Wasit Nature Reserve - return to Central Region

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Wasit Nature Reserve is and under-watched wetland in the outskirts of Sharjah. It is a 'new' site, consisting of saline pools and reedbeds, a protected wetland reserve since 2006.

Wasit Nature Reserve was originally a waste-water dump and rubbish tip called Ramtha Lagoons and included the now disused Ramtha Rubbish Tip. In the mid 1990's it became a Bird Protected Area, and in the late 90's a lot of the area was filled in and a new road was constructed in the middle of it

In 2005 the Ruler named the site Wasit Nature Reserve, and in 2006 construction started to improve the areas attraction to birds: The first phase of the construction - south of the dual highway - is now all fenced in.

Islands have been constructed, water level controlled, 15 wellpoints drilled to determine groundwater quality, aquifer established, cable and stormwater berms removed to form a continous water body. Boundary areas are shaped with landscaping in progress, irrigation for boundary screening trees being installed with some 35.000 trees in municipal nurseries for transplanting at the end of 2006. Bird Hide positions determined, planning for visitors centre in progress and some 40.000m3 of rubbish removed.

The second phase - north of the dual highway - is having all rubbish and builders rubble removed. Fencing in progress, 12 well points drilled, ground water profile established, more planning for wetland linkage under highway in progress. The changes to the area in 2007 have been astounding and promises to be a birding destination of note as facilities are constructed and the ecology begins to recover.
Additional Info 2006: Latest baseline audit has found 'fresher' water about midway along Phase 2 - aquifer that 'daylights' in a number of areas - good counts of aquatic invertebrates on both Phases - rehabilitation activities that have resulted in reduction in concentration of nitrogen based nutrients in Phase 1 and significantly a reduction in concentrations of potentially toxic ammonia.
12 insect orders, (one complete) or around 1/3 of all insect orders, 65% of the orders known from the UAE Soldierfly family recognised in the UAE for the first time. Probable that the total number of families known to be present will exceed 40. There appear to be four Stratiomyidae present, a remarkable record for the site and for the UAE as a whole. Notable increase in 2006 in beetle diversity. More nocturnal species were present during the 2006 fieldwork, many of which await identification.

The total number of reptile species now recorded within the reserve to date is nine. The ocellated or eyed skink Chalcides ocellatus is a new one for the Wasit reserve. The Ethiopian hedgehog and Baluchistan gerbil are new records for the reserve.
The mosaic character of the wetland as a whole, incorporating a range of habitat types, is one of the most important positive attributes of the site, intimately linked to the potential of the site to support higher diversities of insects and birds into the future. In 2007, the contractor is removing masses of rubbish and obstructing berms to water flow lines in Phase 2 as well as constructing a new berm some 250 East of the power station fence. The enclosed water body there will be filled in, in readiness for extensions to the power station. A screening berm is also being constructed all along the Ajman border on the North side of Phase 2 which will be planted to hide the industrial units along this side.

Fencing is well advanced for Phase 2 which will, when completed, keep out feral dogs and cats and humans that 'hunt' this area. This should improve the lot of the birds that abound here, making their habitat much safer in the future. Bird hides are being decided upon as well as a network of board walks along the sandy plateau in the South corner of Phase 1 that will allow visitors to observe the fauna and flora found on this piece of pristine desert.

Directions and access:
See map. Access is open, but I'm not sure of opening times.
See this link

Birding strategy:
Walk the trail around the lake.

Birds:
172 species (excluding escapes) have been recorded as of March 2015 in the combined Ramtha Tip/Lagoon area.

134 species (excluding escapes) have been recorded as of January 2020 in the newly formed Wasit Nature Reserve.
The area has had its fair share of rarities over the years, including the following first records for the UAE:
- Intermediate Egret (December 1994 at Ramtha Tip)
- Lesser White-fronted Goose (November 1996 at Ramtha Tip)
- White-breasted Waterhen (November 1992 at Ramtha Tip)
- Mediterranean Gull (January 1996 at Ramtha Tip)
- Sabine's Gull (June 1991 at Ramtha Tip)
- two of only eight UAE records of White-throated Kingfisher (November 1990 and winter 1992/93 at Ramtha Lagoons)

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