syria10

Spring trip to Syria
30 March-26 April 2010

by John Bowler

john.bowler@rspb.org.uk

I spent 4 weeks in Syria on behalf of RSPB to assist in a bird monitoring programme in Protected Areas in the country set up and financed by UNDP/GEF. The initial plan was to spend 2 weeks bird surveying in Jebel Abdul Aziz PA in Al- Hasakeh Province in NE Syria. This worked well, but my return flight from Damascus was delayed by 11 days, thanks to the volcano in Iceland and thus I also spent a week surveying birds at Abu Qubies PA in Hama Province in Western Syria. I was greatly assisted throughout by the respective PA teams and by the UNDP staff in Damascus to whom I am most grateful.

Itinerary

  • 30 Mar: arrival at Damascus
  • 31 Mar: travel to Hasakeh via Palmyra and Deir Ez-Zor
  • 1 Apr: Khabour River Hasakeh (early am) Jebel Abdul Aziz
  • 2 Apr: Khabour River Hasakeh (early am) Jebel Abdul Aziz
  • 3-8 Apr: Jebel Abdul Aziz
  • 9 Apr: Reservoirs on Khabour River ca 10km WNW of Hasakeh
  • 10-11 Apr: Jebel Abdul Aziz
  • 12 Apr: Jebel Abdul Aziz (am), Khabour River Hasakeh (pm)
  • 13 Apr: Khabour River Hasakeh (am), travel to Damascus via Deir Ez-Zor
  • 14 Apr: Damascus (am), Bloudan (pm)
  • 15-18 Apr: Damascus
  • 19 Apr: Travel from Damascus to Abu Qubies PA
  • 20-22 Apr: Abu Qubies PA
  • 23 Apr: Slenfe cedar forest reserve and adjacent mountains
  • 24 Apr: Abu Qubies PA (am) travel to Damascus (pm)
  • 25 Apr: Damascus
  • 26 Apr: fly back from Damascus

Principal sites

1) Jebel Abdul Aziz Protected Area (JAZ):

a) Mountain range west of Hasakeh with extensive natural steppe vegetation, scattered Pistachio trees and some young pine plantations – a wide range of natural and semi-natural habitats attracting an equally wide range of passage migrants and breeding birds.

2) Hasakeh

a) The Khabour River in the middle of town had highly productive reed-beds, pools, arable land, gardens and weedy river-edge habitats.

b) Two reservoirs ca 10km WNW of the town on the Khabour River. The lower dam has created a large shallow-edged lake with some emergent vegetation, which was excellent for waders, gulls, terns, coot and ducks. The upper reservoir was steeper-sided, rocky and busier with people and held far fewer birds.

3) Abu Qubies Protected Area (AQB) and envirions:

a) ABQ PA covers a section of the eastern slope of the Allovite mountains in Hama province including a good section of the summit ridges above 1,200m. The PA includes extensive tracts of different types of oak woodland, open high altitude rocky ridges with dwarf junipers plus more Mediterranean maquis habitats at lower altitudes.

b) The cedar forest reserve at Slenfe. High altitude mixed oak and cedar forest with adjacent areas of firs and more open limestone ridges.

4) Damascus

a) Limited birding potential in city parks and greener areas, where I was stuck for many days…. A visit to Jebel Qassioun and the leafy Barada valley on 15/4/10 was more productive.

b) Rocky hillsides with fir trees and orchards above Bloudan. This is a well-known high altitude resort ca 45 minutes rives NW of Damascus in the Anti-Lebanon mountains and is “the” site for Syrian Serin in Syria.

Annotated bird species list

I recorded a total of 185 bird species as follows (P = photographed, * rarity form being submitted):

Chukar 10 birds seen/heard in rocky areas and wadis at JAZ, 1 heard at ABQ.

See-see Partridge – 2 seen in a rocky wadi at the east end of JAZ on 12/4/10.

Black Francolin (P) At least 5 birds (2 males and 3 females) seen and heard daily along the River Khabour in the centre of Hasakeh.

Common Quail At least 13 birds seen/heard in JAZ, several birds calling in arable fields east of ABQ.

Mute Swan* (P) 4 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10 – potentially the first for Syria.

Northern Pintail 1 pair at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

Red-crested Pochard ca 250 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

Little Grebe 2 on the Euphrates at Deir Ez-zor on 13/4/10.

 

Great-crested Grebe 2 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Greater Flamingo 1 immature at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

White Stork 40 headed north east of ABQ on 20/4/10.

 

Little Bittern 3 males in reeds along the Khabour River in Hasakeh

 

Black-crowned Night-heron 3 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Purple Heron 1 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Great Egret (P) 1 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Little Egret 5 on the Khabour at Hasakeh (2/4/10), 15 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Lesser Kestrel Common breeder at JAZ (93 seen in tetrad surveys) in flocks of up to 20. 1 at Jebel Qassioun, Damascus on 15/4/10.

 

Common Kestrel Fairly common breeder at JAZ (21 seen in tetrad surveys), 1 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10, 1 at ABQ on 20/4/10.

 

Merlin 3 males at JAZ (4-7/4/10).

 

Saker Falcon* 1 perched on rocks near a military camp halfway between Damascus and Palmyra on 31/3/10 – seen from bus. Possibly a decoy bird?

 

Black Kite 4 along the Euphrates at Deir Ez-zor with 50+ just NE of Deir Ez-zor on 30/3/10. 6 seen passing through JAZ, 1 10km east of Palmyra on 13/4/10.

 

Egyptian Vulture Seen daily at JAZ where 3-6 pairs were on territory.

 

Short-toed Eagle 2 singles at JAZ on 5/4/10 and 7/4/10, 2 at ABQ where possibly breeding.

 

Western Marsh Harrier 9 seen passing through JAZ, 1m at lower Khabour reservoir on 9/4/10, 2 west of Deir Ez-zor on 13/4/10.

 

Pallid Harrier 2m between Palmyra and Deir Ez-zor on 31/3/10, 13 seen in and around JAZ, 1-2 SW of Deir Ez-zor on 13/4/10.

 

Montagu’s Harrier 2f seen in and around JAZ, 1f near the lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10, 1-2f SW of Deir Ez-zor on 13/4/10, 1m SW of Palmyra on 13/4/10 (the only male seen).

 

Levant Sparrowhawk 11 seen in and around JAZ, 1 at ABQ on 20/4/10.

 

Eurasian Sparrowhawk 1 at JAZ on 11/4/10, singles at Hasakeh on 12- 13/4/10, 1 at Bloudan on 14/4/10, 2 singles at ABQ on 20 and 22/4/10.

 

Northern Goshawk* A fine male hunting near the summit of JAZ on 7/4/10.

 

Common/Steppe Buzzard 1 SW of Deir Ez-zor on 31/3/10, 125 noted passing through JAZ area, 9 SW of Deir Ez-zor on 13/4/10, 7 in ABQ, plus 20 east of ABQ on 20/4/10. Most birds seen well looked good for Steppe Buzzard.

 

Long-legged Buzzard Just 3 seen in JAZ (1 on 8/4/10, 2 on 10/4/10).

 

Lesser Spotted Eagle 3 passed through JAZ (1 on 6/4/10, 2 on 11/4/10).

 

Greater Spotted Eagle 1 passed through JAZ on 10 April 2010.

 

Steppe Eagle 2 passed through JAZ (singles on 7/4/10 and 11/4/10), 2 seen at ABQ on 22/4/10.

 

Eastern Imperial Eagle 1 gave great views at ABQ on 20/4/10.

 

Booted Eagle 1 at JAZ on 11/4/10. 1 at ABQ on 20/4/10.

 

Little Crake* (P) A pair along the Khabour at Hasakeh on 2/4/10 with 1f still there on 13/4/10.

 

Common Moorhen Up to 15 daily on the Khabour at Hasakeh.

 

Eurasian Coot Up to 4 daily on the Khabour at Hasakeh, some 2-3,000 birds on the Khabour Reservoirs (mostly on the lower one) on 9/4/10.

 

Demoiselle Crane* (P) A bird found injured at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10 was taken into care in Hasakeh.

 

Black-winged Stilt 2 on a pool just east of Palmyra on 31/3/10, 40+ at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Pied Avocet 1 bird at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Spur-winged Lapwing c15 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Little Ringed Plover 3 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Kentish Plover 12 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Common Snipe 1 along the Khabour River at Hasakeh on 2/4/10.

 

Marsh Sandpiper 2 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Common Greenshank 2 on a pool just east of Palmyra on 31/3/10, 2 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Green Sandpiper 1 on a roadside pool north of JAZ on 5/4/10, 1 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Common Sandpiper 6 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10, singles on the Khabour River in Hasakeh on 12-13/4/10.

 

Little Stint 3 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Ruff ca 250 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Collared Pratincole ca 15 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Black-winged Pratincole* (P) ca 15 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Common Black-headed Gull ca 20 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Slender-billed Gull ca 200 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Gull-billed Tern 7 along the Khabour River at Hasakeh on 13/4/10.

 

Common Tern ca 60 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10, 13 along the Khabour River in Hasakeh on 13/4/10.

 

Whiskered Tern 1 sum plum adult at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

White-winged Tern ca 30 at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Black Tern 1 sum plum adult at lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Rock/Feral Pigeon Widespread in small numbers and linked to habitation. Only 6 in JAZ PA away from the villages, also 6 seen in ABQ

 

Stock Dove Up to 10 in conifer plantations NE of JAZ on 3-4/4/10.

 

Common Woodpigeon Up to 15 seen daily in conifer plantations NE of JAZ, where it appears likely to breed. Also 2 between the two Khabour Reservoirs on 9/4/10 and 1 in JAZ on 10/4/10.

 

European Turtle Dove 1 from the bus near Hama on 19/4/10.

 

Eurasian Collared Dove Common in more rural areas east of Deir Ez-Zor, also in and around Hasakeh and abundant in conifer plantations in and around JAZ. 112 counted in surveywork in JAZ. 16 birds 10km east of Palmyra on 13/4/10. 1 at edge of ABQ on 22/4/10, where scarce. 2 near Damascus Airport on 26/4/10.

 

Laughing Dove Abundant in Damascus, common in Deir Ez-zor and Hasakeh, and also in agricultural villages east of ABQ and also around villages within ABQ. None seen in or near JAZ.

 

Common Cuckoo 1 in JAZ on 11/4/10, singles in ABQ on 20 and 24/4/10.

 

Barn Owl Several seen and heard in agricultural villages east of ABQ.

 

European Scops Owl (P) 1 in a conifer plantation in JAZ on 8/4/10.

 

Eurasian Eagle Owl 1 seen at a nest-site in JAZ on 1/4/10 – one of apparently two nest-sites in the PA.

 

Little Owl 7 seen/heard in JAZ where appears to be a widespread breeder.

 

Long-eared Owl* Lone bird hunting through mature pines at dusk at Bloudan on 14/4/10.

 

European Nightjar 1 male seen along the Khabour River at Hasakeh on 13/4/10, an unsexed bird at night between Bloudan and Damascus on 14/4/10.

 

Alpine Swift 3 over JAZ on 12/4/10.

 

Common Swift Abundant in towns and cities including Damascus (also at the airport), Deir Ez-zor, Hasakeh, Bloudan, Hama, Homs and around ABQ field centre. Some 34 seen in JAZ and 4 in ABQ.

 

Pallid Swift Several confirmed amongst Common Swifts in Damascus.

 

European Roller First seen at JAZ on 6/4/10 with 21 seen in total in JAZ to 12/4/10. Also 2 on roadside wires 120km NE of Deir Ez-zor on 13/4/10 and another 30km NE of Deir Ez-zor on 13/4/10. 1 in ABQ on 22/4/10.

 

Common Kingfisher Up to 4 seen daily along the Khabour at Hasakeh on 1- 2/4/10 and 12-13/4/10 and apparently holding territory. Could they breed here?

 

Pied Kingfisher Up to 3 seen daily along the Khabour at Hasakeh on 1-2/4/10 and 12-13/4/10.

 

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater 1 with 12 European Bee-eaters at the east end of JAZ on 11/4/10.

 

European Bee-eater 60 moved east through JAZ on 11/4/10 with 7 seen there the next day there.

 

Eurasian Hoopoe Odd birds seen on outskirts of Damascus on 31/3/10, 6 between Palmyra and Deir Ez-zor on 31/3/10, 4 NE of Deir Ez-zor on 31/3/10. Up to 5 seen daily along the Khabour in Hasakeh, 2 at Khabour Reservoirs on 9/4/10. Common in JAZ – 28 seen, scarcer in ABQ – 6 recorded.

 

Eurasian Wryneck Regular migrant in JAZ – 8 seen, also singles seen daily along the Khabour in Hasakeh with 2 there on 13/4/10.

 

Middle Spotted Woodpecker Fairly common in higher altitude oak woodland at ABQ (15 birds), also at least 3 on 23/4/10 at Slenfe.

 

Syrian Woodpecker 1 in pines at lower altitude at ABQ on 22/4/10.

 

Red-backed Shrike first male at JAZ seen on 4/4/10, total of 15 seen in/around JAZ, up to 8 males along the Khabour at Hasake on 12-13/4/10, 2 birds 30km NE of Deir Ez-zor on 13/4/10, 1 between Deir Ez-zor and Palmyra on 13/4/10, 2 between Damascus and Hama on 19/4/10, 1 male at ABQ on 22/4/10.

 

Lesser Grey Shrike first seen on wires just north of JAZ on 7/4/10, 2 on wires 120km NE of Deir EZ-zor on 13/4/10, 4 between Deir Ez-Zor and Damascus on 13/4/10, 1 between Damascus and Hama on 19/4/10.

 

Woodchat Shrike first seen in JAZ on 11/4/10 where 3 seen in total, 1 along the Khabour at Hasake on 13/4/10, 8 seen in ABQ.

 

Eurasian Golden Oriole 1 calling at ABQ PA office on 21/4/10, 2 seen and heard in ABQ.

 

Eurasian Jay 2 seen between Damascus and the airport on 15/4/10, common in ABQ where 19 seen/heard, 2 at Slenfe on 23/4/10.

 

Eurasian Magpie 3 at Deir Ez-zor on 31/3/10, fairly common at Hasakeh where fledged brood of 4 seen on 12/4/10, fairly common also in pine plantations NE of JAZ, 2 at the Khabour dams on 9/4/10, 1 pair 120km NE of Deir Ez-zor and 1 pair 30km NE of Deir Ez-zor on 13/4/10.

 

Hooded Crow Fairly common in and around Damascus and at Bloudan where bird seen incubating in nest in pine tree on 14/4/10, fairly common also in Hasakeh but scarce in arable land north of JAZ (1 bird on 5/4/10) and only one heard at ABQ. 1 bird 5km SW of Deir Ez-zor on 13/4/10.

 

Raven sp. A lone distant bird presumed to be a Northern Raven was seen in JAZ on 5/4/10.

 

Coal Tit Fairly common at higher elevations in ABQ (10 birds seen/heard) scarcer at lower elevations, more numerous at Slenfe on 23/4/10.

 

Great Tit Several at Bloudan on 14/4/10, common at all elevations at ABQ (65 birds) and at Slenfe on 23/4/10, one pair at the edge of the Orontes depression on 23/4/10.

 

Blue Tit Common at all elevations at ABQ (78 birds) and also recorded in small numbers at Slenfe on 23/4/10.

 

Sand Martin 3 in roadside wadi between Damascus and Palmyra on 31/3/10, 8 in and around JAZ.

 

Barn Swallow Common roadside bird in most areas visited (except the most arid areas), with 30+ along the Khabour at Hasakeh where common even in the city streets, 310 in and around JAZ, 30 at the Khabour dams on 9/4/10, 44 in ABQ and dozens in the arable areas east of ABQ.

 

Eurasian Crag Martin 4 at lower elevation in ABQ on 22/4/10.

 

Common House Martin 9 in JAZ, 1 at high elevation in ABQ on 20/4/10.

 

Red-rumped Swallow 5 in JAZ, 5 at lower elevation in ABQ on 22/4/10.

 

Long-tailed Tit Rather scarce (5 birds) at higher elevation in ABQ, not recorded at Slenfe on 23/4/10.

 

Greater Hoopoe Lark Singles between Deir Ez-zor and Palmyra and SW of Palmyra on 13/4/10.

 

Calandra Lark Scarce passage migrant in JAZ – 45 seen in flocks of Bimaculated Larks including a group of 38 birds on 4/4/10.

 

Bimaculated Lark An abundant migrant and presumed breeder (many territorial singing males as well as large groups) in JAZ – 522 birds recorded.

 

Bar-tailed Lark Scarce resident breeder in JAZ – 4-5 pairs seen in the flat bases of broad unvegetated rocky wadis.

 

Desert Lark Fairly common breeder in JAZ – 17 pairs noted mostly in stony sparsely vegetated areas.

 

Greater Short-toed Lark Abundant and widespread breeder in JAZ and the most numerous lark species recorded (767 birds). Nest with 5 eggs found on 7/4/10. Also noted in steppe areas NW of the PA and 12 on barren ground around the lower Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10.

 

Lesser Short-toed Lark Fairly scarce breeder in JAZ (24 birds) where heavily outnumbered by Greater Short-toed Lark.

 

Crested Lark Abundant breeder in JAZ (675 birds) as well as in irrigated agricultural areas north of JAZ, around Hasakeh (30 the Khabour Reservoirs on 9/4/10), between Deir Ez-zor and Palmyra and on the outskirts of Damascus.

 

Woodlark 1 seen amongst other larks in JAZ on 4/4/10, also a singing male on limestone pavement at high altitude at Slenfe on 23/4/10.

 

Eurasian Skylark 1 seen amongst other larks in JAZ on 7/4/10.

 

Temminck’s Lark Group of 5 roadside birds near Palmyra on 31/3/10.

 

Graceful Prinia 1 seen in scrub at the upper Khabour Reservoir on 9/4/10, pair feeding a fledged brood in grassy area near St. Paul’s window in Damascus on 17/4/10, birds calling at dawn from rank ditches east of ABQ on 20/4/10.

 

White-eared Bulbul Group of 3 birds in scrub next to the Euphrates in Deir Ez- Zor on 31/3/10.

 

White-spectacled Bulbul Fairly common at lower altitudes in ABQ (13 birds).

 

Cetti’s Warbler Up to six birds seen/heard daily along the Khabour at Hasakeh.

 

Savi’s Warbler One bird singing along the Khabour at Hasakeh on 2/4/10.

 

Great Reed Warbler At least 14 birds along the Khabour at Hasakeh on 12- 13/4/10.

 

Moustached Warbler One male seen and heard singing along the Khabour at Hasakeh on 12/4/10.

 

Reed Warbler Up to 10 birds seen/heard daily along the Khabour at Hasakeh.

 

Olivaceous Warbler 1 singing in a Damascus park on 17/4/10, 3 in ABQ, 2 at ABQ PA office on 21/4/10.

 

Willow Warbler Common migrant in JAZ (173 birds), 2 at the Khabour dams on 9/4/10, oddly absent from Hasake, rather scarce (6 birds) in ABQ and 1 at ABQ PA office on 20/4/10.

 

Chiffchaff Common migrant in JAZ (116 birds), up to 15 daily along the Khabour at Hasakeh, common breeder in ABQ (101 birds), 12 at Slenfe on 23/4/10.

 

Eurasian Blackcap 1 male in JAZ on 6/4/10, regular bird at ABQ where 16 seen, also 5 at ABQ PA office on 22/4/10.

 

Lesser Whitethroat 6 birds seen in JAZ, singles seen along the Khabour at Hasakeh on 2/4/10 and 13/4/10, 1 at Damascus museum on 17/4/10, abundant breeder in ABQ (183 birds), 4 at ABQ PA office on 22/4/10, 25 at Slenfe on 23/4/10.

 

Eastern Orphean Warbler 1 bird singing in the garden of the Forestry Dept at Hasakeh on 2/4/10, 12 birds recorded in ABQ. Common Whitethroat Fairly common migrant in JAZ (34 birds from 6/4/10), up to 20 birds seen along the Khabour at Hasakeh on 12-13/4/10 but none recorded at ABQ, 1 male in a Damascus park on 14/4/10, 2 at the Damascus museum on 17/4/10.

 

Sardinian Warbler 12 birds recorded in ABQ showing a strong preference for low dense evergreen shrubs.

 

Menetries Warbler 9 passage birds recorded in JAZ from 6/4/10 to 10/4/10.

 

Ruppell’s Warbler 1 singing male in dense scrub at high altitude in ABQ on 20/4/10.

 

Iraq Babbler Group of 3 birds flew between clumps of reeds on the Euphrates at Deir Ez-zor on 13/4/10. Wren Several birds singing above Bloudan on 14/4/10, common breeder at ABQ (87 birds) and 17 singing males counted at Slenfe on 23/4/10.

 

Eurasian Nuthatch Fairly common in oak woodland at higher altitude in ABQ (28 birds), at least 2 birds at Slenfe on 23/4/10.

 

Western Rock Nuthatch 2 breeding territories with nests in rocky limestone pavement area above Slenfe on 23/4/10. Common Starling 2 birds in agricultural land north of Homs on 19/4/10.

 

Eurasian Blackbird Around 20 birds above Bloudan on 14/4/10, 3 in the Barada Valley on 15/4/10, common at ABQ (101 birds) but not recorded at Slenfe on 23/4/10.

 

Song Thrush 1 bird by the Khabour in Hasakeh on 1/4/10, 1 bird at JAZ on 4/4/10, 4 birds recorded in ABQ were presumably late migrants.

 

European Robin 1 singing male in scrubby oak woodland at 4,706 feet at Slenfe on 23/4/10.

 

Bluethroat Up to 4 birds including a red-spotted male along the Khabour at Hasakeh on 1-2/4/10.

 

Thrush Nightingale 1 bird seen well in reeds at the Khabour in Hasakeh on 1/4/10.

 

Common Nightingale 2 males singing along the Khabour at Hasakeh on 13/4/10, 3 males singing along the Barada Valley on 15/4/10, fairly common breeder at ABQ (14 birds).

 

White-throated Robin 11 birds recorded in JAZ from 4/4/10, also 1 male and 1 female along the Khabour at Hasakeh on 13/4/10, 1 male singing at high altitude at ABQ on 20/4/10.

 

Black Redstart Only 2 birds in JAZ, a male on 5/4/10 and a female on 11- 12/4/10, at least 2 pairs above Bloudan on 14/4/10.

 

Common Redstart Numerous migrant in JAZ (71 birds – all but one of the males seen was nominate race), at least 6 along the Khabour in Hasake including 2 samamiscius males on 12-13/4/10, 1 singing male and a female at ABQ on 24/4/10 where it is a potential breeding species.

 

Whinchat Fairly common migrant in JAZ (19 birds) from 4/4/10, 1 at the lower Khabour reservoir on 9/4/10, 1 along the Khabour at Hasakeh on 13/4/10.

 

Isabelline Wheatear Fairly common breeding bird in JAZ (29 birds) favouring gentle vegetated slopes with occasional Pistachio trees. A handful amongst dozens of roadside wheatears SW of Palmyra on 31/3/10.

 

Northern Wheatear Fairly common migrant in JAZ (44 birds), although numbers declined during April, at least three territorial pairs above Bloudan on 14/4/10, 1 at high altitude in ABQ on 24/4/10.

 

Pied Wheatear Several roadside males SW of Palmyra on 31/3/10 in amongst dozens of wheatears, 7 birds in JAZ, mostly lone males.

 

Cyprus Wheatear 2 males in JAZ (5 and 10/4/10), plus 1-2 roadside male birds apparently of this species SW of Palmyra on 31/3/10, in amongst large numbers of migrant wheatears.

 

Black-eared Wheatear Common and presumably breeding in JAZ (58 birds), 3 birds at Khabour reservoirs on 9/4/10, up to 4 birds along the Khabour in Hasakeh on 12-13/4/10, 2 males at Bloudan on 14/4/10, 2 between Damascus and Hama on 19/4/10, fairly common breeder in more open habitats in ABQ (26 birds), 2 pairs in limestone pavement above Slenfe on 23/4/10. Many wheatears along interior roadsides in April appeared to be this species.

 

Desert Wheatear At least 1 male of this species SW of Palmyra on 31/3/10.

 

Mourning Wheatear At least 1 male of this species SW of Palmyra on 31/3/10.

 

Finsch’s Wheatear Numerically the most abundant wheatear in JAZ (88 birds), where breeding in rocky wadis and on rocky slopes, with several fledged broods seen.

 

Common Rock Thrush Fairly common passage migrant in JAZ (21 birds) with a preponderance of male birds.

 

Blue Rock Thrush Localised breeding bird in JAZ (10 birds) with females visiting nests deep in rock crevices, 1 male in a road cutting in ABQ on 20/4/10 was the first record for the PA.

 

Spotted Flycatcher 3 birds recorded in ABQ plus another at the ABQ PA office on 22/4/10.

 

Semi-collared Flycatcher* (P) Lone male bird in an orchard in the centre of Hasakeh on 12/4/10.

 

Red-breasted Flycatcher (P) Lone female bird along the Khabour at Hasakeh on 1/4/10.

 

House Sparrow Abundant in many areas: Damascus, Hasakeh, Bloudan, ABQ PA offices and in most agricultural villages passed through. Only 1 bird seen within JAZ PA (at the Roman castle) and common in ABQ only around villages and cafes.

 

Spanish Sparrow 1 NE of Damascus on 30/3/10, abundant migrant in JAZ (994 birds) mostly in tight flocks heading north including 677 birds on 11/4/10, but also smaller groups mixed in with feeding Corn Buntings. 180 in a village north of JAZ on 8/4/10, 8 along the Khabour at Hasakeh on 2/4/10 where 1 still present on 13/4/10, 1 male building a nest at ABQ PA offices.

 

Pale Rock Sparrow (P) Localised migrant/summer visitor in JAZ, 1 on 3/4/10 followed by a series of records on rocky slopes close to the Roman Castle in tetrad 75, where 7 birds on 5/4/10, 35 birds on 6/4/10 including a loose feeding flock of 30 birds plus 5 singing males, and 2 males on 10/4/10.

 

Rock Sparrow 1 male at Jebel Qassioun, Damascus on 15/4/10.

 

Radde’s Accentor* (P) 1 near the summit ridge in JAZ on 3/4/10 followed by another on the summit ridge (>1,200m) in open rocky habitat with juniper scrub in ABQ on 24/4/10. The latter habitat is not dissimilar to breeding habitat in Eastern Turkey. The first Syrian records for over 25 years.

 

Yellow Wagtail 15 feldegg race coming to roost along the Khabour in Hasakeh on 1/4/10, 3 at the Khabour reservoirs on 9/4/10, 1 north over JAZ on 5/4/10, 1 south of JAZ on 6/4/10, 5 north of JAZ on 11/4/10.

 

Grey Wagtail 1 on the Khabour at Hasakeh on 1/4/10 and 1 at the edge of a conifer plantation NE of JAZ on 1/4/10.

 

White Wagtail 1 SW of Deir Ez-zor on 31/3/10, 2 just north of JAZ on 4/4/10, 1 north over JAZ on 5/4/10, 1 south of JAZ on 6/4/10, 30 at the Khabour reservoirs on 9/4/10.

 

Tawny Pipit Fairly common breeder in JAZ (33 birds), 3 birds on the open summit ridge of ABQ (>1,200m) on 24/4/10.

 

Tree Pipit Abundant passage migrant in JAZ (389 birds), 1 on the summit ridge of ABQ (>1,200m) on 24/4/10.

 

Red-throated Pipit 14 in small groups along the summit ridge of JAZ on 3/4/10 were the only records.

 

Common Chaffinch Abundant breeder at all elevations in ABQ (114 birds), also common (11 birds) at Slenfe on 23/4/10.

 

Syrian Serin Took a while to pin-down at Bloudan on 14/4/10 but a total of 6 birds seen in 2 hours including a pair and 4 singing males.

 

European Greenfinch None seen in JAZ or in neighbouring pine plantations. 2 males singing along the Khabour in Hasakeh on 13/4/10, abundant breeder (73 birds) at lower altitudes in ABQ – especially in areas of pine trees, at least 2 territorial males at the ABQ PA offices.

 

European Goldfinch One on wires north of JAZ on 4/4/10, group of 4 birds in JAZ on 6/4/10, 2 south of JAZ on 8/4/10, one pair at high elevation in ABQ on 20/4/10.

 

Common Linnet Common above Bloudan (12 birds) on 14/4/10, fairly common (13 birds) in more open habitats at all elevations in ABQ, 6 birds at Slenfe on 24/4/10 where again favoured more open habitats such as limestone pavement areas.

 

Trumpeter Finch (P) Local breeder in JAZ with some 13 birds recorded (mostly in pairs) on rocky slopes at the east end of the PA and breeding was proven when a nest containing 5 eggs was found in a crevice in a south-facing cliff-face in tetrad 75 on 11/4/10.

 

Desert Finch Rather common breeder in JAZ (147 birds) where pairs widespread across the PA and adjacent forestry patches, showing a preference for the presence of a few trees and nests found in planted conifers. Odd roadside birds near Palmyra on 31/3/10.

 

Corn Bunting Common at JAZ (106 birds) and even more so in arable areas both north and south of JAZ. Large feeding flocks still apparent in early April. Fairly common in agricultural areas on fringes of ABQ and more so in arable fields to the east of the PA and again near Homs.

 

Rock Bunting Two presumed migrants in JAZ, one on 1/4/10 and one on 6/4/10. Fairly common breeder at higher elevations in ABQ (15 birds) and 7 birds seen at Slenfe on 23/4/10.

 

Cinereous Bunting* (P) A pair of the eastern semenowi race on a south-facing rocky slope at the east end of JAZ on 5/4/10, with possibly the same female still there on 10/4/10. Presumably these were passage birds, but seems just possible that this species breeds in JAZ.

 

Ortolan Bunting A common migrant in JAZ (123 birds) first seen on 4/4/10, a pair at Abu Qubies castle on 22/4/10, 2 in open rocky limestone habitat above Slenfe on 23/4/10, one on the open summit ridge of ABQ (>1,200m) on 24/4/10.

 

Cretzschmar’s Bunting 3 birds in open rocky habitat at Slenfe on 23/4/10, local breeder in ABQ – 9 birds on the open summit ridge (>1,200m) on 24/4/10.

 

Black-headed Bunting Too early to see the main arrival of this species; 1 male in ABQ on 20/4/10, 1 male east of ABQ PA on 24/4/10.