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WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary

United Arab Emirates

Sunday 20 January to Sunday 27 January 2019
with Nick Moran as leader

Price: $2,500

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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 late this evening in Dubai with a transfer from the airport to our hotel. Night in Dubai.

Day 2: Driving north from Dubai we’ll visit two areas: Khor al Beida, a fantastic tidal bay on the Persian Gulf, and some grass-growing farms near Ras al Khaimah. 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. At the grass-growing farms we should find a good selection of wintering pipits, wagtails, waders and more. Night in Dubai.    

Day 3: After an early breakfast we’ll explore the desert an hour from Dubai, targeting specialist desert species such as Cream-colored Courser, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, and Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark. During the heat of the afternoon we’ll switch coasts, driving two hours to the east coast, where we’ll check various harbours and beaches for 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, as well as Indian Pond Heron and waders. Night in Fujairah.    

Day 4: We’ll begin by visiting a rocky wadi 30 minutes from Fujairah to search for Streaked Scrub Warbler and Striolated Bunting. Our focus will then switch to some fodder fields near Dibba. 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. In 2017 we discovered the country’s 5th Great Spotted Cuckoo here, so it’s a clearly a place to expect the unexpected. Night in Fujairah.

Day 5: A last morning in Fujairah will give us another chance to look for terns and gulls while the beaches are quiet, with White-cheeked Tern high on the target list. From Fujairah 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 afternoon, we’ll drive west towards Abu Dhabi, pausing to search some fodder fields that have hosted rarities such as Sociable Lapwing. Night in Abu Dhabi.

Day 7: In the morning we’ll visit the excellent Al Wathba Wetland Reserve to look for White-tailed Lapwing and Grey-headed Swamphen among others. A recent visit yielded Baillon’s Crake and Moustached Warbler.  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 8: Flight times permitting there should be time to enjoy wintering Greater Spotted Eagles against the spectacular backdrop of the Dubai skyline before we transfer to the airport where the concludes in the late morning. 

Created: 17 October 2018

Prices

  • 2019 Tour Price : $2,500
  • Single Occupancy Supplement : $260
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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.