This was an expedition for the purpose of fitting satellite transmitters to a number of large white-headed gulls, in order to correlate their breeding locations with their morphology, DNA and stable isotope content. Thus we required to catch adults. Although we caught a small number of immature and sickly birds, we did not succeed in fitting any of our transmitters to a suitable adult.
Although it was not difficult to attract gulls to fish thrown on the beach, they were very sensitive to any net or trapping device that we could devise to catch them.
We did not witness any harassment of gulls in Oman. Indeed, on more than one occasion we were challenged by local people concerned at what we were trying to do. Such people were reassured by a mobile 'phone call to the Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources. One might assume that these birds suffer harrassment in other parts of their wintering range - or they are just very intelligent birds.
A summary of our catching attempts at Ras Bintawt and Barka is as follows:
We set a Whooshnet (similar to a clap-net, but a lot faster) on 6 days, baited with fish; the net was fired three times and 3 birds were caught. After first firing at a locality, gulls refused to go near the net. As the birds seemed to be very reluctant to enter the area between the 2 Whooshnet poles, we converted it into a clap-net, but still they would not come near the net.
Balchatris boards (covered in nylon slip-loops) were put out on two days and baited with fish; one bird was caught which later escaped from its holding box. Again, as with the Whooshnet, once a bird had been caught it was difficult to get gulls to go near the traps again.
We used hand-operated nylon slip-loops on lengths of fishing line on 3 days. Fish was put out to attract the gulls to them and they were pulled about eight times. 4 birds were caught but two soon escaped, by pulling their foot free of the loop.
Of the birds caught only one was close to the 1000gms weight recommended for a 20gm transmitter.
The team consisted of Dick Newell, Richard Porter, Hanne Eriksen, Jens Eriksen, Simon Aspinall, David Sargeant, David Foster and Ian Harrison.
The project was sponsored by the Wetland Trust and was carried out with the support and permission of the Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources in Oman.
The pictures here are selected to try to illustrate the range of large white-headed gulls present, as well as other gull species and a few other birds of interest that we encountered.
The identification of many of the these gulls is tentative, particularly the immatures.