Khor al-Beida is a huge tidal wetland well known for its Crab Plovers and wintering Great Knots.
Directions and access:
Due to the close proximity of the Ruler's Palace security can be tight. There are old signs along the Palace wall warning of 'No Stopping' and 'No Photography'.
Three signs warning of 'Restricted Area, Private Land' and 'No Fishing' was erected in in July 2006 near the new palaces, but construction of these stopped in 2009. On the map below, this is named 'Entry point'. This area is now (2019) being used by public, so it seems the signs can be safely ignored.
If you arrive by a small, non-4WD car, park here and walk down. Some drive smaller car along the shore, but be careful of soft sand if you do.
There is another entry point from the roundabout at the 'Private villa residences', but this is only passable with a sturdy 4x4 car, and no parking available if you arrive in a small car.
You will be driving on sandy tracks, not passable with a non-4WD car, and after rain this site can be virtually inaccessible.
At all times stay in the tracks, as the sand can be very soft away from tracks.
Best timing for a visit is 2-3 hours before high tide (check your iPhone app, local newspapers or the Internet for timings), but I have also had good birds, even in mid-summer during low tide. See below for other options.
Favoured spots for Crab Plovers are often in front of, and to the west of the abandoned new palaces, as well as off the very tip of the Khor al-Beida peninsula; to the east.
Regular birds are Socotra Cormorant (offshore from UAQ), Great Cormorant inshore from September to May, Crab Plover, Slender-billed Gull, Saunders's and Little Terns, Gull-billed Tern, with Black-crowned Sparrow-lark in spring and sometimes Greater Hoopoe-lark.
During winter Great Knot will mingle with the Bar-tailed Godwits, Great Spotted Eagles are often in view, the sand dunes hold Desert Wheatear and Asian Desert Warbler with Steppe Grey Shrike often recorded.
183 species (excluding escapes) have been recorded as of December 2018.
Rarities have included;
- Marbled Duck
- Red-breasted Merganser
- Eurasian Bittern
- Long-billed Dowitcher
- Red Knot
- Alpine Swift
- Pied Kingfisher
- Mesopotamian Crow
Viewing from UAQ town:
Another good spot for Crab Plover is along the road at 25.547394 , 55.559575
Only viewable with a telescope, probably best a low tide when the birds can be seen feeding on the mudflat sharply to your right in front of the Rulers palace.
Another option for photographing Crab Plovers (see image below) is a resort boat trip from Flamingo Beach Resort. They do a 1-hour private boat trip towards the eBird Hotspot Siniyah Island--Flamingo Resort boat trip on Siniyah Island for AED 250 (price 2019). Socotra Cormorants are another bonus on this trip.
Another site further north, along the E11 main road is Dreamland. This site was almost destroyed by construction in 2007, but as the project was abandoned in 2009, waders such as Crab Plover and Broad-billed Sandpiper are still being seen by the freshwater outlet next to Dreamland Aqua Park, at position 25.591852 , 55.661937.