Sunday, 2 March 2014

Sea and coast at Yanbu

Bernard Bracken and I went to Yanbu over last weekend. Friday was especially interesting as we joined a divıng trip made up of a wonderful crowd of expats from Jeddah, Yanbu and Riyadh.

While Bernard dived and snorkeled for some of the time I stayed on bird watching duty.

brown booby on a buoy at sea

There were some interestıng developments even before we boarded a boat.

Ruepells weaver

Near the house where we were invıted to breakfast was a Ruepell`s weaver colony.  It was interesting because Yanbu is north of where the distribution map in the main regional guide says they reach.

Much of Yanbu is a garden city developed by a royal commission over the past thirty years. It is a very green area now. I suspect this change in habitat has allowed Ruepell`s weaver to move in. 

I had been in a team which saw a single bird on a previous visit to Yanbu but this was evidence that that had not been an aberation.

Ruepells weaver`s nest

Common myna is a more expected bird seen near-by and throughout the city.

common myna

While we waited for coastguard clearance a striated heron rested on an out-board motor ın the bay.

striated heron

A house crow perched overhead too.

house crow

The pelagic trip itself didn`t yield anything sensational but it was good practice for future ones planned further south in summer when results should be very good.

out to sea

As expected, the most common bird out to sea was brown booby.

brown booby in the air

Occasionally, a sooty gull would pass-by. It ıs actually surprisingly superficially similar to a brown booby especially from distance. Its white rump is the easiest way to differentiate in a hurry.

sooty gull

The third of the common birds out to sea was greater crested tern (a.k.a swift tern)

greater crested tern

Our second anchorage was about 200 metres off a sand island which I told has many nesting terns in summer and my the laymen`s description they are bridled tern. This species has so far alluded me in Saudi Arabia but a summer time pelagic trip will almost certainly chnage that.

mixed gulls from great distance

My views were necessarily long distance. In the bridled tern`s place were a small number of greater crested tern and larger numbers of Caspian gull as well as at least one baltic gull (see right of photo). There was also a single Pallas`gull which unfortunately took off as we arrived and some black-headed gull and sooty gull

On our return to Sharm el Yanbu additional seabırds seen on the coast from the boat included Caspian tern, ringed plover and Kentish plover.

possible Armenian gull

Before returning to the hotel, we stopped off an a coffee house next to the coastal fısh market. The sea shore outside was swarming wıth gulls. Many were not the Baltic gull and Caspian gull which are mapped to the area. There are undoubtably heuglin`s gull and steppe gull as well as Armenian gull here too.

It would have merited a day at the fish market (instead of a hour before sunset between drınking coffee) to have work out the ratios  of each gull. Flight shots would be especially needed for full identifıcatıons.

I have full agenda over the next few months but maybe that`s one for next winter.

possible steppe gull

I enjoyed Friday and have got the taste for pelagic bird trıps.

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