29 June 2013

Ringing Terns – Al Jarrim Island South (Bahrain)

A very early, 02:30 hrs, start from Saudi Arabia for a day’s ringing on Al Jarrim Island South meant we were able to board Ali’s boat at Bahrain Boat Club just after 04:00 hrs for the one-hour journey to the islands. You need Coast Guard permission to go out to these islands so after calling into the Coast Guard boat and having our documents checked we set off again and arrived at 05:00 hrs on the southernmost island. This is ideal timing as it is just getting light and the temperatures are significantly lower (32 Degrees Celsius compared to 42 Degrees Celsius) than later in the day. We ringed until 11:30 hrs when we used all the rings and left for the main island of Bahrain. Ali’s boat is a very fast fishing boat with two 200 HP two stroke engines so although thirsty on fuel, is quick. The aim of the day was to ring Lesser Crested Tern chicks and although quite early in the breeding season was the only weekend we could go due to other commitments and Ramadan starting on 9 July. We had a very good team this year with Nicole, Clem (a new helper), Ali, Ahmed, Mahmoud, Ali and I.
Bridled Tern
Bridled Tern
The Al Jarrim Islands are three man made islands north of Bahrain (see map below). They are good for breeding seabirds as they are small, low-lying and relatively undisturbed. We have ringed previously on the middle and south islands, with the south island having the biggest concentration of Lesser Crested Tern nests as well as plenty of Bridled Terns. As we could only go once this year we chose to go to the South Island again.

When we got to the island we could not see many Lesser Crested Terns but after disembarking the boat and setting up camp, which comprised a large umbrella, to keep the sun off us and the birds, as well as the cool boxes with water and food and all the baskets and blankets for keeping the birds in and out of the direct sun, we could see a couple of reasonably large crèches of Tern chicks. We employed our method of herding the tern chicks onto the beach and walking them down the beach to our corral, which was made out of bamboo sticks and garden netting. The corral was set up so we could close the opening to contain the tern chicks and had the bottom of the netting covered in sand to stop the birds escaping underneath the net. Here would could take them out and place them in baskets and move them up to the ringing station for ringing. At the ringing station the birds were kept under cover and in the shade until they were processed and we did not catch too many together to ensure they were kept for a minimum amount of time. The birds are incredibly tough and spend the entire day out in the direct sunlight, where they form large groups of 500+ chicks where they are fed fish by their parents.
Lesser Crested Tern
By the end of the session we had ringed 743 birds, with 143 Bridled Tern chicks and 600 Lesser Crested Tern chicks of which I ringed 100 Bridled Terns and 243 Lesser Crested Terns. This now annual ringing session to the islands is a great day out, although very tiring, with everyone concerned enjoying themselves. It is certainly an experience that not many people can, or will, have and I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to go and ring there. Finally none of this could happen without the use of Ali’s boat and his skill and knowledge as a boatman, and to him and is nephew Ali I am very greatful.