Thursday 29 November 2012

Ras al Khor, Dubai, November 2012

I rushed to Ras al Khor straight from the flight in an attempt to get there just before high tide. The published time for high tide at Dubai Creek was 09.30. As it turns out, it takes an extra 45 mins to an hour for the tidal surge to reach the top of the creek and percolate through the mangroves. I arrived about 20 mins after the predicted high to find the water’s leading edge creeping past the hide. Even at its height, the water was not deep enough to reach the flamingos’ knees, but Kentish Plovers and Little Stint had to flee before its seeping approach.

The Greater Flamingos were clustered tightly together when I arrived, heads down, feeding about 20m from the hide. I realised that food had been put out for them and wondered if this is why they stay so faithful to this area. Despite this, I have no reason to suspect that they are not wild, free-flying birds.

After feeding, they split into 2 groups with a few striking out on their own, or in small groups. Immatures are only about half the size of a full grown bird, but there was also a big disparity in size between the adults.

In front of the hide, a causeway juts out into the shallow water and the two halves of the flock arranged themselves on each side. Some continued to feed with the traditional flamingo style, but most curled their necks over their backs and took to snoozing as the day warmed.

A scope is provided for the use of visitors to the hide and I used it to pick out some Whimbrel and Redshank on a distant Sandbank. A few Grey Heron and Great Egret were seen close to the hide, but better numbers were seen beyond the mangroves.

The causeway pushes about 250m (towards the east) out into the shallow water with the hide sited about 100 meters from the end. As the tide approaches, the small birds are pushed past the hide then tempted back as the water recedes. Viewing is better from the left (north) side in the morning before the sun passes through midday. Tide times could be important as the water recedes back past the mangroves. Birds chasing the freshly exposed mud will be out of range at low water. Get free tide predictions for around the world at Easytide.

Apart from the flamingos, numbers were quite low and fewer species were seen compared to a previous visit. I may have missed a raptor passing through as the flamingos suddenly stood alert, but relaxed once the threat was gone.

Two Common Redshanks caught my eye. Elsewhere and at a different time of year, I might suspect that one was a youngster begging for food from an increasingly impatient parent.

Great Egrets may be smaller than the Greater Flamingos, but they stand higher in the pecking order. Pink gave way to white as the egret passed through the flock looking for small fish and crabs. This individual may feature in an upcoming 10,000 Birds post.

Birds seen; 20

Gray Francolin 1, Greater Flamingo 800, Gray Heron 3, Great Egret 6, Black-bellied Plover 3, Kentish Plover 15, Common Ringed Plover 2, Common Sandpiper 3, Common Greenshank 2, Common Redshank 8, Whimbrel 8, Eurasian Curlew 3, Little Stint 40, Curlew Sandpiper 10, Eurasian Collared-dove 10, Laughing Dove 4, Crested Lark 2, Red-vented Bulbul 1, White-eared Bulbul 4, White Wagtail 2.
Black-bellied Plover

The  Flamingo Hide is on the southeast-bound carriageway of the Oud Metha Rd. The taxi will have to go past and turn back at the intersection with Muscat St.

(Shortly after the Emarat Petrol Station on the right, there is a large intersection. Ask driver to continue to the next junction and pull off onto Muscat St. The northwest carriageway of Oud Metha Rd. can be accessed from here.)
Getting a taxi for the return may be difficult. The Flamingo Hide is located at a lay-by on the motorway (Google Earth ref; 25°11'32.03"N  55°18'37.89"E). Very few empty taxis pass by here. On both of my visits I have had to rely on a generous driver offering me a ride to the nearest taxi rank or train station. For a quick visit (the flamingos can be seen and appreciated in 10 minutes assuming the tide is right), ask the taxi driver to wait.

 Follow the link below for a previous post from Ras al Khor;
Visit the dedicated Middle East Page for more posts from Dubai, including Safa Park and Mushrif Park
White-eared Bulbul

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