It was a highly successful trip. I added four species to my Saudi list which I haven't done for over 18 months and didn't expect to do again especially over a weekend.
Thanks are due to Jem Babbington ( www.birdsofsaudiarabia.com ) who made the trip last year and gave some useful tips on how to get there and how to organise boat trips once there.
I will divide the report on the trip into three blogs. This one looks at the ferry trip over and the rest of the birding on Friday morning. The second will look at the afternoon's birding on the main (kabir) island while the third will report on a boat trip round some of the outer islands.
Jizan to Farasan ferry
The ferry leaves Jizan at 7 am everyday and passengers are confined to a sealed sitting area. Bernard and I sat next to a window but it was obscured and I had not expected any birding chances on the sea journey.
Yet despite the dirty windows and the fast speed, I managed to add brown noddy to my saudi list just by taking a careful look at some of the buoys en route. The large brown booby were more obvious but brown noddy were often present perched at the bottom.
buoy en route
Photography was almost impossible through a dirty window on the moving ship but you may just be able to see a brown noddy above the F2 sign. Excellent photos of brown noddy were taken later during the weekend and will be in one of the later blogs.
As the ferry arrived in the harbour on Farasan, I spotted a large bird standing on a small naked island in front of the large mangrove area adjacent to the port.
We rushed off the ferry and instead of following the passengers through the terminal building we veered right along a side path to the coast line. The large bird was still in view from there and hadn't moved though it was still 100 metres way. I couldn't believe our luck. It was a goliath heron. I had two additions to my Saudi list before 9 am and before we had even left the ferry terminal.
As with the brown noddy, we had another chance to see this species but at closer quarters with better photos later.
When we finally got out of the ferry terminal we had a wait of about half an hour before our hastily arranged lift to the hotel was due.
Sooty gull were very much in evidence along with house crow.
Looking out to sea, another brown booby was seen on a buoy.
black crowned sparrow lark
Both crested lark and black crowned sparrow lark were easily seen on the paths and near-by waste land. The crown of the sparrow lark is not black on Farasan, it is chestnut. I understand this variant has been reported in East Africa too.
Our lift arrived to take us to the Farasan Coral Hotel soon after seeing the sparrow lark.
black crowned sparrow lark
Crested lark and black crowned sparrow lark proved to be the garden birds on the hotel lawns. As far as I know there are no house sparrow on the Farasans.
House crow were also present.
For the record, laughing dove is on the island and seen near the hotel.
After wandering around the gardens for a few minutes we chose to head north up the coast a couple of hundred metres to a small harbour with fishing and other boats. As it turned out to be the place we started our island hopping boat trip from on Saturday.
However on Friday morning we were content to see what birds used this small harbour.
western reef heron
There was a lone fisherman on working one of the small boats. To our surprise a western reef heron hopped on board within a metre of him. Moments later two pink backed pelican moved towards the same boat and one climbed in. I can only presume that the man sometimes gives them small fish as they were completely unfazed by him.
pink backed pelican in the small harbour
Further round the harbour a striated heron was spotted on another boat. All the time sooty gull were flying all around.
On the way back to the hotel we came across a white spectacled bulbul.
white spectacled bulbul
After this short walk out, there were two more birding sessions on Friday. First I headed out walking south down the coast. Second in the late afternoon we visited the mangroves near Farasan port.
Some good birds were seen especially near the mangroves and one was the third addition of the weekend to my Saudi list. I'll blog about the afternoon next.