Wednesday 26 March 2014

Once round the lagoon, Dubai, March 2014

My mission today was to test my assertion that it is possible to visit the main Dubai Hotspots and get back to the airport in time for tea. It is easily possible to do the visiting, but it seems that if you want to make it into a birdy extravaganza, you will need the wind at your back and a favourable tide.

There are 4 hotspots that make a circuit around the lagoon at Dubai, starting and finishing at the airport, but the first priority is to set your direction of travel. Clockwise, nothing else will do. By installing central reservations down all the roads, Dubai town planners saw to it that a driver will never be able to turn left, so the tour must be done with a series of right turns, thus a clockwise direction (This will make a circuit of 53kms. Anti-clockwise is tortuous and convoluted. I clocked 70kms on Google Earth, but had to miss out Ras Al Khor Mangrove Hide).

First off is Mushrif Park, just 10 minutes from the airport at Google Earth ref; 25 13 46.66N 55 27 3.24E. See this link for more details.
The gate opens at 08.00, but there is a small car park to the left of the gate and some birding can be done on the approach road. Once in the park, take the 2 km circular route that turns off to the right just after the gate. Indian Roller, Southern Grey Shrike and Grey Francolin will probably be seen; Eurasian Collared Doves, Laughing Doves and White-eared Bulbuls are almost a certainty. My lifer of the day came from here this morning in the form of a Ménétriés Warbler.

There are plenty of stopping places where you can get out and walk in the scrub, but on this occasion, I found nothing that I hadn’t already seen from the car. The circular drive ends back at the gate, but you can go round as many times as you wish.

Birds seen;
Grey Francolin 12, Shikra 1, Red-wattled Lapwing 6, Eurasian Collared-Dove 250, Laughing Dove 60, Rose-ringed Parakeet 8, Pallid Swift 6, Green Bee-eater 2, Indian Roller 3, Eurasian Hoopoe 1, Southern Grey Shrike 5, House Crow 2, Red-vented Bulbul 1, White-eared Bulbul 40, Menetries Warbler 3, Common Myna 20, Purple Sunbird 6, House Sparrow 120, Indian Silverbill 4.

 The next stop is Pivot field (at Google Earth ref; 25 9 52.50N 55 25 50.73E. Seethis link for more details. Turn right out of Mushrif Park, turn right at roundabout, cross 2 roundabouts, turn right at next roundabout, cross roundabout, turn right at next roundabout. Turn right, go back on yourself and find gate to Pivot Field at the top.) and I found that the workers take a break for lunch and close the field to birdwatchers, so time your arrival carefully. 

Pivot Field is a grass farm and features a large pivot watering system. Birders are welcome, but cars are NOT permitted to drive on the grass. The whole site is available to the walking birder and if you can find someone with an experienced eye for a pipit, he will be very useful here. 

Crested Larks have proved easy to find as are Green Bee-eaters and Red-wattled Lapwings. Bank Mynas surprised me today and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Western Yellow Wagtails. Look out for White-tailed Lapwings as well as Social Lapwings in the winter.

Birds seen;
Grey Francolin 2, Cattle Egret 1, Red-wattled Lapwing 18, White-tailed Lapwing 2, Black-headed Gull 3, Eurasian Collared Dove 250, Laughing Dove 5, Rose-ringed Parakeet 2, Green Bee-eater 3, Eurasian Hoopoe 3, Crested Lark 10, White-eared Bulbul 8, Graceful Prinia 2, Bank Myna 60, Common Myna 25, Purple Sunbird 2, Western Yellow Wagtail 20, White Wagtail 8, Red-throated Pipit 4, House Sparrow 30,

The Mangrove Hide looks out onto the lagoon at Ra’s al-Khor (Google Earth ref; 25 11 9.19N 55 19 45.57E). See this link for more details.  There is not much of the lagoon visible, but there is plenty of water even when the tide is out, so there will be birds. Today a Common Snipe fed in the margins while Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal rested on the dry spots. Of course the star attraction on the lagoon is the Greater Flamingo

They sometimes approach close to the hide, But are more likely to be seen further out in the company of herons and egrets. Waders can be seen at a distance and I was able to identify Black-tailed Godwits today, but the small stints were beyond me. A scope is available to borrow from the security guard positioned at the hide.

Birds seen;
Northern Pintail 4, Green-winged Teal 12, Greater Flamingo 60, Grey Heron 6, Great Egret 4, Little Egret 2, Western Reef-heron 4, Cattle Egret 3, Red-wattled Lapwing 2, Kentish Plover 4, Black-winged Stilt 30, Common Sandpiper 1, Black-tailed Godwit 11, Common Snipe 1, Gull-billed Tern 1, Eurasian Collared Dove 15, Laughing Dove 4, White-eared Bulbul 5, House Sparrow 20,

When the tide is right, or at feeding time, the best place to see the Greater Flamingos is at Flamingo Hide, just a short way further round the clockwise route (Google Earth ref; 25 11 31.81N 55 18 39.57E). See this link for more details. 

Hundreds of birds can be seen here when the tide is high or from 15.00 when they get a supplemental feed. A high tide is your best bet as shore birds get pushed up close to the hide too. I arrived at a very low tide today and found a couple of Curlew and a Kentish Plover.

 Apart from these, there was just mud. Oh, and more Eurasian Collared Doves (I returned later to find approximately 700 flamingos crowded around the end of the spit and managed to get some pictures. The hide was quite crowded by now and I had to kneel behind the front row and take pictures over someone’s shoulder). From here, follow signs to Al Maktoum Bridge and you will be back at the airport in no time.

Birds seen;
Greater Flamingo 700, Great Egret 1, Little Egret 1, Kentish Plover 1, Eurasian Curlew 8, Gull-billed Tern 4, Eurasian Collared Dove 25, Laughing Dove 6, White-eared Bulbul 6, Common Myna 4, House Sparrow 20.

If you are not especially birdy, Flamingo Hide is worth a visit anyway for hundreds of close up Greater Flamingos. Mushrif Park is great for a picnic. Pivot Field is strictly for the birder or turf-lover. This picture should please you whichever camp you fall into.

So the circuit itself is easy enough, but timing is important. Check Easytide, and select Al Maktoum Bridge to get a free tide prediction. Otherwise, supplemental feed is put out around 15.00 for the flamingos.

This route is best achieved in a private or hire car as taxis cannot easily (if at all) be found at any of the sites.
Visit the dedicated Middle East page for more posts from Dubai.

Birding, Birdwatching , Dubai, DXB


  1. What a fabulous sight those flamingos are! What's the temperature like?

  2. Very interesting observations and great shots :-)
    Have a happy day!