On Saturday, Major Abdulla and I took a two hour hike down to the sandbar known as Ras Mattala (Ras Al Mamtalah). This site is now off limits to the general public and access requires a special permit. It is many years since the site was surveyed, previous information dating back to the late seventies when Trevor Hallam ringed hundreds of White-cheeked terns there over several years.
We recorded 200+ Socotra Cormorants (approximately 50% juveniles), 19 Kentish plover (no chicks seen), 2 Slender-billed gulls, a single Osprey and only 26 White-cheeked terns (no nests).
It would appear that this population of terns has all but disappeared. Most of the sandbar is at the hightide line and little or no vegetation was found. It may now become completely innundated during the lunar hightide, though we have no precise evidence to support this.
I was given access to Trevor Hallam's ringing data by the BTO and we cannot see how these numbers can be achieved nowadays based on our recent survey. The decline in the population is unlikely to be due to disturbance as the area is still off limits to the public. We can only conclude that natural phenomena are responsible for the changes. A second visit is planned in late June.
To view an intoduction to the Bahrain Ringing Project click HERE