Emirates Natural History Group
Al Ain Chapter
A quite a busy time lies behind us, filled with lectures, hikes and the famous Inter
Emirates Weekend in Liwa, organized this year by the Abu Dhabi chapter. Our
friends from Abu Dhabi had set up fantastic program so nobody has time to get
bored. See details below.
The weather was unusual wet and cool, especially the night temperatures sometimes
were below 15 degree – freezing for people who are used to 40 degree in summertime.
The humid weather is a reason for flowering desert and mountain areas, so take the
opportunity to discover the beauty of springtime in the desert.
ENHG Al Ain Chapter Committee
Chair: (Vacant); Vice Chair Brigitte Howarth; Treasurer: Jodie Healy; Secretary:
Cheryl Dance; Membership: Barb Reimer; Photography: Bob Reimer; Newsletter:
Roland Ochmann; Library: (Vacant); Flora: Jodie Healy, Brigitte Howarth; Fauna
(Insects): Brigitte Howarth; Fauna (Birds): vacant; Environment: (Vacant);
Ordinary Members: Bill Jones, Amer Abu Kuhail, Joseph Mansour
Visit the webpage at www.enhg.org or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org (all Al Ain
Committee meetings are held on the first Tuesday of each month at Al Ain English
Speaking School. Everyone is welcome to participate! We are always looking for people to
join our discussions and help deliver events.
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April 26 General Meeting Danat Resort
May 03 Committee Meeting AAESS
Last day for submitting
May 10 Danat Resort
your photos for the
General Meeting with
May 24 Danat Resort
annual Photo Exhibition
If you have any questions about the chapter and its activities, you will probably find an
answer or explanation in the “New Members’ Pack” on our website.
What Happened on Recent Hikes, Walks
Each weekend we try to offer one or two field trips to some of the destinations within a short
driving distance of Al Ain. Our field trip leaders are all volunteers and each tries to make each field
trip as interesting and informative as possible. We are always looking for volunteers to lead trips;
please contact a Committee member if you would like to lead trips.
We ask members to dress appropriately and wear proper footwear. Please remember to bring
plenty of water and a snack. It is important to let the trip leader know if you have a medical
condition which the field trip leader should take into account when selecting routes etc. Our field
trip leaders carry a satellite phone on most trips; members should carry a small first aid kit.
Saturday 12 Febrary Al Ain Oasis
This is an important -- and very busy time -- for date farmers as the winter pruning is over
and the warmer daytime temperatures have coaxed the date palms into a new fruit cycle. we
The Al Ain Oasis is the largest of the five main oases in the city, where to see how things
are going with the flowering and pollination. We followed the route developed by Phil.
Saturday 05 March Al’ Ilal Village
The weather was getting warmer, it was nice to take an afternoon walk in the
mountains. Ilal is an abandoned village where we explored the archaeology of this
After spending some time at Ilal, we crossed two small wadis to a second group of
structures. This area is at the base of a short yet picturesque wadi where we could see a
round stone animal pen used by a farmer when he brings his goats in to feed on the wadi
plants. Remains of a house, storage area and majlis are evident.
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Friday 11 March Al Ain Photography Tour
With the chapter's photography exhibition coming up in May, time to start amassing an
assortment of photographs from which to select entries. (Details of the event are available
at <http://www.enhg.org/alain/photo2011.htm >.)
Amer led members to various sites in the city to introduce some of the better shooting
locations in town as well as passed on some of his photography tips.
Amer encouraged members to scout out locations in the city for photography and passing
Saturday, 19 March Subaitah Falaj Walk
Subaithah Oasis rests at the head Wadi Jizzi flanked by a deep, wide gorge that winds
through the conglomerate. Subaitah is one of the few remaining mountain oasis
communities where farming is still ongoing yet modern conveniences have not arrived.
There is no municipal water or electrical supply, so life in the small settlement remains
much as it has for hundreds of years. When members ask what these oasis communities
may have looked like a hundred or more years ago, here is one of a very few places one can
visit to see what life was like.
Please visit links from the ENHG homepage (enhg.org) under Field Trips
Another report on this trip can be read below (by Treve Imes)
Friday 25 March Photo trip
This weekend he will share some of Amer’s locations outside of town. As discussed in their
article on photography tips <http://www.enhg.org/resources/photo_tips/photo_tips.html >,
Stuart Perry and Nigel Ingram remind photographers to take full advantage of the lighting
conditions very early in the day and in the last hour or two before sunset. This trip was
scheduled to demonstrate to members how these lighting conditions can improve the
quality of a photograph.
Among the sites to visit was the camel race track just outside of town (beyond the ring
road) where there is always a good number of camels being trained. The tour also stopped
near Bida bint Saud to see some local farms and then along solid tracks into the dunes to
discuss the challenges of capturing the 'sand sea' in a photograph.
For details of the chapter's photography exhibition in May, please visit
Amer posted some pictures from his two photography trips in anticipation of the upcoming ENHG
Friday 01 April Zakher Pools
One of the popular places to visit in Al Ain to see resident and migrating birds and to
photograph that rare combination -- for Al Ain residents -- of sand and water is the Zakher
Those who are interested in birds had the opportunity to see several different birds that are
drawn to the pools in the late afternoon, some to feed, some to roost for the night.
The water and plants also provide an inviting habitat for some of the larger insects: five
different kinds of dragonflies as well as damselflies and butterflies.
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In the dunes around the pools, many of the typical desert residents can be found, probably
the most common being the toad headed agama.
As the sun lowered towards the western horizon, the colors became more vivid and Jebel
Hafit, in the distance, provided a spectacular backdrop.
Friday 15 April Wadis Jeelat, Hamed and Shik near Wadi Agran
These are relatively small side wadis with interesting geology, fauna and flora, and heritage
and history. In all cases, springs must have been one of the the main reasons for settlements
in the past with evidence of tufa, a mineral rich deposit that is laid down when water flows
for a long time. Even now, some of those springs are active and stalactites can be seen in
the making. Not surprisingly, there are also small oases that are actively farmed.
RECENT GENERAL MEETINGS
30 Years Anniversary of the ENHG Al Ain Chapter
Tuesday, 08 February 2011,
with Brien Holmes
It was approximately 30 years ago this season that the Al Ain chapter was established,
initially as a part of the Abu Dhabi chapter but eventually independent. Tuesday's
presentation was a brief review of 30 years of activities with comments from some of those
who led the chapter over the past three decades. This was an opportunity to appreciate how
the chapter has evolved over time, introduced some of the characters who shaped the
chapter, and highlighted some of the events that have marked the chapter's history.
My Life Up To Now t
Tuesday, 22 February 2011,
Our special guest speaker on this evening was Renate Wernery,
Renate Wernery is one of those rare
individuals who has been witness to the
changes in the country and has also played a
role in the rapid evolution. Renate, a
virologist, not only shares that passion but
also put her interest and dedication into
practice as one of the founding members of
the Emirates Environmental Group <
A resident of the UAE since 1987, she not
only helped establish the EEG but also
helped build the Central Veterinary
Research Laboratory (CVRL http://www.cvrl.ae/ ).
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The CVRL has been recognized internationally for its research in line with its aims and
objectives, as noted on the organization's website. These include "To aid in the diagnosis,
prevention, control and eradication of infectious and non-infectious animal diseases".
Renate started her talk with her move to Berlin in the 60’s to study, where she met here
then-to-be husband, how they practiced in several countries (Ethiopia, New Guinea, ao)
until they finally established in UAE the CVRL.
After her reading a lot of questions have been answered, especially about the benefits of
camel milk which is another field of interest of the Wernerys. www.camelmilkforlife.com
Tuesday, 08 March 2011,
Earlier this year, Germany's Tubingen Archaeological Project announced some startling
results from the team's eight-year-old survey at Jebel Faya in Sharjah
Project-announce-new-findings-at-Faya.html>. The report, citing the stone tool evidence
recovered from site, provided new evidence about human activity in the region including
the possibility that human migration from Africa to the Oman peninsula took place
significantly earlier than original postulated.
Susanne Hofstra, an archaeology professor at UAE University, was our guest speaker to
discuss human ancestry including the movement of humans out of Africa that may be
reflected in the Tubingen finds at Jebel Faya.
The title of her talk was "The new Jebel Faya tools from the UAE: How do they fit into our
understanding of human ancestry?"
Susanne also discussed how humans were able to succeed in new and different
environments by special adaptation.
Recent human adaptations like variations in skin color, lactose tolerance/intolerance, and
other regional developments are connected with this period. Genetic studies can also add a
lot now to our picture of human migration and population in the Paleolithic."
Resources available to members include the report on Ardipithecus ramidus (The Analysis
of Ardipithecus ramidus [One of the Earliest Known Hominids]) as published in Science
magazine several months ago. The material available includes a short video discussing the
find and the extensive report as published. Several copies of the article and video will be
available on disk.
Members may also be interested in material published at
<http://www.archaeologyinfo.com/ardipithecusramidus.htm > and a number of articles
available at <http://www.sciencemag.org/site/feature/misc/webfeat/ardipithecus/ >.
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UAE Land of Falconry
Tuesday, 22 March 2011,
We were most fortunate to had Tom Bailey (BSc, BVSc, MRCVS, CertZooMed, MSc,
PhD, Dip ECZM) on hand to discuss falconry, his talk entitled "UAE Land of Falconry".
Tom, a falcon and wildlife veterinarian,
and his wife Theri are well known for their
devoted work over many years to educate
the public as well as protect and preserve
the wildlife of the UAE and the region.
Tom qualified from Bristol Veterinary
School in 1991 and since then he has
worked for a variety of charitable, research
and private institutions including the
Chipangali Wildlife Trust (Zimbabwe), the
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (UK and
USA), Al Ain Zoo, the National Avian
Research Center (Sweihan) and Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (Abu Dhabi).
Tom received his PhD on houbara bustard medicine and conservation in 1999, an MSc in
Wild Animal Health and Certificate in Zoological Medicine in 2002 and in 2002 became a
Diplomate of the European College of Avian Medicine and Surgery. In 2002 he was
employed as Falcon and Wildlife Veterinarian for the Dubai Falcon Hospital.
Tom has a wide range of clinical experience with mammalian and avian species found in
zoological collections in the Middle East and has published widely on conservation and
veterinary issues of African and Arabian wildlife. In 2011 Tom has joined International
Wildlife Consultants in the UK.
Many of our members recognized Tom's name -- and work -- as he has served as Editor of
the Wildlife Middle East News (www.wmenews.com) for several years. He is also Editor
of Falco, the Newsletter of the Middle East Falcon Research Group
Tuesday, 12 April 2011,
Dr. Wolfgang Schneider, visiting from the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in
Frankfurt, is the curator for Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) and has worked for
many years in the Middle East and Arabia, publishing many important papers on
Some video showing some incredible dragonfly behaviour made by German Odonatolgists,
Georg and Dagmar Rueppell.
2010_II Page 6
According to feedback we’ve received, IEW 2011, based at the Tilal Liwa, a choice hotel
in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, was an enjoyable get-together and a good chance for
those not put off by the somewhat remote location to get to know this not-so-often-visited
region of the UAE. The ENHG thank the WRDC for the dinner they sponsored and the
useful Al Gharbia guides they provided. We are also grateful that our guest speaker, Mike
Jennings, was able to share his research on the breeding birds of Arabia and to join us on
Thanks to many of you for sending in your IEW photos! The winning photos from the
Adults’ and Kids’ photo competitions to be seen below.
ENHG Annual Awards
Nominations are invited from paid-up Group members for the two annual awards made by the Abu
Dhabi chapter of the ENHG.
Sheikh Mubarak bin Mohammed Award for Natural History
This Award is presented by the ENHG's patron, HE Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak, and is the
country's premier natural history award. It is intended to acknowledge the contributions made by an
individual, primarily through original research and publication, to the scientific study of the
archaeology, history and natural history of the UAE.
This award is in place of the Jashanmal Award that was presented for several years after the
introduction of the ENHG in the UAE.
The Award consists of an inscribed silver dhow and a cash sum.
Year Recipient Notes
Antonius (Tony) Coordinator of the impressively comprehensive and ground-
van Harten breaking UAE Arthropod Project
Archaeology in the UAE since 1985, chief archaeologist at the
2009 Christian Welde
National Museum of Ra's al-Khaimah
Abu Dhabi Island Archaeological Survey, Abu Dhabi
2008 Dr. Mark Beech
Authority for Culture and Heritage
Publications on geology, botany, entomology, molluscs and
2007 Gary Feulner
Dr. Brigitte Contributions to entomology in the UAE and Northern Oman.
Howarth Study of mimicry in insects.
2005 Dr. Michele Archaeology of Fujairah
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2004 Peter Hellyer Support for and popularization of archaeology in the UAE
HE Mohamed al Services to conservation and environmental protection in the
2002 Phil Iddison Contributions to the study of food in the UAE
2001 Herpetology of UAE, and study of Uromastyx
2000 Dr. Reza Khan Director Dubai Zoo, Natural History of UAE
1999 Moaz Sawaf Arabian Leopard Trust
1998 Major contributions to the study of insects in the UAE.
Ornithologist and author of Status and Conservation of the
1997 Simon Aspinall
Breeding Birds of the United Arab Emirates
1995 Colin Richardson Secretary, Emirates Bird Records Committee
1994 Founder, Arabian Leopard Trust
Jashanmal Award Recipients
Year Recipient Notes
1993 Peter Hellyer Chair, ENHG 1989-1992
A.R. "Rob" Bulletin Editor and author of An Introduction to the Flowers of
Western the United Arab Emirates
1991 Founder-member of ENHG
2010_II Page 8
2010 Sheikh Mubarak Award Winner
The ENHG’s two annual Natural History Awards are always announced at the mid-season Inter-
Emirates Weekend, and then the official presentation of the prizes associated with these awards is
arranged at the majlis of our Patron, HE Sheikh Nahayan, generally toward the end of the season.
Directly below are details about and remarks by the two recent award winners.
The Sheikh Mubarak bin Mohamed Award for Natural History is the country's premier natural
history award. It is intended to acknowledge the contributions made by an individual, primarily
through original research and publication, to the scientific study of the archaeology, history and
natural history of the UAE.
Dr Antonius (Tony) van Harten, coordinator of the impressively comprehensive and ground-
breaking UAE Arthropod Project, was awarded the Sheikh Mubarak bin Mohamed Award for 2010.
Below are his remarks given to the ENHG at the Inter-Emirates Weekend buffet dinner at the Tilal
Liwa Hotel on Friday, 18th February, 2011. -Ed.
Dear Mister Vice-Chairman of the Emirates Natural History Group and naturalist colleagues,
I feel very honoured to be chosen to receive the Sheikh Mubarak Award for 2010. I
want to thank you all for this recognition of my work.
When I came to Abu Dhabi in July of 2004, my only earlier experiences with the
Emirates had been some stopovers at the Dubai and Sharjah Airports. My idea of
the country was that of a big sandbox with many camels in it.
After having worked for ten years in Yemen, a country with a fabulous variety of
habitats, I thought that three or four years would be sufficient to get to know the
majority of the insects of the UAE. I have been proven completely wrong in that
Now, after six and a half years, three volumes of ‘Arthropod fauna of the UAE’
have been published, I am working on the fourth volume to be published this year
and I still will need another three or four years to complete publishing the whole
amount of information that has been gathered.
To do this, it has been necessary to request the assistance of some 250 specialists
from more than 30 countries. Over 250 species new to science have been described
so far and still many are to follow. Who had ever expected that the diversity of
arthropods in this country would be that enormous?
To end, I want you to consider for a moment that this result has only been made
possible by the sponsor, His Highness Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Not
only did he finance the research work and the printing of the books, he actually was
the person who took the initiative and searched for somebody to carry out this work.
Without him the arthropod fauna of the UAE would still be known very
incompletely. If there existed a worldwide award for the best sponsor of
biodiversity projects, Sheikh Tahnoon surely should be the one to receive it.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much!
Antonius (Tony) van Harten
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The Bish Brown Award
This Award was created to commemorate one of the Group's founders, J.N.B. 'Bish' Brown, who
laid the foundations of much of the scientific recording of the country's wildlife. The Award itself, a
silver falcon, was donated by former Vice Chairman Dr. Terry Adams and his wife and former
Group Secretary Caroline Adams, and is held for a year by each recipient.
It is intended to acknowledge contributions made by an individual in terms of promoting study and
conservation of the UAE's environment, wildlife, history and heritage, whether through formal
study, encouragement of educational awareness or other means, and can, therefore, be given to
amateurs as well as professionals.
Nominations for both Awards can be made by members of any of the UAE's three natural history
groups, in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain. Nominees, however, need not be members of any of the
Groups, although serving officers of the Abu Dhabi ENHG (Chairman, Vice Chairman, Treasurer
and Secretary) are not eligible.
The winners are selected by the Committee of the Abu Dhabi ENHG early each year. The winners
are usually announced at the Inter Emirates Weekend (IEW).
Nominations may be sent by post to The Chairman, ENHG, PO Box 45553, Abu Dhabi, by 15th
December each year.
Year Recipient Notes
Driving force behind the establishment of the UAE’s first
2010 Dr. Christophe Tourenq
Mountain Protected Area in Wadi Wurayah in Fujairah
Promoting SE Arabian Natural History and especially birds
2009 Jens and Hanne Eriksen
through their photography and publications
2008 (Major) Ali Al Suwaidi Founder, Emirates Marine Environment Agency
2007 Robert W. (Bob) Reimer ENHG website Tribulus archive, study of dragonflies
Roy Richards &
2006 Enthusiastic field trip leaders for the Abu Dhabi chapter
Field trip leader, speaker and enthusiast at the Abu Dhabi
2005 Allestree Fisher
2004 Dr. Sandy Fowler Author of Rough Shellers' Guide to the UAE
Long-time contributor to the Dubai Natural History Group,
2003 Val Chalmers
trip leader, speaker
2001 Ibrahim Zakhour Served almost 20 years as trip leader for the Al Ain chapter
Responsible for one of the largest collections of insects of
2000 Dr. Michael Gillett
the UAE and northern Oman, leading expert on beetles
Dedicated work to environmental education in schools and
1999 Gayatri Raghwa
colleges in Abu Dhabi Emirate
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1998 Gary Feulner Geology, botany, molluscs, freshwater fish
Ornithologist and long-time contributor to the Abu Dhabi
1997 Steve James
Natural History Group
Amateur expert in fossil sea urchins in the UAE and
1996 Carolyn Lehmann adjacent areas; discovered an important archaeological site
at Umm Suqeim
2010 Bish Brown Award Winner
The Bish Brown Award, commemorating one of the Group’s Founders, is given by the ENHG
chapter to an individual who has promoted study and conservation of the UAE's environment,
wildlife, history or heritage, in accordance with the main aims of the Group.
Dr. Christophe Tourenq of the Emirates Wildlife Society-WWF, a frequent lecturer to all three
NHGs in the UAE and driving force behind the recent establishment of the UAE’s first Mountain
Protected Area in Wadi Wurayah in Fujairah, was the Bish Brown Award recipient for 2010. Dr.
Tourenq was unable to attend the award announcement at the IEW, but he sent in the following
acceptance speech which was read out on that occasion by ENHG Chairman Drew Gardner. -Ed
I wish I had been able to share this emotive and great honor with you in this part of UAE
that I love and which is the reason why I came here 10 years ago.
Reading might be dangerous sometimes, indeed. If as a teenager, I had not read
Thesiger’s “Arabian Sands“, I would not have dreamt about this sea of sand and red dunes
of Liwa oasis where you are today.
Unfortunately, I’m afraid that due to my some two-weeks-old new
parenthood commitments, my week-ends are now booked with Mr Pampers for a while!
This nomination came out as a complete surprise and shock as I don’t feel I deserve it, and
I am sure there are people more recommendable than me for this prestigious award!
Bish Brown: A heavy name and legacy to assume!
Even though I have never been an ENHG member, it has always been a pleasure to interact
with the three ENHG chapters’ fellows. As a staffer of the Emirates Wildlife Society
associated with one of the most renowned NGO’s in the world in nature conservation, the
WWF, I could have faced defiant, mistrustful, haughty looks from ENHG peers seeing this
sister NGO guy coming to play in their yard.
I have always found in the ENHG a constant and unconditional source of reliable
information, advice and inspiration. I cannot count a week without my having harassed
some reptile expert from Abu Dhabi, snail/geology/dragonfly/everything-that-moves-or-
produces-chlorophyll expert from Dubai, or falaj-digger from Al Ain, for some tips or
I have always considered our actions complementary and have always seen the ENHG as a
pioneer NGO in the country, paving the road for other organisations.
As an old, but respectable, UAE organisation supporting natural and cultural heritage
conservation, you have witnessed the dramatic and quick-paced development of the country
to the detriment, often, of the beautiful and unique environmental and cultural patrimony,
some of it unfortunately gone forever.
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And I have had sometimes quite animated discussions or “exchanges of different views”
with some ENHG members who have expected more action or a more forceful position
from “the local panda”.
But this dialogue has always been held in a civilised and constructive way, also keeping in
mind the peculiar socio-political context of this part of the world. And I will never forget
however, that the ENHG was the first local NGO to react to and sign in our proposal draft
of letter of concern to the press, about a female whale shark kept in captivity in an
aquarium of some resort on some costal development in the shape of a tree in some coastal
city of the country. Something Bish Brown would have appreciated, as he was one of the
first to document the species in the UAE in a volume of Tribulus in 1992.
The ENHG has always also been present to participate in the campaigns, forums,
conferences or workshops we have organised.
The ENHG has been a pillar in the acquisition of information and data that finally led to the
declaration of the first Mountain Protected Area and the second RAMSAR wetland site of
international importance of the country: Wadi Wurayah.
I also shall not forget that the ENHG is, above all, entirely made of volunteers, people
giving their free time (and money) to share the passion of UAE culture and nature with
Therefore, I would like to dedicate this award to them in the first place, and secondly, to
my colleagues who support me and my work in, sometimes, quite challenging contexts.
Many thanks again for this honour, and long life to ENHG.
IEW Photo Competition
The judging was done by IEW participants - and also some of the other hotel guests and
staff! - on slips of paper that then tallied up before the Friday dinner programme. All these
winners were given books as prizes.
IEW 2011 Photo Competition Winners
Fauna (Tied winners)
Fighting Herons Muscat Breakfast
Alberto Gonzalez Steve Raynor
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Flora (Tied winners)
Twisted Branches Mangrove Seedlings
Stefan Beck Christoph Herzog
Coffee-making in Oman Sunset at Ras al Hadd
Laurel Bassett Steve Raynor
Lizard Lonely Tree in the Oman Mountains
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Mountains near Mussa, Oman Omani Fort
Alex Beck Simona Beck
IEW addition from Val Chalmers (Dubai chapter)
IEW Return Journey: Shoreline Route from Tarif to Abu Dhabi
Three Saturday afternoon return trip tours were on offer on Saturday 19th February as part
of Inter-Emirates Weekend. Several of us opted for the Shoreline Route from Tarif to Abu
Dhabi (or Dubai). We set out from the Tilal Liwa Hotel at 1.45 p.m. with trip leaders Drew
Gardner and Feng Weng and drove back to the E-11, turning right near Tarif. We stopped
about 15 km past the junction on the right hand side to look at the sabkha and then the
prominent sandstone outcropping in the distance.
Donatella Astratti gave the group an explanation of the processes involved in sabkha
formation and their significance. (“Sabkha is an Arabic term which refers to flat salt-
encrusted desert that is usually devoid of any significant
plant cover. The high concentration of salts on the
sabkha surface prevents the growth of most plant species
and, as a consequence, landscape dominated by sabkha
appears distinctly barren. The accumulation of salts is
possible in areas where the water table lies close to the
surface”. Reference to the Geology and Terrestrial
Habitats Sections of “The Emirates: A Natural History”).
We examined the hexagonal/polygonal patterning of the
sabkha which is “created by expansion due to the
crystallization of salts”. On the other hand, “polygonal
mud cracks may be created by shrinkage due to
Examining the sabkha formations
Photo: Val Chalmers
Polygonal sabkha formations from an earlier trip
Photo: Drew Gardner
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The sandstone outcropping which the
group examined is likely to be an
example of Miocene sediments capped
with the remnants of more extensive
layers of calcite/gypsum-cemented
sand from the Quaternary period which
unconformably overlie them. Exposed
fossil rhizoliths (bush roots), possibly
of a mangrove tree, from the Miocene
period were seen on a large piece of
Sandstone outcropping off the E-11 near Tarif
Photo: Val Chalmers
We did not go to Dhabbiya, as originally
intended, to see the coastal waders and to
do some beach-combing, as we ran out of
time. Therefore, before returning home,
we went on to the turn-off near Musaffah
to look at the small offshore island known
as ICAD 6 where there is a large
flamingo-breeding site. Drew produced a
telescope which gave us excellent views
of the flamingoes.
Photo: Val Chalmers
Thank you to Drew Gardner, Feng Weng and Donatella Astratti for a most interesting tour.
2010_II Page 15
Inter-Emirates Weekend: Introduction to West Liwa
Andrew Bean and Gary Feulner led a full-day tour of various sites and environments in the
west of the Liwa crescent. The crescent of oasis villages that makes up the Liwa area is
now served by a divided highway and many of the dune slopes are cloaked by nurseries –
and in one case a lawn! Gesturing over the whole, Gary reminded the group that this was a
dramatic change from even 25 years ago, when the only road was a graded track, gatched
in places and overblown by sand in the extreme west, where there were no oases.
Early stops focused on cultural sites. The restored fort at Khannur was impressive in size
for a remote area without sophisticated construction materials. An adjacent plantation
featured not only palms but also the sidr tree Ziziphus spina-christi and the large tamarisk
Tamarix aphylla, both found naturally only in mountain wadis and adjacent gravel plains.
We also puzzled (as do many professionals!) over the species identification of several
flowering Tribulus growing as weeds within the plantation. Eruca sativa, sometimes
cultivated, was found on adjacent waste ground.
At the nearby fish farm, tilapia, bulti, carp and catfish were said to be raised for local
consumption, although we saw only tilapia. Several members also watched numerous small
digger wasps painstakingly excavating burrows in the low sand berms, obviously following
an ingrained template for construction.
We had lunch among the expanded plantations at 'Aradah, the most westerly modern
oasis, and climbed part way up the dunes for a view of the overall setting. On stable dune
sands the most common vegetation by far was the succulent Zygophyllum mandavillei (a
close match for its sister species Z. qatarense, common in Dubai and adjacent coastal areas.
An added benefit for some was the opportunity to observe some unusual insects at the
plantation and to photograph resting examples of the migratory Vagrant Emperor dragonfly
Anax ephippiger, present throughout the UAE at the moment, but normally seen only on
We continued south-west towards the border road, to an overlook of the "ghost town" of
Al Brair (Librair), the former border station, from where it was possible (for the young and
young at heart) to climb to a dune peak with a commanding view of the mosaic of remote
mega-dunes and sabkha flats that characterizes the Liwa area. On the dune slopes we saw
the two plants most characteristic of mobile dune sands: the large, wispy Calligonum
crinitum and the sedge Cyperus conglomeratus.
A few members watched a Yellow Toad-Headed Agama Phrynocephalus arabicus try to
conceal himself by vibrating and burying most of his body in the sand. Insects seen on the
dunes were a small Sand Swimmer beetle with a characteristic gold "necklace" and a jewel
beetle, perhaps the Desert Knotweed Beetle Capnotis excisa, which frequents Calligonum.
A number of our visitors were also struck by the very dark brown breed of camels that can
be found in Liwa and the Western Region generally.
Some saline ponds created by excavation demonstrated the relatively shallow depth of the
water table and were home to extensive reed beds of Phragmites australis and an
unidentified Tamarix species. They also provided an convenient opportunity to look for
sand roses. We saw relatively little natural wildlife there (although the parasitic Desert
Hyacinth Cistanche tubulosa was common) but were treated to an impressive display of
dune buggy driving by young local residents out for the weekend.
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We closed the day with a visit to Tal Moreb, which is billed as the tallest dune in the
UAE. While that is debatable, in its present artificially maintained form it may in fact be
the largest uninterrupted slip face, now devoted to dune buggy riding. The road to Tal
Moreb snakes for some 20+ km into the north central Liwa area, making accessible not
only Tal Moreb but also much of the region that could otherwise be reached safely only by
a well-prepared expedition. (Of course, even now, a foray off-road into the high dunes or
sabkha flats should not be undertaken casually and should include precautions for self-
The trip ended very happily with a sighting and photographs of sand gazelle Gazella
subgutturosa on the way back to the hotel. Report by Gary Feulner and Valerie Chalmers
(1) The restored fort at Khannur, Liwa (2) An enigmatic Tribulus sp. in a
(by Valerie Chalmers) Liwa plantation (by Valerie Chalmers)
(3) A Yellow Toad-Headed Agama, half buried (4) A panorama from high in the West Liwa
for 'camouflage'. (by Binish Roobas) dunes. (by Gary Feulner)
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Blue Flag Initiative
As you might know we are involved in getting Blue Flag initiative started in UAE for cleaner and
safer beaches and marinas (www.ewswwf.ae/blueflag). We are dealing mostly with governmental
entities (public beaches) and private sector (hotels, marinas, etc.).
We are constantly requested to give advice or provide help in case of injured marine life found by
beach-combers,- bathers and –managers.
We prepare a list of useful contact numbers for beach and marinas managers.
So far, I have the following details:
-up a toll free number (80032453) to deal with “wildlife problems”,
but of what I understood it is mostly for “undesirable species” (stray cats, dogs, foxes, snakes, bees,
any environment issues (pollution, injured wildlife, etc.): 8009990 (email:
email@example.com). Moreover, they have an emergency response manager who can be
contacted round the clock: Mr. Abdul Rahman ( 0506674171). For sea turtles, dugongs and
dolphins specifically, Dr Himansu S Das, Biodiversity Management Sector, EAD (Tel:
+97126934654, Fax: +97124997282, Mobile:+971504465125, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Turtle Rehabilitation Centre at the Burj al Arab aquarium: 043017198 (24 hour email contact is:
Any more recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks!
I know also that ENHGs hosted recently a marine mammal rescue workshop (which I would have
loved to join if was not busy with something else).
Now I have 2 questions for you:
1) Is there a ENHG focal point where our staff/public could turn to in case of such incident (ex:
2) Would ENHG be confident to provide training first aid marine wildlife workshop for beach
managing staff (lifeguards, etc.)? And if so, can we recommend you to them when asked? Free to
you afterwards to set-up your conditions directly with interested ones (fees, etc.).
Many thanks for our input.
Dr Christophe Tourenq
Manager, Science and Research,
Emirates Wildlife Society-WWF
P.O. Box 45553
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Tel: +971504549077 (mobile)
Tel Fujairah office: +97192244400 (ext 375)
Tel Abu Dhabi Office: + 971 2 634 7117
Fax Abu Dhabi Office: + 971 2 634 1220
Days-off: Friday and Saturday
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Subaithah Falaj Walk
By Treve Imes
Wonderful day for all on the trip! I think about every wildflower, plant, and tree we saw were
either in full bloom or in early fruiting stages. Such displays of nature’s beauty were definitely
enjoyed by all! We admired, photographed and
identified several species of vertebrate,
invertebrate, flower, and tree.
Together we came up with several species and
wishing we could identify more. We were
constantly finding life flitting around us and
waiting for the next surprise. Later, we couldn’t
get Cheryl to venture down the steep wadi side
to confirm the length and shape of the snake and
A lovely break at the pool left us very relaxed
and content with our day. After sitting and
absorbing the nature around us and having the
fish tickle our feet, we walked back and ventured through the abandoned village above the oasis.
We spotted three watchtowers next to and on the ridge above the village.
Across the wadi, an Islamic cemetery with aloe vera covering the graves could be seen along with
nearby stone structures. We stopped to absorb the whiff of orange blossoms and to look more
closely at what was growing among the palms.
It was a time to get great pictures of wildlife, ruins and wispy clouds with an incredible blue sky!
What was observed:
o 1 Snake
o 2 Jayakar Oman lizards
o 1 palm rat
o fresh water snails – very abundant
o water striders – several
o 1 water scorpion
o dragonflies – red, blue, green, gray
o quail, dove
o bird’s nest in a pomegranate tree
o Orange, lemon, lime, pomegranate, mango, banana, fig,
o Sodom’s Apple in bloom
o Wadi fig, henna,
o Blue Pimpernel, Khofig, Talinum portulacifloium – all
o Popcorn plant, pencil cactus, Maiden hair ferns,
o Velcor plant, Boerhavia elegans, donvolvulus prostrates,
o Schweinfurthia inbricata
2010_II Page 19
A day at EMEG Ghantoot Marine reserve
By Roland Ochmann
EMEG invited 50 people to spend a day on 09 April 2011 at the Marine conservation area, located
in Dubai Emirate at Ghantoot, close to the Abu Dhabi border.
The lucky ones have been welcomed with traditional hospitality: tea, coffee and fresh fruits and
some children took a first run around the area.
Then Major Ali introduces himself and led the people to
the meeting room, full of displays and posters of marine
life and habitat, where he gave us a powerpoint and
video presentation of what is EMEG about and doing.
We learned that EMEG e.g. helps the relocation of corals
in reclaimed areas and artificial islands, in relocation of
fauna of the new Maktoum airport, which is not as easy
as it sounds because the area where the reptiles and the
like have been released are already occupied by other
We are a little bit aghast to hear that this 2km beach is
the last natural and undeveloped area remaining of the 60 km coastal line of Dubai and recently
reduced by DEWA area to build up a desalination plant.
He told us about the many other areas of activities of EMEG: turtle nest supervision and relocation,
fishing surveying, mangrove planting, hammour breeding and so on. Interested people can get the
presentation on demand or visit the website www.emeg.ae
After the presentation and answering some
questions, Major Ali suggests the people to roam
around the area, along the beach, lagoons or the
mangroves. Some take gloves and plastic bags and
doing the Sisyphus work of picking up the rubbish
brought by the sea and wind (of course finally
caused by stupid humans) during their walk. The
difference could be seen with a view to the
“DEWA-beach” where the debris piled up and
“nature-lovers” drove to the beach with their 4x4s.
Unfortunately I took the emailed information
literally to bring the own lunch so when the
EMEG people came up with a BBQ I already had
finished my prepared lunch. But all the people who tasted the BBQ have only one opinion:
After the lunch Major Ali sat down, collected the people around him and told us some stories about
pearl diving, his grandfather’s adventures, life in the UAE before oil and some funny situations in
an amusing manner. He told us also that he is writing a book about which will be published soon
2010_II Page 20
People asked him if there’s actual pearl diving in
UAE. As answer he shows us his collection of
recently found pearls with some remarkable ones.
Major Ali departed to join his family and invited
everybody to stay until sunset and enjoy the area.
After a lazy afternoon with chatting, swimming,
canoeing and relaxing we’re heading back to the
city, watching a cormorant on the way back.
A last surprise awaited us on the dirt track back to
the highway. A gazelle couple looked at us fearless
like to say: Farewell and come back soon.
Medical Herb Trip
By Cheryl Dance
Amer led us on a unique experience viewing a local clinic and herb shops. Our first stop was a visit
to a place where people go to solve problems once all medical efforts have been exhausted. Here
one can listen to reading of the Quran
and other chanting while falling into a
relaxed state. There are a variety of
health problems that can be addressed
by this clinic.
Our other stop was down across the
old souk where we were surprised by
the bustling business going on there.
The walls were filled with jars of
metals, stones, seeds, oils, dried plant
flower and stems. People came in with
lists of what they wanted to buy. The
store staff knew what was needed to
mix together for just about any
combination for a desired result.
One particular man was making a mixture that he said gave him power and he takes just a bit each
day to stay strong. One can find any kind of soaps for body enhancements and snake oil for your
hair. All in all, it was an informative day!
2010_II Page 21
The ENHG provides often some outreach activities such as guiding visitors from other
emirates or schools to places of interest in Al Ain and surroundings.
On grateful “thankyou” of 3rd grade is shown below:
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2010_II Page 23
The Book Corner
By Cheryl Dance
Arabian Wildlife Encyclopedia
This is an essential guide to Arabia’s wildlife heritage. It
covers key Arabian species with hundreds of colorful
illustrations, extensive web links and fascinating facts.
It describes climate change, habitats, fossils, mammals,
plants, reptiles, fish and much more.
Don’t forget, if you’re looking for information in print-media take a look at our library
www.librarything.com/catalog/enhg. We have numerous books and publishings about flora,
fauna, architecture and geology of this area.
Books for Sale
The chapter makes books and other resources available to members in a variety of
-- NEW –
under the "Resources" tab of the ENHG website homepage <http://www.enhg.org > is the
link to "Books For Sale" to take you to <http://www.enhg.org/resources/books/sell.html >
with a list of the books and periodicals available for sale at meetings; from time to time
some titles are no longer in stock but these are the books we try to keep on hand. Thanks to
Cheryl and her volunteers for being on hand at general meetings to facilitate the sale of
items to members.
-- NEW –
also available are copies of papers and presentations that the chapter has collected over the
years, a diverse assortment of papers and PowerPoint presentations covering a very wide
range of topics. At the moment, only PDF versions of papers titled alphabetically A to G
are available on CD. For more information on these items, visit
<http://www.enhg.org/resources/papers/papers.html> with links to
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HTML <http://www.enhg.org/resources/papers/papers_A_to_G.html >,
PDF <http://www.enhg.org/resources/papers/papers_A_to_G.pdf > and
DOC <http://www.enhg.org/resources/papers/papers_A_to_G.doc > versions of a
document listing the thirty folders containing reports. The rest of the collection will be
copied to CD and made available as soon as possible. The CDs are available at a modest
cost to members.
-- we maintain a modest library collection, items in the collection listed on
<http://www.librarything.com/catalog/enhg >. Thanks to Marybeth for acting as our
librarian and cataloging these items.
-- we have added an eBooks section to the website and hope to add more titles as time goes
by; the link is available from the "Resources" tab on the main menu bar of the homepage
<www.enhg.org >. Thanks to Bob for setting this up.
-- there is an archive section available on the website
<http://www.enhg.org/resources/articles/res_articles.htm > with a number of articles
-- Al Ain archives containing profiles and other information is available at
-- articles pertaining to the UAE and Oman can be found at
<http://www.enhg.org/resources/uaeoman/uaeoman.htm >; this includes articles on plants
by Shahina A. Ghazanfar as well as miscellaneous items on sites or topics related to Oman.
-- valuable links to sites discussing birds, insects, geology, geography, history etc are
available at <http://www.enhg.org/resources/uaeoman/uaeoman_links.htm >.
-- back issues of The Bulletin and Tribulus are also available directly from the homepage <
Thanks to those who have made copies of reports available for our members. If you have a
document that is available for inclusion in the chapter's collection and/or if you have a link
to recommend, please contact a Committee member and we will add the information to the
Dates for your diary Links
April 2011 Dragonflies!!!!
26 General meeting (Danat Resort) IUCN Odonata Specialist Group
May 2011 http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/2009
03 Committee meeting (AAESS) 1129/NATIONAL/711289837
10 General meeting (Danat Resort). Last Agrion newsletter
submittal date for photo exhibition http://ecoevo.uvigo.es/WDA/
24 General meeting (Danat Resort) with Photo
Wildlife Middle East News: www.wmenews.com
2010_II Page 25
Mike Gillett’s contribution to our website
Phil Idissons contributions on our website:
Contact email@example.com for more details.
Contact Nancy.firstname.lastname@example.org for more
The weekend hikes and walks in Oman or in the UAE are a regular part of our activities offered to members.
Please read these hike-related mails carefully in order to be well prepared for the hikes (equipment, shoes,
severity, etc.) also to get the right time and place to meet.
Thuraya Satellite Phones
We have two Thuraya telephones. The numbers are 0088-216-4440-5955 for Phone One and 0088-216-
5552-1121 for Phone Two.
We recommend that you add these numbers to your mobile phones and lists of important phone numbers.
One or both phones will be taken on each field trip and will be turned on for the duration of each trip.
Find your way and meeting places in Al Ain and around.
Our weekend field trips begin at regular meeting places. You can download a KMZ file from
http://www.enhg.org/resources/links/res_links.htm. Download the KMZ file and save it on your computer. If
you have Google Earth loaded on your computer, when you double click on the file, Google Earth will open
and ‘zoom’ to the locations marked. There is some information regarding each location associated with the
pins in the image; hover your mouse over the pin to see the text. If you do not have Google Earth, or if the
KMZ file does not work on your computer, you can download the JPG file also listed at
http://www.enhg.org/resources/links/res_links.htm. The chapter’s regular meeting places for forming convoys
are shown as are the Al Ain English Speaking School, the InterContinental and the Hili border crossing point.
The ENHG Library
The Library is now situated in our room at the Al Ain Palace museum. Marybeth has been busy attaching
labels to the bindings of items in our collection as well as posting details of items on the Internet. Our library
database can be searched and visited under www.librarything.com/catalog/enhg
If you’re looking for a publication, videotape or periodical, please contact Marybeth
email@example.com. We try to put an inventory list on our webpage so everybody can look for
something they are interested in or something special they may be looking for. Any problems? – just ask
We have prepared a DVD-collection of more than 20 DVDs and CDs including all videos, CDs and many of
the DVDs in our library. We are offering this set to members for Dh100. These are available to ENHG
members only. You can subscribe at the general meetings for your collection.
2010_II Page 26
New members’ package
Most members hear about the Emirates Natural History Group from a friend or colleague. Some learn about
the Group, and the Al Ain chapter, when doing an Internet search about the UAE and Al Ain during the
course of applying for employment in the UAE.
The chapter has been in existence for 30 years this season. Over that time, the chapter has evolved as the
individuals changed from season to season. For the past few seasons, the chapter has settled into a routine of
combining field trips, general meetings and special events and activities.
For those who would like to know more about the chapter and how it manages itself, there is a document on
the website at < http://www.enhg.org/alain/committee/new_members_package.htm > known as the New
This is actually a collection of documents that works like an FAQ file, answering most of the questions
individuals have about the organization.
One of the topics covered, for example, is field trips with a discussion about appropriate clothing, things
members could do to prepare for a field trip, conduct on a field trip, and safety. There is a brief discussion of
the events which are repeated most seasons including an Iftar Dinner during Ramadan, the photography
exhibition, and the Annual General Meeting.
There is a brief discussion of the services available for members including the Newsletter, the website, the
email service, and the library.
The version of the New Members’ Pack on the website will be updated following this season’s annual general
Again: don’t forget to carry your camera wherever you go. We want your best shots of fauna, flora, peoples
and places for our annual photo exhibition, scheduled this season for the second meeting in May 2011
(photos to be submitted at the chapter’s first meeting in May).
If anybody has special intentions or interests for visits, hikes, explorations etc. he/she should get in contact
with any member of the committee.
The newsletter depends also on YOUR contributions! If you have any reports, sketches, stories, pictures,
encounters, poems, etc. you want to share with our community please submit to firstname.lastname@example.org
2010_II Page 27