Arabia: Successful first survey day

Our first day of surveys has been completed, and what a great day it was! But let’s rewind a little and talk about our arrival and first day on the reserve first.

After driving to the assembly point in Dubai, Robin and I met up with our  citizen scientsts Yvonne, Anette, Petra, Jens, Toby (Germany), Ellen C., Ellen W. (USA), William, Peter, Albert (Canada), Peter, Lorna (UK), Madleine (the Netherlands) and Shamsa (UAE). We were eager to get started, so quickly made our way out of the city and out towards the desert. Once on the reserve, we had a quick a tour of the DDCR office and then Greg Simkins, the Conservation Manager at the DDCR, gave us some background on the reserve itself. Then a bit more housekeeping with documentation and it was time for our first meal together. After lunch, there was more training, then it was off to camp to set up our tents. Here in the desert sand, traditional tent poles don’t do much to keep your tent pegged in the ground as the sand is so soft, so instead we had half-meter long tent pegs made that do a much better job! After camp setup, Greg took the drivers out into the reserve to learn how to weave our way through the dunes. Nobody got stuck (well done!) and everyone was having a great time learning new and essential sand driving skills. Then it was on to supper followed by a bit more training in the evening with Moayyed Sher Shah, our conservation officer and lead scientist on the expedition. Everyone was glad to get back to camp finally and have their first night in the tents at the end of the day.

Yesterday, our first survey day, a lot was accomplished within one day. We split into five groups, with Tamer Khafaga, the DDCR research officer, joining us as well. The goal this year was to avoid counting individual animals more than once as much as possible. To do this, we needed to try and complete all of the circular observations throughout the reserve as quickly as possible; and today we covered 28 of the 62 cells. We’re getting ready for another shift this morning, so I’m very confident that we can complete the last 34 cells and get the entire reserve surveyed in just two days. The number of individual animals is important information that we get from the circular observations, and allows us to learn more about their distribution and total population numbers within the reserve. Yesterday we counted 319 0ryx, 117 Arabian gazelles, 29 sand gazelles, and 3 MacQueen’s bustards. Beyond that, other sightings included the toad-headed agama lizard, the fringe-toed lizard, a sandfish skink, southern grey shrike, the Arabian babbler, crested lark and other birdlife.

All in all, yesterday was extremely  successful thanks to the efforts of our group. Today our aim is to complete the circular observations and begin the next stage of the expedition in the late afternoon: setting the live traps for small rodents, foxes, and hopefully, Gordon’s wildcat.

Amadeus and Robin

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