Tuesday 5 August 2008

Sharm el-Sheikh

A week with my wife and a couple of friends on the Red Sea coast promised little in the way of birding, especially as I had been to Egypts Red Sea coast before. Despite this I managed the heady total of 9 lifers including a few 'Good' birds. The hotel grounds provided merely House Sparrow, Laughing Dove and Rock Dove - not a heady mix, with Laughing Dove being a pretty standard bird in these parts. A single Rock Martin over the pool on the 2nd day was the first lifer of the trip. Other birds seen on the Hotel complex were a few passing White-eyed Gulls offshore and a female Common Kestrel a couple of times harrasing the pigeons and doing passing trade in dragonflies. Can I just say at this point - if your going to Sharm, the Sunrise Hotels are rubbish (unlike the sister hotel in Hurghada which was ace). Food was bland and unexiting, service was poor and sullen and sunbeds which the signs said were unreservable had to be towelled at 4 in the morning to stand a chance by a pool. Fuck that! We booked into the 4 star Island Garden but upon arrival we were told there was no room and were moved to the supposed 5 star island view (the Island being Tiran Island halfway to Saudi Arabia across the gulf of Aquaba.

Back to birds, I was suprised to see so Little on the sea but we were in a bay and thus passage may have been occuring further out. Also the reef shelf wasn't massive and thus didnt prove to be a productive feeding ground unlike Hurghada which had Osprey, Sooty Gull and Caspian Tern as well as teh White-eyed Gulls. A single Trip to the Water Treatment Works on the Dahab road out of Na'ama bay was my only briding trip of the week. The first birds we clapped eyes on were 6 Collared Doves. A good examination ensued and I was satisfied witht the Rosy Breast, large collar and pale undertail that these were African Collared Doves. They had a vwery different 'feel' to their European counterpart despite looking very similar. Im unsure as to the status of African Collared Dove on Sinai but suspect that these were a good sighting. The second bird seen was a single White morph Western Reef Egret - further round a further 20 or so of these birds were seen including two dark morph birds. This was my 300th Bird for the Western Palearctic and a good one at that, 301 was a Whiskered Tern that dropped onto one of the pools next to us. A slightly unexpected find but I guess passage has started! Spur-winged Plovers were abundant and noisy as were 3 Black-winged Stilts that alarm called around the pools. Squacco Heron, Night Heron and Cattle Egret were all recorded very quickly with the first being another lifer. Several of each species were observed. 2 White Storks were flushed by my companion who as a non-birder had the fieldcraft of an Articulated Lorry. Sorry Mark, but its true! A further 2 White Stork carcasses seemed to indicate hunting around the pools as did the skeletal remains of a Reef Egret. Waders started to flush from the central pools witha few Common Sandpipers and good numbers of Temminck's Stint (lifer) and a small Tringa which appeared to be Green Sandpiper but by this time it was getting dark. Passerine interest was kept up by a nesting pipit like bird which the first I saw of was as it darted into its hole, never to return. House Sparrows flitted around and a few Hirundines flew over the pools. These consisted of a couple of Barn Swallows resembling savignii and Rock Martins including one juv that was sat on the side of a pool allowing very close approach. Unfortunately there was no sign of the Sandgrouse despite leaving in the dark. Perhaps the quadbike disturbance was too much or they needed half an hour longer.

A trip to Ras Mohammed failed to produce the hoped for Striated Heron amongst the mangroves (infact our guide point to some scrubby bushes and claimed these were mangroves). What was seen were many Lesser Crested Terns and a few Bridled Terns feeding amonst them. The ball and chain spotted a Dolphin sp. Probably a Bottlenose of some description. Little else was seen. On our way back to Sharm, a Brown-necked Raven hopped onto a lamp Post for a brief naked eye view. And thats the entire trip. Heres hoping Cornwall this coming week is more productive.

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