Sunday, 28 March 2010

21st February. New friends.

Searching, searching and more searching for Sociable Plovers. Today we covered a vast area north of Ar-Raqqa. Yet again almost the first birds seen were 3 SPs north of Bir-Said village. Birding was hard today in this largely agricultural landscape. The remaining areas of steppe are dry and over-grazed and support very birds, at least in winter. Vast areas of land have been given over to arable cultivation, mainly cereals. The remaining areas of open steppe are very overgrazed and is a major conservation issue. Skylarks however, were everywhere, with 14,000 logged during the day. SPs were nowhere to be seen at the supposed hot spots of Eiwa and Ar Ruweira.

Again we lunched with Bedouin. We stopped to chat and out came the rugs, yogurt, tea and monstrous spring onions. A pleasant hour was passed.

As we travelled east to Al Hasakah, close to the Iraqi border, we picked up more and more 'new friends'. Either wearing leather jackets or smart suits, they took a sudden interest in birding and followed us to most of the sites today. They also decided to escort us to the hotel and hang around. They are clearly very interested in birds as they want to know where we are going tomorrow. We turn heads in Al Hasakah - westerners are clearly unusual here.
Bird highlights included Pallid Harriers, Long-legged Buzzards, Spur-winged Plovers, Lesser Short-toed Larks, 400 White-fronted Geese, 14 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, 3 Dead Sea Sparrows, 57 Calandra Larks, our first Isabelline and Finsch’s Wheatears, and 2 Bluethroats.

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