herons, and waterfowl, as well as drawing in raptors like Marsh Harrier and occasionally Long-legged Buzzard. Night in Al Ain. 

Day 6: Al Ain features an isolated “whale-back” mountain called Jebel Hafeet, and we’ll spend the morning birding on and at the foot of this imposing geological feature. The hotel grounds themselves have played host to such wintering rarities as Eversmann’s Redstart and Black-throated Thrush, so it’s a great place to wake up. Wheatears will be high on the agenda, with dapper Hume’s commonly encountered, at least one pair of Hooded in the vicinity, and Red-tailed a possibility. Egyptian Vultures patrol the cliffs of a wadi at the foot of the mountain, where Plain Leaf Warbler, Sand Partridge, and Striolated Bunting can also be found. 

In the early afternoon we’ll drive west toward Abu Dhabi, where we’ll visit the excellent Al Wathba Wetland Reserve to look for White-tailed Lapwing and Grey-headed Swamphen among others. Nearby dried-out fields offer us a chance of rounding off the day with Egyptian Nightjar. Night in Abu Dhabi. 

Day 7: Flexibility is the order of the day: we may check some of the parks around Abu Dhabi for wintering species like Masked Shrike or try sites between Abu Dhabi and Dubai for any desert species we’ve yet to find. It may be possible to organize a boat trip to some of the offshore islands around Abu Dhabi to look for waders, gulls, and terns. Night in Dubai.    

Day 8: There will be time to enjoy wintering Greater Spotted Eagles against the spectacular backdrop of the Dubai skyline before the tour concludes in the early afternoon. 

Updated: 09 March 2017

Prices

  • 2018 Tour Price : $2,600
  • Single Occupancy Supplement : $350
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Notes

This tour is organized by our British company, Sunbird. Information on Sunbird and an explanation of Sunbird tour pricing can be found here.

* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.

Maximum group size 10 with one leader.