In search of Sooty Falcon

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The has undergone a major decline in Arabia. Current status as per the EBRC (Emirates Bird Recording Committee) – “Highly endangered declining breeding visitor (5 nesting pairs in 2008, per EAD) to offshore Arabian Gulf islands. Rare migrant onshore”.So it was a pleasant surprise when an Emirati friend of mine reported a sighting on a remote peninsula near the Saudi Border some four and a half hours from Dubai. For anyone interested here are the co-ords24°20’42.76″N51°39’0.31″E.It took a couple of weeks to follow this up (permission was needed as this was a restricted area) but on 26th July 3 vehicles headed for the location, one from Dubai, one from Abu Dhabi and one from Al Ain. In total 8 of us headed towards Sila, having arranged to meet at the entrance gate at 2pm. Having entered the Faziya reserve we headed to the end of the spit where a bird had been seen.

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We worked our way across the barren and desolate landscape to the multi-tiered cliffs. On the way to the cliffs, a lone sat perched beside the causeway, soon to be upstaged by a very tolerant Pharoah Eagle Owl sitting in a crevice in the cliff face. Probably the best encounter I have had with this species.

However, that was soon to be bettered. A small, dark shape in the shade of a distant Osprey nest turned out to be our quarry – the smoky grey plumage and shining yellow bill stunningly beautiful even in the slightly blurry, wind-blown view of the telescope, the bird partially obscured by the twigs of the nest. Unfortunately nowhere close enough for any sort of photo, not even a record shot !

At the end of the peninsula, we had another better, though still distant, view of it perched on the cliff edge, before it flew below cliff level and was lost. We spread out and searched. Walking along the cliff top in parallel with a friend below me at the foot of the cliffs, we had what was obviously a second bird fly up to cliff ledge, possibly flushed by him, for some reason and luckily for me it landed about 10 meters away, I immediately hit the ground so as not spook the bird, I was offered great views for about 5 minutes before the bird took to the air once again. Photos in the bag and brains suitably boiled in temperatures in excess of 40c we eventually dragged ourselves away, we left it patrolling the cliff edge, often hanging in the wind. A truly awesome bird in a spectacular setting and a lifer for me !!

The Barren landscape of the peninsulawith zero vegetation

I am standing pretty much where the bird landed. As you can see I was extremely lucky it was so close by.You can see the vehicles in the distance.

Sooty Falcon ()

Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor)

Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor)

Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor)

Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor)

Sooty Falcon (Falco concolor)

Pharaoh Eagle Owl(Bubo ascalaphus)

Pharaoh Eagle Owl(Bubo ascalaphus)

Mike Barth

Mike Barth

, a photographer from Manchester England, was based in Dubai in the UAE from 2004 to 2016. He has travelled regularly to Africa and Asia and has had the pleasure of birding in some wonderful locations. A passionate bird photographer he now offers tours for small groups, maximum of 6, photographers and offers photographic tours to several locations such as Sri Lanka, India, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana. Please visit his site at https://www.mikebarthphotography.com for information, there you can also purchase prints in various formats.

Mike Barth

Mike Barth

Mike Barth, a photographer from Manchester England, was based in Dubai in the UAE from 2004 to 2016. He has travelled regularly to Africa and Asia and has had the pleasure of birding in some wonderful locations. A passionate bird photographer he now offers tours for small groups, maximum of 6, photographers and offers photographic tours to several locations such as Sri Lanka, India, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana. Please visit his site at https://www.mikebarthphotography.com for information, there you can also purchase prints in various formats.

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