lebtrip1

LEBANON

10 March to 11 April 1997

Between 13th March and 7th April 1997 the area of Aammiq swamp including the scrub, trees and arable fields surrounding it and the hillsides above it were surveyed daily for birds by Simon Busuttil, Dave Flumm and Pete Gotham of the RSPB as part of a five week project examining the potential and possibilities of the area becoming a Protected Area or Nature Reserve. Other records were taken from Quaraaoun Reservoir. The ornithological records are listed below. 144 species were recorded.

Weather
The weather between 13th March and 29th March was cold and cloudy with outbreaks of heavy rain and some snow (and an earthquake!) with winds predominantly from the south west or south. A slightly warmer spell on 31st March and 1st April was again followed by cloudy conditions and colder winds with an increasing amount of rain at the end of the first week of April. Conditions were locally described as being poor for the particular lime of year.

A Systematic List of the Birds Recorded at Aammiq Swamp and Surrounding Area between 13th March and 7th April 1997

Little grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Present daily on Aammiq. Presumably breeds or attempts to with an estimated 25 pairs on territory at the swamp. Also recorded on the pool excavated by the Israeli army.

Black-necked grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Three present on 5th April. Three present on Quaraaoun reservoir on 4th April.

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
One on Quaraaoun reservoir on 4th April.

White pelican Pelecanus onocrotatus
One flock of 22 flew north on 19th March. (According to various sources only occasionally seen as an uncommon passage migrant through the Beqaa in both spring and autumn which is perhaps surprising considering the large numbers staging in north Israel in spring).

Dalmatian pelican Pelecanus crispus
One flew north with a large flock of while storks on 29th April.

Bittern Botaurus stellaris
One found shot dead on 24th March. This may have been the bird that was seen at the swamp during the winter.

Squacco heron Ardeola ralloides
Two present on 5th April.

Little egret Egretta garzetta
Recorded regularly in small numbers with a peak of 30 using the swamp on 5th April during poor weather.

Great white egret Egretta alba
Singles on 22nd March, 1st and 4th April and four on 5th April.

Grey heron Ardea cinerea
Recorded regularly in small numbers with 14 on 25th March and 20 on 29th March. Two at Ouaraaoun reservoir on 4th April.

Purple heron Ardea purpurea
Recorded regularly with nine on 29th March the peak count.

Black stork Ciconia nigra
555 recorded moving north with 202 on 2nd April the peak. Very small numbers (max five) used the swamp to roost overnight.

White stork Ciconia ciconia
19,292 recorded, almost all moving north. Birds regularly used the wet grass and arable fields and trees around the swamp to feed and roost overnight. 900 roosted overnight over a wide area around the swamp on 2nd April. At least 15 birds were seen shot. One had been ringed in Slovenia.

Teal Anas crecca
Three on 14th March, seven on 20th and 59 on 25th March. 18 at Quaraaoun reservoir on 4th April.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Two on 14th March, 18 on 21sl March and six on 25th March.

Pintail Anas acuta
13 on 25th March

Garganey Anas querquedula
119 recorded over 8 occasions with 45 the peak number recorded on 29th March.

Shoveler Anas clypeata
154 on 25th March and three on 27th March. Two on Aammiq on 5th April. 80 at Quaraaoun reservoir on 4th April.

Honey buzzard Pernis apivorous
Two flew north on 1st April.

Black kite Milvus nigrans
155 recorded flying north with 66 on 2nd April the highest count. All appeared to be of the race M.m.aegyptus

Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus
Three on 29th March and one on 31st March.

Griffon vulture Gyps fulvus
A single moving north on 31st March.

Short-toed eagle Circaetus gallicus
28 recorded moving north with a peak of three on 4th April. In addition up to three appeared to be regularly present on the hill above Aammiq. This species probably breeds in the area.

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus
Up to six birds were recorded using Aammiq at any one time. There appeared to be some changeover in this population. A further 48 were recorded as migrants flying north. This species might breed at Aammiq if disturbance was reduced,

Hen harrier Circus cyaneus
10 were recorded with a peak day count of 4 on 30th April. At least one bird appeared to be resident in the area, a hanger on from the population which winters in the Bekaa and is subject to shooting during its stay.

Pallid harrier Circus macrourus
Singles were recorded moving north on four occasions.

Montagu's harrier Circus pygargus
A single seen on 5th April.

Circus spp.
A further seven Circus species were seen moving north. These were either Montagu's or pallid harriers.

Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
32 were recorded moving north with 11 on 31st March the peak count. A further 42 identified accipiters probably of this species were seen moving north with 14 also on 31st March the peak count.

Buzzard Buteo buteo
857 recorded moving north with 220 on the 2nd April the peak count. Many lens of this species use the swamp and surrounding area to roost and feed overnight or for longer periods and suffer from shooting, We found at least 10 shot birds. All birds appeared to be of the race B. b. vulpinus "Steppe buzzard" of the grey-brown morph.

Long-legged buzzard Buteo ruffunis
48 recorded moving north with eight on 29th March the peak count. This species also uses the Bekaa to roost and feed and may well breed in the area. One bird was found dying of poisoning. (Poisons are placed by farmers seeking to kill the voles which are abundant in the area).

Lesser spotted eagle Aquila pomarina
1942 recorded moving north with 557 on 2nd April the peak count. A few birds were seen using trees around Aammiq to roost overnight on occasions.

Steppe eagle Aquila nipalensis
Five; two singles (on 30th and 31st march and three on 3rd April were recorded.

Imperial eagle Aquila heliaca
Seven on 23rd March.

Golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Eight on 23rd March and two on 25th March.

Booted eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
12 recorded with a peak day count of three on 2nd and 3rd of April. Two were dark morph birds.

Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Up to 10 birds using the areas around the swamp for roosting and feeding. 78 recorded moving north with 30 on 30th March the peak count.

Chukar Alectoris chukar
A pair disturbed on the hill above Aammiq on 31st March

Quail Coturnix coturnix
A max of two seen and heard from 2nd April on. One shooter with dogs seen hunting quail on this date.

Water rail Rallus aquaticus
One bird heard several times calling from the swamp from 3rd April on.

Little crake Porzana parva
Sightings of single birds and pairs together regularly throughout the period. A maximum of five on 6th April. During poor weather on 6th and 7th April birds were seen in ditches and damp grass fields.

Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Present daily at the swamp. Clearly attempts to breed there with an estimated 40 prs on
territory. Also recorded on the pool excavated by the Israeli army.

Coot Fulica atra
Present daily at the swamp. Clearly attempts to breed there with an estimated 25 prs on
territory.

Crane sp Grus grus/Anthropoides virgo
11 unidentified common or demoiselle cranes flew north on 30th March.

Black-winged stilt Himantopus himantopus
Seven recorded on 22nd and 29th March with three on 30th March and a single recorded on
three dates thereafter.

Golden plover Pluvialis apricaria
Single on 14th March.

Spur-winged plover Hoplopterus spinosus
Singles on 22nd and 24th March and 7th April.

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Numbers recorded at the end of March included 53 on 13th March, 81 on 14th March, and 121 on 19th March. Much lower numbers - between one and 12 recorded almost daily from 29th March to the end of our stay.

Dunlin Calidris alpina
A single bird recorded on 6th April.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Recorded almost daily with high counts of 216 on 20th March, 130 on 28th March, 63 on 5th
April and 200 on 6th April.

Jack snipe Lymnocryptes minimus
Recorded on several occasions with three on 1st April the peak count.

Great snipe Gallinago media
Singles recorded on 27th March and 1st April; then a bird present in the same spot from 2nd
to 4th April inclusive; three on April 5th, 10 on April 6th and nine the next day.

Snipe Gallinago gallinago
13 on 29th March, 12 on April 3rd, 25 on April 5th, 15 on 6th and 7th April and smaller
numbers at other times.

Black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa
Single on 20th March.

Spotted redshank Tringa erythropus
Single on 29th March.

Greenshank Tringa nebularia
A peak of 10 on 7th April with up to four on three other days.

Green sandpiper Tringa ochropus
10 on 30th March with up to six on most other days.

Wood sandpiper Tringa glareola
20 on 5th April with smaller numbers on three other days.

Black-headed gull Larus ridibundus
Up to eight using the swamp between 13th March and 2nd April. 20 at Quaraaoun reservoir on 4th April.

Lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus
A single at Quaraaoun reservoir on 4th April and three over the swamp on 5th April.

Yellow legged gull Larus cachinnans
1 wo at Quaraaoun reservoir on 4th April.

Turtle dove Streptopelia turtur SPEC 3
Two on 21st March.

Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
Ones and twos seen and heard in the hills above the swamp.

Barn owl Tyto alba SPEC 3
Singles in the Skaff owned buildings at both Aammiq and above the village of Aammiq.

Tawny owl Strix aluco
A single bird heard on 3rd April at the accommodation.

Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus SPEC 2
One in daylight on 4th April in the hills above Aammiq.

Swift Apus apus
Largo numbers recorded on several days with thousands on March 29th and April 1st and many hundreds on April 3rd to 5th and 7th.

Pallid swift Apus pallidus
A single recorded amongst swifts (Apus apus) on April 3rd.

Alpine swift Apus melba
Small numbers recorded, usually amongst swifts (Apus apus) on several dates with 22 on 29th March.

Kingfisher Alcedo atthis SPEC 3
Seen or heard on two occasions at the swamp.

Hoopoe Upupa epops
Ones and twos recorded on several occasions usually in scrub and lives adjacent to the swamp and on the hill above Aammiq.

Wryneck Jynx torquilla SPEC 3
One to four recorded frequently in the scrub and trees around the swamp with 6 on April 7th the maximum number seen.

Syrian woodpecker Dendrocopus syriacus
A male recorded in the woods above Aammiq and a bird heard in the orchard adjacent to
the swamp.

Calandra lark Melanocorypha calandra SPEC 3
Up to 25 apparently resident in fields around the swamp seen displaying and singing. Small
numbers, presumably migrants seen moving north on several dates with 60 recorded on 6th
April.

Short-toed lark Calandrella brachydactyla SPEC 3
Small numbers seen moving north on several occasions including 14 on 1st April. 30 larks
seen on 5th April were thought to be of this species.

Woodlark Lullula arborea SPEC 2
A pair observed including display in the hills above Aammiq on 4th April.

Skylark Alauda arvensis SPEC 3
Six heading north on 30th March and a single on 1st April.

Sand martin Riparia riparia SPEC 3
Small numbers, maximum 10, recorded amongst other hirundines (mainly swallows
Hirundo rustica moving north on several dales.

Crag martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Small numbers seen regularly moving north with 24 on 4th April the peak.

Swallow Hirundo rustica SPEC 3
Many thousands moving north on 29th March with a few thousand on 2nd. Otherwise seen
daily. Over a thousand roosted at the swamp overnight on the 2nd April.

Red-rumped swallow Hirundo daurica
Individuals and small numbers seen regularly with 12 on 3rd and 13 on 4th April the
highest numbers seen.

House martin Delichon urbica
Small numbers, maximum 20, recorded amongst other hirundines (mainly swallows
Hirundo rustica) moving north on several dales with one high count of 200 on 25th March,

Tawny pipit Anthus campestris SPEC 3
A single flying north on 1st April.

Tree pipit Anthus trivialis
Recorded almost every day from 31st on with tens using the fields around Aammiq to roost
and feed in. Highest number recorded was over 50 on April 2nd and April 5th.

Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis
Up to 50 recorded daily.

Red-throated pipit Anthus cervinus
6 on 6th April with 15 on 7th April feeding on wet grassland in the swamp.

Water pipit Anthus spinoletta
Recorded using the swamp several times with 65 on 25th March the highest number
recorded.

Yellow wagtail Motacilla flava
Recorded daily with 500 present on March 29th and 600 present on 6th April. Many birds appeared to roost in the reedbeds in the swamp. M.f. feldegg was the most common race making up 95% of sightings with M. f. flava (blue-headed), M.f. beema (Sykes's) and M.f. thunbergi (grey-headed) also recorded as well as some 'intermediates'.

Citrine wagtail Motacila citreola
Two adult males seen on 1st April amongst many Motacilli flava and a single on 6th April.

Grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea
A single flying north on 31st March.

White wagtail Motacilla alba
Small numbers recorded almost daily with 57 on 24th March and 50 present on 6th April.

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
A common bird in the hills above Aammiq though heard more than seen.

Robin Erithacus rubecula
Recorded frequently in the swamp and on the hills above with 20 in and around the swamp
on 29th the highest number noted.

Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
A single seen on 31st March.

Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
Recorded in the reedbeds regularly with 11 present on 29th March. The bulk of males seen were of the "red-spotted" form L. s. svecica. One male of the "white-spotted" form L. s. cyanecula was seen.

Black redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
A handful recorded with most in the hills above Aammiq. A single male of the race' P. o.
semirufus was identified. A female in the old orchard on 7th April.

Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus SPEC 2
Seen both in scrub around the swamp and in the hills above Aammiq with 17 on 31st March
the highest number seen. Some birds were of the race P. p. samamisicus.

Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
Two on 20th March with singles on 28th March and 4th April and eight present on 7th
April.

Stonechat Saxicola torquata SPEC 3
A handful recorded with six on 27th March the highest number. At least one S. t. maura
("Siberian stonechat") identified - on 30th March. Also recorded in the hills above
Aammiq on 18th March.

Isabelline wheatear Oenanthe isabellina
A single on 6th April.

Northern wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Small numbers recorded on several days on both the marsh and on the hills above Aammiq.

Pied wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka
Three singles on 22nd March, 31st March and 7th April.

Black-eared wheatear Oenanthe hispanica SPEC 2
Five on the hills above Aammiq on 31st March with a male at the swamp on 5th April. Both
the race O. h. hispanica and the race O. h. melanoleuca seen.

Blackbird Turdus merula
Recorded infrequently but including singing in trees around swamp and in hills above
Aammiq.

Song thrush Turdus philomelos
Good numbers (30 or more) recorded daily both in trees and scrub around Aammiq and in the hills above the swamp. 100 on 31st March and 50 on 7th April. These birds appeared to be whiter on the breast and paler and sandier than the birds found in Britain.

Cetti's warbler Cettia cetti
A common resident in the areas around the swamp with over 20 singing males present in the immediate area.

Graceful prinia Prinia gracilis
A common resident in the area with a peak count of 20 on 31st March.

Savi's warbler Locustella luscinioides
Up to two birds singing on several dates.

Moustached warbler Acrocephalus melanogopon
A common resident in the reedbed areas of the swamp.

Sedge warbler Acrocephalous schoenobaenus
Recorded from 27th March on with an influx of over 50 birds in the reedbed on 6th April.

Reed warbler Acrocephalous scirpaceus
A common resident in the reedbeds with most birds appearing to be A. a. fuscus - paler and greyer with a less rufous rump and overall closer to marsh warbler A. palustris in appearance.

Great reed warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus
A single on 30th March and seen regularly from 3rd April onwards.

Sardinian warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Common in hills above Aamniiq with 70 recorded on 31st March.

Ruppell's warbler Sylvia rueppelli
Seen regularly in hills above Aammiq.

Orphean warbler Sylvia hortensis SPEC 3
Seen in hills above Aammiq and in scrub adjacent to swamp.

Lesser whitethroat Sylvia curruca
Seen daily in moderate numbers with a peak count noted of 14 on 31st March. Common in
scrub and trees around the swamp on most days and in the hills.

Whitethroat Sylvia communis
Common in scrub around the swamp with a peak count of 30 on 31st March.

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Small numbers seen frequently in the hills and around the swamp.

Eastern Bonelli's warbler Phylloscopus (bonelli) orientalis
Two on 4th April, three on 5th and five on 7th April in the old orchard.

Wood warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Two present above Aammiq on 4th April with singles at the swamp on 5th and 7th April.

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Seen daily in variable numbers with a peak of over 100 on 29th March.

Willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Seen daily in varying numbers with a peak of ca 100 present on 29th March.

Semi-collared flycatcher Ficecula semitoquata SPEC 2
A single male on 7th April appears to be the first record for Lebanon.

Collared flycatcher Fidecula albicollis
A single on 31st March with five on 7th April.

Sombre tit Parus lugubris
A single in the hills above Aammiq seen on 31st March.

Great tit Parus major
Common in hills above Aammiq and in smaller numbers in trees around swamp.

Rock nuthatch Sitta neumayer
Three nests found in hills above Aammiq including next to the road and on the Skaff house
above Aammiq. Appears to be quite widespread.

Penduline tit Remiz pendulinus
Singles on 29th March and 5th and 7th April, four on 1st and 6th April and two on 4th April.

Woodchat shrike Lanius senator SPEC 2
A single in the hills above Aammiq on 31st March and five there on 4th April.

Masked shrike Lanius nubicus SPEC 2
Recorded regularly in the hills above Aammiq and in the trees and scrub around the swamp
with peak counts of three on 3'ist March and four on 7th April.

Jay Garrulus glandarius
At least five in hills above Aammiq on 31st March.

Hooded crow Corvus corone
Seen on several occasion over the swamp with a maximum of six seen on 29th March.

Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Just two records; two on 30th March and 140 on 20th March.

House sparrow Passer domesticus
Up to 200 around the dwellings at Aammiq.

Spanish sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
Two males with house sparrows (Passer domesticus) on 5th April

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Small numbers moving north and others in trees and scrub around Aammiq and in hills
above. 15 on 13th and 24 on 14th March.

Syrian serin Serinus canaria
15 on 18th March in the hills above Aammiq and three on 30th March on the swamp.

Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
Small numbers seen and heard almost daily with birds singing in the old orchard.

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelisSeen daily in small numbers mainly passing north with 20 on 13th, 25 on 27th and 30 on 29th March

Linnet Carduelis cannabina
Small numbers seen and heard daily moving north with 10 on 30th March and 11 on 31st
March the highest counts noted.

Rock bunting Emberiza cia SPEC 3
At least six recorded in the hills above Aammiq on 31st March.

Ortolan bunting Emberiza hortulana SPEC 2
A male on 3rd April.

Cretzschmar's bunting Emberiza caesia
Two males on 4th April, three on 6th April and two on 7th April with a single in the Chouf on 2nd April.

Reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus
Three on 25th March and singles on 29th March and 1st April.

Corn bunting Miliaria calandra
1 on 30th March and a single Hying north on 1st April and a flock of 7 at Aammiq on 7th April.

Other species observed during trip (10th March to 11th April) away from Aammiq.

A further 20 species were recorded whilst in Lebanon mainly at the campus of the American University of Beirut and whilst seawatching, off Ras-al-Beirul (see separate note below for details of the latter).

Cory's shearwater Calonectris diomedea
At sea off Beirut

Yelkouan shearwater Puffinus yelkouan
At sea off Beirut

Storm petrel Hydrobates pelagicus
At sea off Beirut

Gannet Sulu bassana
At sea off Beirut

Pomarine skua Stecorarius pomarinus
At sea off Beirut

Arctic skua Stecorarius parasiticus
At sea off Beirut

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei
At sea off Beirut

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus
At sea off Beirut

Little Gull Larus minutus
At sea off Beirut

Sandwich tern Sterna sandvicensis
At sea off Beirut

Common tern Sterna hirundo
At sea off Beirut

Back tern Chlidonias niger
At sea off Beirut

Scops owl Otus scopus
At sea off Beirut

Collared dove Streptopelia decaoto
Present at AUB

Palm dove Streptopelia senegalensis
Present at AUB

Blue rock-thrush Monticola solitarius
Baalbeck

Dunnock Prunella modularis
Present at AUB

Yellow-vented bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos
Present at AUB

Serin Serinus serinus
Present near Beirut

Appendix 3 Seawatching at Ras Beirut
Between 8 - 11 April, one of us (DSF) spent some time sea watching from the roof of an 8-storey apartment block on the Corniche seafront at Ras Beirut (West Beirut). On 8th, DSF was joined by SB. At c.100ft high, the building afforded good views northwards across the sea and was ideal for observation purposes, not least because the seafront itself was always busy with people and partly military controlled. Observations were made with a 30x80 Optolyth telescope and 10x40B Zeiss binoculars.
Species recorded at Ras Beirut 8-11 April 1997

8th 9th 10th 11th
0800-0830 1440-1800 0730-0950 1430-1530 0830-1030 0800-0900

The commonest species offshore was Cory's Shearwater with up to 1000 seen on two dates. These large numbers may have been brought in by the unseasonally strong westerly winds prior to 8th which were particularly bad to the south of Beirut. The sea was very rough throughout my slay though winds had subsided to W.3-5 between 8th-10th, dropping to W.I by 11th (when the numbers of birds offshore declined). However, the shearwaters wore clearly congregating around large schools of tuna fish so their appearance off Beirut in such numbers may have been attributable to these - which moved further out to sea on 11th "taking" the seabirds with them. Up to 8 cetaceans thought to be Bottle-nosed Dolphins, Tursiops truncatus were also present 8th-10th close inshore.

All the Mediterranean Shearwaters seen well were P.y.yelkounn; no P.y.mauretanicus were seen despite searching for.

A Storm Petrel on 10th may be the first for Lebanon though it is 'Accidental' to Cyprus and it breeds in the western Mediterranean (Cramp & Simmons 1977).

Gannets are recorded as 'Accidental' to Lebanon.(Cramp & Simmons 1977) but with three one morning they must be commoner. Only one adult was seen.

Pomarine Skuas were seen on all but the last day though none with "spoons" and those seen well were thought to be lst/2nd-summer birds.

On 10th three adult light phased and one adult dark phased Arctic Skua were seen. 3-4 other skuas were too far out to be identified.

Six gull species were seen including a flock of 14 adult Slender-billed Gulls on the sea just off the promenade for 90 minutes on 10th.

All the Lesser Black-backed Gulls appeared to be nominate L.f. fuscus except for a single bird on 9th which was paler and may have been L.f. heuglini;. Virtually all the Lessers were adults but no Yellow-legged Gulls over three years old.

A remarkable passage of Garganey took place on 10th when over 5000 counted in two hours heading north in flocks of 40-300. The wind was WNW 5 on this morning with a rough sea, completely overcast, cold and with a little drizzle. The main body of movement took place about l-2km to the west of the seawatch station though a few flocks ventured closer on a more north-easterly heading. Amongst the flocks were several small groups of waders though too far out to be identifiable.

Also seen were 2 Mediterranean Gull, 1 Little Gull, 20 Sandwich Tern and 1 Black Tern.

In addition to the seabirds mentioned above, a number of other species seen during the seawatches included 3 Hoopoes and a Scops Owl coming in off the sea, single Red-rumped Swallow, Black-eared Wheatear, 2 Serins, 20 Alpine Swifts, 2 Kestrels heading north and a Wood Sandpiper and Kingfisher along the beach.

Simon Busuttil, Dave Flumm and Pete Gotham