Leif Rydell

Travel, birding and taking photos as the main purpose.

United Arab Emirates 12 & 14

This blog gives you an idea of what to expect if you travel to this small but very friendly and diverse country. The cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are ultra modern and give people lots of opportunities of shopping, entertainment and the tallest building in the world, the  830 meters high Burj Al Khalifa which can be seen on the picture below. This country is also very beautiful and the beaches and desert areas are just great (which I think not many visitors have realized). I´ve been here twice, 2012 and 2014 and seen both cities but also traveled outside these to the city of Al Ain, the mountain at Jabel Hafeet and to the very beautiful desert around Liwa. Liwa is actually the easiest place on earth to visit great (red) sand dunes. A few nights we stayed close to Dubai airport and the views from the hotel roof was very impressive.


When we drove out to Al Ain and stayed at a hotel at the top of Jabel Hafeet and the vistas from here were also beautiful but in an other way. Here you can see the border to Oman on the left and my birding area here to the right.

Oman border from hotel

In this desert like habitat I saw the very much sought after Desert Warbler and some Wheatears. A little bit to the right at the photo above is the very good birding area of Green Mubazzarah. Here they have made a garden like recreation area which attracts lots of birds. Here I saw 3 different species of Wheatears. This male of Hume´s Wheatear and also the picture with the same bird together with a Red-tailed Wheatear.

Hume´s Wheatear

Red-tailed and Hume´s wheatear

Also reliable here is the Blue Rock Thrush, here a (brown) female.

Blue Rock Thrush (fem)

Where the grass was plentiful you will easily see birds like Hoopoe, Indian Roller and the Red-wattled Lapwing.


Indian Roller

Red-wattled Lapwing

At the stony slopes I found a family of Desert Larks which has a good look despite it lacks colors.

Desert Lark

This is how it looks from the other side.

Jebel Hafet

If you continue to the "top" of Jabel Hafeet you will come to a big parking area with a restaurant. Here is a good spot to see the Striolated Bunting as well as the Egyptian Vulture if you look up instead of on the ground.

Striolated Bunting

Egyptian Vulture

As I´m also an avid golfer I often try to visit some courses during my trips. Actually you sometimes see birds at the golf courses that might be quite difficult to see elsewhere. Here you can see Greater Flamingos, Socotra Cormorant, Egyptian Goose and Common Sandpiper which were easily seen at the famous Abu Dhabi Golf Course.

Greater Flamingo

Socotra Cormorant

Egyptian Goose

Common sandpiper

At the golf course at Al Ain I had to jump out of the buggy and take a photo of this "classic beauty" Isabelle Wheatear. 

Isabella Wheatear

In Abu Dhabi I had a good and unusual experience. I played some golf at the "sand course" Al Ghazal, which is close to the airport and here I again saw some very nice birds like this quite difficult Crested Honey Buzzard as well as the common White-eared Bulbul and the awesome Green Bee-eater.

Crested Honey-Buzzard

White-eared Bulbul

Green Bee-eater

Easily seen in some parks was this Grey Francolin as well as the abundant Chukar Partridge.

Grey Francolin

Chukar Partridge

As I drove into the more sandy and desert-like habitats I saw many Crested Larks as well as as this cute Camel at a local festival.

Crested Lark


If you are interested in nature at all, make sure you take some routes outside the famous city areas and experience some nice views like this sand dunes close to Lisa Desert.

Road Liwa Desert

A country of many images, go there if you can!

 Birds seen on both trips.


  1. Egyptian Goose . Quitecommon at Abu Dhabi golf course.
  2. Mallard. Quite common
  3. Northern Shoveler. 3 at Al Ain golf course.
  4. Green-winged Teal. & at Al Ain golf course.
  5. Chukar. 3 birds in the surroundings of Mercure hotel.
  6. Gray Francolin. 1 bird only at Ras al Khaimah golf club.
  7. San Partridge. Common at golf courses, Green Mubazzarah and gardens.
  8. Little Grebe. 3 birds Al ain golf club and 4 at Abu Dhabi GC.
  9. Greater Flamingo. Several hundreds seen along the coast but also seen at Abu Dhabi GC.
  10. Seen both at the coast in smaller numbers but also at some golf courses.
  11. Grey Heron. Not uncommon.
  12. Little Egret. A few single birds seen at some golf courses.
  13. Western reef Heron. Not uncommon along the coast.
  14. Cattle Egret. 5 at Al Ain golf club.
  15. Striated Heron. One bird at the harbor of Abu Dhabi.
  16. Black-crowned Night Heron. 4 birds at Al Ain golf course.
  17. Sacred Ibis. One single bird at one of the shores I stoped at.
  18. Egyptian Vulture. 2-3 birds seen at the top of Hafeet Mountain.
  19. Oriental Honey Buzzard. I was lucky to see one bird well at Al Ghazal golf club when it came soaring low over me.
  20. Steppe Eagle. 2 birds. One at Al Ghaxal golf course and one at Al Wathba water treatment.
  21. Eurasian March-Harrier. One close to Ras al Khaimah and one at Abu Dhabi GC.
  22. Sparrowhawk. Just one seen Ras al Khaimah.
  23. Eu. Moorhen. A few in ponds at golfcourses.
  24. Eu. Coot. Same as above.
  25. Red-wattled Lapwing. Common at golf courses. Also at Green Mubazzarah.
  26. Black-bellied Plover. +10 along the shores.
  27. Pacific Golden-Plover. A flock of 15 next to Al Ghazal Golg course.
  28. Lesser Sand-plover. Common along the shores.
  29. Greater Sand-plover. Just a few identified. Probably common as I saw thousands of plovers at a far distance.
  30. Kentish Plover. Common.
  31. Common Ringed Plover. A few single birds spread out.
  32. Crab Plover. Totally 7 birds seen at to different stops along the coast.
  33. Eu. Oystercatcher. +10 birds throughout.
  34. Terek Sanpiper. About 10 birds identified.
  35. Black-winged Stilt. Quite common at the golf courses.
  36. Common Sandpiper. A few birds at many locations.
  37. Green Sanpiper. 1 single bird identified.
  38. Common Greeshank. A few birds throughout.
  39. Common Redshank. Quite common.
  40. Marsh Sanpiper. Just one bird identified.
  41. Whimbrel. 2 birds identified.
  42. Eu. Curlew. Common.
  43. Bar-tailed Godwit. Quite common.
  44. Ruddy Turnstone. +15 birds seen.
  45. Little Stint. 2 birds identified.
  46. Dunlin. +100 birds seen.
  47. Slender-billed Gull. 3 seen at a stop at abeach.
  48. Pallas´s Gull. Eventually and very surprisingly I saw one bird at a lake at Al Ain golf course.
  49. Caspian Gull. A few birds identified. Probably overlooked.
  50. Gull-billed Tern. A few birds throughout the shore.
  51. Black-headed Gull. Very common.
  52. Whiskered Tern. Likes golf couses where I saw + 20 in total.
  53. Great Crested Tern. 3 birds seen at the shore of Ras al Khaimah.
  54. Rock Pigeon. Yes.
  55. Eu. Collared-Dove. Common.
  56. Laughing Dove. Common.
  57. Pallid Swift. Not uncommon.
  58. Green Bee-eater. A few birds at every golf course. A few at Green Mubazzarah.
  59. Indian Roller. Prefers golf courses and Green Mubazzarah.
  60. Eurasian Hoopoe. As with the Bee-eater and the Roller.
  61. Eu. Kestrel. A few single birds throughout.
  62. Rose-ringed Parakeet. A few flocks around Abu Dhabi.
  63. Southern Grey Shrike. Again, golf courses and Green Mubazzarah. Also Dubai investment park.
  64. Masked Shrike. One bird seen close to Dubai investment park.
  65. House Crow. Common.
  66. Desert Lark. A flock of 10 was around Green Mubazzarah close to the gorge. My 2000th bird worldwide.
  67. Gr. Short-toed Lark. One bird seen close to the shore of Ras al Khaimah when I was scanning for waders.
  68. Crested Lark. Common in suitable habitat.
  69. Rock Martin. Seems to like swimming pools close to the city. Seen while swimming at 2 different hotels.
  70. Red-vented Bulbul. Uncommon, seen with a few birds at Green Mubazzarah and one single bird in tree close to the shore of Ras al Khaimah.
  71. White-spectacled Bulbul. Not uncommon at Green Mubazzarah.
  72. White-eared Bulbul. Very common. A characteristic bird of the country.
  73. Graceful Prinia. Not uncommon near reeds and in smaller bushes.
  74. Small Whitethroat. 2 birds seen at Green Mubazzarah.
  75. Asian Desert Warbler. A bird I really wanted to see. One eventually seen at sandy and bushy area next to Green Mubazzarah.
  76. Arabian babbler. A family of 5 seen at Green Mubazzarah.
  77. Bluethroat. I was quite surprised to see one at Al Ghazal golf course
  78. Black Redstart.  Up to 6 birds seen around Mercure hotel. A few more seen throughout.
  79. Blue Rock Thrush. Up to 3 birds seen at Green Mubazzarah.
  80. Whinchat. 1 at golf course Ras al Khaimah.
  81. Hooded Wheatear. It took some time but finally I saw a male at Green Mubazzarah.
  82. Hume´s Wheatear. 100% more than Hooded. 2 males seen at Green Mubazzarah.
  83. Red-tailed Wheatear. 1 bird seen at Green Mubazzarah.
  84. Desert Wheatear. Totally 3 birds seen in suitable habitat.
  85. Isabelline Wheatear. Totally 3 birds seen at Golf courses.
  86. Common Myna. Yes, common.
  87. Purple Sunbird. Not uncommon but never seen in big numbers.
  88. White Wagtail. Common on grassy areas.
  89. Richard´s Pipit. Several seen on lawns throughout.
  90. Long-billed Pipit. 2 seen at a lawn with Richard´s.
  91. Water Pipit. Just one bird identified on a lawn. Probably overlocked.
  92. House Sparrow. Yes.
  93. Striolated Bunting. 2 birds at the top of Hafeet mountain (parking space).
  94. Indian Silverbill. Seen the last day on trip 2 in a small tree next to a shoppingcenter in Dubai investment park.
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