I took advantage of a long weekend in Cairo and made a twitching trip to Syria. I spent four days birding in total, and recorded over 180 species. Most importantly, I saw 15 lifers, including my 8000th species, the See-See Partridge. The trip went smoothly and was very enjoyable. Syria is clearly one of the premier birding destinations in the Western Palearctic. It has great birds – and lots of them, easy logistics, and plenty to discover.
My trip preparation included searching for other trip reports, including Dave Murdoch’s excellent June 2003 paper, available from the OSME website, and Colin Richardson’s informative April 2004 report on Surfbirds. In addition, an article in the Sandgrouse, Vol 26 (2) on the Syrian Wetland Expedition, was also helpful. Since my trip, a helpful article on Birding in Syria has appeared in Dutch Birding, Volume 27, Number 3, 2005. One of the keys to the Bald Ibis was finding Gianluca Serra, who I found waiting in Italy to return to Syria at email@example.com. Gianluca put me in touch with Ahmed Abdallah, a Bedouin that Gianluca has trained. Ahmed’s cell phone (he didn’t answer his e-mail) was +963 94 876-119. Other possible points of contact in Palmyra are: Adeeb Al Assad (firstname.lastname@example.org); Mahmud Abdulla (+963 31 914-356); Ghazy Al Qaim (+963 31 911-636); and Maan Al Sabbagh (+963 093 252-233). I was eager to call Ahmed in advance because I wanted to get an early start on my first day’s birding, since I was only allowing one day for the Palmyra part of the trip. In addition, there is some information at Gianluca’s web site, www.gianlucaserra.com. Another important thing for me was finding a decent 1:1,000,000 roadmap of Syria and Lebanon published by Cartographica from Amazon.com.
The weather was fabulous. On most days, it was overcast and cool. The only exception was for a few hours around Palmyra April 21, when it warmed up quickly. In the mountains near the Mediterranean, there was persistent light rain. It was not so much to stop me birding, but I had to be careful not to get rain in my ocular lenses. At Bloudan, it was sunny, but cool, because of the high altitude. A light jacket and sweater is necessary, if you are birding in the mountains this time of year. Make sure you have water.
I had trouble finding a car with unlimited kilometers on the web, so I made contact with Khoury Brothers in Damascus +963 11 221-2500 or email@example.com . Interestingly, the paperwork I filled out on arrival and the car itself all looked like a Eurocar rental. Khoury had quoted me $79 dollars a day, but I ended up paying the Eurocar attendant less than $50. (They never gave me a final account!) Again, because I didn’t have much time to spare, I wanted the car ready to go when I arrived. Coming from Cairo, I found the traffic in Syria downright civilized. Those coming from Europe and America might be more challenged. The conditions of the roads were good, though the speed differential between slow-moving and unlit industrial (and farm) vehicles and rapid sedans made for some interesting moments—especially at night. The road from Aleppo to the coast (Lattikia) is pretty scary, and I did it at night. The good news is that a modern super highway is under construction there.
Getting around was a bit of a challenge, and my simple Arabic language skills really came in handy. While the general level of signage is excellent, the farther off the beaten track one goes, the more likely the road signs will only be in Arabic script. This is complicated by the fact that the names in English and Arabic are often different and the English renditions of the names often varied considerably.
Gas stations were not very common, so keeping at least a half tank of gas is especially good advice in Syria. Gasoline cost about US$.60 per liter.
As other birders have found, the Syrians are a typically hospitable Arab culture. I was welcomed just about everywhere I went. Several people did react negatively when I told them that I was American, but just distancing myself from George Bush with a smile usually broke the ice. (Ana mish Bush!) I did have one uncomfortable moment, while birding in the cultivated lands South of the Lake Homs. I met a police officer guarding a bridge, who apparently did not know what to think of my presence. (Complicating things, that the Syrian Army was withdrawing from Lebanon, mostly through a corridor not far from where I was birding.) He let me pass and some time later, while I was ‘scoping the lake, I saw him drive up on the back of a motorbike. He asked me to come with him, and, fearing that I would get tied up in some police procedure on my last day in Syria, I very politely declined. He got a bit agitated, and kept asking that he get in my car. I just smiled and told him I didn’t understand. Finally, the motorbike left him and I relented. I purposefully took him birding to a couple of other places around the lake before driving towards the guard station on a bridge, where we had first met. As we passed through a village, I saw the motorbike and it was suddenly clear what had happened. The policeman had hailed a passing moto-taxi out on his bridge and, after he arrived at the village where I was birding and got dropped off by the moto-taxi, he had no way to return to his post. When I declined to go to the police station, a decision apparently was made that I was not worth bothering with, but the guy still needed a ride back to the bridge. Once he got back, he was all smiles, and typically, invited me in for a cup of coffee. I demurred and kept heading South towards Damascus.
David Murdoch asked for specific information on hunting. Well, most of the time I was in Syria I felt like I was on the Baghdad Airport Road. I witnessed shooting on a couple of occasions, heard shots fired five or six times, and saw expended shotgun shells just about everywhere.
I never availed myself of the cheap accommodation that others have described. I spent two nights at the Citadel Hotel in Palmyra, which though pleasant, cost me US$25 per night. The third night I slept in my car, and the fourth night I was fleeced at the “4-star” Homs Grand Hotel (US$85). (It was after midnight, raining, and I just took the first place I found.)
April 20 Arrival 20:15 Drive to Palmyra
April 21 Bird around Palmyra with Ahmed Abdulla, Wadi Abeid, Bald Ibis, Lalila Reserve
April 22 Bird around Palmyra, drive to Deir ez-Zor, Mheimideh, Halabbiyah. Drive to Kassab
April 23 Bird around Kassab, drive to Selunfe, bird there. Drive to Homs.
April 24 Bird around Homs Lake, drive to Bloudan (east of Damascus) Return to airport 1800
Note: The birds that are only discussed in the text and were not seen are in normal font. Those actually observed are in bold.
I arrived at 20:15 on an Egypt Air flight from Cairo on time. After a five-minute process while the immigration inspector looked at every page of my passport several times over (I assume he was trying to find evidence that I had been to Israel, which I have not.), I passed onto customs. By then, my bag was there, and the customs man had no quarrel with me. The Eurocar desk was expecting me, and the formalities were brief. (I used my Egyptian drivers license because it’s written in Arabic and they could read it.) I guaranteed the rental with a major credit card, and we were off. I got a automatic(!) air-conditioned Hyundai for a rate of $79 dollars a day, unlimited mileage. By about 21:00 I was on my way, driving into the starless night. While I consider myself lucky to have obtained a good map, I almost immediately got lost, as I missed the main turning from the airport access road North to Homs/Aleppo. It looked so easy on the map! Anyway, I was stuck in the traffic of Damascus, and spent about an hour getting myself re-oriented. One serious problem is that the Syrians don’t call Palmyra by that name. It’s “Tadmur.” By the time I finally figured that out, I was close to the road to Palmyra/Tadmur. With the exception of one miss where I was shot down into the desert by a poorly marked detour, the rest of the trip to Palmyra was uneventful. (The detour was not all bad, before I realized I was going the wrong way, I saw a great rodent that looked like a Jerboa bouncing across the road.) I stopped at the main turning to Iraq, at one of three eateries called “Baghdad Café” on the corner. There were three baby camels for sale, tied up in the parking lot of the café. After refreshing myself, petting the camels, and turning down the first of what was to become many invitations to have tea, I continued down the road into the night.
At about 1:00 am, I saw the lights of Palmyra in the desert darkness and soon passed the impressively illuminated Roman ruins that make Palmyra a must-see for regular tourists. I quickly found the Citadel Hotel and checked in, paying US$25 per night. Some three hours later, the alarm rang, and I got up. My rendezvous with Ahmed was at 4:45 am, and I wanted to shower to clear my head after the long, overnight drive. Unfortunately, the night “concierge” had neglected to turn on my hot-water heater, so no refreshing shower was in store for me. I did eat some goodies I had carried with me from Egypt, and got ready for the day. Ahmed was there early and we sat down to business. I explained my needs, and showed him my wants list. He had procured a beat-up milk truck from a friend that was to be our transport for the day. I was heartened to see a Mercedes star on the front, but I soon learned that the emblem was the ONLY Mercedes part in the vehicle. For the days accompaniment (including transportation) I paid US$100. Clearly, the wave of greedy inflation that had gripped the Citadel Hotel had not affected Ahmed.
Ahmed was a real delight. I normally do not get local guides, but the location of the Ibis is being kept quiet partially to encourage birders (like myself) to support the local sustainable development project that Gianluca started. Ahmed’s ID skills were not great, but he knew enough, knew where the good birds lived, and most importantly, had a wonderful attitude about learning more. Apart from the birds, he was knowledgeable about the culture and other wildlife in the region. He was a perfect host and companion. Again, a delightful day, and well worth the C-note. Very highly recommended.
Ahmed started the day by driving towards the Sed Wadi Abied, an artificial lake a few kilometers out of Palmyra. The habitat was excellent, with many hectares of reeds and open water. As we were approaching, there was a remarkable sight, as two Great Bitterns dropped out of the lightening sky and landed in the middle of the reeds. I presumed that they were migrating. Tens of thousands of swallows broke from their roosts and started their day’s work. Meanwhile, the reeds were alive with a cacophony of song. I was able to identify three Sylvia’s, three Phylloscopus, and three Acrocephalus warblers. Shortly, I got my first lifer, a Dead Sea Sparrow in some small tamarisk trees inside of the swamp. As we continued walking through the vegetation, Ahmed was confronted with an unfamiliar bird, as a Corn Crake passed calmly in front of us. Now we both had broken the ice with lifers! As we left, a pair of Common Ravens passed by. Adding in a few water birds and some wagtails, we saw 42 species for a couple hours work.
Our next destination was the Bald Ibis site. Getting there was a bit of a slog, driving on unmarked desert tracks. By this time, Ahmed was starting to worry about finding the usually common and conspicuous Temminck’s Lark. I had informed him of my numerous failed attempts to see it in Egypt, and by about 9:00 am, he was worried. He said that the rains had been poor in 2005, and that the grasses were not very lush. Just then, a Temminck’s Lark appeared in the middle of the road, so he was off the hook. After a bit more driving through the scenic Syrian steppe, we came to the Bald Ibis colony. As we pulled up, I spotted two adults flying away, and got identifiable views. Closer still to the breeding cliffs, Ahmed helped me find the other three birds, another pair tending their stick nest and a youngster. Great scope views ensued. What a bird!!! Not far from the site was an ancient spring, which had a lot of birdlife around it. There we heard Chukar, and saw Lesser Kestrel (a breeding colony), Long-legged Buzzard, Mourning (feeding young) and Pied Wheatears, Common Redstart, Lesser Whitethroat, several Red-backed Shrike, Eurasian Oriole, and pair of Rock Petronia.
We continued thorough the steppe, marveling at the lack of people and vast beauty of the countryside. At one flat wadi, there were several larks in the short, sparse grass and other scrubby vegetation. As I ‘scoped a small flock of Lesser Short-toed and Crested Larks feeding, I saw that one was different. It was larger than the short-toed, had a swollen bill, and markings on the side of the face, including a vertical line at the base of the bill. The Dunn’s Lark reminded me a lot of a washed out relative of a South African species, Sclater’s Lark. Other birds in the area included Isabelline, Northern, and Desert Wheatears and Whinchat. We looked in vain for Finsch’s Wheatear and Desert Finch, two birds that Ahmed expected in the steppe. As we dropped out of the hills, Ahmed’s truck got a flat tire, and he spent over an hour trying to change it. In the mean time, I explored the surroundings recording Eurasian Kestrel, Desert Lark, and Ortolan Bunting. Finally, we got the truck rolling and we continued towards another dam
There, we picked up some more ducks, lots of pipits, wagtails, and swallows, our first Woodchat Shrike of the day, and eight species of waders. Pallid Swifts passed overhead. In a nearby town, Ahmed stopped off for lunch, and I birded the cultivation. Among the many migrants was a nice Upcher’s Warbler. Near a leaky water pump on the SW side of town, several Black-headed Buntings were a surprise lifer for me in the heat of the day. Notwithstanding the hour, we picked up 49 birds in this area.
(Note: I have not used the names of the specific locales so as to obscure the location of the Ibis colony.)
Out on the main road to Deir ez-Zor, we passed a beautiful European Roller. Soon after, I yelled for the truck to stop, having seen a nice Cyprus Wheatear along the grassy edge of the highway. It was very flighty, so it was hard to get it in the scope for Ahmed. We turned again on an-unmarked desert road, heading towards a colony of Eurasian Griffon Vultures. Since I also needed a Pharaoh Eagle Owl, we scoured the cliffs, but only found a Little Owl surveying his domain. Back on the road, we continued towards the Talila reserve, which had been established to protect native Oryx and gazelles.
As we turned down the nicely paved access road, there were lots of birds flying over the vast plain. Several Montagu’s Harriers and many European Buzzards reminded us that migration was in full swing. We left the paved road and took off again down a track to the NE. Soon thereafter, we put up the first of several Hoopoe Larks, a spectacular denizen of this flat land. Here the Desert Larks we had seen earlier had been replaced by smaller Bar-tailed Larks, with their distinctive vertical foreheads. Temminck’s Larks were common, and by now, we had seen several dozen of my former boogie bird. At one point, Ahmed was tired and I suggested he take a nap. We were next to an area of re-planted desert scrub that looked very promising. In the hour that Ahmed rested, I saw tons of migrants in the bushes. Eight species of warbler, including Greater Whitethroat, Upcher’s, and many Blackcaps, were everywhere. Most rewarding, however, were both Nightingale and Thrush Nightingale seen well and near each other, and Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, a bird that I had only seen in one other place (Djibouti) previously. Lesser Grey Shrike also was an addition to the day’s list. Isabelline Wheaters seemed to be singing from every bush. After a pleasant stop with some nomadic shepherds, with the obligatory tea, we continued towards the gate of the reserve. Handsome, as always, a Cream-colored Courser was a nice one to get as we drove through the desert.
Next to the gate was a small car park, with some nice vegetation on the South side of the area. I headed off, while Ahmed sat down for a cup of tea with his buddies at the checkpoint. I saw that the trees and bushes were alive with birds, including both Nightingales, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Cuckoo, and two races of Common Redstart. The piece de resistance was a female Semi-Collared Flycatcher, which showed perfectly, with its narrowly edged pale-ish tertials, thin primary spot, and narrow, second wingbar on the median coverts. After entering the grounds of the reserve on foot, we saw loads of migrant Common Swifts, European and Blue-cheeked Bee-Eaters, and hawks flying overhead. Another dip on Finch’s Wheatear, and we started to head back towards the truck. As the bee-eaters were settling into the ornamental trees around the gate, Ahmed found a flock of nine stunning Black-headed Buntings glowing in the evening sun. Since the heavens finally made good on their threat of rain, we hustled back to the truck, just in time for the sprinkle to stop. Our afternoon at the reserve yielded 43 species.
After passing a gypsy prostitute truck-stop, we arrived at Palmyra at about 8:00 pm. Ahmed was exhausted, but I was energized with the 93 species we had recorded, including SEVEN lifers. I gave him a 20% tip, for which he was very grateful, and we said our goodbyes. I grabbed a quick dinner of chicken shwerma and went to talk to the hotel management about hot water. After doing all my paperwork and taking a wonderful, hot shower, I got to bed at about 9:30 pm.
Ahmed had said that Egyptian Nightjars were possible at the Wadi Abied, though he doubted if they would be around in such a dry year. So, I woke up, packed my bags and was on the road back to the dam (in my own car) at 4:00 am. All I heard were frogs and insects, so I got out my light. Scanning the marshes with my million candlepower search light, there was no trace of the nightjar. My biggest dip from the first day was the Desert Finch, so I had studied all I could about it the previous evening (that’s part of “my paperwork”). According to his trip report, Colin Richardson had seen it near the Wadi Abeid, so I started looking for likely habitat. Not far from the reeds, up the actual wadi, is a tiny village with an area of cultivation and a water pump. It looked promising, so I waited by the pump house for a while in my car to see if a finch would come in. There were plenty of House Sparrows, and in the wadi behind the village, thousands of wagtails. Among the three races of Yellow and the odd White Wagtail were one leucistic individual Yellow with a pale yellow hood and mantle, and a nice Citrine Wagtail. Focusing back on the cultivation, it only took about five minutes until a Desert Finch flew in and landed next to some sparrows! Looked like the day was going to start well, notwithstanding the nightjar dip. As I left the lake, I ‘scoped it one last time and picked out a couple of Ferruginous Pochard out of the flock of a dozen or so Garganey.
I on my way back to town, I ‘scoped some cliffs and found another Little Owl. Back in Palmyra, I passed through the fabulous Roman ruins, spotting another Little Owl, several Whinchats, and both Northern and Isabelline Wheatears. After that five-minute cultural interlude, I took off to the East and the Euphrates. I thought I had a long way to go that day, but I didn’t know the half of it! My first stop was the town of Arak, where Ahmed had told me there was some good migrant habitat. Unfortunately, there was the sound of gunfire coming from the area that I wanted to bird, so I cut my stay short and just birded some irrigated fields nearby. There was an immense flock of pipits wheeling about, and when they settled, I identified three species, Meadow, Red-throated, and Tree Pipits. In addition, Graceful Prinia and Black-headed and Corn Buntings kept me busy.
Back on the highway, I tried to make some time. There was not too much to stop for, though I did see two species of harrier (Pallid, Montagu’s) migrating. Before long, I was coming up upon Dier ez-Zor, a town situated on the Euphrates River. I had some trouble finding the bridge, and ended up driving NW along the South side of the river towards Aleppo. There is a canal that separates an island from the rest of the town, and I eventually found a bridge onto the island at the westernmost point of the canal. Once I was on the island, I worked my way North to the river side of the land, where there was a nice road. I immediately looked over and saw three beautiful Iraq Babblers sitting right out in the open on a tree limb like tits on a cold night. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera ready, and was unable to get a picture. As I followed the road down stream I saw a pair of Yellow-throated Petronias in a garden. I was soon at the fabled suspension bridge, and another couple of hundred meters brought me to the road bridge over the Euphrates. I drove around to the North end of the suspension bridge, slowly listening for the song of the White-cheeked Bulbul. I spent about 10 minutes birding the playground near the suspension bridge, getting singing Olivaceous Warbler, but little else. Overhead a pair of Wood Pigeons ducked into some unusually tall coniferous trees. A brief foray out on the suspension pedestrian bridge yielded many singing Cetti’s Warblers, numerous Eurasian Coots, and three species of Swift, Little, Common, and Pallid (the latter two showing nicely their differences).
While padding my WP list with the bulbul would have been fun, I was eager to get to Mheimideh to look for a couple of rare ducks that I needed for my life list. I followed the North side of the river NW, and soon came upon some excellent habitat. I followed the next turning to the NE, and found myself skirting around the North side of this famous ox-bow lake. My initial reaction was that it was horribly degraded, as much of the center had apparently been filled in with piles of earth. Struggling to get good views of the habitat, I followed the road around towards the SE. In the process, I saw Purple Heron and Little Bittern, and a gaggle of more common marsh birds such as Common Moorhen and Eurasian Coot. After passing a small village, the road turned SW and went across a broad (20m) causeway that cut across the East side of the lake. From that causeway, I could finally get good views of the lake and its denizens. Almost immediately, I saw a stunning White-headed Duck cruising through some reeds on the smaller eastern part of the lake. Its turquoise blue bill was indescribably bright. As I continued, about a dozen children found me and would not leave me alone. After I drove the causeway about five times, slowly back and forth, they tired of the game and went back to their play.
My second target was more elusive, as I looked for almost 30 minutes before I found a group of five Marbled Duck, in the same, eastern remnant of the lake. As I was looking for the ducks, I came across several other species, including: Great Crested Grebe, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Ferruginous Pochard, Purple Swamphen (the grey-headed caspicus race), Spurwing Plover (I forgot to look for White-tailed.), Red-necked Phalarope (seven in winter plumage), Whiskered (2), Black (1), and White-winged (100s) Terns, and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. In the surrounding countryside, Eurasian Magpies and Hooded Crows were common additions to the avifauna. I returned the 15 kms to Deir ez Zor and again slowly drove around the riverside streets listening for bulbuls. Striking out, I took the main road NW towards Aleppo. (Note – In retrospect, it would be easier to continue along the North bank of the Euphrates directly from Mheimideh to Halabbiyah Gorge and then to Raqqah.)
At this point, I had just seen my 7999th bird but amazingly enough I did not realize it! I had somehow forgotten about the Desert Finch that I had seen that very morning. I was counting the seven lifers the first day and the three in Deir ez-Zor. (I had arrived in Syria needing 12.)
Anyway, my next goal was a bird that would be a new genus for me. In the Sandgrouse article on the Syrian Wetland Expedition, I noted that the See-See Partridge had been seen in the Halabbiyah Gorge (Euphrates Valley). Fortunately, my map showed such a place about 50 kms NW of Dier ez- Zor. I headed off, into the unknown. I found the turnoff to the valley, 47 Kms from town. There a nice paved road forked to the North to rejoin the Euphrates. After a few Kms, I came to the wonderful Roman ruins of Zanobia’s City, that marked the beginning (at least from the Southern approach) of the Halabbiyah Gorge. I explored to the North, past the ruins (which were filled with tourists this Friday afternoon) to see the extent of the gorge. Past the ruins, there was a steep, rocky hillside that came down from the plateau to right to the road. On it, I saw a pair of Rook, and several migrating eagles, including Greater and Lesser Spotted Eagle. The gorge only lasted for about five kilometers, and at the North end, was a decent bit of mudflat habitat along the North (far) side of the river. I got out and ‘scoped it. The diversity was super, and I added many birds to the trip list. Among the new birds there were: one Greater Flamingo with a broken wing, three herons, a single Eurasian Spoonbill, seven species of duck (including a couple of Pintail and a single Gadwall), 13 species of shorebirds (including stunning breeding dress Black-tailed Godwits and Spotted Redshank), and, sneaking around in the riverside vegetation, I could just make out a small group of Dead Sea Sparrows. I was starting to feel really good about the place. Out in the middle of the river there were many Eurasian Coots, and several Pied Kingfishers flew over. Only a couple hundred meters upstream from the ruins was a floating vehicular bridge across the Euphrates.
Wanting to keep my focus on the See-See, I returned to the ruins. They were set in an area that looked to me perfect for the See-see, but there were hundreds of tourists crawling all over the rocky structures. My strategy was to explore the surrounding, less ideal, habitat and wait out the tourists. I figured that later in the afternoon it would be easier to see the partridge. As I was getting ready for a long hike up into the hills, I saw that I had a cell signal. I had not tried to use my roaming Egyptian phone in Syria, but I suddenly had an impulse to call home. I dialed and, presto, there was my wife, back in Cairo. She said that she had bad news for me and asked if I wanted to hear it then or after I returned. I opted for hearing it immediately, and she told me that my beloved cat, Kirtland, has passed away the night before. Though he was old and we had known that he was on his last legs, the news still came as a blow. Kimberly said that it had been very hard for her and asked if I could come back early. I said I’d try. Considerably preoccupied with the news of Kirtland’s passing, I gathered my stuff and started walking up a hill that was a few hundred meters NW of the main ruins. Over the top of cliff was a group of breeding Lesser Kestrels, as a lazy procession of larger raptors (including Steppe Eagle, Long-legged and Eurasian Buzzards) passed along the ridgeline.
I climbed up to the top of what looked like a guard tower and had a good cry, trying to allow myself to grieve the loss of a faithful and wonderful companion. After a long while, I continued up to the top of the ridge. The gorge is formed when the Euphrates cut through a plateau about 175m high. The top of the plateau was completely flat, while the slopes were very steep and rocky. Just as I reached the edge, a couple of birds jumped off and disappeared over the edge. They could have been See-See, but I didn’t see anything on them. Over the next hour, I worked my way around to the SW and South, and found my way down off the steep slope. In a narrow gorge, some vegetation that was filled with Lesser Whitethroats and Common Redstarts. After reaching the bottom of the gully, I followed it out to an area just behind the uppermost part of the main ruin. There, I took a dry gully on the NW side of the ruins and followed it back towards my car. Almost immediately, I saw a pair of partridge take off and fly ahead of me down the gully. They landed and I got one in my bins - See-See Partridge! I ‘scoped them and photographed them for about five minutes, just soaking in their beauty. There were two males and a female. One of the males seemed intent on attracting the female by fluffing out his striped flank feathers and doing a shuffle dance much like a barnyard rooster. The female wasn’t buying. The other male took a different tack, trying to lure her closer by digging furiously in the soil and pretending to find food for her. The place where I saw them was due NW of the highest part of the ruins, just about 200 meters from them.
Considerably happier than I had been earlier, I packed up and headed down to the car. My joy, however, was tempered by the loss of my feline friend. I was thinking about heading home, to be with my family, and completely forgot about the floating bridge across the Euphrates. Since my next stop was Raqqah, I needed to be on the North side of the river and it would have been much better to just drive to Raqqah along the North side of the Euphrates. My plans for the next day were to overnight in Raqqah, where I was going to look for Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and then explore the Turkish border area NE of Aleppo, looking for Persian (Eastern Rock) Nuthatch and Cinereous Bunting. My plan was to get the nuthatch for number 8000 – and score a new species for Syria at the same time. I love exploring, and like the See-See, enjoy even more birds that I find with a minimum of “gen.” To cut a day from my five-day trip, however, I was going to have to miss some birding. So, I decided to push on to Kassab, on the Mediterranean coast, where I was going to look for Rueppell’s and Olive Tree Warblers. My dream of the Persian Nuthatch as 8000 would be abandoned.
At Raqqah, I tried to find the road to the SE to see if I could get the Sandgrouse in the evening, but the town didn’t cooperate. I just could not find the road that went back towards Deir Ez Zor on the North side of the Euphrates. I eventually gave up and had a falaffal snack. (The first food that I had eaten since leaving Palmyra.) I took it to river and ate it along with about 200 Syrians. A flock of House Martins and a nice group of Black-crowned Night Herons ended my birding day. But, I still had almost 300 kms to drive to get to the Mediterranean. I took off into the darkening night, determined to reach Kassab. On the lookout after being burned by the Palmyra/Tadmur confusion, I quickly noticed that Aleppo is called Halab! Once I got that straight, things went a little easier. The road was fairly well marked, except for one place where I missed the intersection between the Raggah-Aleppo road and the Damascus – Aleppo road. Again, the map made it look so easy.
About 40 ksm short of Latakia, I saw a sign on the winding mountain road, and turned North towards the Turkish border. The roads were excellent and there was no traffic. I eventually found myself approaching the border. Turning left just before the crossing point, I followed the road up towards the mountain resort of Kassab. Midnight passed as I was driving a winding mountain road through the forest. I was too tired to stop, having driven 20 hours and over 900 Kms. (I would later calculate that I saw 106 species of birds in Syria on April 22 – without trying! My two-day list for Palmyra and the Euphrates was 140 species.)
I arrived at Kassab at a little after midnight, more than four hours after leaving Raqqah. Exhausted, I stopped and reviewed David Murdoch’s trip report on the side of the road by the light of my flashlight. (Since I was planning to be 300 kms east of here this day, I had not yet focused on exactly where to bird there.) In the fatigue-induced blurr, I saw that the Olive Tree Warbler had been seen on the road to Ras El Basset. So, at 1:00 am, I started to drive around to find the road to Ras El Basset. I soon found it and followed it along, looking for a hotel. To make a long story short, I didn’t – and ended up sleeping in my car down near the sea from 1:30 am until the 5:00 am dawn chorus.
I spent the best hours of the morning birding along the coast, trying to find the excellent habitat that Murdoch had described. All I was passing in the valley was cultivation, which seemed wrong. (Of course, Murdoch had been many Kms south, as I had misread his report in the middle of the night.) Birds that I saw in the lowlands included, Yellow-legged Gull, Marsh Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Coal Tit, Blackbird, Spectacled Bulbul, Eurasian Jay, and Eurasian Greenfinch. A little more awake, I re-read Murdoch’s trip report and realized that I was not in the lush, wild valley that he described, and that the two birds I was looking for were both high on the mountain, near Kassab. After filling up my car (I was driving on fumes), I headed back up the road towards Kassab. By now it was about 8:00 am, and the wind was starting to pick up. I stopped at the pass, at the top of the road, and saw nothing. I continued along through a residential area, until I saw a good-looking track to the left (West). I took it and it immediately led into some great habitat. I parked my car about 400m down the road and within a minute I saw a Ruppell’s Warbler singing in the top of a tree. Thinking that this was number 8000, I felt a special elation, but oddly it passed in an instant, as I immediately started focusing on the missing Olive Tree Warbler. I spent another hour looking for it, to no avail. (Maybe the magic of the moment was lost because in reality the See-See had been number 8000 or because I was still mourning my cat’s passing.) Among the many warblers (two Whitethroats, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Sardinian) and European Goldfinch, I heard the distinct song of Cretzschmar’s and Rock Buntings coming form the telephone wires along the road.
I was exploring a side road that goes left (W) from the main Ras El Basset road, not far before the place where the road crosses the pass and heads down sharply to the coast. At this point, there is a lookout station on the left and an old quarry one the right of the side road. I saw a pair of wheatears in the quarry, looking like they were searching for a nest site. The handsome male was striking black and white, with a white back. I checked for the appearance of the side of the neck, and the merged black from the throat told me it was Finsch’s Wheatear, a bird that has eluded us in its wintering grounds in Palmyra. But still no sign of the Olive Tree Warbler. I drove on past the quarry up a steep hill, looking for thick bush that the warbler liked, and keeping an eye out for Spectacled Warbler. (There was what looked like excellent habitat there.) Wanting to bird the afternoon on a mountain farther South, and realizing that the Olive Tree Warbler was not hard to see in Turkey, I decided to leave. With 40 species, including several new for my WP and Asia lists, it had been a good morning – and I had seen number “8000.”
I headed off towards Selunfe, a mountain that rises East of Latakia. The drive South to Latakia was pleasant, but there were not lots of birds. Arriving in the outskirts of Latakia, I followed my nose and signs for the road to Tartus, and then kept an eye out for signs to Selunfe. This time the Arabic and English names coincided, but the spelling varied substantially, from Selunfa, Slunfe, Slenfe, Slinfah. Since the new superhighway to Aleppo enters Latakia in the same general area as the Selunfe road leaves, there was a lot of construction and associated confusion. There were, however, enough signs, and since I was driving in the daylight for once, I didn’t get lost going up the mountain. In the meantime, I was able to call Cairo and arrange for my reservation to be advanced, so I could return home early. (Cell phones are great, aren’t they?)
After about 30 Kms, I came upon the town and the good habitat was obvious. My target birds were Syrian Woodpecker and White-throated Robin. Two species that I has seen years ago (in the case of the woodpecker) or in poor plumage (the robin). Since I arrived in the early afternoon, I explored first to get the lay of the land. The road that passes through the town of Selunfe passes some very nice oak forest, which had early-Spring buds this time of year. It gave a soft pale yellow-green tone to the woods, which I had missed living in the tropics for so many years. I drove up the main road towards the mountaintop and the habitat eventually opened up. Passing a small shack that sold fresh bread snacks, I pulled off and explored the mosaic of rocks, grass, and small conifers. Drawn to a beautiful song, I saw a super male White-throated Robin singing from the top of a tree! What a bird! In the immediate vicinity, there were Great and Coal Tits, Eurasian Greenfinches, Eurasian Blackbirds, and Mountain (?) Chiffchaffs – giving a distinctive down-slurred call. I am not sure of the taxonomic position of these birds, so I am identifying them as “Mountain” Chiffchaff, to distinguish them from the Common Chiffchaffs that were common migrants.
I followed the road up and up, and the landscape became more and more barren. Just before the road reached the pass, there was a turning to the right up to the communications town on the summit. I took it up, watching Black-eared Wheatears on the boulders. At the top, I could not believe the view, as the East side of the mountain rises straight up from the valley over almost two kilometers below. I looked unsuccessfully for Rock Nuthatch, but did see a possible Long-billed Pipit on the ground and Lanner and Peregrine Falcons and Alpine Swifts in the sky. Driving back towards the main road, I saw a dirt track heading South from the summit road, just a few hundred meters from the summit road turnoff. The dirt road led to a flat area that had Wood Larks, and Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap warblers in the scrub. I looked unsuccessfully for Horned (Shore) Lark at a small pool of water, and continued down towards the oak forest.
Back in the deciduous woods, I focused on finding the woodpecker. The Internet report I had noted the woodpecker from near the town and again near the upper limit of the forest. Exploring in Selunfe, I found some nice woods near an amusement park called “Alladin,” in a glen on the NE side of the town. I parked and was able to spish up a bunch of birds, including Great, Blue, Coal, and Long-tailed Tits, Mountain (?) Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, and an attractive squirrel (Persian?) with an oddly short tail. After a while, I heard a nasal call that sounded to me like a woodpecker, but reviewing my references, it seemed that the call could not be Syrian. I figured it must have been a raptor. After about an hour, I gave up and started driving around looking for the upper level forest. I passed nice Masked Shrike, and saw a couple of groups of Eurasian Jays. I eventually focused on a bit of forest that was adjacent to the main road up the pass, just at a sharp turn. At the point, the road, which is going SE bend to the left (as you are going uphill) to the North. While the forest below the road was good, I focused on the part above the road.
The wood was excellent, with old oaks and other deciduous trees. Almost immediately, I saw a black and white bird fly through the leafless canopy, and my heart skipped. I got on to it, but there was something wrong. The bird seemed to have a very plain face, with no black on the crown. The bird was very shy, but it was soon joined by another. I eventually got a good look and it turned out to be a Middle Spotted Woodpecker. Realizing that it was a rarity, and likely a resident population, I tried for about 30 minutes to get photos. Sadly, the birds remained in the canopy and shy, so I got poor pictures. Upon magnification, however, they do show the characteristics of the species. I have submitted a short note of the sighting to Dutch Birding for publication. (See DB, Volume 27, Number 3, page 203.) Other birds that were in the wood included: Blackbird, Winter Wren, Great, Blue, and Coal Tits, Eurasian Jay, and Eurasian Nuthatch. I flushed a Chukar that flew down the hillside, and over the road.
With my two target birds in the bag, I returned to the open, rocky country to see if I could find a Rock Nuthatch. As I was driving along (not far form the turning to the garbage dump), I saw a pair of Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush on the rocks and a small flock of Eurasian Linnets. Several Northern Wheatears also graced the ground. I also met a young, modern Syrian couple who were drinking beer and driving around the mountains on the Saturday afternoon. They told me about a shortcut down the mountain, a small road that branched off to the right the main road right at the pass. Before heading off, I decided to wait for the 19:15 sunset. I bought a piece of bread from the snack shop (my first meal of the day) and found a good vantage to photograph the sunset.
The shortcut was a great road, and arguably the steepest road that I have ever driven. I cannot imagine how someone could drive up it. The nearly vertical East slope of Jebel Nabi Matta is a sight. It is covered with good scrub and forest, but it was quickly getting dark. My next stop was going to be the city of Homs, which I figured, would take me about two hours to get to. I hadn’t planned, however, in getting lost, and finally arrived at my overnight destination at midnight. As usual, the skies were overcast, and I could not orient myself. It had started to rain steadily, which also slowed my progress. There were no people just hanging out in the small villages I was passing through whom I could ask. Anyway, I finally made it to Homs, and could not find any hotels on the outskirts of town. Since one of the trip reports had noted that it was difficult to find the road to the Homs Lake, I scouted a bit down the Damascus road to see if I could find the turning. I found it easily. I then asked someone at a gas station about accommodation. He directed me to the center of town, where I found a 4-star place that cost US$100 a night. I negotiated a 25% discount, and settled in. It room was old and musty, and not a bargain, even with the discount. I had a nice shower, set my alarm for five hours later, and hit the sack.
I got another early start, and headed South on the Damascus highway. The turning towards Al Quesir was well marked, and I followed it to the SW. My target birds here were Calandra Lark and Menetries’ Warbler. Once I got to the town of Al Quesir, I turned West and soon was in some nice irrigated farmland South of Homs Lake. Following my nose, I bore right again and started working my way North, towards the lake itself. At one stretch of thick scrub along the road, there were loads of migrant birds (both Nightingales, Greater Whitethroat, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Blackcap) and several pairs of Menetries Warbler. A Eurasian Sparrowhawk was nearby and a steady stream of egrets, including Cattle Egret, flew over through the early morning mist. Handsome Great Tits, a Red-backed Shrike, and European Serin were colorful additions to this birdy place.
As I worked my way North through the cultivation, I was now looking hard for the Calandra Lark. I scoured the recently plowed fields and often stopped to listen for their flight song. At one point, I crossed a large canal, and had my only somewhat difficult encounter with the police. (See the logistics section.) Finally reaching the lake, I found five species of egret/heron and hundreds, if not thousands, of White-winged Terns flying about ten meters over the lake’s surface. In their stunning breeding plumage, they were a spectacular sight. The lake seemed to be overflowing, by the looks of the flooded roads and fields. Dozens of Yellow Wagtails foraged along the water’s edge, as Zitting Cisticolas flew over head. Heading back South to retrace my steps (at this time I had a police man in my car) I finally saw a lark that wasn’t a Crested. As I got my bins in it, I saw that it was a Greater Short-toed Lark, my ninth lark species for the trip. After dropping off my hitchhiker, came upon a small creek that was full to overflowing. In the thick scrub and willows that lined the watercourse were many migrants, including Cetti’s, Eurasian Reed, and Great Reed Warblers. It was starting to get on towards time to head to Bloudan.
As I headed back out to the main North-South expressway to Damascus, I was still on the lookout for larks, but the Calandra just wasn’t cooperating. The road to Damascus was excellent, and it was a pleasure to be driving cross-country during the daylight. There were few, birds, however, so I just pushed on. Again, my map (which had been useful in the countryside) let me down, and I missed the turn to Lebanon. It was marked, so I could have taken the turn, but it was almost 40 Kms North of Damascus, and I was expecting a nice expressway to bypass the western part of town about five Kms from the city center. Anyway, if you are coming from the North, take the first turning to Lebanon. I ended up getting dumped into the Western suburbs of the capital, and having to pay a taxi to lead me to the road to Dummar, and eventually to the Lebanon Road.
After screwing around for about an hour, I finally found the main road to Lebanon, and was back in business. The turning to Bloudan is well marked. From the Lebanon expressway, the side road drops down into a pleasant North-South valley, above which Bloudan is perched. My main target here was the Syrian Serin, which Colin Richardson had seen above the town. He also noted that the area was possible for Syrian Woodpecker. After my experience in Selunfe, I was eager to see the bird. As I drove North, I saw some tall trees lining a watercourse in the lowest point of the valley. I noted them as possible habitat for Syrian Woodpecker, in case I needed it later. After about 15 minutes, I saw a sign that gave two possible routes to Bloudan. One was an immediate right turn, up the hill that formed the East side of the valley. The other was to continue up the valley floor. I decided to take the high road, and followed it up several hundred feet in altitude. There, the road leveled off and continued along the upper edge of the towns. After several kilometers, I passed the town of Blukein, which has a public water source (spring?) in the middle of the street. Shortly thereafter, there was a turning from the left (this is the road that continued up the valley before climbing). At this point, on the opposite side of the road, there was a five hectare or so wood! In the center, was a small cemetery, which was characterized by a high wall and five gigantic conifers growing inside.
I explored the woods and almost immediately found a woodpecker hole in a tree. I spent about 30 minutes exploring the habitat, but there was no sign of the woodpecker. A Eurasian Blackbird and Great Tit were the only consolations. Hoping for the serin, I headed straight up the steep hillside that continued up from the wood. I explored a dry streambed for almost two hours, as I deemed it perfect for the serin. On of the first things I saw was a flock of some 100 White Storks - along with several Eurasian Sparrowhawks, Common Buzzards, and Swifts - migrating North along the ridgeline above me. I ended up climbing almost 300 meters straight up. I didn’t see the serin, but I did get many other species, including Eurasian Linnet, European Greenfinch, Rock Petronia, Mountain (?) Chiffchaff, Eurasian Jay, Rock Bunting, and a Common Cuckoo. After a long slog uphill, (at the highest point, I saw a pair of Black-eared Wheatears.) I encountered a dirt track, and followed it back down. I was relieved, because the slope had been so steep that I was wondering how I was going to scramble down it.
The dirt road first went North, and then started switchbacks down towards my starting point. The vegetation got taller as I went lower, and I soon found myself in some good scrub. There I found Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, and Whinchat. A little farther down, just one hundred meters above the place where I had parked my car, there were scattered trees. All of a sudden, a pair of woodpeckers flew by and landed below me in a small tree. I got an acceptable look at the Syrian Woodpecker, before they flew off to the wood where I had seen the nest.
While happy to finally see the woodpecker, I was starting to feel a little nervous about the serin, since I had just spent almost two hours in what I thought was good habitat. I got back in my car and continued North, up the valley. I soon realized that the place where I saw the woodpecker was not anywhere near Bloudan, as I had several kilometers to go. Eventually reaching the town, I continued up, trying to find the cultivation above Bloudan where Colin Richardson had seen the elusive finch. At the top end of town were several large restaurants, including a mammoth building above the street. I turned right just after the monstrosity, and followed a very narrow farm road up through the orchards. After a couple of false alarms for European Greenfinches, I finally spotted a pair of small finches flying overhead. I wildly followed them in my car, and they settled on the very top of an apple tree. Bingo. The male Syrian Serin was great, with a much stubbier bill that his larger cousin and a dark eye set off by a yellow face. At this point, I was feeling very good. I had scored 15 lifers in Syria, and picked up almost all of my target birds.
I continued up and up the valley towards a telecommunications tower. As I approached the highest part, there was still plenty of snow on the ground. In the swampy alpine bogs, I had hoped to find my tenth lark, the Horned (or Shore) Lark. Unfortunately, my lark luck must have run out, as the only birds I saw there were Northern Wheatear and the distinctive semirufus race of the Black Redstart.
The view from the very top of the valley was spectacular, as I could see the snow-covered mountains from Mt. Hermon in Lebanon. I started to head back to the Airport, as I was afraid that Damascus was going to trap me as I tried to skirt it again. Fortunately, the trip back down the mountain was uneventful, and the main road to Lebanon continued onto and joined with the Damascus Airport access road. Indeed, I made it back to the airport early, and spent an hour unsuccessfully looking for some habitat nearby where I could possibly pad my trip list.
My Egypt Air flight was on time and my return to Cairo was uneventful.
The following is a species list. Since I went in to such detail in the narrative, I have not annotated the list. If anyone has any questions about my sightings, do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Species data has been extracted from BirdBase, which is based on Clements’ World list. The “F” indicates a lifer for me.
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Gray Heron Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Great Egret Ardea alba
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus
Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris
White Stork Ciconia ciconia
(F) Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
Gadwall Anas strepera
Eurasian Teal Anas crecca
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Northern Pintail Anas acuta
Garganey Anas querquedula
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
(F) Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris
Ferruginous Pochard Aythya nyroca
(F) White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Eurasian Griffon Gyps fulvus
Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus
Levant Sparrowhawk Accipiter brevipes
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Eurasian Buzzard Buteo buteo
Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus
Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina
Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga
Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni
Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Chukar Alectoris chukar
(F) See-see Partridge Ammoperdix griseogularis
Corn Crake Crex crex
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Cream-colored Courser Cursorius cursor
Spur-winged Plover Vanellus spinosus
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Little Stint Calidris minuta
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus
Black Tern Chlidonias niger
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Common Wood-Pigeon Columba palumbus
Eurasian Turtle-Dove Streptopelia turtur
Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
Little Owl Athene noctua
Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba
Common Swift Apus apus
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
Little Swift Apus affinis
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster
European Roller Coracias garrulus
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla
Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius
Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus
Bar-tailed Lark Ammomanes cincturus
Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti
Greater Hoopoe-Lark Alaemon alaudipes
Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens
(F) Dunn's Lark Eremalauda dunni
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Wood Lark Lullula arborea
(F) Temminck's Lark Eremophila bilopha
Bank Swallow Riparia riparia
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica
House Martin Delichon urbica
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Long-billed Pipit Anthus similis
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
White-spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos
Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush Monticola saxatilis
Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Graceful Prinia Prinia gracilis
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti
Eurasian River Warbler Locustella fluviatilis
Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Eurasian Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris
Great Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida
Upcher's Warbler Hippolais languida
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
(Mountain Chiffchaff Phylloscopus sindianus)
Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Greater Whitethroat Sylvia communis
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
Eastern Orphean Warbler Sylvia crassirostris
(F) Ruppell's Warbler Sylvia rueppelli
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Menetries' Warbler Sylvia mystacea
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
(F) Semi-collared Flycatcher Ficedula semitorquata
Thrush Nightingale Luscinia luscinia
Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
White-throated Robin Irania gutturalis
Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin Cercotrichas galactotes
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe lugens
(F) Finsch's Wheatear Oenanthe finschii
Pied Wheatear Oenanthe pleschanka
(F) Cyprus Wheatear Oenanthe cypriaca
Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina
(F) Iraq Babbler Turdoides altirostris
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
Coal Tit Periparus ater
Great Tit Parus major
Eurasian Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio
Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor
Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
Rook Corvus frugilegus
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix
Common Raven Corvus corax
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
(F) Dead Sea Sparrow Passer moabiticus
Yellow-throated Petronia Petronia superciliaris
Rock Petronia Petronia petronia
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina
European Serin Serinus serinus
(F) Syrian Serin Serinus syriacus
(F) Desert Finch Rhodospiza obsoleta
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia
Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana
Cretzschmar's Bunting Emberiza caesia
Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala
Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra
185 SPECIES (Including the “Mountain” Chiffchaff)