Some weekends just turn out great even when not expected to be so. The forecast was for a shammal - strong winds and dust but despite some windy moments it never really mounted to anything enabling me to get two key observational elements under my belt. The first quantitative numbers for the Hypocolius at Jasra and the second to check on the breeding status of the Socotra Cormorant on Hawar. I have been out around Hawar recently chasing Dugong without much success; they are there in good numbers but at times remain elusive. But on this occasion it was the cormorant Colony on Hawar that was my focus of attention - a pending shammal was the last thing I needed.
I had hoped to get to Hawar on Friday but never even made the jetty we cancelled early the forecast had been that bad, thus at the crack of dawn 5-30 I was out to Jasra to count Hypocolius. Photography as usual was difficult. The rising sun doesn't help, the birds always managed to display on a bush or tree in the suns direction, I doesn't seem to matter where you decided to wait out their arrival the best visuals are always that direction. I was surprised to find a good number of birds already in situ on arrival just before six, suggesting it is more than a stopover. It could be a minor evening roost. By seven I had counted 218 birds when it went quiet however another large flock of fresh birds dropped in just as I was about to leave around 7:10. Given the direction of their arrival I think I know where they had roosted; will check that out another time. They didn't stay long but I estimate that they numbered over a 100 birds. 300 plus Hypocolius at what is a basically a stopover point is a good way to start any weekend. Friends passed the site at 8 and found but 5 birds so feel confident with the a number of around 325.
Curlew those at Hamalah fodder fields have increased to 5
Desert Wheatear at Hamalah
Pied Wheatear a lot more still hanging in there normally most have disappeared by now
Skylark have stated to arrive
Water Pipit just a few but obvious by their dark legs
Tawny Pipit numbers continue to increase
Stonechat still only 3 at Hamalah
Swallow when they start settling like this you know the big off is not that far away
So on to the my quick visit to Hawar and the Socotra Cormorant colony now on the Rubuds. One thing people need to realize is that the cormorants time their breeding season to the arrival of the sardine? schools which in itself brings in other larger potential food fish. So the Birds start to breed some time normally from late September the first chicks hatch just as the bait size fish schools start appearing. These pics were from at the jetty taken before we left a good indicator of the size of the potential food available to the sea birds.
I expected to find a good cross section of birds at the colony - I was not disappointed it was as expected two to three week old chicks aplenty forming up in creches , birds on the periphery excavating so about to start and plenty of tiny heads popping up indicating freshly hatched chicks. I did not approach too close to the colony but observed them from a distance with my bins - the pics were taken with the long lens. Not the best but good indicators of the colony status, the task in hand. The breeding areas are used still maintain the integrity of three separate elements; the largest is in the center of the Island the other two on a spit of slightly sandier substrate that form a ridge that runs to the north east corner. How long this will remain so is hard to predict as the chicks become mobile. Rubud Ash Sharqiyah (East) virtual disappears at times with the highest seasonal tides particularly when these occur when a shammal is blowing.
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