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My best shot of the Flamingos of Middle East

  • Jan 24, 2019
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  • Dr. Linto John
Flamingo 7

2012 was the year when I first visited the cosmopolitan city of Abu Dhabi. One gets carried away by the magnanimity of the city, skyscrapers, the architecture and the people. Nearly 100 nationalities live peacefully in the capital city of UAE. I became a resident of UAE in 2013 and began to explore the city. My interest was to find places close to nature but my passion in birding was initially hurt when I could hardly find birding spots except for some urban birds. I hardly found anyone with similar interest, then started searching for birding spots online.

Flamingo 1

The first one I came across was the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, Abu Dhabi. The place was not far from where I lived then, but reaching there was tricky. It was a well preserved wetland not far from human dwelling but restricted to public. I sent an email to Environment Agency Abu Dhabi(EAD) who were professional enough to reply immediately regarding entry to the wetlands. With the mail in hand I began to explore the route with GPS.

Flamingo 2

For those who have travelled through the outskirts of Middle East, if you miss one exit road you end up in travelling an additional 15 to 20 kms to return. It happened to me too as I missed the exit to wetlands. Finally travelling for half an hour through uninhabited areas I found the way back and closely followed the fenced wetlands. The sign board kept was too small for a first timer and was a mud road taking to the entrance gate. At the gate was written 'Entry restricted". With the email of EAD in hand I entered the gait to travel another 400m mud road to reach a one roomed building with a caretaker. He was more than happy to welcome me.

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The wetland is home to many hundreds of flamingos, other birds, reptiles and insects. Flamingos are visitors there since early nineties and have started breeding there of late.

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From November to April Al Wathba Wetlands is open for public for 6 hours, 2 days a week. Shooting a flamingo is a dream for any birder, and here you have plenty of them. But your freedom of movement is restricted in the area. There are only limited spots from where you can shoot them. But that's fine as long as the bird colony is well preserved. Spending time in the bird hide gives you enough opportunities to plan your shot. In January when the morning fog sets in, the frames from wetlands create the magic.

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It was after 3 years that I came across the mangrove lake in the heart of Abu Dhabi city. It is along one of the busiest streets of the city which had a 4 km semicircular walkway besides the mangroves. I became a regular visitor there in the morning hours. The mangroves are home to many birds especially in the winter season. The sites of terns fishing, gulls fighting for food, occasionally an Arabian fox and a large population of herons makes mornings interesting for any birder.

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On day in Feb 2017 was a surprise when 4 flamingos flew into the mangrove.The lighting in the mangrove is so special in the morning hours as the any white bird in a shaded dark background of the mangroves made beautiful frames. The challenge was to get the flamingos in the right spot. Finally I got a picture to my liking, and it is still one of my favourite shots. 2018 saw some dredging works happening there and mangroves were deserted. 2019 they again flew in there providing another fruitful session with the migratory beauties from central Asia.

Dr. Linto John
Dr. Linto John

Bird Photographer
Managing Partner, Green Cap