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Monday, December 6, 2010

Sila 3.12.10 - 4.12.10

Since I started birding in the UAE, Sila has been on my 'to-do' list as it is famous for rarities and has had a good variety of birds over recent years.  One of the problems being a Dubai resident is the distance in getting there.  The drive is approx 4 to 4.5 hours down to the western most point of the UAE ,  very close to the Saudi border.
As it was a long weekend with two Public holidays I thought I would spend a couple of days down that way.  It was also good to know that several other UAE resident birders were going to be there too, this proved to be a blessing in disguise :-)

I set off Friday morning around 6:30am with the intentention of going as far as Jebel Dhanna via Mirfa, birding these locations,  staying over night and then moving on to Sila the next day.    I arrived in Mirfa mid morning and met a fellow Emirati birder, Khalifa.  Together we both found a Pied Stonechat female in the small park, it was extremely shy and having only got brief views and no pics, it quickly disappeared for good !   At this point I changed my plan and decided to go straight to Sila, an hour past Jebel Dhanna and spend the afternoon looking for and photographing wintering Grey Hypocolius,  one of the few places in the UAE to still see these birds.   This was a good decision as when I arrived at the Marsh Date Plantations in Sila there were at lease 20 individuals amongst the flock, happily coming backwards and forwards to a dead Acacia tree.

 Grey Hypocolius
(Hypocolius ampelinus)
 Grey Hypocolius
(Hypocolius ampelinus)
Grey Hypocolius
(Hypocolius ampelinus)


With several reasonable pics in the bag I decided to head back to Jebel Dhanna for a couple of beers, currry and a good nights sleep at the Dhafra Resort hotel.

Next morning I got up early and had breakfast at 6:00am with a view to surveying the grounds of the hotel,  Corn Bunting had been seen here a few days earlier.  Alas no bunting but many Water Pipits , White Wagtails , Skylark and one Common Kestrel.   So off back to Sila it was.  This time with Dark-Thoated Thrush in my sights.  Two had been noted Friday by some of the guys preceding me.   One to be found in Sila Park and one in a small Ghaf/Date plantation.   With a quick call to friends I soon had the location and within 10 minutes I had the first Dark-Throated Thrush.

 Dark-Throated Thrush
(Turdus atrogularis)
  Dark-Throated Thrush
(Turdus atrogularis)
 Dark-Throated Thrush
(Turdus atrogularis)

It was about to get more interesting,  I got a call from Oscar to tell me that he was with others in the next adjacent plantation and they had a possible Taiga Flycatcher.  This would be only the 3rd record in the UAE !  I quickly got out of the plantation and drove over to the second larger plantation where I found the group playing the Taiga calls from an MP3 player. This certainly created some reaction in the bird. It was quite visible but tucked away in the undergrowth and low bushes.  The light was terrible and gave no real opportunities for good pictures.   Recordings were taken and along with in-depth studies of what photographic evidence could be gained a decision was made that it was indeed a Taiga Flycatcher.  I had decided that I would come back later in the afternoon as the light would have improved by then,  as fate would have it my friends Tommy and Mark were making a mad dash to the area at the end of the day and asked me to meet them there.  This proved to be a decisive moment as the bird was out of the undergrowth and much more visible,  we had good views but limited photographic opportunities.  But enough to at least get one or two off !  This proved to be the sighting of the weekend for me.  In the plantation there were also Sparrowhaek, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Black Redstart, Song Thrush and Red-Breasted Flycatcher.

Taiga Flycatcher
(Ficedula albicilla)
In between the Flycatcher sightings I had visited Sila Park,  a small but lovely park which I believe is very good during migration seasons !   I shall certainly visit during the next season.   Another Dark-Throated Thrush was to be noted here but a much shyer bird.   Disappearing into the trees at the slightest interest !   Here I also found several Durian and Isabelline Shrike,  many Water Pipit and White Wagtails and one particularly lovely Kestrel !
Dark-Throated Thrush
(Turdus atrogularis)

Dark-Throated Thrush
(Turdus atrogularis)

 Daurian Shrike
(Lanius isabellinus)
  Daurian Shrike
(Lanius isabellinus)


Common Kestrel
(Falco tinnunculus)
 
So my first trip to the Western Region was a wonderful experience - somewhere I will be spending much more time in future !


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