Krupp, F. & Fleming, R. (eds.), Establishment of a Marine Habitat and Wildlife Sanctuary for the Gulf Region. Final report of phase III. Jubail, Frankfurt a.M.

Ornithological Monitoring Report

A b s t r a c t: Ornithological work during Phase III concentrated on the continued monitoring of wintering waders and other waterfowl in the coastal areas and wetlands of the Sanctuary, and on the further study of breeding terns and Socotra cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis) on the islands. Mid-winter waterfowl counts showed that the total numbers of wintering waders in the Jubail Marine Wildlife Sanctuary continued to increase, indicating a further recovery of the intertidal areas. For the first winter since 1991, reasonable numbers of larger wader species, such as curlew (Numenius arquata) and oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus), which feed on larger prey items such as crabs and bivalves, reappeared on the intertidal areas of Dawhat ad-Dafi and Dawhat al-Musallamiya. There was also a significant increase in the wintering numbers of smaller, crab-eating species such as grey plover (Pluvialis squatarola) and greater sand plover (Charadrius leschenaultii), The Sanctuary regularly held internationally important numbers of II waterfowl species during the winter and of at least 14 species during the migration seasons, Since 1991 a steady increase in total numbers of waders was noticed at Sabkhat al-Fasl, with total maximum counts from all species combined in the period April-May increasing from 8,900 birds in 1991 to 19,000 birds in 1995, The total breeding population of Socotra cormorant on the three extant colonies in Saudi Arabia in the winter of 1994-1995 was estimated to consist of 30,000 pairs, Although these numbers indicate an increase of 300 % since 1991, they still represent a decline of 40 % compared to a previous population estimate in 1981. Although the 1991 Gulf War oil spill killed an estimated 8,000-10,000 birds of the Saudi Arabian population, this clearly could not have been the only reason for this tremendous decline between 1981 and 1991. As such, the tripling of the breeding population since the Gulf War can also not be fully explained only as a spectacular recovery after the oil slick. In order to understand present population trends, the organisation of regular and regionally coordinated counts of all extant breeding colonies in the Arabian Gulf remains a first priority.