Raptor Count Lebanon 2021

Guest blog by Louis Junior Saad

Short-toed Snake Eagle

Despite all international birdwatchers cancelling their trips due to Covid and nationwide circumstances, the SPNL Raptor Count Lebanon, was held again at Hammana on Mount Lebanon overlooking the city of Beirut and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. We proved that nature prevails against all the elements, through our local team of birdwatchers! This year, the Hammana raptor count was able to connect Lebanese bird enthusiasts with nature, while enjoying the pleasant atmosphere of the Hammana hillsides and all that the local community has to offer. Volunteers from various areas of Lebanon joined, alongside scout groups to learn more about bird watching and nature conservation.

The view from the watch site looking towards Beirut

The observations were made from 18 September to 16 October and were conducted by Chadi Saad and myself with a number of volunteers regularly coming to help. Also, the count site attracted many visitors, especially young people, many of whom experienced the spectacle of bird migration for the first time.

Chadi Saad in operation photographing birds

In addition, Hammana has solidified its state as a bottleneck for birdwatching through the establishment of another bird observatory. This new location sits directly in front of Kneyse Mountain and is close to the Kaysamani dam. As such, this new location presented great findings. On the other hand, our primary site showed a promising and continuous educational place for providing field trips for bird watching and outdoor activities.

Watching raptors at the new Hammana Watch Site
The new Watch Site at Hammana

Among the more unusual records were Black-winged Kites on 25 September, 13 and 14th October, Eastern Imperial Eagle on 7 and 16 October, Red Kite on 1 and 6 October and a Griffon Vulture on 28 September.

Lesser Spotted Eagle

On 5 October 877 Lesser Spotted Eagles were counted migrating south, whilst on 14 October over 10,300 migrating birds were counted including Eurasian Sparrowhawks, Great White Pelicans, Short-toed Snake Eagles, a Black-winged Kite and Northern Goshawk.

Steppe Eagle. Photo: Chadi Saad

Below is a full list of all the species and numbers of the 30,786 birds recorded on migration at the Hammana count sites. All data were loaded to Trektellen and eBird.

Alpine Swift89
Barn Swallow130
Black Kite594
Black Stork1
Black-winged Kite3
Booted Eagle9
Common Buzzard243
Common Buzzard (Steppe)10
Common Crane10531
Common Redstart1
Common Swift20
Eleonora’s Falcon1
Eurasian Griffon1
Eurasian Hobby10
Eurasian Jackdaw2
Eurasian Kestrel1
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier54
Eurasian Sparrowhawk320
European Bee-eater312
European Honey-buzzard5374
Great Cormorant16
Great White Pelican7854
Greater Spotted Eagle2
Hooded Crow35
Imperial Eagle2
Lesser Spotted Eagle3080
Levant Sparrowhawk1897
Long-legged Buzzard14
Northern Goshawk3
Pallid Harrier7
Peregrine Falcon2
Red Kite1
Red-footed Falcon4
Red-rumped Swallow1
Short-toed Snake-Eagle147
Spotted Flycatcher1
Steppe Eagle11
Willow Warbler1
Grand Total30786

Moreover, SPNL implemented its SNOW (School with No Walls) program during the World Migratory Bird Day to better link children to nature conservation and hopefully trigger a behavioural change. Activities included nestbox construction, and getting up-close to four Egyptian Vultures that the SPNL Anti-Poaching Unit is taking of, in the rehabilitation centre at Keyfoun, within the Luc Hoffman Hima Home.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon would like to thank its generous donors for providing much support to make this raptor count resonate at an international level. These included the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, OSME, MAVA, the Sigrid Rausing Trust and Birdlife Switzerland.

The SPNL would like to also thank the Hammana Municipality for its continuous work to make Hammana a “Hima Village Model”, and the bird observation field team led by Chadi Saad, and the amazing photographers and volunteers who helped make Raptor Count Lebanon 2021 a great success: Gaby Maamary, Philippe Fattal, Majdi AbdulKhalik, Natasha Karam, Sara Chakhtoura, and Leila Rose Mouawad.

Finally, we hope that the Raptor Count Lebanon will continue in Autumn 2022 and that our international friends will be able to join us.

Louis Junior Saad

Louis Junior Saad joined SPNL as a volunteer during the first international raptor count in Lebanon in 2019. After that he became a full-time staff member, being the Hammana Hima coordinator and a project manager for the Egyptian Vulture NewLIFE project. Louis is an avid nature lover, where his passion for nature started in his early scouting years and accumulated to become a hiker, climber, diver, bird watcher and mountaineer.

1 Response

  1. Michael McGrady says:

    Great Job!

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