Follow by Email

Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fantasy Birding in Iran

The long drive to Kiamaky was very successful; we racked up a list of 18 species, 13 of which were life birds! The land we drove through was mostly agricultural but we passed a lake at one point and a few times we went through more mountainous regions.

My list from the road:
Spanish Sparrows 17
House Sparrow 6
Rock Pigeons 6
Hooded Crow 1
Jackdaws 13 (mobbing the Buzzard)*
Common Kestrel 1*
White Wagtails 6*
Common House-Martins 40+*
Barn Swallows 20+
Bee-Eaters 2 (on a wire by the side of the road. One of my many goal birds)*
Swifts 16*
"Steppe" Common Buzzard 1* (was being mobbed by Jackdaws)
European Tree-Sparrow 1*
Whinchat 1*
Red-backed Shrike 1 (another of my goal birds)*
Wheatear Species 1 (I think it was a female Northern but I didn't a great look)*
Starling 5
Magpie 2*
Jay 1*

We arrived at Hadishahr at around 9:30pm, having left Yerevan at around 2pm. Our original plans were to stay in Marand but we realized after looking it up on the internet that it would require much too much extra driving so instead we decided to stay in Hadishahr which lies at the entrance of the park. We managed to find a motel in the city just before we collapsed in exhaustion after our long drive.

The next day I was up bright and early looking forward to our drive through the park. We have to drive because the park is very large and I am unaware of any walking trails although there almost surely are some. Before we started into the park I birded the town. I say "I" because everyone else was still wrapped in the sheets of the motels beds. Hadishahr wasn't that great for birding, although I got some nice looks at the local Barn Swallows. They were of the Middle Eastern subspecies, H.r.transivita, best identified from the nominate European subspecies by the distinct rusty underparts; the European subspecies (H.r.rustica) has white. H.r.transivita was first described by Ernst Hartet in 1910. The swallows were nesting in the eaves of many of the buildings. Their nests were fascinating structures constructed with mud collected off the road.

I was delighted to add a Golden Eagle to my life list. We all got superb looks at this majestic bird as it circled over Hadisahr.


Kiamaky Wildlife Refuge is a handsome place, filled to overflowing with beautiful vistas and bare, dry mountain slopes. There are a few small villages nestled within the parks boundary. Its habitat holds a number of species only found in this type of rocky terrain. As well as containing many species of birds, Kiamkay is also the dwelling place of such mammalian wonders as Wolf, Jackal, Red Fox, Brown Bear, Jungle Cat, Caracal Lynx, and Leopard!!! Any one of which I would be overly overjoyed to set my eyes upon.

As I had hoped, birding Kiamaky was very successful. As we started into the refuge Barn Swallows and House-Martins coasted through the air. Croaking, 6 Hooded Crows flew over. A small flock of Gray-hooded Bunting explored the top of a rocky slope. A Finsch's Wheatear flew from the dirt road calling. It was a small pure white bird which looked as if someone had taken a brush with black paint and with delight smeared the brush down the bird's sides from bill to tail.

As we went deeper into this mountainous park the swallows, martins and Spanish Sparrows faded away, to be replaced by buntings, larks and Alpine Swifts. To my utter delight I was able to pick out the distant but distinctive form of a Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush, one of my goal birds for the trip. As we watched the thrush, a trumpeting came from on high, as if an angel in training (a true angel wouldn't play this badly) was descending while blowing to high heaven his brazen horn. Looking up I saw a pair of birds that to me held as much significance as any angel would, they were Ruddy Shelducks! Although these ducks are far from rare they are fascinating and beautiful birds and a species of feathered fowl which I am unlikely ever to see again.

The birding was fabulous!
Our list from the park:
Black Redstart 1* "ochruros" subspecies
Finsch's Wheatear 3* "Lugens" subspecies
Tawny Pipit 2*
Spanish Sparrows 20+
Barn Swallows 6 "Transivita" subspecies
Common House-Martin 18
Grey-hooded Bunting 5*
Bimaculated Lark 1*
Red-billed Chough 3* seen circling a distant slope
Ruddy Shelduck 2* flyovers from the east, probably headed for the river
Alpine Swift 8*
Hooded Crow 6
Rock Petronia 2* flyovers
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush 1*
In all we saw 14 species, 10 of which were lifers.

Black Redstart
Did you know that during and after World War II these small thrushes inhabited bomb craters which were a suitable alternative to rocky mountain slopes. Now Black Redstarts can be found in many a European city park, their mountain homes have been amply substituted by factory buildings, church towers and chimneys (boy would I like to live in a chimney with some twittering swifts!) though they do still breed in far more halcyon mountain settings.

House Martin
Until 2004 Delichon Urbicum (the House-Martin) held the scientific name Delichon Urbica due to a misunderstanding in Latin grammar!

Finsch's Wheatear

Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush

1 comment:

  1. Well, it seems your imaginary birding trip was a success!

    ~~Katydids and Bluebirds~~

    ReplyDelete