Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve  - return to Central Region

 

This is a large area of desert, tree plantations and man-made lakes only 40 minutes from Dubai's Mall of the Emirates; great for desert birds like Cream-coloured Courser, Chestnut-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Black-crowned Sparrow-lark, the scarce Greater Hoopoe-lark and a good possibility of Lappet-faced Vulture and other raptors.
It also goes by the name Saih al Salam.


This area has a HUGE collection of released wildfowl, so most of the ducks and geese you see here are released and thus not 'countable' on your list. Macqueen's Bustards are released in this area, and tended to by the many rangers in the area. Spotted and Crowned Sandgrouse are also released, ditto for Common Crane and other ornamental birds.
Mammals like Mountain Gazelle, Sand Gazelle, Arabian Oryx and Cape Hare roam this area, as does various snakes, lizards and scorpions.


As you drive east from Dubai on D63, passing the Arabian Ranches, you will pass the Dubai Polo Club, worth a stop to look for Cream-coloured Coursers on the main grass field.​ Rarities here have included Black Drongo.

As you enter the area at the end of road D63, you arrive at the Bike Cafe roundabout. Note that all areas to the north of the road going west from the Bike Cafe, like Bustard Lake, Al Qudra Pivots and Al Qudra Lake is strictly off-limits, and constantly patrolled by security. You might be fined if your car is spotted on this area of the desert. The same applies to the area south of the main access road, opposite the Al Qudra Pivots.
Areas to the south-east of this road is generally open to the public, and selected sites will be covered here.

Al Marmoom DCR--general area

This is the eBird Hotspot that covers the whole area, but it is MUCH appreciated by the local Bird Recorder (i.e. me) if you could separate your checklists into the more specific Hotspots.



Map of the area (please read all names as Al Marmoom DCR--, as the Saih al Salam name is no longer in use:

 

As you arrive at the Bike Cafe, you can check the grass and trees here for migrants or winter visitors.
You now have two options: head into the Duck Lake, followed by the Expo Lake, or drive straight to Oasis Lakes.

Let's assume you are heading towards Duck Lake; only worth a 10 minute stop, and then drive around Expo Lake; an hour or more can be spent here. As you leave the Bike Cafe parking (see map below), get back onto the main roundabout. Then head east for 330 meters, before exiting the tarmac to the right and heading out into the desert. A 4-wheel drive car is needed to fully explore this area, but I have seen saloon cars here as well, so if you feel lucky.......
This area can be VERY busy on Friday and Saturday, so an early start is best if you plan to visit during the week-end.

After checking the Expo Lake area, where the released but countable Pin-tailed Sandgrouse can be numerous, head back towards the Bike Cafe entry point. Then continue 1.3 km east to the next roundabout. Turn right here, towards Oasis Lakes.
If you stop at position 24.843951 , 55.362641, you can cross the bike bath and walk the Duck Lake eastern plain and have an excellent chance of seeing Cream-coloured Coursers here, as well as Pin-tailed & Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse flying in between 9.30 and 11am. From this parking spot you can also walk straight east to the two smaller Oasis Lakes.

To reach the Oasis Lakes, you turn off the tarmac road from position 24.840693 , 55.363218

I have seen many saloon cars entering this area, some of them hopelessly stuck, so take care.
You can drive all the way to the eastern lake, deep inside the desert. Waterfowl from Alaska, South America and Asia can be seen here. Some of them breeding.

Rarities in this area have included Red-footed Falcon and Cinereous Vulture.

Since November 2018, a new lake is created east of the Oasis Lakes, called Al Marmoom DCR--Love Lake. This lake has a 2 km walking path along the entire circumference.

Before birding the Expo and Oasis lakes, a good area to listen to the dawn song of Greater Hoopoe-Lark is the Al Marmoom DCR--southeastern desert

IF you are fortunate enough to have a 4-wheel drive, then head south to Al Marmoom DCR--south cycle track area. This area is remote, and I have seen Greater Hoopoe-Larks on the actual bicycle path itself.
This track ends in Bab al-Shams desert and the tiny Bab al-Shams desert lake.

Now is the time to drive into Bab al-Shams Desert Resort for lunch, dinner or check-in, and check the surrounding trees and grass for migrants or wintering birds.

If you feel up to it, you can walk in from the Al Marmoom DCR--Endurance Village (another good spot to check for Cream-coloured Coursers on the grassy fields) to Al Marmoom DCR--Al Qudra Lake. This is THE hotspot to visit in this area, but access only on foot, as driving in is prohibited.

You have now completed the Saih al Salam circuit, and unless you want to look fort Bar-tailed Lark at 24.758688,55.136627 (not seen here since February 2012, but used to be regular here), you can return to your hotel.

© 2018 Tommy Pedersen
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