I am retyping this from the original which is a paper I helped compile for a years worth of birdwatching on Dubai's creek. I was not alone and the observations are from a small but determined party of enthusiasts who got up early on a Friday (holy day) and often took to the mud to cover the whole creek. The period was 1981 to 1982 and I believe shortly after I left the area it was declared a national park, good vision from the Maktoums. I am doing this in response to a search of my site for Dubai birds, I am re-typing it as it exists as a scanned doc and inserts badly to this page. the paper (by Smart, Miles and West) Readers may recall a report by Harry Green of a conversation with George Miles about palearctic waders in Dubai, WSG Bull 33:1. In this note we give a more detailed account of the numbers of waders and other birds on mudflats in Dubai throughout the year. These suggest that Dubai is an important migration stopover and wintering site for several species of waders. Dubai is situated at the southern end of the Arabian Gulf. (figure 1 omitted as you can Google it and I can't insert it!) It has a naturally formed tidal creek extending some 8km inland. This terminates in a large, round area approximately 7km in diameter, which has extensive tidal mudflats. On most days the mudflats are about 0.5km wide at low water. Occasionally, on extreme tides, the whole creek empties at low water. Ragworms, probably Nereis, were abundant in the mudflats. These mudflats, the surrounding sandy shore, and the shallow warm water, provide suitable habit for a large number and variety of wintering birds. We made observations of the whole creek at weekly intervals between May 1981 to May 1982, using binoculars and telescopes. Table 1 summarises these observations. The number of birds seen between 1979 and 1981 were similar to those in table 1. Where actual numbers of birds are given in table 1, the peak number in that month is shown. Both black-tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa) and bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica) occurred at Dubai, but during winter we often had difficulty in distinguishing between them at long range. Numbers of these species have therefore been combined in table 1. Similarly, adult Herring gulls and lesser black-back gulls could not always be distinguished, so their numbers have been combined. Table 1
May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr


Phalacrocorax carbo

a a a

grey heron

Ardea cinerea

b b b c c c c c

reef heron

Egretta gularis

a b b b c c c c c


Platalea leucorodia

11 19 21 21 4

Greater flamingo

Phoenicopterus ruber

b 2 a a a a a b a


anas platyrhynchos

a a a a


Anas crecca

c c c c


Anas acuta

a a a b a a


Anas clypeata

7 3


Haematopus ostralrgus

3 6 17 16 a a a a a a

Black winged stilt

Himanttopus himantopus



Recurvirostra avocetta

5 6 6

Ringed Plover

Charadrius hiaticula

a 1 a a a a a b b c a

Little ringed plover

Charadrius dubius

6* 6* 6 6*? 6*?

Kentish Plover

Charadrius alexandrinus

a* 1* c c c c c c d c a*

Grey Plover

Pluvialis equatarola

a 1 a a a b b c c c d


Calidris alpina

a c c d d c9000 d c

Little Stint

Calidris minutus

c a a a a c a


Calidris canutus



Tringa totanus

c c d d d d d d c

Spotted Redshank

Tringa erythropus

6 3


Tringa nebularia

a a a a a

Common Sandpiper

Actitis hypoleucos

a a


Numenius arquata

a 1 c c c c d c c c c


Numenius phaeopus

a a


Limosa app.

a 1 c d c c a c c c

Great Black-headed Gull

Larus ichthyaetus

c 5 6

Herring/LesserBlack-backed gull

Larus argentatus/fuscus

b b a a a

Slender Billed gull

Larus genei

a 1 c c c d d d d d c

Little Gull

Larus minutus

a a a a


Calidris alba

c1000 c1000
Numbers give actual numbers of birds counted. Letters give abundance: a = 10-30 birds, b= 31-100 birds, c= 101-500 birds, d= 501-1000 birds *= confirmed breeding. *?= suspected breeding. No counts were made during August Most waders use the mudflats during both spring and autumn passage, and as a wintering site. The most abundant waders were Dunlins Calidris alpina (up to 9000 birds) and Sanderlings Calidris alba (about 1000 birds) . We saw Sanderlings only in December and February. Other numerous wintering waders, occurring at least in some hundreds, were ringed plovers Charadrius hiaticula, Kentish plovers Charadrius alexandrinus, Grey plovers Pluvialis squatarola, Little stints Calidris minutus, Redshanks Tringa totanus, Curlews Numenius arquata and Godwits. However the pattern of occurrence differed between species. Grey plovers and Ringed plovers were particularly numerous on spring passage, and few occurred during autumn. Similarly, few Dunlins occurred on autumn passage. In contrast numbers of Curlews, Godwits and Kentish plovers were similar in spring and autumn. Few little stints or Whimbrels Numenius phaeopus were present outside migration periods. In addition to wintering and passage waders, we found small populations of breeding Little ringed plovers Charadrius dubius and Kentish plovers. Other birds that used the Dubai Creek mudflats in appreciable numbers during migration and for wintering were grey herons Ardea cinerea, reef herons Egretta gularis, greater flamingos Phoenicopterus ruber (especially during spring and autumn), teal anas crecca, and slender billed gulls Larus genei. In spring, there is a large passage (up to 500-600 birds each hour) of terns, particularly gull billed terns Gelochelidon nilotica, Caspian terns Hydroprognetschegrava and little terns Sterna albifrons, westwards along the coast. The only waders we found elsewhere than the Dubai creek mudflats were in Saffa park. This park is grassland, with avenues of trees, and with a pond of semi-treated sewage at its centre. The sewage is sprayed as fertiliser over the park at dawn and dusk. Between September and April, the pool was used by between 1 and 5 red necked Phalaropes Phalaropus lobatus. About 40 ruffs Philomachus pugnax (both male and female) and 10-15 golden plovers Pluvialis apricaria fed on the grassland throughout the winter. This park is also an important spring and autumn stopover for passerine migrants. We estimated the peak numbers of over 15,000 birds used the Dubai creek mudflats, little is known of the importance of the Arabian gulf for migrant and wintering wader populations. However, it seems probable that the Dubai creek mudflats are an important wintering and migration stopover for several species of waders. We think that the numbers of waders using Dubai creek may be increasing, possibly as a consequence of nutrient enrichment from increased sewage outflow in recent years. Presumably the passage birds belong to populations that spend the winter in Eastern Africa. The importance of Dubai, and other parts of the Arabian Gulf to waders, warrants further investigation. end of paper the mudflats did have one red necked Phalarope as I have a picture of it, well a slide which needs scanning. Also an Osprey, eventually shot. Saffa park was where we (George Miles and I) did ringing. We also had Marsh harrier, snipe, red spotted blue throat and all sorts of shrikes, Indian roller, ubiquitous green parakeet and many other birds. As I have posted before, my first bird ringed in Dubai was a song thrush the second was a Hoopoe ! see also http://www.uaeinteract.com/nature/bird/coast.asp

One Response to “Waders and Waterbirds on Dubai Creek 1981-1982”

  1. September 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm


    Website that may be of some interest. The EBRC are carrying on the good works that you started!

    Hopefully a couple of these guys are going to take me out for a couple of days. They should know where to find good stuff.

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