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  • Writer's picturePeter Howarth

Zakhar Lake by Morning

After 14 hours of traveling and 8 hours sleep in the last 48 I am up and heading towards the first site of my Middle Eastern adventure. While not a naturally occurring, Zakhar Lake is a birds paradise. There is an abundance of insects and other prey items for both small and large birds. The margins of the lake are also noticeably cooler than the surrounding desert making it a great place for wildlife during the hot afternoon sun.

The drive to the lake is mostly uneventful as we navigate busy the streets and roundabouts of Al Ain. It is only when we finally go off road that things get interesting. Following a dirt track through the sands dunes our eyes are peeled looking for the tell tale signs of Sand Fish. These amazing lizards live within the supposedly barren dunes, effectively swimming through the sand. They do come out every so often to warm up under the sun and feed, before darting back under the sand at the first sign of danger. Sadly on this occasion we didn't see any.

Once through the dunes our journey continues to the lake, we park away from the waters edge so not to frighten the water fowl. I grab my gear and sulk off down to the margins hoping to not spook the birds as I approach. Of course this goes terribly and most of the birds move out to deeper water away from the shore, so I lay down by a shrub and wait for the birds to return.

As the birds start moving back in I start taking shots. I quickly notice my focus seems off, I look over my settings and can see nothing wrong. Thinking of possible issues I remember reading about heat haze distorting images, the only fix... move closer. To avoid spooking the birds further by standing up I opt to crawl through the warm mud closer to the waters edge. Once here I again start taking photos and thankfully start hitting my mark.

D7500 Sigma 150-600, 1/1000 sec at f/6.3, ISO 180

After 20 or 30 minutes shooting Black Winged Stilts argue in the distance, I notice what I believe to be a Little Stint slowly making its way down the beach towards me. This tiny wander no more the 20cms higher was amazing. Darting up and down the beach looking for food. As I hadn't moved for some time it had become comfortable with my presence and began feeding barely 5 meters away from me. This allowed me to get some awesome shots of its feeding behaviors. Eventually this wonderful bird was spooked by a large bird of prey circling over head.

D7500 Sigma 150-600, 1/1000 sec at f/6.3, ISO 180

I took a few more photos but most of these turned out to be duds as the sun had risen and was now casting a harsh light across the lake. With this in mind we decided to head back to Al Ain and get some lunch before heading home to avoid the heat.

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