Migrating flocks arrive in Syria…

One of 20 Sociable Lapwings found near Al Talila Reserve

Our breaking news today is that migrating Sociable Lapwings are now passing through Syria.

Researchers from the Syria General Commission for Al Badia Management and Development (GCB) initially discovered a flock of 70 birds just east of Suluk in the north-east of the country on October 18th and then located another flock of 20 about 300 km further south near Palmyra on October 19th. None of the birds monitored were carrying satellite tags or had been colour ringed.

A further small group of four birds was seen in the north-east again on October 19th and three further groups of 10, 12 and 45 were also located nearby on October 20th.

Monitoring in Syria by GCB is a highly collaborative effort conducted in coordination with key national stakeholders including SSCW – The Syrian Society for Conservation of Wildlife (BirdLife in Syria), the Syrian Ministries of Environment and Agriculture and officials from several local communities close to Sociable Lapwing staging areas that have been identified during the last few years.

A photograph of the 20 birds located near Palmyra can be seen above. This and the single inset image of one of the birds from the flock were photographed by Ahmed Qanani from GCB.

Speaking about his discovery of this flock – Mahoumed Al Sayesh from GCB said “We are proud of our collaboration with conservation organisations in Syria and throughout the region as well as internationally. We have mainly been looking for the birds in the north and east of the country but luckily we found this group while surveying in and around the Al Talila Reserve.”

Ahmed Jaber – the GCB researcher who located the flock of 70 birds in the north east of Syria on October 18th – said “These Sociable Lapwings are now at one of the most important staging areas during their migration, we hope that these visitors will pass safely.”

Migrating Sociable Lapwings are now at one of the most perilous stages of their amazing journey. Previous work conducted by GCB has established that organised teams of hunters with rifles and 4WD vehicles actively target Sociable Lapwings as they pass through the country in large flocks.

This year conservation activities funded by the project are actively underway to help monitor and protect birds as they pass through Syria. Posters are being distributed, raising awareness among local communities that Sociable Lapwings are globally threatened species protected by law. The conservation team undertaking this community outreach have reported that the posters are proving very effective at engaging with local people and that they have been talking positively with hunters, shepherds and farmers about the birds’ status. Many of the local community are familiar with the species but were previously unaware of its rarity and most of the people they have been talking to have also shown a genuine interest in the birds and have promised to do their best to preserve them.

The conservation activity that now monitors and protects Sociable Lapwings as they pass through Syria is based on recommendations contained in an AEWA Implementation Review conducted in spring 2010. In the image below AEWA, RSPB, GCB and Syrian Government officials can be seen looking for lapwings after the review and during their spring passage. The monitoring and protection now underway is also supported by an AEWA grant.