The seagulls are back again at the Khalid Lagoon and the Al Qasba canal in Sharjah, albeit in lesser numbers. This year, they have come a little later than usual. When one almost thought that travel restrictions and the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic had hit the animal world too, they came to remind mankind that life will go on and the passion for living will help us overcome. Like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the passion for flight and life helps them cross horizons.
The UAE has been a preferred destination for seagulls and flamingos and other migratory birds, which flee the frigid temperatures of the Northern hemisphere to roost in the Gulf seawaters. The milder winters of the Gulf region is picnic time not just for residents but also for the birds, who feast on the crumbs thrown into the water by bird lovers.
Seagulls strike different images on land, water and air – on land, they look like any other birds of flight, in water, they bob like a ball or swim like ducks on their webbed feet, and in air they attain their true gracious self with a wingspan that belies expectations.
The Dubai Creek, the Ras al Khor sanctuary and the Al Qudra Lake – more popular in recent times for a man-made Love Lake, made in the shape of two intertwined hearts – are popular hubs for migratory birds in Dubai. Ras al Khor has a bird viewing deck for the public, where one can watch the avian guests without disturbing or alarming them.
Last year, on October 10 Dubai Municipality celebrated World Migratory Bird Day – held on the second Saturday of May and October – with a virtual symposium that had speakers from different parts of the world. The theme was “Birds connect our world”, which focussed on modern tracking systems and methodologies used to track birds on their migratory path and ways to provide protection for them.
The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) has been playing a pivotal role in species conservation at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve and Bul Syayeef Marine Protected Areas where many species of resident and migratory birds breed and thrive. There are over 260 species at the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, which is the only site in the Arabian Gulf where the greater flamingo breeds regularly.
The UAE’s efforts in protecting the two-million-plus winged visitors as they make a sojourn in its shores during their intercontinental journey is commendable. Most of the sanctuaries are now open to the public, after being closed for three-quarters of 2020 owing to the pandemic. And with international travel still bound by quarantines and PCR tests, the local attractions are being well patronised.
Watching the seagulls making merry in the waters before they fly away to roost is this resident’s way of life during winter evenings. The birds show us how life will go on despite the odds. So they are also a message of hope for Covid-weary humankind, preparing to achieve normalcy with vaccines and safer living practices.