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Corn Crake seen on Qaru Island

Sighting extraordinary of a Corn Crake (Crex crex) on Qaru Island

By Nancy Papathanasopoulou (photos by Aris Vidalis)
First published in the Arab Times July 18, 2011

During its three years of research on sea turtles as well as their underwater and beach habitats, the Kuwait Turtle Conservation Project(KTCP) has not been indifferent to the bird population of islets Qaru and Umm Al-Maradim, which are its main research areas.

Sponsored by TOTAL Foundation and TOTAL Kuwait since July 2008, a number of scientists and volunteers from many countries gathered in Qaru and Umm Al-Maradim several times in the year to observe, assess and reflect upon wildlife conservation on these two ecological treasures of Kuwait.

Sea turtles, sharks and at least 125 fish species (not counting the longlist of molluscs and crustaceans) live here, some of them breeding and some foraging on the extended reef areas.

In Umm Al-Maradim and in March 2009, within just three days in cold and rainy weather, KTCP members observed 45 species of birds, including 200 Chiff chaffs, pipits, a Rufus-tailed Rock Thrush and a Stone Curlew.

The team was, however, not prepared for the unusual sighting of a Corn Crake (Crex crex), which took place on an early June morning in Qaru, just a few weeks ago. After a long night shift observing Green turtles and in the crack of dawn, the KTCP team caught glimpse of an unusual, "chicken-like" bird flying under the antenna of the island.

Close view and photography of team environmentalist Aris Vidalis revealed that the bird was indeed a Corn Crake. Its populations mostly live and breed in Russia and Belarus and during its migrations it travels in numbers and never solitary. It inhabits grasslands and farmlands and breeds in bushy areas. It is quite common in its home and not of any concern of extinction. It is very unusual to encounter it in offshore sandy islets anywhere worldwide.

Its passage in Qaru, and outside the regular migration season was random and rare, rendering the sighting extraordinary.

Later research in literature revealed that this bird is the first one ever recorded on the island and one of the very few in the country.
Over the years, a few sightings of this species have occurred mostly in the Sabah Al-Ahmad reserve during mid-spring or autumn, which are the most common migration seasons forbirds.

Events such as this one demonstrate the extremely high ecological importance of islands Qaru and Umm Al-Maradim, which, due to their geographical position, provide sanctuary to all kinds of wildlife, often creating unique opportunities of sightings such as the one of this Corn Crake.

In cooperation with the Voluntary Work Center and The Sccientific Center, KTCP is currently preparing a management plan based on sustainability and environmental respect for these two Kuwaiti islets. An exhibit on Kuwait’s sea turtles is also being prepared for permanent display at The Scinetific Center. The project wraps up its works in the end of this summer.

Corn Crake on Qaru Island
Corn Crake on Qaru Island
Corn Crake on Qaru Island
Corn Crake on Qaru Island
Corn Crake on Qaru Island
Corn Crake on Qaru Island
Qaru Island, the end of the night shift!
Qaru Island