Returning to Barr Al Hikman

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As part of our celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the International Waterbird Census in January 2016, an international survey team led by Wetlands International counted a staggering half a million migratory waterbirds at the famous Barr Al Hikman site on the Oman coast. This January, the count is being repeated as part of the Indian Ocean Coastal Waterbird Count 2017.

The counts are providing new information on the importance of the area for waterbirds, which will influence management priorities for the area. The survey will also contribute to the documentation currently being prepared by the Ministry’s to designate the area as a Ramsar Site. This would recognise its international importance for waterbirds, marine turtles, and intertidal coastal habitats and islands.

Greater Flamingos gracing the sunset at Barr Al Hikman, Oman

Greater Flamingos gracing the sunset at Barr Al Hikman, Oman. Image by Abdullah Al Subhi (MECA)

The first counts have recorded a large numbers of migratory Bartailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Dunlin, Crab Plover, Lesser Sand Plover and others shorebirds, Greater Flamingo, and egrets.

Leon Kelder from Staatsbosbeheer counting at Khawr Barr Al Hikman

Leon Kelder from Staatsbosbeheer counting at Khawr Barr Al Hikman. 80,000 birds were counted here. Image by Taej Mundkur

Over the first three days, three of our 4-wheel drive cars got stuck in the sebkha and it took us several hours of digging before we could haul it out. It is a reminder of the many challenges of working in these coastal salt flats, which can be surprisingly soft as they are regularly inundated by the highest of tides. We have seen clouds of shorebirds come to roost in these salt flats during the day as well as night after they have fed on the intertidal flats that are exposed at low tide.

Trying to get the 4-wheel drive out of the mud

Trying to get the 4-wheel drive out of the mud. Image by Taej Mundkur

The star-filled night skies and serene sunrises provide an ideal surrounding for the survey. The area is seasonally used by fisherman and signs of their habitations are visible at several locations along the coast. The only people we have encountered so far in the area are a few locals collecting plants.

The counts continue….

The Indian Ocean Coastal Waterbird Count 2017 is being organised by Wetlands International, with logistic support from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA) and with financial support from Shell Development Oman. The team of eight consists of Mr Harry Blijleven, Dr Jimmy de Fouw, Mr Leon Kelder, Mr Menno van Straaten and Bob Woets, five Dutch volunteer experienced bird counters, Mr Steven De Bie, a Wetlands International Associate Expert, and Mr Ward Hagemeijer and Dr Taej Mundkur, two Wetlands International staff. We are accompanied by Ms Aziza Saud Al Adhubi and Mr Abdallah Al Sabhi of MECA. 

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