In a meeting before the start of the survey, H E Mohammed bin Salim al Toobi, Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs, met with experts from the Wetlands International and from the ministry to oversee the implementation of the field survey.
During the meeting, the minister viewed the presentation on Barr al Hikman including details from the previous surveys. Past surveys have highlighted the number of migratory and resident birds in the area and indicated Barr al Hikman’s importance as one of the top 25 destinations for migratory birds in the African Eurasian flyway zone that qualifies as a critical site for more than 28 waterbird species.
Among the most interesting findings of last year, conducted by Wetlands International, was the fact that about ten per cent of the world population of Crab Plover, a species largely restricted to the Arabian Sea region were in Barr al Hikman.
The site is also a critical habitat for the Great Knot, an endangered species that breeds in northern arctic coast, with populations under increased threat. Last year’s survey was conducted as part of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the International Waterbird Census, where an international survey team led by Wetlands International counted a staggering half a million migratory waterbirds at Barr al Hikman.
This January, the count was repeated as part of the Indian Ocean Coastal Waterbird Count 2017. Initial reports from this year’s survey reveal that large numbers of migratory Bartailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Dunlin, Crab Plover, Lesser Sand Plover and others shorebirds, Greater Flamingo, and egrets have been recorded. “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 to designate the area as a Ramsar Site. This would recognise its international importance for waterbirds, marine turtles, and intertidal coastal habitats and islands,” reported Wetlands International.
A Ramsar Site is a wetland designated as of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. In a separate research sponsored by The Research Council on Barr al Hikman, researchers from Sultan Qaboos University and NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research are tracking the migration of birds wintering at Barr al Hikman using GPS devices fitted on the birds. The study is the first of its kind to track the migration of crab plovers and bar-tailed godwits within the West Asian-East African flyway.