19 July 2016

Boubyan Island

Week 23, 03 June 16 - Boubyan Island

We were 5 on this trip to census the summer breeding birds on Boubyan Island; Markus Craig, Neil Tovey, Dr. Will Le Quesne and Brian Hartley that was kindly hosted by the Coastguard.

An early start was needed to catch the tide and also to avoid the oppressive summer temperatures later in the day.

Soon after leaving the harbour we stopped to check a Kestrel soaring overhead...

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Shortly afterward were treated to a great sighting of 2 Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin that were both curious and obliging - unfortunately, I didn't have time to change my big glass to a more appropriate zoom. Nevertheless, I was happy with the 'portraits', as you normally don't see this species with their head's out of the water.

Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin (Sousa chinensis)

We went past Warba Island and from the north explored the various channels/khors inside Boubyan for the breeding colonies of the respective species.

First up was a Western Reef Heron breeding colony, with both pale and dark forms nesting side-by-side. Some birds were still on eggs, whilst others had large fledged young.

I was pleased to find an adult with a fine set of breeding plumes - the light wasn't the best, but I was happy with the result

Pale Form Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)

Dark Form Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)

Pale Form Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea) with young

Juvenile Form Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)

Pale and Dark Form Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea)

Pale Form Western Reef Heron (Egretta g. schistacea) with stunning breeding plumes

Grey Herons also breed amongst the Western Reef Herons

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Although we saw many Crab-plover later (they were too distant photograph, especially with the heat haze). One or two were present foraging in this Heron colony

Crab-plover (Dromas ardeola)
Slender-billed Gulls breed in large numbers at a number of sites on the island. Again most young had fledged, but a number were also still sitting on eggs. How they survive these oppressive temperatures is a testament to how nature adapts to hostile climates

Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei) creche

Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei) still on eggs
Unlike our last visit, very few Gull-billed Terns were seen. Those that were seen were flying overhead

Gull-billed Tern (Gelochelidon nilotica)
What was the most worrying, was the fact that no Spoonbills were seen during the first lap. On the second lap, I found a single Spoonbill on a nest amongst the Western Reef Heron. 

Despite intensive checking and searching, no others were found - so we are not sure if there has been a population collapse of this species on Boubyan?

Lone Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)

All in all a rewarding outing and thanks again to the Coastguard for their patience and hospitality. 

Following this outing, it was time for our summer/winter holiday back to South Africa - a long overdue break that we were really looking forward to enjoying!


  1. Nice to see dolphins still inhabit this area!

  2. This is awesome. Thanks for posting up your notes. This will be very helpful
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