Bahrain is a small island without large wild animals, but its natural history is still rich and interesting - especially if one looks closely at creatures like the lime swallowtail butterfly (previous page) or the striped mantis, left, a spectacular ambush predator that relies on cryptic coloration and a lightning-fast "arm" strike to catch its prey. The keen-sighted jumping spider, right, one of 4000 species worldwide, slowly stalks its prey before leaping on it from several spider-lengths away. The sand snake, below left, is Bahrain's only poisonous land snake, but its fangs are in the back of its mouth and it does not seem to be very aggressive.
The striped hawkmoth caterpillar, below, can be found by the thousands in Bahrain's desert after heavy rains, feeding on Asphodelus plants. The yellow scorpion, right, one of Bahrain's two or more species, is active at night.
Gregarious greater flamingos, top left, visit Bahrain in winter, forming flocks ranging up to 700 birds. They feed with heads inverted and bills submerged, using their tongues to pump water through fine ridges on their bills that filter out food particles. Froggy features and a long tail identify Javakar's agama lizard, center left, as one of the world's 300 agamid species. Normally mottled green, this insect-eater turns bright blue, except for an orange tail, when displaying or threatened. The beautiful white barn owl, bottom left, is the most common in Arabia, and a breeding resident in most countries of the Gulf. It glides ghost-like over cultivated areas in search of small mammals to eat - but occasionally falls victim to a speeding car. The black-winged stilt, opposite, stalks Bahrain's freshwater pools and ditches in search of insects as it travels between breeding and wintering grounds - but it may also sometimes breed on the island when local conditions are right.
Dr. Mike Hill works in Bahrain as a consulting physician and pursues his long-time avocation of natural-history photography. His11 year-old son, Michael Hill, Jr., won his first photography prize at age five.