Post details: Three stooges visit Hawar

2006-10-09

Three stooges visit Hawar

THE VISIT
Osprey

Visits to Hawar are seldom without incident; on this occasion, it was the weather. The first shammal of the season had decided as if knowingly that, we had only been planning the trip for weeks so it was therefore the right time to strike. (Winter Shammals blow from the northwest often for up to five days with winds of up to 30 knots occasionally more.) The first inkling I had that a shammal was forecast was late on Wednesday when my boat owning friend phoned to say because of the pending storm he would be unable to sail. A quick call to the hotel on Hawar got us a place on the Thursday afternoon ferry sailing, this covered getting to the islands, another call to the coastguard gave us once there, boat access to the outer Islands. Our accommodation courtesy of The Southern Tourism Company in fully furnished self-catering comfortable chalets, awaited us anyhow and we had already decided evening meals would be taken at the Hotel. Not the finest dinning to be had in Bahrain but it would suffice for the long weekend visit planned. So our trip was still on.

The ferry ride down on the Thursday afternoon was a bit bumpy in the strengthening wind but being the day before the weekend we had the boat largely to ourselves. The Hotel come the Friday was fully booked, which meant that so would have been the ferryboats, that is, if they had sailed. For come the Friday morning the storm had built up overnight, the wind was well over the safe limit for the small hotel boats, and the entire weekend bookings had had to be cancelled. Other than a few guests already at the Hotel, we were alone which was fine by us as this meant we could mornings or evening do some mist netting without much interference from other visitors to the Hotel in the Hotel trees - the area is definitely not a garden more an enclosure. It is a fenced area to which Hotel and Chalet guests are restricted to.

The Thursday evening and Friday morning were spent successfully ringing in the trees. At noon on the Friday, we moved to the coastguard jetty and joined the local (all weather) coastguard patrol boat for a whistle stop tour of the islands for the benefit of Brendan and Juhani.

Which way to the golf course

The captain of the boat was himself new to the Islands so was only too happy to be shown around the narrow and often shallow navigable channels through the islands. Without the assistance of the Coastguard our trip would have been given the weather impossible, our thanks to boat captain Sargent Mohammed and to Major Ayuz for making it happen at such short notice.

Socotra Cormorant and colony

On reaching Suwad Al Janubiyah the three of us went ashore south of the Socotra cormorant colony, this was not just to let Brendan and Juhani see this amazing site for themselves but was primarily to check the breeding status of the colony which is about to start its season.

Socotra Cormorant in flight

The following day, Saturday the coastguard dropped us of at 7-00 am on the Island of Hazwarah and we spent the next five hours documenting the 7 pairs of Falcon that are breeding there this season.

Hazwarah

In past years numbers have been much higher, but for some reason 3 or 4 nest sites that have always been used over the previous seasons were this year not occupied although there was some evidence of usage. Why this is the case, this year one can only speculate. Also unfortunately for us the breeding season for several of the nests occupied was well advanced, so much so that the chicks had already fledged and were only seen and identified scattered at various locations around the Island.

Sooty Falcon chick being ringed

We did however find and ring chicks in other nests, a quick in, ring the birds and out again routine, was adopted on Brendan’s instructions minimising any disturbance. On the Island although it has a flat top, the numerous deep wadis and cliff faces means that one can quickly move away completely out of view of the birds, both the parents and the chicks.

At noon the coastguard returned to pick us up from the Island, we had a 3.30 pm ferry sailing to catch, but en route back to the jetty we stopped of at the islands of Jazur Al Hajiyat to document the two pairs with fully fledged chicks breeding there. Given that sea stacks of Wakur probably have at least one, possibly two pairs, the population this season for Hawar is a lowly maximum of 11 pairs.

Sooty Falcon

On our return to the Hotel we found out that a boat had managed to deliver a few new guest to the Hotel and collect those stranded at 8.30 pm that morning but since the wind had again risen the next chance for our exit was the afternoon of the following day, Sunday. This was Ok by me, but it meant that both Brendan and Juhani would have to phone and inform others they were stranded on Hawar.

On our return to the chalets we tried unsuccessfully that evening to catch some waders near the hotel – not exactly a prime site but we had to wait till 7-30 pm anyhow for dinner to be served. So we just enjoyed the peace and quite the islands has to offer until that is the Hotel turned on its music system and spoilt the magic.

The following morning we spent a very productive few hours after dawn catching warblers again amongst the few trees that pass for landscaping around the Hotel. I had arranged a trip around the main Island for that morning but thanks to the efficiency of the hotel management, this had to be curtailed. The 3.30 pm daily ferry sailing was rescheduled to leave at noon just in case the wind got up again or the Captain who was fasting for Ramadan fell asleep and failed to turn up later.

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