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About Dubai: Watch the winged wonders.

Summary: The few bird watchers present at the Mangrove Hide are not dressed as you would expect.

The few bird watchers present at the Mangrove Hide are not dressed as you would expect.

The Mangrove Hide is one of the two tree-house-like enclosures, also called bird towers, near Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary on the Dubai-Al Aweer Road.

Getting there is a bit of a task, but it is worth it, as from these hides, you can position your zoom lenses or peek through the binoculars provided to get the best view of the birds.

One of the birders is wearing a white and blue formal corporate-style shirt with trousers and has his Canon 600-D pointed towards the water. Ali Durani (name changed) is 33, "works in sales" for an electricals company that has its office in Deira.

Is it his day off?

"No, I'm bunking." On a Thursday morning, Ali would rather be watching birds "than looking at Facebook in office".

So far today, he has photographed: a Little Green Bee Eater, a Grey Heron, a Little King Heron, "and Flamingos, of course". He likes to come to the Mangrove Hide once a week and spend an hour or two, especially at feeding time. His favourite bird is the flamingo: "their flight mode is very nice". There is the Mangrove Hide and there is the Flamingo Hide. There used to be another hide at Business Bay, but that is closed now for construction.

The other birder is in an orange shirt, purple tie, and brown dinner jacket. He is also wearing a baseball cap, and has more than 40 years of experience watching various flight modes.

Dr Reza Khan, specialist, wildlife and zoo management of the Public Parks and Horticulture Department of Dubai Municipality, who did his PhD under Salim Ali on the Black-and-Orange flycatcher in the Nilgiris, in Tamil Nadu, India, came to Dubai on June 1, 1989, before which he was a curator of birds and primates in the Al Ain Zoo. Dr Khan knows, naturally, a lot about the five groups of birds found in these parts. "There are permanent birds, also called the residential ones such as the Red Water Lapwing, and there are migratory birds from spring and autumn and winter and some who come just to breed..."

For a man who lost his left eye in a cataract surgery that went wrong, Dr Khan is no less ever the ready to get out in the field to photograph a member or two of the 10-20,000 migratory birds that stop over.

"Southward jani or northward jani, depends on the seasons," says the Dhaka-born lover of south India, who patiently answers even the more esoteric bird queries.

For example, did you know flamingos like to eat chicken with dried bran shrimp and added vitamins?

While these exquisite creatures are of course visible best from the eponymous Flamingo Hide, Jeruel Aguhob, nature conservation officer at the Marine Environment and Wildlife Section of the Dubai Municipality, points out that until three months ago, the Mangrove Hide looked very different. There are more visitors than usual this time of the year as "nesting season", Aguhob believes, "has come earlier this year".

The new feature of the Mangrove Hide, making it perhaps more popular than the other hide available, Flamingo Hide, is that a 1,000-square-metre-deep trench was dug to let water in, which means there is now a straight view of the Black Wing Stilts.

"They are much nearer," he says, inviting visitors especially in the next two-three weeks as the Black Wing chicks are about to hatch.

nivriti@khaleejtimes.com

Birds to watch out for

Eurasian Wigeon

Great Spotted Eagle

Whimbrel

Indian Roller

Caspian Tern

Kentish Plover

Reef Heron

Sacred Ibis

Cattle Egret

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Apr 6, 2013
Words:642
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