Among the Gulf states, Bahrain is one of the greenest and is home to a variety of plants and animals. Most of the plants that are found in Bahrain are salt-tolerant and desert-resistant types, of which the palm tree is the most common. However in addition, Bahrain’s scrubland supports a number of specially adapted species of plant, the most common of which is the bean caper (Zygophillum qatarense).
During the winter, if there has been a reasonable amount of rainfall the scrubland suddenly bursts into a colourful display of tiny flowers. Otherwise, this is the most impoverished area of Bahrain in terms of flora. Animals include snakes and other reptiles, hares, scorpions, hedgehogs and gazelles. The northern region is more lush and holds cultivated areas growing fruit and vegetables, as well as palm plantations.
The birds that breed in the green areas include the White-cheeked Bulbul, Graceful Warbler and Ring-necked Parakeet. On the road from Awali to Zellaq there are mesquite plantations near the racecourse at Sakhir which are host to hundreds of migrating passerines during the spring. Sakhir racecourse also has a lake where ducks can often be seen, as it is one of the few remaining freshwater areas on the island.
One main source of interest lies on the eastern shores of Bahrain. These hold mudflats, which were previously quite extensive, but have diminished in recent years. These were recently discovered to be of international importance as a wintering ground for migrating wading birds in the autumn. Over 40 species have been recorded, including the Broad-billed Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper and Bar-tailed Godwit. Further south near the Bahrain Yacht Club, flamingoes can be seen almost all year round.
Around Bahrain, the shallow saline waters support a rich marine life, including mackerel, shrimps, pearl oysters, dugong, green turtles and sea snakes. Another notable wildlife site is the site of the dwarf mangrove stands at the southern end of Tubli Bay. This tidal habitat is a nursery ground for many species of fish and crustaceans and was in fact the first recorded breeding site for the Black-winged Stilt in Bahrain. Herons can often be seen roosting here during the winter months. This is officially a protected area, but is still subject to illegal rubbish dumping and landfill, and Bahrain’s conservationists regularly warn that unless the problem is countered, the area and species contained within it are threatened with destruction.
20 km to the south-east of mainland Bahrain are the Hawar Islands. Made up of a group of 16 islands, all flat and some with low cliffs, Hawar is topographically different to the main Bahrain Island and is home to some locally rare birds. The islands are the breeding ground of up to 200,000 Socotra Cormorants between October and February, and Western Reef Herons, Caspian Little Terns, Greater Flamingos, ground-nesting Ospreys and Sooty Falcons can also be seen.