Archive for the ‘driving’ Category

East Coast Road Trip with the Boys

May 3, 2008

Today headed off to the East Coast on a road trip with Peter and David.  We headed off much later than I would have if I was going by myself but great to have the company on such a long trip.  Left Dubai at 7.30 am and first stop was Fujairah National Dairy Farm at Dibba.  We got there around 9.15 am when it had already hit 37 degrees.  Walked around the farm for a while spotting a few birds but not too many.  The Hoopoes and an Isabelline Wheater were the highlights.

Back in the car to rehydrate and cool down as we drove into Dibba to look around and tick off another couple of Omani border posts before heading down the coast where we had lunch at the Sandy Beach Resort to escape the heat of the day.  David felt like he got second degree burns on his feet walking in sandals across the hot sand of the beach.


Off south towards Fujairah where we stopped at some ponds at Al Qurrayah to wander around for a while (only 39 – 40 degrees now).  Felt like we’d had enough birding so time to see some culture.  Visited the Fujeirah Fort which is being redeveloped and we could not get in so went off to Al Hayl fort – not that old at 150-200 years but very interesting.  Well preserved and amazing how the updrafts from the rifle holes of the fort managed to keep the inside relatively cool in the 43 degree heat.  Even though it was that hot, it was a very dry heat and a bit of wind so not that uncomfortable.  Little stairwells in the corners to go from one floor to the other of the forts and houses which were not that easy to navigate.  Fascinating place and well worth the journey.  Saw a skink, a dragon lizard and a couple of geckos which was nice to see some reptilian wildlife. 


And here are two shots of a few asses on the trip as well.


Final stop was at Khor Kalba south of Fujairah to spot the Collared Kingfisher of which there are only 50 pairs around.  Saw one and that was enough. Then headed to the beach where we were going to swim but with the fisherman pulling in the nets, there was a heap of dead baitfish around so not that pleasant.  The gulls and terns and Sanderlings were loving it though (and so was I).  David managed to bog the car in the sand and we needed a bit of help from a couple of passing policeman to help push it out (by hand).  By this stage, sun going down, gentle sea breeze and only a relatively pleasant 35 degrees but still managed a lather of sweat with trying to push the car out.

Only 90 minute drive home on the 116 through the mountains – and exactly that – through the mountains in tunnels!  A wonderful round trip.


First Trip to Abu Dhabi

April 25, 2008

Last night was a work social function at the Radisson which ended up being a fairly late night with Peter and Shaheen talking about risk.  Dinner was the beer nuts (and the beer of course).  So today I woke a little later (no Anzac Day dawn service for me) and decided to head off on my now traditional Friday drive to explore the UAE.  Today I went the one direction that I had not yet taken – west towards Abu Dhabi.

First stop was the Jebel Ali resort and golf course but unfortunately access was denied unless I had a tee off time or going to a function.  So I walked around outside in the neighbouring dunes to see what was around and flushed a nice group of 10 Chestnut-bellied Sand-Grouse – a really unusual type of bird that I had not come across before.  Getting pretty warm by 10 am so headed down to the Jebel Ali public beach which was full of people playing with their jet skis (enough said).

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Headed west a bit further and came through to Ghantoot and the Al Jazira Resort (there are so many things Al Jazira here including three cable TV channels).  A nice Whinchat at Ghantoot and Isabelline Shrike at the resort.  The resort was stuck out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by water but not my idea of a place for a holiday.

25042008-from-al-jazira-resort  25042008-at-120kmhThat’s me driving at 120km/h

It was about midday so decided to head off to Abu Dhabi.  Abu Dhabi is about 120 km from Dubai and is on an island – bit like Manhattan.  Spotted some waders down the east coast mangroves (a beautiful Grey Plover in full breeding plumage) before heading to one of the malls for a loo stop and some lunch.  Headed over to the far side on the breakwater to check out the heritage village which displays in a series of shops and markets, what people did in the olden days (bit like Sovereign Hill on a smaller scale).  Managed to control myself and buy nothing at the market!!  Some nice views looking back towards Abu Dhabi. 

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Last loo stop at the Marina Mall (yet another grandiose mall) before ducking into the Mashrif Palace gardens (nothing new here tonight) before driving home up the “road of death”…


Al Ain – Oases in the Desert

April 12, 2008

Went down to Al Ain on Friday.  It’s about 120 km south of Dubai – a series of oases near the Oman border.  Used to take 5 days by camel but the Yaris did it in 90 minutes!  Got up and left early to get down there before it became too hot.  Interesting thing about the drive down is that the freeway is tree lined all the way – the plants are regularly watered.  Al Ain is much bigger than I thought it would be – it takes up lots of land and is very spread out.  There is plenty of green grass around the roundabouts and lots of trees.  The royalty used to have their summer palaces here in the desert as it was a dry heat compared with the humid heat on the coast. 

First stop was Green Mubuzzarah.  It’s a large area of rolling green grass hillocks where people go to have picnics and also stay overnight in chalets.  They pump the water up and spread it around everywhere. 


 Not many birds there but there was this great stork on top of the boathouse.  Either an extremely rare vagrant or someone’s pet. 


After that, up Jebel Hafeet.  There was a busload of Japanese tourists who were riding up on their mountain bikes in the mid-morning heat.  About a 900 metre climb.  The mountain is huge – coming up from the flat plains.  All dry and barren though.  Saw a Sand Partridge (not in a pear tree) up at the top near this spectacular private residence.  

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Back down and off to various parks including spending some time at the Al Ain Waste Water Treatment works.  Sewerage settling ponds are always great for birds with their high nutrient levels.  Grebes and a lovely small group of Stints and Wood Sandpipers there.  It was the middle of the day when I was walking around for about an hour here and although there was a decent wind to cool the temperature down, the sun beat down on my leather hat and cooked my head! 


Decided then to head back into town for some food and to bring my core temperature down in the Al Ain Mall.  Afterwards headed off to the Al Ain sports complex to see my first ever male Garganey Teal on the golf course lake as well as a Red-necked Phalarope – one of my favourite waders which I only very rarely see.  All I needed was my golf clubs and I would have been in heaven!

Last stop for me in Al Ain was the Al Ain Archeological Park where they have diggings of very old civilisations – about 4000 years old.  Now the parkis  just a family oriented garden.  Needed to go to the loo (big jobs) and took a while to work out that I needed to go in the one with the bloke wearing the Arab dress!  Headed in to find three squat toilets, no loo paper and so had to wash up afterwards the local way.  Note to self – take my shorts off before I go next time otherwise they get wet with the washing up!  And further note to self, don’t shake a local’s left hand.

Back home by about 7.30 pm to pick up Thai take away from Ibn Battuta before a relaxing night in front of the TV. 

Northward Migration of Waders

April 5, 2008

Way back in the 1980’s, I did a lot of wader study including banding and counts.  Waders are generally rather drab shorebirds with many species migrating vast distances from the tundra and steppes of the northern hemisphere to the tidal mudflats of the southern.  They fly for days at a time on migration covering thousands of kilometres.

It’s coming in to breeding season which means they are changing from boring brown bobs to their breeding plumage of various hues of red, russet, black and orange.  We only rarely see summer plumage in Australia with the adults on migration.  So yesterday I headed off to  Umm Al Quwain lagoon and the other lagoon up near Ras Al Khaimah to have a gander.

A few ticks – Crab Plover being the standout.  But it was finding a high tide roost in Umm Al Quwain of about 2000 smaller waders mainly Lesser Sand Plover, Dunlin and a few Curlew Sandpipers in various stages of breeding plumage that was the highlight.  More flamingos, quite a few camel wandering along the mudflats and few Finch Larks to keep me amused.

Had a guy wander up in his car offering me a beer (at 10.30 in the morning) to his best new buddy which I politely declined.  I think he was still going from last night and I have no idea how he got out there in one piece but thought it best to leave him alone. 

Came back early as I went out last night to the at the Grosvenor Hotel before leaving the sumptuous spread to head off to Wendy’s (Finance person) for a party.  A big day and a quiet one then today to catch up on some washing, emails, posts and a bit of work.

Head for the Hills!

March 29, 2008

Yesterday I went for a drive to the East Coast.  It was something I was going to do the other day but now armed with two road maps, compass, hat, binoculars, field guide and bathers, I was ready. 

I took the longer way by the freeways this time to skip the traffic.  By just after 8 am, I was on route 88 heading for the East Coast of the UAE.  Success at last!

Dubai is flat – dead flat.  I’d seen some hills in the distance in my recent peregrinations and wanted to explore them a bit more.  The Hajar Mountains remind me a little bit of the McDonnell Ranges in central Australia except here there is far less vegetation!  I went off road a few times to do some exploring – the Yaris was thrilled.  The terrain is very steep with low shrubs, very dry grasses and the odd small trees that the goats seem to keep under control.  Birdlife is sufficient to keep a hardened birdwatcher entertained!  A few goats around as well in the mountains while the camels are in the sand on the flat.

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From Masafi I headed north to Dibba and then down the coast a bit to Al Aqah.  Dibba is home to pottery (hence these amazing monuments in the middle of a roundabout). 

Dibba Pottery

The East Coast was pretty but relatively humid compared with the drier mountains. There are a couple of resort hotels but they seem right out of place.  I was hoping that I might be able to see some forests or glades of trees but it was still the same very dry desert environment.  Highlights were a couple of Hoopoes (one of my favourite birds) and a Purple Sunbird that rudely interrupted a mobile phone call home (the bird was higher priority this time, sorry Lyn!).

Sandy BeachWent for a swim at Sandy Beach near Snoopy Island – a beautiful spot next to a resort where the expats hang out (the locals go to another nearby beach).  Lots of gulls and terns to keep me amused trying to identify them. 
Came back a different way via Ras Al Khaimah and found some other wetlands after climbing the top of a coastal dune.  More flamingos with lots of waders that I could not get close to but could pick out Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatcher.  Up to 45 species in total now for the UAE!

Al Riffa wetlands

Back home by 7.30 pm quite tired after driving about 400 km.  Feeling a lot more grounded now having got out and about a bit to see the countryside.

Off to the Dubai World Cup today!!  Sort of like Melbourne Cup and Oaks Day all rolled into one.  Not too sure about having to wear my suit today but it’s an evening program so it should have cooled down a bit later.