28 September 2013

Farasan Kabir - Farasan Islands

Taking your own car is extremely useful as transport is limited on the islands although as mentioned previously unless you do this sometime in advance it will not be possible to get your car booked on the ferry. There are a few cars with drivers who can take you around but the prices they charge are high at 30-60 SAR per hour. Mansur Al Fahad a birding friend from Riyadh kindly sent me some useful words in Arabic to try to say to the driver that he would probably understand: Tour (Jaolah), Gazelle (Ghazal), Birds (Toyor), Vultur (Rukhmh), Boat (Qareb). These may prove extremely useful if you need to hire a local car and driver. Farasan Kabir is the largest island of the Farasan group and is where the ferry lands. The island is mainly coral but there are some quite extensive mangrove stands particularly next to the port. There is as much reef in the Farasan Islands as there is along the entire coastline of Saudi Arabia and as a result there are 231 species of fish, 49 species of reef building coral, 3 species of Dolphin, crustaceans, large numbers of breeding seabirds as well as populations of breeding Western Osprey, Sooty Falcons and Crab Plovers. A remnant population of endangered Dugong also occurs here along with three species of Turtles. The shorebirds can be seen along any of the tidal and reef areas and land birds congregate in the few areas where cover is present, with the best cover the gardens of the Farasan Coral Resort Hotel which held plenty of migrants during our stay. We saw 20+ Yellow Wagtails, two Red-throated Pipits, six Tree Pipits, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Isabelline Wheatear, Daurian Shrike, Steppe Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Willow Warbler, four Black-crowned Sparrow Larks, six Crested Larks, four House Crows, three Western Cattle Egrets, ten Barn Swallows, three Sand Martins, one Little Swift and several House Sparrows. Western Osprey, Pink-backed Pelican and 20+ Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters were also seen flying over the hotel.
Black-crowned Sparrow Lark
Common Redshank 
Tree Pipit
Plenty of Brown-necked Ravens were seen in various places and along the coast Black-crowned Sparrow Larks, Kentish Plovers, Eurasian Oystercatchers, Eurasian Curlews, Crab Plovers, Greater Sand Plovers, Lesser Sand Plovers, Common Sandpipers, Common Redshanks, Common Ringed Plover, Grey Heron, Indian Reef Herons, Striated Herons and Sooty Gulls. Two White-eyed Gulls were seen amongst the Sooty Gulls.
Brown-necked Raven