Seasonal migration of birds from one region to another is an age-old natural phenomenon. The times have changed but migratory birds still travel without passports and visas.
World Migratory Bird Day, observed worldwide recently, is an awareness-raising campaign highlighting the need for the conservation of the migratory birds and their habitats. The day aims to draw attention to the threats faced by migratory birds, their ecological importance, and the need for international cooperation to conserve them.
Qatar, represented by the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME), has also observed the day. Qatar in particular pays great attention to preserving the environment and considers this as part of the goals of environment development within its National Vision 2030. The country is also considered an important stop for migratory birds flying thousands of kilometres to find the best conditions to breed and raise their chicks. In addition, Qatar is considered a permanent habitat of around 300 different types of birds.
Simon Tull, a British expatriate in Doha, has long been a birdwatcher and photographer. He is well-known for his keen interest and deep knowledge about the migratory birds in Qatar. To highlight the phenomenon of birds’ migration in and through Qatar, Gulf Times spoke to the birdwatcher recently.
Tull, who is a geologist by profession, said: “I live in Doha with my wife. We just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this year. We have two sons, both working in London. I have a PhD in geology and work here for an oil company. My main interests other than birdwatching are landscape photography, cooking, current affairs and politics. I am also a huge cricket fan.”
Tull, who started birdwatching as hobby when he was a young boy, gets fascinated by the fact that the birds travel thousands of miles in very few days. “I began birdwatching when I was just 13. I was fortunate that there were a lot of very good birdwatching locations close to where I grew up on the south coast of England. Many of the species I saw were migratory and I was fascinated by the fact that I was watching birds that might have arrived there from as far away as Siberia, a journey of thousands of kilometers that they were able to complete in just a few days. You never quite know what you will see when you head out on a birdwatching trip. One day there could be nothing much to see and the next day there could be huge numbers of birds. There is always some excitement and a great sense of anticipation. In recent years, I have been taking a lot of photographs of the birds that I find. This has added a whole new dimension to my hobby. I love the creative and technical aspects of photography.”
The Brit is very excited about watching birds in Qatar and shared his experience of finding some rare birds here. “Qatar is on a migration route or flyway between Europe, Asia and Africa. Birds migrate through Qatar heading north in the springtime and south in the autumn. Many different types of birds can be seen at these times. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded in Qatar over the years and the vast majority is migratory.
“I can highlight a few recent experiences which I have greatly enjoyed. Last month, I was birdwatching on the north coast when I found and photographed a wryneck – a type of woodpecker – and a bird I have only seen three times in all the years I have been birdwatching. The name of this bird refers to the way in which it twists its neck into all sorts of contortions. Earlier this summer I was fortunate to find some Caspian plovers, a rare wading bird which is seen only very occasionally in Qatar. Wading birds are my favourite group so this was a very special find for me. I also discovered a yellow-browed warbler this time last year. This is a tiny bird which breeds in the forests of northern Asia and yet it turned up in a public park in Al Ruwais, illustrating the fact you never quite know what you might find, or where.”
For Tull, education and awareness about the migratory birds is essential in keeping them safe and healthy during their long journey. “Migratory birds face all sorts of hazards during their travels. The more that governments can do to create and maintain safe green spaces where the birds can rest and feed the better it will be for them. Education is important too and governments have a part to play here too. I feel it is crucial that we understand our proper place in the natural world and that we impart this understanding in our children. Migrating birds can turn up in our gardens and parks, on farms, along the coast and so on. Do look out for them but remember that their interests should come first, so please try not to disturb them or harm them.”
The birdwatcher recently built a website – qatarbirds.org – which is a good starting point.