Birding sites Syria

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Buhayrat al-Assad
Buhayrat al-Assad is a huge reservoir of more than 63,000 ha created by a dam on the River Euphrates (Al-Furat) near the town of Al-Thawra, and occupies c.80 km of the valley (north-west end at 36°18´N 38°10´E, south-east end at 35°49´N 38°28´E). The shores are mainly steep and rocky, and the water appears oligotrophic, being very clear and without sediment. Much of the surrounding area is dry, stony, and almost devoid of vegetation. However, the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform has recently afforested large areas on the southern shore and around Al-Thawra with Olea, Cupressus, eucalyptus and Amygdalus, including an offshore island (Jazirat al-_Ayd or Jazirat al-Thawra) which is being established as a nature park with a tourist centre and a network of vehicle tracks. The island is linked to the mainland by a causeway with a gate. Sugar-cane and cereals are cultivated in the south-east. The dam is used for hydro-electric power generation. Jabbar Castle is a historical site on the east side of the lake near the dam.
key species;- Resident See-see Partridge (Ammoperdix griseogularis), breeding Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni), passage Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarius).
An important roosting site for large numbers of wintering wildfowl which feed on the surrounding steppes. At least two areas of ornithological interest were identified in the 1970s: (1) the western bank at the northern end, 30 km south-east of Manbij, and (2) the south-east corner 8 km south-west of the dam. Breeding species include Tachybaptus ruficollis, Athene noctua (very common), Larus melanocephalus (possibly breeds: max. 20 adults, June 1975), L. genei (said to breed at or near an island called Tell al-Abyad near the dam; 130 adults nearby, April 1993), Ceryle rudis and Rhodopechys obsoleta (possibly). Huge numbers (said to be hundreds of thousands) of geese, ducks and other waterfowl currently winter in the area, feeding on the surrounding steppe and roosting at the site; Anser albifrons (min. 250), Tadorna tadorna and Anas platyrhynchos are especially common. In the 1970s other common species included Fulica atra (10,000, November). Notable species on passage include Podiceps nigricollis, Phalacrocorax carbo, Egretta garzetta, Casmerodius albus, Larus fuscus, Emberiza caesia and Rhodopechys obsoleta.
Birdlife International.

Field Guide to the Birds of the Middle East Field Guide to the Birds of the Middle East
Richard Porter,Steen Christensen & Per Schiermacker
Illustrated by A Birch,J Gale,M Langman & B Small

" The bottom line is:this is the best field guide published so far on birds of the Middle East."....Josef Kren, Wilson Bulletin

" A real tour de force and should remain the standard work for the region for a long time to come."..Gordon Hamlett, Birdwatching

"An indispensable and thoroughly recommended aid for birdwatchers in the Middle East and beyond." ...Andrew Grieve, Birdwatch.
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Euphrates valley
The entire valley of the River Euphrates (Al-Furat), from its entry from Turkey at 36°49´N 38°02´E to its exit into Iraq at 34°29´N 40°56´E, apart from Buhayrat al-Assad (see site 007) and Baath Lake (see site 008). The valley lies 80-250 m below the surrounding plains, varying in width from 2 to 12 km. The river still flows in its original bed and is rich in islands, meanders, pools, oxbow lakes, alluvial cliffs, gravel pits and silted old water courses where the river has shifted, many of these being covered in Phragmites reedbeds. The water level used to flood 3-4 m higher in spring than in autumn, due to snow-melt in the Turkish uplands, but the completion during the last decade of several large dams in Turkey has now greatly reduced this annual flood. Natural vegetation includes riverine thickets of Populus euphratica, Tamarix, Salix and Typha. Intensive agriculture is carried out along its banks in _mazara_, vast areas of irrigated cotton and cereals with orchards and plantations of Populus and Pinus halepensis. The heavily cultivated steppe of the Jazirah region lies to the east and the Syrian Desert to the south-west. Gravel extraction occurs locally.
key species;-Resident Black Francolin (Francolinus francolinus), Pallid Scops-owl (Otus brucei), breeding Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris), Non-breeding Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus).
An excellent diversity of breeding, wintering and passage waterfowl occur. Only three small sites in this huge area have recently been investigated ornithologically in any detail: (1) Shumaytiyah (35°28´N 39°59´E, 50 ha), an oxbow lake c.20 km north-west of Dayr al-Zawr, sandwiched between the Al-Raqqah to Dayr al-Zawr road and a 50 m cliff; (2) Mayadin Pool (35°00´N 39°28´E, 300 ha), a shallow pool between the Euphrates and the Dayr al-Zawr–Abu Kamal road, 2 km south-east of Mayadin; and (3) Halabiyat Zulbiyat, c.40 km north-west of Dayr al-Zawr, on the right bank of the river. Breeding species include Tachybaptus ruficollis (c.500 birds at Shumaytiyah), Tadorna ferruginea, Porphyrio porphyrio (possible), Vanellus spinosus, V. leucurus, Chlidonias hybridus, Pterocles alchata, Merops superciliosus, M. apiaster and Riparia riparia. Important wintering species include Tachybaptus ruficollis (c.2,000 at Shumaytiyah), Ciconia nigra (c.30 at Shumaytiyah), Anser albifrons (350 at Mayadin); 3,500 and 2,375 waterfowl were recorded at Shumaytiyah and Mayadin respectively in the January 1993 International Waterfowl Census. There are good numbers of wintering birds of prey such as Circus macrourus and Asio flammeus on the surrounding steppe. Passage migrants in large numbers include Ciconia ciconia, Himantopus himantopus, Glareola pratincola, Charadrius dubius, Philomachus pugnax, Tringa stagnatilis, T. hypoleucos, Sterna hirundo and Chlidonias hybridus. The few observations indicate that the valley is also a very important migration route for several non-waterbird species, including Streptopelia turtur (hundreds of thousands gather on the islands in the river in spring and autumn) and Lanius minor (abundant, May). The site was listed as a wetland of international importance by Carp (1980).
Birdlife International.
Jabal Slenfeh
A relatively well-wooded mountain area, centred on the village of Slenfeh c.20 km north-east of Al-Ladhiqiyah (Lattakia), on the western slopes of the Jibal al-Nusayriyah range. The woodland is dominated by Abies and Cedrus. The area is generally densely populated with small settlements.
Key Species;-Resident Eurasian Griffon (Gyps fulvus), Breeding Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus), Rueppell's Warbler (Sylvia rueppelli), Cretzschmar's Bunting (Emberiza caesia), Black-headed Bunting (Emberiza melanocephala).
Pyman (1953) estimated (probably conservatively) that several hundred large raptors per day passed south through the area during late September. The raptor stream observed here is presumably a continuation of that which passes through the bottleneck site of Belen in southern Turkey, where at least 30,000 raptors and more than 100,000 Ciconia ciconia pass through per autumn (Sutherland and Brooks 1981), and birds have been seen moving on south from Jibal al-Nusayriyah into the Lebanese mountains. The predominant raptors in September are Pernis apivorus, Aquila pomarina and Accipiter brevipes. The raptor migration also occurs in spring. Breeding species include Hieraaetus fasciatus (common in the 1940s but no recent records), Alectoris chukar, Coturnix coturnix, Tachymarptis melba, Lullula arborea, Luscinia megarhynchos, Sylvia communis, Lanius nubicus (very common), Corvus corax, Emberiza caesia and E. melanocephala.
Tadmur and Sabkhat Muh
An area of steppe-desert around Tadmur in the centre of Syria, 150 km east of Homs, in a closed basin (c.70 ´ 35 km), surrounded by limestone and marl hills. There is an isolated oasis to the south of the town with extensive date-palm gardens, and Sabkhat Muh, a seasonally flooded salt-lake up to c.20 km long, lies to the south of the oasis. There are some scattered Tamarix trees around its fringe, and the steppe-desert surrounds are sparsely vegetated with perennial tussock-grass, Chenopodiaceae and Artemisia. The T-3 pumping station (34°31´N 38°45´E), 40 km east of Tadmur on the Iraq-Lebanon oil pipeline, is a small, man-made oasis with a plantation of mature Eucalyptus (c.2 ha), a garden and a sewage pond (c.0.5 ha). The main land-use is grazing livestock. The area is famous for its Roman ruins.
Key species;-Resident Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus), Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Eurasian Griffon (Gyps fulvus), Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos), breeding Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni), Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata), Non-breeding Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus), Finsch’s Wheatear (Oenanthe finschii). Passage White-throated Robin (Irania gutturalis).
For a full list of sites visit the Birdlife International Web site by clicking here........

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